ISSN 2330-717X

Serbian Mufti Mulls Running Bosnia’s Islamic Community

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By Bojana Barlovac

Muamer Zukorlic, Chief Mufti of the Islamic Community in Serbia, may run for the senior post in the Islamic Community in Bosnia.

A radical mufti from Serbia’s southwestern Sandzak region may try to replace the head of Bosnia’s Islamic community, Mustafa Ceric, at the next elections to the post.

“I do not exclude the possibility of my running for the position of [Bosnia’s] Reis ul-ulema,” Zukorlic told Balkan Insight.

“But not even American presidents start campaigning a year ahead of the elections,” he added referring to the fact that plenty of time remained before the election.

The mandate of Reis ul-Ulema Ceric expires in November and elections for a successor should take place in March 2012.

“Sarajevo is my spiritual national and ethnic centre,” the mufti said, adding that Belgrade was only the capital of the country in which he lived.

Three years ago, at a ceremony in Novi Pazar, Zukorlic said that Sandzak’s Bosniaks saw Turkey as a mother who had been forced to abandon her children – Bosniaks in Sandzak and Bosnia and Albanians.

The mufti was referring to the fact that many Slavs and Albanians in the Balkans converted to Islam under the Ottoman Empire.

Zukorlic says he has no problems with the people of Belgrade but only with the people who rule Serbia from the city.

Tensions between Belgrade and the Mufti date back to July 2008, when he was first elected chief mufti of the Islamic community in Serbia.

Serbia treated the Sandzak like Serbian nationalist strongman Slobodan Milosevic once treated Kosovo, he then said. Bosniak rights were as much at risk as Kosovo Albanian rights had been under Milosevic.

Belgrade worsened tension last year, changing the rules about the composition of the Bosniak National Council last July mainly in order to stop Zukorlic from running it.

In the disputed elections to the council, Zukorlic’s Bosniak Cultural Community won 17 of the 35 seats. His two rivals, the Bosniak List and the Bosniak Renaissance won 13 and five seats respectively.

Following the constituent session on July 7, 2010, Zukorlic announced that the council had been properly constituted since a majority of members had attended.

In a controversial move, however, on July 6, the Serbian government ordered a last-minute change to the council’s rules, now saying that a two-thirds majority had to be present.

The minority rights ministry then said it did not recognise the Bosniak Council, which has, however, operated ever since, in defiance of Belgrade.

All ethnic minorities in Serbia have a right to national councils, which are endowed with a number of rights concerning media, culture, education and use of symbols.

Balkan Insight

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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