As Bosnia revives, so do Muslim faithful

International Herald Tribune    December 26, 2008
By Dan Bilefsky 
 
SARAJEVO: As several thousand worshipers streamed into the imposing King Fahd Mosque on a recent Friday, a young man sat outside selling a popular conservative Muslim magazine with President-elect Barack Obama’s image on the cover.
“Hussein, Will Your America Kill Muslims?” the headline asked, using Obama’s middle name, a source of pride for many Muslims here.
Thirteen years after a war in which 100,000 people were killed, a majority of them Muslims, Bosnia is experiencing an Islamic revival.
More than half a dozen new madrasas, or religious high schools, have been built in recent years, while dozens of mosques have sprouted, including the King Fahd, a sprawling €20 million, or $28 million, complex with a sports and cultural center.
Before the war, fully covered women and men with long beards were almost unheard of. Today, they are commonplace.
Many here welcome the Muslim revival as a healthy assertion of identity in a multiethnic country where Muslims make up close to half of the population. But others warn of a growing culture clash between conservative Islam and Bosnia’s avowed secularism in a fragile state.
Two months ago, men in hoods attacked participants at a gay festival in Sarajevo, dragging some people from vehicles and beating others, while they chanted “Kill the gays!” and “Allahu Akbar!” Eight people were hurt.
Muslim religious leaders complained that the event, which coincided with the holy month of Ramadan, was a provocation. The organizers said they sought to promote minority rights and meant no offense.
In this cosmopolitan capital, where bars have long outnumbered mosques, Muslim religious education was recently introduced in state kindergartens, prompting some secular Muslim parents to complain that the separation between mosque and state was being breached.
Bosnia’s Muslims have practiced a moderate Islam that stretches back to the Ottoman conquest in the 15th century. Sociologists and political leaders say the religious awakening is partly the outgrowth of the war and the American-brokered Dayton agreement that ended it, dividing the country into a Muslim-Croat Federation and a Serb Republic.
“The Serbs committed genocide against us, raped our women, made us refugees in our own country,” said Mustafa Efendi Ceric, the Grand Mufti and main spiritual leader of Bosnia’s Muslim community.
“And now we have a tribal constitution that says we have to share political power and land with our killers. We Bosnian Muslims still feel besieged in the city of Sarajevo.”
Religious and national identity have long been fused in multifaith Bosnia. It was tradition in villages to refer to neighbors by their religion – Muslim, Orthodox, Catholic – rather than as Bosnian, Serb or Croat.
MORE: http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/12/26/americas/islam.php

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