Example for Europe: Bosnia’s open, tolerant Islam

The long-established Balkan Muslims can provide Europe with an example of successful co-existence with other religions, demonstrating that there is nothing inevitable about links between Islam and extremism, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina said on 4 May.

Rhetoric on Islam’s place in Europe has become increasingly security-focused, as far-right populists play up the recent ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks to intensify their anti-Islam diatribes. The attacks and have also been used to stoke fears surrounding the arrival of mostly-Muslim refugees and migrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

However, Muslims have lived in the Balkans for centuries, co-existing peacefully with Christians and Jews for much of that time. While some European Muslims have been attracted to extremist doctrines and actions, Bosnian state and religious leaders have made effective efforts to prevent radicalisation, Grand Mufti Husein Kavazović told a Friends of Europe “Conversation with” event.

“The Islamic community has produced its own programme against people going to fight in wars,” he said. “For the past 18 months, we have not had anyone going to war zones. That is a success.”

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s version of Islam within a secular state could be a useful example to the rest of Europe, as the country applies to join the EU, Kavazović said. “In Europe, there are two Islams,” he said – “traditional Islam with roots in its home turf, and people who came to Europe later. I think Bosnian Muslims could help the European Union. Europe needs the Balkans and its Islam.”

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