SHAFAQNA – Dozens of breakaway Muslim community groups in Bosnia face shutdown by police for their propensity to front ideas and principles similar to that of Wahhabi-inspired terror groups officials confirmed.
Most of Bosnia’s Muslims, known also as Bosniaks, are moderates well integrated in its widely secular society, which also comprises Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats.
Bosnia’s brush with extremism came in the 1990s as a reaction to the violent ethno-sectarian war which tore across the Balkans, and played into radicalism, as inspired and engineered by Wahahbist Saudi Arabia. Keen to avenge the crimes which were committed against their communities and families, many Bosniaks lent an ear to dangerous Islamists, allowing for radicalism to insinuate itself inside Bosnia, a sleeping giant.
Echoing the experience of other European countries with Muslim communities, more than 150 Bosnians have gone to fight alongside terror militants such as Daesh in Syria and Iraq over the past few years, police say. More than 50 have returned to Bosnia and about 30 were killed in combat.
Bosnian Security Minister Dragan Mektic said this week that police would soon shut down Muslim community groups that refuse affiliation with the state-recognized Islamic Community organisation based in the capital Sarajevo.
“It is correct and true that criminals who have made fascist and violent threats against us from the Middle East have been members of these illegal community groups,” an editorial on the Islamic Community’s website said on Friday.
It was referring to death threats sent via the Internet this week to Bosnia’s top Islamic cleric, Grand Mufti Husein Kavazovic, by a Bosnian believed to be fighting in Syria.
The man who made the threats came from a village adjacent to a breakaway Muslim community, one of 64 in Bosnia, in the northeastern village of Gracanica, according to Bosnian media.
Fikret Duric, the Gracanica community leader, acknowledged that it had adopted a fundamentalist form of Islam but denied any connection with radicalized men going to join Islamic State or other Islamist insurgents in Syria and Iraq.
“They accuse us of organizing departures to foreign wars, which I absolutely deny,” said Duric, 39, sporting a long beard and traditional Islamic robe. “We don’t support the so-called (Islamic State) caliphate and will not help it in any way.”
The official Islamic Community organisation has agreed to negotiations with dissident local groups that face having their centers of worship and study sealed by police in coming days.
But it defended the crackdown as vital to restoring order and unity among its faithful – who make up almost half of Bosnia’s population – and allow it to vouch for all its members.
“We live in a world where radical Muslims take actions with undesirable consequences, and the Islamic Community has decided to take stock of what we have in Bosnia, start a dialogue with them and call on them to come under our roof,” senior Islamic Community official Razim Colic told reporters.