BiH Islamic Community welcomes new leader


Regional Islamic communities look for Husein Effendi Kavazovic to continue strengthening religious life and institutions for Bosniak Muslims.

By Bedrana Kaletović for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 17/11/12


Husein Effendi Kavazovic is the new Grand Mufti of the Islamic community of Bosnia and Herzegovina. [Bedrana Kaletović/SETimes]

After 19 years as the head of the Islamic Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Reis Mustafa Effendi Ceric handed over his position to Husein Effendi Kavazovic on Thursday (November 15th).

Kavazovic, 48, is well-regarded by other religious leaders. Although he is not without critics, his statement following the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 -- when he urged Muslims not to retaliate against Serbian civilians -- helped him build a reputation as a moderate.

"We will change and fix the obsolete and the bad," Kavazovic said in a statement to the media.

"We are facing serious tasks of progress and development. For that, we have the knowledge, ability and decisiveness. Strength, assured by the unity of Muslims and conscience of the Bosnaiks, will be pointed towards the security and good of the country we live in. We will respect the responsibilities taken on and co-operate with neighbours of other faiths. We will contribute to the strengthening of the Bosnian and Herzegovinian society, founded on the respect for diversity and responsibility for those varieties."

In succeeding Ceric, Kavazovic replaces a leader who frequently was accused of excess involvement in political decisions. Ceric never officially distanced himself from the Vehabias and radical Islamists, and he proclaimed journalists who reported on these groups as Islamophobics.

Enes Osmancevic, a professor at the University of Tuzla, said Kavazovic is a member of a rural, right-wing militant stream in the Islamic community -- one that doesn't differentiate between religion and politics.

"Kavazovic hides his right-wing orientation behind his concern for the faith and nation, and his militantism behind his patriotism," Osmanovic told SETimes. "His previous reasoning about the current issues of society and religion in BiH has shown that he indeed is, foremost, a politician of a one-dimensional provenience, who has for years been involved with SDA's decisions. His previous work is more political and less religious."

Kavazovic's election drew positive comments in the region, where other Islamic communities look for him to continue strengthening religious life and institutions for Bosniak Muslims.

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"The Islamic Community in BiH has always had good co-operation. I am convinced that the Islamic Community and the Muslims of BiH and diaspora put the right man in the right place," said Reis Rifat Ef. Fejzic from the Islamic community of Montenegro.

"We believe him to be following the advancement of the interreligious dialogue in BiH, and wider, we Catholics of Bosna Srebrena are always ready and open for an honest and well-natured dialogue and co-operation at spreading the well-being of all people," Friar Lovro Gavran, provincial of Bosna Srebrena told SETimes.

The changing leadership of the Bosnian Islamic Community comes just after a similar move in Croatia, where Aziz Hasanovic became the first new mufti in 22 years in September. He hopes for the Islamic community to prosper as Croatia becomes a member of the EU in 2013.

"Upon entering the EU, Croatia, as a value, brings along the best-resolved Muslim situation in Europe," Hasanovic said. "We offer this as a model for resolving the issue of all Muslim minorities in the world, as well as that of Christian minorities in Muslim regions."

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