Various media Balkan media reports indicate that the leader of a Serbian Islamic group associated with Bosnian Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric has been asked by a group of Muslim clerics in the southwest region of Sandzak to resign as head of the Islamic Community of Serbia with its seat in Novi Pazar, located about 250 kilometers southwest of Belgrade. According to these reports, the controversy is the latest development in the conflict between two competing Islamic factions that emerged after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. The factions are divided into those who support Zukorlic, tied to the Muslim Supreme Council (Riyaset) in Sarajevo under Ceric, and those who support Hamdija Jusufspahic who is in charge of the mosques in Belgrade and Nis with his two sons As previous posts have discussed, Ceric is closely associated with global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi and appears to be seeking greater influence over the development of Islam in Europe. An intelligence reported cited in a 2005 Balkan news portal article links the Islamic Community of Serbia to a more general effort to unify the Balkans Islamic communities under the control of the Sarajevo-based B-H Islamic Community led by Ceric:
According to intelligence reports, one of the chief objectives of the Wahabi current in the Balkans is the unification of the Islamic religious communities of Macedonia, Kosovo, Sandzak, and Montenegro under the umbrella of the Sarajevo-based B-H Islamic Community, as they used to function before the SFRY’s [Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia] disintegration. The pro-Arabic Islam has already infiltrated the Balkans, finding its firmest stronghold in the B-H Islamic Community. These factions have been successful in pursuing their goal of expanding and getting embedded in the Islamic religious communities of Macedonia, Montenegro, Sandzak, and Kosovo.
(While this report labels the unification drive as a “Wahabi current”, it should not be confused with a third Saudi-based Islamic faction in the area, opposed by both of the Zukorlic and Jusufspahic groups, that that violently clashed with police and which has been stockpiling weapons and explosives.)
One of the media reports describes a meeting that was held last week at which the demand for Zukorlic’s resignation was made:
At the meeting Wednesday, delegates from the five municipalities with large Muslim communities demanded Zukorlic’s resignation on the basis of allegations that he has been guilty of political engagement, allying with one political option, spreading fear among the clergy and violating their right to free expression, reports said citing a declaration from the meeting In a statement carried by Belgrade’s B92 radio, Zukorlic dismissed the allegation and lashed out at the new Islamic Community as the product of a plot between Serbia’s intelligence community and Novi Pazar’s influential Mayor Sulejman Ugljanin.
The latest news reports from the region indicate that violent incidents have occurred as a result of the rivalry with two TV stations in Sandzak coming under attack, and fighting breaking out between two rival groups in a local mosque.