Serbian Religious Dispute Settled Under Turkish Auspices


Turkish media is reporting that the Turkish foreign minister and the Grand Mufti of Bosnia have held a meeting which is said to have resolved a long standing dispute between rival religion factions in the predominantly Muslim region of Sandzak, Serbia. According to the report:

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu is seen during a visit to Serbia’s predominantly Muslim region of Sandzak, back in 2009. Ankara has resolved a dispute between the religious leaders of Sandzak, a Serbian territory with a Muslim majority population that has recently found itself in the middle of an escalating crisis, which at times has resulted in armed clashes, the burning down of mosques and imams being harassed on both sides.   As a result of the dispute between two religious institutions in Serbia’s Sandzak region, an old Ottoman military base before it joined with Serbia and Montenegro during the Balkan Wars of the early 20th century, some 350,000 residents of the region have been torn between two religious leaders, the mufti of Bosnia and the mufti of Serbia, both of whom claimed superiority over the other for a say in how Sandzak should be run. The dispute that was caused by speculation that Sandzak was becoming autonomous, which the mufti of Sandzak has called for, was reportedly settled by Ankara last week. Ankara last week held a meeting for the sides engaged in a political dispute regarding the Muslim majority of the region, including the mufti of Sandzak, Muamer Zukorlic of the Bosniak Culture Community; Sulejman Ugljanin, a state minister supporting rival Bosniak Ticket; Rasim Ljajic, the minister of labor, employment and social affairs supporting the Bosniak Renaissance; and Bosnian reis-ul-ulema (grand Mufti) Mustafa Ceric, the Anatolia news agency reported on Monday. The Serbian religious leaders and state ministers met Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davuto?lu and Directorate of Religious Affairs (D?B) head Mehmet Görmez, who extended efforts to reconcile the sides in an attempt to contain the growing tension in the Sandzak region, and drafted an agreement between the sides to end the crisis that has damaged the Sandzak community.(Via .)

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An earlier post reported on the request by the Bosniac National Council (BNC) in Serbia for the European Union to send international observers to the Muslim-majority Sandzak region. Serbian officials and analysts have generally blamed Bosnian Grand and European Muslim Brotherhood leader Mufti Mustafa Ceric for the troubles. As noted in the report referenced in that post, Muamer Zukorlic, the leader of the Islamic Community in Serbia (ICS), is supported by Bosnian Grand Mufti Ceric. Zukorlic was recently elected as leader of the ICS and previous posts have discussed the ongoing conflict between Zukorlic and Adem Zilkic who has no ties to Ceric or Bosnia. Ceric was barred from entering Serbia last year over his claim that Muslim rights are being violated in Serbia.

Considered by some to be a leading “liberal” Islamic leader, Mustafa Ceric is tied to the global Muslim Brotherhood through his membership in the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), headed by Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi and by his participation in the U.K.-based “Radical Middle Way” consisting of a wide range of associated scholars representing the global Muslim Brotherhood. Several earlier posts have discussed Dr. Ceric’s increasing visibility and importance within the global Muslim Brotherhood, noting that Ceric sees himself as a possible future leader of a “European Islam.” The possibility also exists that Dr. Ceric could be being groomed as a successor to Youssef Qaradawi, in ill health of late. Another previous post discussed Dr. Ceric’s role in diverting Saudi funds donated for war victims to the creation of an investment bank controlled by the Bosnian Islamic Community which he heads. A recent report carried on a Bosnian public television statement features an accusation by Sarajevo Islamic Studies students that Dr. Ceric was intending to occupy a 10 million mark ($6.6 million) residence built by the donations of wealthy Bosnians. Dr. Ceric recently compared the Iranian Revolution with the French Revolution.

In comments reported in the Turkish media on Monday, Ceric reportedly said that “as a Muslim country Bosnia cannot be considered separate from Turkey”:

The grand mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday said Turkey’s success in a number of areas is a source of pride and assurance for Bosnian Muslims.   Visiting Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate on Monday, Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric, together with his Croatian and Serbian counterparts, sought to boost cooperation in religious affairs as part of the reconstruction of Muslim identity in the Balkans. Ceric delivered a speech at a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart, Mehmet Görmez, the head of the Religious Affairs Directorate. “Turkey’s victory is our victory, your happiness is our happiness,” Ceric said. Noting that it is not easy to be a Muslim in Europe, with reference to the Bosnian tragedy of the 1990s, Ceric said, “We [Bosnia Herzegovina] are no longer a small country, vulnerable to attack; instead, we are part of a great nation.” According to Ceric, it is easier to be part of a country with a population of 82 million, rather than only 2 million standing alone, indicating that as a Muslim country Bosnia cannot be considered separate from Turkey. Agreeing with Ceric, Görmez also drew attention to the urgent necessity of reconstructing Muslim identity in the Balkans, as an important task for religious leaders both in Turkey and in the Balkans’ Muslim communities.

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) has published a report titled “Turkey, the Global Muslim Brotherhood, and the Gaza Flotilla” whose second conclusion states:

The Gaza flotilla incident brought into sharp focus an even more significant long- term development: the growing relationship between the Erdogan government and the Global Muslim Brotherhood, which has given rise to some of the most notorious Islamist terrorist groups – from al-Qaeda to Hamas. Since 2006, Turkey has become a new center for the Global Muslim Brotherhood, while the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip acted as the main axis for this activity.

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