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Exclusive to Bosnjaci.net: An interview with Dr. Mustafa ef. Ceric, Reisu-l-ulema of the Islamic Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina
EUROPE MUST PROMISE THAT IT WILL NEVER AGAIN PERSECUTE JEWS AND MUSLIMS
The gathering at the Yale University was held following an initiative by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, and it was moderated by Prof. Dr. Miroslav Volf. One of the keynote speakers at the conference was the esteemed Reisu-l-ulema Dr. Mustafa ef. Ceric who, in spite of numerous commitments, answered an invitation for an interview by the Editor-in-Chief of the web magazine Bosnjai.net.
Together with Reis Dr. Mustafa ef. Ceric, the conference was attended by Sen. John Kerry, former US presidential candidate who officially opened the event, then Habib al-Jiffri, Alan Godlas, Dr. Miroslav Volf, David Burrell, Ayot Mohaghagh Damad, Naim Travna, David Ford, Mustafa Cherif, Martin Accad, Tokunboh Adeyemo, all of whom addressed the conference on July 29.
On July 30, 2008, the addresses were: Habib al-Jiffri, Robert H. Schuller, Emilie Townes, David Shenk, T.J. Winter, Dalia Maghed, Hashem Kamali, Shaykh Dr. Hussein Hasan Abakar, Mahmoud Madani, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Geoff Tunnicliffe and Heidi Hadsell.
The speakers on July 31, 2008 were Dr. Abd Al-Kabir Mudghari, Mohammed Alwani Al-Sharif, Leith Anderson, Seyyed Hossein Nasr and others.
Bosnjaci.net: Esteemed Reisu-l-ulema, one of the most prominent educational institutions in the world, the Yale University in New Haven, hosted a dialogue between Christianity and Islam “Love towards God and neighbour in words and deeds - suppositions for Muslims and Christians”, which was attended by eminent individuals from the world of Christianity, Islam, culture, science and politics. You were one of keynote speakers and also gave an introduction to the audience. Please tell us where the idea for the dialogue came from?
Reis Dr. Ceric: Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan provided the initiative, while the cause was Pope Benedict’s address at the Regensburg University in Germany. Following that, 138 prominent Muslim intellectuals found it necessary to respond in a way to invite all to dialogue and a debate, for which they found a reason in Qur’an. As in Qur’an it is said: “Let us come together around the common word between you and us”, and so this is the result of that initiative which was received very well in the West. This is one of the reasons for this conference, as Professor Miroslav Volf, Director of the Center for Faith and Culture at the Yale University (who hails from Croatia), said that this was the most significant initiative for interfaith dialogue in the last fifty years. So, we have this conference and a workshop held over the course of three days, July 29 to 31, 2008.
We live in the world in which either all will have peace, or no one will have peace
Bosnjaci.net: How did the conversations go?
Reis Dr. Ceric: We held conversations by way of an intellectual exchange of thoughts, about the idea of love towards God and towards neighbour. Participants included a substantial number of the Islamic Ulema, Christian and Jewish intellectuals, which genuinely makes me glad as it is the mission of the conference itself. We spoke about very serious issues between Christians and Muslims, including the problem of the missionaries in the Middle East as well, naturally, as about the situation of Muslims in the West. Sen. John Kerry, former US presidential candidate, officially opened the conference, and that I take to be significant and very important.
Bosnjaci.net: It is obvious that the divide between Christians, Jews and Muslims has widened. It is evidenced by years of war in Palestine, as well as the wars following the terrorist attacks on the WTC in New York. How much closer, after this dialogue at the Yale University, are Christians, Jews and Muslims to a dialogue, rather than an armed conflict?
Reis Dr. Ceric: A dialogue is a process which has no finite solutions, but is a process that lasts. What we have achieved in this dialogue will not immediately have visible results, especially the pertinent issues - the question of Iraq, Iran, Palestine, etc. But without this dialogue, the situation would be that much worse, torturous, and that ray of hope “A common word between you and us” would have been lost. Therefore, with this dialogue there is hope that that those questions will have to see solutions in a way to satisfy everyone. As it is obvious, we live in a world in which either all will have peace or no one will have peace. We can not have it that one part of the world lives in peace and prosperity while another suffers due to wars, etc. So, Muslims have been surviving through difficult times since all the wars are now being fought in Muslim countries, 70% of all refugees in the world are Muslims, there are hotspots where Muslims die, sometimes due to own mistakes while in majority of the cases they die because of an aggression being launched against them. The occupation of Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, areas around Sudan, that all becomes confusing, just as Somalia and others. Therefore, Muslims are in a very difficult position and they seek to establish contact with the world. The Western world as well, and so do the US, seek through these Christian institutions to find a way out of this dead end through dialogue, especially if we talk about Palestine, where peace is being sought by way of dialogue. It is a grueling process which requires patience and building of trust among peoples.
Forgive us, we have committed grave errors against Muslims
Bosnjaci.net: Will this dialogue which was just held, have any effects upon the rest of the Christian and Muslim world? I ask this as there have been many insults placed by way of a written word, hate speeches and caricatures...
Reis Dr. Ceric: We talked about that at this conference. We have heard some Christians who expressed their regrets. For example, Prof. Dr. Petar Kuzmic, President of the Evangelical Church in Croatia, literally said that he asks of Bosnian Muslim forgiveness for the genocide that Karadzic and Mladic committed in the name of cross and Christianity. Also, in other discussions, there were Christians from the US who explicitly said: “forgive us, we have committed grave errors against Muslims”. However, all of this remain but words as it is difficult to get to those who decide and who wield power. Yet I think that is it essential that it be heard as it will be on the record. As I said, we need to be patient; we need to work and learn a lot about what this world is and how to find a place in it.
Bosnjaci.net: After all of this, how do you see Islam and Christianity and, therefore, their members, in the future?
Reis Dr. Ceric: In the end, all of us are human beings and, naturally, we have our identities, our religions and so we talked a lot about love towards God and towards neighbour and we must learn to respect one another. We must learn that this planet is common to all of us and that in our living together either all will live in peace or no one will live in peace. I still think that it is better if all of us were to work toward peace and security, to care about one another and to show respect, and if possible love, so that it would be better for all of us.
Dr. Petar Kuzmic asked Muslims for forgiveness for the genocide that Karadzic committed while bearing a cross
Bosnjaci.net: Some ten days ago, the most wanted war criminal, Radovan Karadzic, was arrested and delivered to the Tribunal in The Hague. How was this news received by the attendees at the conference, about a Christian who led criminal brigands, military and police and organized and committed genocide against Bosnian Muslims, and did so at the end of the twentieth century in the heart of Europe?
Reis Dr. Ceric: In my previous answer I emphasized what Dr. Petar Kuzmic said in his speech in which he very precisely and clearly said, that he asks forgiveness from Muslims for the genocide which Karadzic committed while bearing cross. It is known that in Christianity there are a lot o theologies, , directions, denominations, etc. The question is this - who speaks in the name of Christianity, who is a legitimate representative, so that we would know that it is the voice of Christianity.
I also spoke about that, and that those Christians who cherish their religion and conscience, absolutely condemn the genocide perpetrated against Bosniaks. There were some Orthodox Christians from Ukraine who expressed their sorrow and who felt uncomfortable and one could openly see that they do not condone acts of some Orthodox Serbs and especially some people in the (Serbian) Orthodox Church.
Europe to proclaim July 11 a day of mourning
Bosnjaci.net: Will there, in the end, with this act of arrest of leading war criminals and handing them over to the institutions of international jurisprudence, at least the justice of this world be served?
Reis Dr. Ceric: There does not exist absolute justice upon this world. Absolute justice is with God dz.s. However, this is significant for us, that in this world war criminals will answer for their crimes, and that in our case Karadzic has been apprehended, and that gives us hope that there are people in this world who care about moral values, although that is still insufficient for us. We, of course, can never achieve full satisfaction, mothers of Srebrenica, or, in general, mothers of Bosnia and Herzegovina will never see their dearest return, yet knowing what kind of world we live in it certainly is a great day for justice, great day for international law, for international community, for Europe, a great day for BiH, and, in the end, a great day for Serbia. There has to occur catharsis in Serbia. Serbs must understand that what was done in BiH is crime and they must condemn it. Honest Serbs must distance themselves from those who committed genocide in their name. The sooner they do that, the easier it will be for us to differentiate between individual and collective responsibility. So, there is no collective guilt, but there is collective responsibility. Therefore, guilty are those who committed crime but are Serbs. All Serbs are responsible for what was done in BiH since they elected those who committed crimes in their name and who still have not publicly and unambiguously distanced themselves from those who committed crimes. So, we are waiting for that moment to come. Karadzic’s handover to the Tribunal in The Hague is certainly a sign that some good things are happening among Serbs, that are good for them, first and foremost to get rid of that stigma, but of, course also for us and the whole of Europe so that it will never happen again. Because of that, on July 11 of this year we requested of the European Parliament that Europe proclaim July 11 a Day of mourning. As it is high time for Europe to promise that it will never again persecute neither Jews nor Muslims from the European continent.
We must be honourable and dignified just as we have been so far
Bosnjaci.net: Following Karadzic’s arrest there were organized numerous protests in Serbia but also in the part of BiH which was created upon the blood and bones of Bosniaks who perished in genocide the architect of which was Karadzic. The Seselj chetniks, together with the Serbian Orthodox Church, organized protests and prayers in churches; even Amfilohije Radovic, acting Patriarch, visited and gave communion to Karadzic in prison. Your comment?
Reis Dr. Ceric: We will not be served by speaking something against the Serbian Orthodox Church. I think that we must be honourable and dignified just as we have been so far, and everybody will answer for their deeds. Even the Serbian Orthodox Church will, one day, answer in one way or another for its deeds. Let Karadzic defend himself before the Tribunal in The Hague. Mladic must be brought there as well.
We should not burden ourselves with what Serbs are doing. We also know that nothing worse can happen than that which happened in BiH. Now we need to start taking care of ourselves, our doings, to work on our unity, to be united, to build strength, watch over our families, community, etc.
I would just like to warn, and to emphasize this, to leave the Islamic Community alone
Bosnjaci.net: After the pogrom and everything else that our people survived, what is there to be expected of Bosniaks in BiH, Sandzak, Kosovo, in Turkey, across the Diaspora; how to relate among themselves, toward their institutions, especially toward the homeland?
Reis Dr. Ceric: Rely upon God and upon ourselves. We need to sincerely develop mutual solidarity, to work industriously and to teach our children to live of their work and efforts and, of course, to be vigilant and not to let our guard down, and, with Allah’s help, it will be better.
Bosnjaci.net: As if you presumed that I would be asking about the life in our Diaspora, which sometimes we make more difficult; relations among us quickly flame up and we easily become angry at one another. Unfortunately, a divide occurred in CNAB, although I believe that in this case all of that can be overcome and our mutual trust will return as we need one another...
Reis Dr. Ceric: I would not talk about that, yet let people here, in North America, resolve that, but in a dignified way. However, I would just like to warn, and to emphasize, that the Islamic Community be left alone as the Islamic Community must perform its mission. Also, to those who mention the name of Reisu-l-ulema or the Islamic Community, that they are doing it without being authorized, and so it is not allowed and it is in bad faith.
In this regard, I am sincerely disappointed because of broken relations among Bosniaks in general and it is regrettable to see that the relations here in America have been torn. I would like to ask everybody to remain honourable and not to spend everything that can be spent.