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AUSTRIA: Excellent speech President, World Bosniak Congress; Former Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina Dr. Mustafa Cerić on Vienna conference
DR. CERIĆ: THIS IS A BIG CONSPIRACY AGAINST ISLAM AND MUSLIMS IN THE EAST AND THE WEST!
By Mustafa Cerić
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak at this Vienna Conference.
I am a Muslim, and a proud one. More than that, I am a professional Muslim by the robe of a Mufti. I should say I used to be the Grand Mufti of Bosnia for twenty years. Now, I am a Mufti at large.Also, I should say I am not an immigrant to Europe. I used to be an emigrant to America. In the eighties of the last century I had a good time in Chicago. Indeed, Chicago is my kind of town. Two of my children are born there. But I could not stay in Chicago. I had to returnor to "migrate" to Europe. I had to come backto my ancestral homeland, to my home country, Bosnia. I have never thought that I might become defenseless, homeless, landless and stateless until I have heard a politician in my neighborhood say to me: “Don’t think that you will not perhaps lead the Muslim people into annihilation, because the Muslims cannot defend themselves if there is war”. This made me really think that people are not born defenseless, homeless, landless and stateless. People are made so by soulless, heartless, mindless and conscienceless men. Thus, the unprecedented wave of refugees from the East to Europe is not the cause for someone’s concern. It is rather the effect of someone’s carelessness about the mindlessness of men who have no heart for the human rights.
I am a Bosnian, and a proud one as well. My ancestors are Dobri Bošnjani,the Dear Bosnians, the Bosniaks. They adopted the faith of Islam in the 15th century. Before that, they had been practicing a sort of Christianity and had had their own independent church, the Bosnian Church, Crkva bosanska, which was considered heretical by both the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox hierarchies. Needless to say, none of the three Abrahamic traditions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam were born here in Europe. All of them migrated to Europe. Europehadadopted them at certaintimes in history and under certain historical circumstances with a certain warm or coolness. Of course, Europe had had its native religion or religions, but they had been replaced by the immigrant religions from the East. But, can a religion be an immigrant? Can an idea be an intruder? Can a culture be a stranger? Can a song be apoisonous voice?
Very much so, from Socrates to Jesus the strange idea andthe new faith have been declared to be as poisonous as venomous snakes; Socrates had to drink the poison in order to free the Athenians from his strange idea; and Jesus, according to the Christian belief, had to suffer thecrucifixion in order to free the humanity from the sin by his new faith; from Copernicus to Martin Luther King the new ideas and the genuine faith have paid the heavy price for freedom of thought and human rights; from Marx to Hitler a specterhas been haunting Europe – the specterof communism and fascism, radicalism and extremism, chauvinism and nationalism,fanaticism and mythology, separatism and terrorism; from Holocaust to Genocide Europe is still struggling to find out what Zarathustra spoke to the old saint in the forest? Is God dead? Europe is not sure yet whether God is alive. Or it looksas if God is neither dead nor alive. Europe is in thisbetween, between its lost trust in God and its search for human soul, betweenits openart and its closedculture, between its lastsong and itsfirst big bang. And I am in between as well, between my fear and my hope. I am afraid of my faith being proclaimed as a new specter haunting Europe – the specter of Islam with or without immigrants from the East.However, my hope is stronger than my fear. I might be naïve but I cannot help butthinkthat out of such a fear Europe will become stronger in its commitment to democracy and human rights, to the rule of law and the respect of human life, to the social justice, peace and security, to the right of each person to be as he or she wishes to be and as she or he likes to live.
I am a European, and a proud one no matter what. I belong to both the great Muslim philosopher Abu Hamid Muhammad Al-Ghazali (d. 1111) and the great European philosopher René Descartes (d.1650).Or, I might say, they both belong to me, as they believed that the certainty of truth in the human mind might be found in mathematics.
Now, let me share with you something you might think about it later. As you know, today is Friday, the day of my Holy Prayer of the week as it is to the Catholics the Holy Mass on Sunday and to the Jews the Holy Shabbat on Saturday. It is not obligatory for the organizer of this Conference to be aware of my Muslim prayer timetable. It was, perhaps, my duty to remind the organizer not to put me at the Panel Speakers at this time, the time of my Friday Prayer. I am sure that the organizer would not object to my request. But, I did not ask the favor. I risked missing my Friday Prayer today. Why, you might ask, I have opted for a self-inflicted guilt of conscience, because my conscience is not at peace if I am not at peace with God.
But, who cares about my peace with God as long as I am at peace with my fellow Europeans? And that is what I thought today. I wanted to show you how important for me areyour opinion about me being a Muslim from Bosnia. I thought you wanted to see me this way. Indeed, I was afraid to ask for time for my prayer today in one of many mosques in Vienna. Don’t take it hard on you yourself. It is me who is in trouble with it not you. I am now my own judge. I don’t need to hear anybody’s judgment anymore about me, about my faith, about my culture and aboutethics and morality. I had it enough everyday from everybody, everywhere. I am simply afraid to say anything. I am afraid of my missing the real affairs. I am afraid of being accused of self-defense, self-defiance, self-diligence and self-compliance.
Please, allow me to be honest to say I am envious of my Jewish friend, the Rabbi, who is here to tell Europe how he feels about anti-Semitism. I am deprived of such a privilege to tell youhow I feel about anti-Islamism or Islamophobia in Europe and in the Balkans even though it is on the rise more than anti-Semitism or equally so. Instead, I am supposed to tell you how I feel about Islamic: extremism, fanaticism, fundamentalism, jihadism, caliphism, isilism, daishism, suicidism, wahhabism, salafism, terrorism etc. You may trust me if I tell you that I have nothing to add new to your already stored information about all of these issues. It seems that the whole cosmos is full of daily conventional, special and social media reports about the unspeakable atrocities committed in the name of Islam although no one knows exactly who are those committers. Or everyone knows exactly who they are, but no one dares to speak out about their identities. They are those who have been terrorizing the conscience of humanity for many years gone and, it seems, will continue to do so for many years to come. No matter what I say in a condemnation or abjuration of violence in the name of my faith, it is not enough because I cannot stop it. So, my statement is irrelevant. However, let me say it any way as a testimony to mypan-Europeanism in the voice of a Muslim and a Bosnian. Let me say my wordabout the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels.
Indeed, the terrorist attacks carried outon March 22, 2016 inBrussels, the capital city of the European Union,at the airport and the subway shocked the whole world. It is very painful for the families and friends of the victims. I amexpressing to them my deepand sincere condolences. We in Bosnia know best how they feel. Only those who have experienced the terror can truly sympathize with the victims of terrorism.
Out of fear of making a mistake, so far I have shied away from the difficult and sensitive questions regarding the phenomenon of so-called ISIL. Or I wanted to avoid to be misunderstood by those who follow me and those who look over my work. But I can no longer remain silent. I have to ask these hard questions.How is it possible that no one knows who is the ISIL? Where are they coming from? Who made them to be what they are and for what purpose? Who made them militarily strong? Who trained them? Who is hiding behind the masks of the ISIL? Who has decided to kill everybody in the East and the West on behalf of and against Islam? Who is playing with the destiny of humanity?
Planet Earth is not Mars. Nor are the ISIL Martians. They are earthly evildoers, who spread fear among the people and nations, who expel people from their homes to seek refuge in the fields of tents. Seven million Syrians were expelled from warm homes to suffer in the open and in the cold winter days and nights. Was the invasion of Iraq necessary? Was it necessary for Syria to happen? Is the crisis in Yemen only the beginning or the end of something? Does anyone know what everyone knows? This is a big conspiracy against Islam and Muslims in the East and the West!
I was never a believer in conspiracy theories. But the attacks in Brussels changed me forever. It seems to me that everything became clear. This evil has no end because no one wants to go back to the beginning. Which is as terrifying as a possible end. And a possible end might be for the evil to win or to be defeated. You might ask what do you mean? Well, I mean that the noble good must speak clearly and loudly with one voice and in united action by all who know where the evil comes from. Do you not see that the atrocious evil is louder and more effective than the noble good? This is what scares me the most. Letting evil win. You might ask what do you mean?Well, I mean that you might be tempted to accept the ISIL’s story about Islam and Muslims as it is spreading now all over the world. You get impression that they, the ISIL, are the ones who are fighting for the honour of Islam and the freedom of Muslims. Until it is fully clear that the story about ISIL is not the story of Islam, but anti-Islamic campaign, and that thiscampaign of the ISIL about the ISILis not for the freedom of Muslims, but for the slavery of Muslims, we will not be able to put an end to the violence that has recently ravaged both the East and the West.
I am not highly fascinated by the history of Europe. And I owe nothing to it, especially after the Serbian genocide against my people in Bosnia. But Europe is my home. All Europeans are my fellow citizens, my neighbours. Their peace and security are my peace and security. Their fear and suffering are my fear and suffering. As a Muslim I was raised to love my faith and respect the faith of the other. I have never heard from my mother or my father that we should hate the other who is different from us. Never had I heard from my teacher, my hodža, a single bad word about our neighbours of the other religion, especially not about those who share similar views with us. I was taught to respect them because they are the owners of the Book, Ahl al-Kutāb. Hence, the story about Islam from the ISIL disturbs our Muslim peace of mind. We do not know how to defend ourselves from these stories? We do not know how to explain to our neighbours and our friends that wordsare said on their forums is against us, Muslims and our faith, Islam. It is against our Islamic values; it is against the values of Europe: the value of life, the value of faith, the value of freedom, the value of property and the value of honour.
Now, let me go back to my Muslim status in Europe, my Bosnian case in the Balkans and my future place in my state of Bosnia.
I hope that Europe has realizedby now that it cannot ignore anymore the need for an institutionalization of Islam in the sense of making the Muslim presence in Europe legal by proper laws and regulations of the Muslim public religious and cultural work. I believe that the status of the Muslims being treated as the group of outlaws because of their faith is over. It is time to think seriously about the establishment of a home made European Muslim University where the second and third generation of the European Muslim youth can be trained to take the responsibility for their faith and culture in the context of an overall European civilizational code. As long as the Muslim European youth are dependent on or addicted to the outside guidance for their faitheducation, we will be at risk of their extreme and radical views. The European Muslims are now grown up and mature enough not to need any kind of paternalism be it religious or political provided that they feelthat they are not the ghosts here in Europe, but the hosts with patriotic rights and duties. This feeling of the host instead of the ghost is achievable by education as the key factor for the fight against religious as well as political radicalism, extremism and terrorism. I believe that Europe is capable to overcome its fear of a distorted picture of Islam. If I am not afraid as a Muslim why should you be afraid as Christians, Jews, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics etc. Don’t you see that the ISIL frightensand killsthe Muslims before anyone else?
As to my case in the Balkans, I must raise a complaint. I know that it is better to have a dream than to have a complaint. I have learnt that from the great dreamer, the great Martin Luther King, who knew that no one would listen to his complaint. Thus, he never said, “I have a complaint”. He said, “I have a dream”. Unfortunately, my dream faded by the worse argument than the verdict by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) as it acquitted Serbian politician Vojislav Šešelj of all charges against him, such as counts of crimes against humanity: persecutions, deportation, inhumane acts, and six war crimes, murder, torture, cruel treatment, wanton destruction of villages, destruction or willful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion or education, and plunder of public or private property. Instead Judge Antonetti convicted the ICTY prosecution of confusion and incompetence. In its justification for the acquittal, the Tribunal majority even suggested that Šešelj’s inflammatory speeches calling for extermination of Croats“were made in a context of conflict and were meant to boost the morale of the troops of his camp, rather than calling upon them to spare no one”. Isn’t that very scary for the victims of Genocidein the Balkans to hear such a justification of criminal violence from the highest world court of justice. The victims thought that at least those bystanders in Europe would acknowledge their pain. “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”, as Martin Luther King has put it so truthfully. In this contextand for the sake of the peace of my mind, today I have only one message for Europe. Please, don’t allow yourself to be deceived twice in such a way that you don’t believe to your own eyes but accept that they tell you lies, that they play with your minds and hearts, that they get the prize for their genocidal crimes. There is a great proverb, which says that the wise man will not allow, that a serpent bite him twice from the same pit.
Finally, I have to share with you my fear that is biggest fear of all. I am not sure I can tell you all, but if I mention the name Mostar you may guess what is at stake. Mostar is one of the most beautiful cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And the people of all faiths and nationalities in Mostar are the most loveable ones. Unfortunately, the war has made it ugly. The very symbol of the city, the Old Bridge, from which came the name of the city Mostar, was destroyed. But, it was repaired and it looks now as beautiful as before. However, the wounds on the human souls are still there. They must be cured as well. Not by divisions but by a connection by the bridge of the human good will that is always there in the spirit of men who are open-minded. My fear is that the Neretva River might divide Mostar, which would be a beginning of the end of my people there. But, not only there. If Mostar is divided in accordance to the ethnical and religious lines, the whole Bosnia might be divided so. And that would be the end of my Bosniak people, the threat that we heard from the lord of war Karadžić at the beginning of Genocide, which came despite the promise of “Never Again”. I hope this time we will not fail. We will not allow that Mostar and Bosnia as a whole be betrayed. What ever you might think, but one thing is for sure: Bosnia is a great promise for a multiethnic and multicultural Europe. The state and the society of Bosnia are a miniature of the state and the society of the European Union. The political challenges of Bosnia are the same as the challenges of the whole Europe, the unity of the state and the society in diversity. This is not easy, but we have no choice but do it because neither the meek nor the aggressive with inherit the earth, but the cooperative. Therefore, I believe that Bosniashould not wait any longer but become as soon as possiblea full member of the family of Europe. After all, Bosnia deserves to live in peace and security as a full member of the NATO’s program of peace and security in the Eastern Europe and the Balkans, the area that is asturbulent as ever but yet as peaceful as it must be.
1] Radovan Karadžić speaking at the Bosnian parliament, on the night of 14–15 October 1991 as a threat to the citizens of Bosnia, majority of them being the Bosniaks of the Muslim faith if they opt for a referndum on a Bosnian independence as the Communist Yugoslavia was about to colapse in the aftermath of the colapse of the Communst Bloc headed by the Soviet Union.