careva-dzamija-sarajevo-1.jpg
Photograph: Islamska Zajednica BiH

The Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina insists on the dissolution of parallel Muslim communities illegally established in the country and calls on members of those communities to integrate into the legal structures, a representative of the leadership of the Islamic Community, was quoted by the local media as saying on Monday.

In mid-January, the Islamic Community's main body, called the Riyasat, said that only it had the authority to organise the religious life of local Muslims and that it would not allow any parallel Muslim communities in the country or activities of self-styled imams, setting a deadline until the end of February for "alternative groups" to be dissolved or integrated into the official structures of the Community in line with Bosnian legislation on religious liberties and communities.

"We have given deadlines and we have opened the doors for all who want to become part of the Islamic Community," Razim Colic told the Sarajevo-based Dnevni Avaz, adding that the  Riyasat will not give up from its position.

An estimated 64 illegal Islamic communities are active in Bosnia and are regarded as hotbeds of radicalism and extremism.

If they continue to disregard the warning from the Riyasat as of 1 March, they are to be tackled by the country's law enforcement authorities.

Bosnian security services suspect that these isolated communities are being used to recruit terrorists.

The Riyasat distanced itself from these communities, explaining that it has no insight into what is going on there and cannot be held responsible for their activities.

Some local religious analysts have warned that the attempts of establishment of "a parallel Islamic community" was the result of "irresponsible" toying by the former Islamic Community leader Mustafa Ceric with the destiny of local Muslims.

Resid Hafizovic, a professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Sarajevo, was one of the critics of Ceric and in 2006 he warned that Wahhabis had been trying to recruit young Muslims in Bosnia for their cause.

Hafizovic told the Oslobodjenje daily newspaper on Monday that the activities of parallel structures "are now a brutal, intimidating and menacing fact", and warned that the proportions of the issue were such that the current leadership of the Islamic Community in Bosnia could no longer deal with it on its own.

According to the professor, the response must be "resolute and uncompromising" from the Islamic Community.

The current head of the Islamic community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Husein Kavazovic, has been placed under police protection after receiving a death threat from a member of the Islamic State terrorist organisation.

Last December, leaders of the largest Bosniak (Muslim) political parties and the Islamic Community adopted a declaration in Sarajevo condemning terror and violence used in the name of Muslims throughout the world and calling on the Bosniaks in the country and the state authorities to resolutely oppose such actions.

Bosniak political and religious leaders gathered together to take a common position on the situation in the country, assessing that Bosnia and Herzegovina was seriously threatened by increasingly stronger Islamic radicalism and terrorism which has found a foothold in isolated communities led by self-styled interpreters of the Islamic faith.

They explicitly mentioned promoters of the takfir strand of Islam who consider almost all Muslim-populated countries today to be infidel, who advocate a return to "original Islam" and who incite to killing those whose interpretation of the Islamic faith differs from theirs. Advocates of takfir believe that Muslims living in areas where Islam is practised by infidels should relocate to areas where it is interpreted "properly", including the territory currently controlled by the terrorist organisation Islamic State.

Kavazovic, who initiated the meeting, told the press then that the aim was to reaffirm their "commitment to the path of the good in a time full of violence". "As responsible representatives of the Bosniak people we wish to say that violence and terror is not our path," he said then.

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