Leaders of the largest Bosniak (Muslim) political parties and the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina adopted a declaration in Sarajevo on Friday 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 takfiri 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.
The head of the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Husein Kavazovic, who initiated the meeting, told the press 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.
"The deviant ideology of takfir has unfortunately fallen on fertile ground in Bosnia and Herzegovina," Democratic Action Party (SDA) leader Bakir Izetbegovic said, adding that dangers of it had not been promptly recognised.
Izetbegovic said that self-styled interpreters of Islam, opposing the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, had caused extremism to spread contrary to the nature of the faith of the Muslims living in Bosnia and Herzegovina. "Inclusive Islam in Bosnia and Herzegovina has protected the spirit and diversity of Bosnia and Herzegovina," he said, noting that his country was also home to other monotheistic religions.
"We will again have to defend our faith, our culture and our value system," said Izetbegovic, who also serves as the Bosniak member of the country's collective presidency. He added that that would be done not just institutionally, morally and politically but also using means of repression "that will be clinically precise and selective so as not to trigger off a new wave of radicalism."
"It will not be easy to resolve this problem and it will take a lot of time," Izetbegovic concluded.
In their declaration the Bosniak political and religious leaders called on the authorities in predominantly Muslim countries to respect the tradition and identity of the Muslims living in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They said they expected EU countries to oppose Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims and urged the international community to fight against terrorism and counter the spread of poverty as fertile ground for spreading extremism.