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Reis-ul ulema of the Islamic Community of Bosnia-Hercegovina
"Freedom for the Ulema:" Interview With Husein efendija Kavazović

[CIP Note: This important interview with Husein ef. Kavazović, the current reis-ul ulema(chief cleric) of the Muslims of Bosnia-Hercegovina, comes at a vital moment. Bosnia-Hercegovina has been shocked by a series of brutal attacks against Imam Selvedin ef. Beganović, who directs a mosque in Trnovi, a small village in the northwestern Bosnian region of Velika Kladuša. Imam Beganović, our honorable brother, has suffered at least seven knife assaults because of his preaching against Bosnians participating in the terrorism of the so-called "Islamic State" in Syria and Iraq. In a reportage by Oslobođenjeon January 22, 2015, the mayor of Velika Kladuša, Edin Behrić, denied that terrorism poses a security threat in the area or that an extremist training camp exists there. But Jasmin Šahinović, head of the municipal cabinet, admitted that Imam Beganović had been attacked because of his "anti-Wahhabi opinions." Šahinović concluded, "the mayor sympathized with the imam, whom he visited and supported as a citizen." Šahinović added that people called Wahhabis exist in other cities of Bosnia-Hercegovina, and that if someone breaks the law, they should be held responsible without exception. Recruitment for combat outside Bosnian borders is illegal. Please remember the heroic and virtuous Imam Beganović in your duas. Interview translated and edited by CIP. Original title: "Exclusion is Satanic."]

"Displaying
 
He became head of the Islamic Community [IZBiH] in September 2012: then he changed the Community's Constitution, and invited women to participate actively for the first time in elections for Community bodies. The office of the reis [Rijaset IZBiH] and the reis-ul ulemahimself helped tirelessly the injured and victims of the spring 2014 floods, trying to share both the good and the bad with people all over Bosnia-Hercegovina. Husein ef. Kavazović had little time; with news of the arrival of Pope Francis in our country [scheduled for June 2015] he visited Catholic Cardinal Vinko Puljić to offer every form of assistance in organizing the Pope's welcome: for Oslobođenje [Liberation], the reis speaks about Muslims in our country and the world, its contradictions, terrorism and wars, about Bosnia-Hercegovina today, its politicians, and ordinary people who are, in reality, great people.

 

 
Even before Dževad Hodžić was presenting his "Liberation Theology" in the pages of this newspaper, it often occurred that my friends from Belgrade and Zagreb, speaking of Sarajevo, said they were fascinated by the courage with which the Muslim intellectuals and professors of the Sarajevo Faculty of Islamic Studies came into the public square.
This curative (self) criticism, manifested openly, the degree of intellectual daring shown in describing appearances and social phenomena by their real names, refusing to conform to the (pre-)war maxim of "going along to get along" while ignoring others, left us with a need to sweep our doorstep clean, and protected for years the indisputable authority of the Islamic Faculty, as well as the sector of the academic public from which an active engagement in the improvement of Bosnian society was expected.
Crime negates faith
Most interesting to me and my colleagues was, amazingly, how the group then at the head of the Islamic Community [under former reis Mustafa ef. Cerić] reacted against such criticisms. Not to repeat stereotypes, but a regional pattern has long been seen in which resistance exhausts every engagement in favor of the common good and human solidarity. So, as I should be pleased to say aloud, I was heartened by a recent call from Nadežda Gaće, editor of the Beograd-based NoviMagazin: "Come on, write for us about your new reis. The man speaks, everybody writes about him. He has brought women into the structure of the Islamic Community!" I called attention to her book Dževadovih kolumni [Dževad's Columns], including some that speak of the activities of Muslim women and surveyed the Islamic Community of Bosnia-Hercegovina regarding this engagement… I doubt the new reis ordered the speed and warmth of welcome the Rijaset expressed at news that Pope Francis would come to Sarajevo. But it was an expected gesture; just as I was leaving, reis-ul ulema Kavazović went to visit Cardinal Puljić with his offer of full assistance in the organization of the Pope's welcome – a most normal gesture. Is this not an example of our Bosnian-Hercegovinan tradition: that among neighbors the unwritten rule holds that when guests come from afar, the courtyard is open and neighbors stand by to welcome them? While I intended to begin a conversation with the results of his exceptional commitment to the Islamic Community, the reporter in me did not prevail, even with the fresh and tragic news from Paris, and the discussion was unrestricted…
V.S.
Selimbegović: I have to admit that not only the public in Bosnia-Hercegovina and the region, but that of the whole world, was surprised by the precision and clarity of convictions you expressed after the attack on the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Yours was a human reaction of solidarity, considering the institution you represent, and undoubtedly brave. Tell us, how do we separate murderers and terrorists from the mantle of religion under which they hide?
Kavazović: This is certainly a question that today is most urgent among Muslims and in the Islamic world, an issue that challenges Muslims. Condemnation of the crimes, condemnation of the terrorism that occurred in France, is unquestionable, because it applies to all crimes. Crime should be condemned as crime. We can juxtapose, if we wish, crimes against the Bosnian Muslims – those by the [Serbian liquidation unit] Skorpions, which we all saw on that video. In the same way, this was a crime, and the victims were innocent. It should be condemned without any "buts." It should be condemned and the matter closed. It was a crime. And now I will turn to the issue of separating crime from faith. We must separate them because crime denies faith. We know what Islam teaches, how Islam views life, the Quranic verse (5:32) that tells us, "if you kill one man, it is as if you killed all of humanity." It is a well-known principle of Islam. Still, can we do more to isolate criminals, to help prevent the commission of crimes?
The world has apparently entered an arena of global interests, wherein faith, in the end, is harnessed to the cart of interests. And faith is trying to fulfill under the aegis of religion what it should. Can we separate them? I think the ulema has a role, and that is to speak clearly against crime. The phenomenon of evil must explained, because it is obviously present since the beginning of man. The phenomenon of evil was born from the first dialogue between Satan and Allah subhanawata'la. When God decided to create Adam, to create man, when Satan was supposed to fall in prostration and recognize him as a being, he refused, but said – I'm better than him! That seems to me where evil began. It arose there. From that comes: I am better than someone else, I do not recognize anybody. I think that this is happening in the world. Religion is certainly by no means to blame for this, but wrong people are to blame, the wrong interpretation of religion, the blame rests in the lack of clarity in our expression, in our judgments, and I believe we can do more. We must be more vocal in condemning the evil that we see in our world.
SelimbegovićThe Bosnian Muslims have unforgotten experiences with death, terror and aggression. While Muslim intellectuals from our country first pointed to the effects of a growing radicalism, the victims – whatever may be said today – are ultimately Muslims. Can and how will the Islamic Community of Bosnia-Hercegovina assume a more active role in promoting Islamic values as an opportunity for a dialogue that will resolve the much-desired clash of civilizations that different radicals seek to promote?
Kavazović: The Community can do what is appropriate to its call and mission of enjoining good and preventing evil. It must speak always to draw a clear line of withdrawal between good and evil. The Islamic Community must permit no doubts about this. To never leave doubts about where the Islamic Community stands, regarding something that is ours or comes from outside. The Islamic Community must be very determined and speak very clearly. The Islamic Community is formed, and does what it can, of course, with what is available. These resources are our mosques, khatibs [Friday preachers], muallim [school instructors], medresa faculty, university professors, production supervised by the Islamic Community at the El-Kalem publishing house, and our Islamic teaching that has a centuries-old presence in the Bosnian region, with a human face, and, I would say, a sophisticated culture, to a high civilizational standard. The Islamic Community was founded to preserve our tradition, our Islam, and all that remains of the past and present work of years and decades and centuries. Our scholars and our ulema have remained always in the same line.
Interrupted prayer
The Community has sometimes faced other challenges, and sometimes could not answer the challenges it faced. This happens and will happen. But I know and I firmly believe that all our scholars in BH, who are not small in number, are very well respected and very devoted to precisely this approach in the Islamic community – to help our people, as it is in their power to profess faith that continues to follow the universal message and values of Islam. This is what is meant by enjoining good and preventing evil. It is a Quranic maxim. Anyone who wants to work in this field, as an employee of the Islamic Community or outside it, should be obliged to carry the Quranic message in the way that the Qur'an says: Invite to the way of God with kind words, with wisdom [29:46]. This is what we must do. The Community can contribute. Sometimes from inside the Islamic Community, however, people expect that they may work through other organizations or the state itself. We cannot. We cannot be investigators. But we can teach the values of Islam as recorded in Qur'an al-qerim and the Sunnah of the Prophet. We can, and we have to finally, if we want to remain authentic to how the Community was founded and formed. Our fathers, our grandfathers, invested a lot of effort for us to take this path.
Selimbegović: I will return to this issue, but please tell me if you were surprised by the recent verbal attack on an imam during mosque prayer? In Bosanska Krajina [the larger region including Bihać] Imam Beganović was attacked physically, but it did not happen in the mosque.
 
 
Imam Selvedin ef. Beganović at his mosque.
 
Kavazović: We were all surprised. True, we saw similar provocations in the years after the aggression against Bosnia. Occasionally they took place in our mosques and before the aggression we saw such outbursts. However, they never interrupted the prayer. This was the first time the observance was interrupted, when someone stood up and interrupted the imam, and disrupted the Friday prayer. I believe this should be taken seriously. Just today I spoke with the associates [of the individual who interrupted prayer]. It is necessary to find him and talk to him. I think that, if we want a cure, and it may be for an even more serious situation, we, as an Islamic Community, cannot remain one-sided. We cannot only condemn and fail to attempt to penetrate the motives of this man. What made him react in that way? When you meet him, try to understand whether this is a fad, or a message to someone, who is behind it, whether it is a message sent to the Islamic Community. What is the background? For all these reasons I think it is very important not to underestimate this, but at the same time I consider it necessary to talk with those involved in such incidents.
Selimbegović: The same circles recruited Mevlid Jašarević, who attacked the U.S. Embassy in Bosnia-Hercegovina, but also characters like Bilal Bosnić and other "preachers" calling on Muslims from Bosnia-Hercegovina to depart for the battlegrounds of the Islamic State. How will the Islamic Community of Bosnia-Hercegovina treat these "preachers"?
Kavazović: None of those who violate the basic principles of Islam, none of those who call for violence and acts of violence, can stand shoulder to shoulder with our imams and Islamic Community. That is definite. We must say that we cannot accept advocacy of exclusivity, radical views and incitement to violence. And we must condemn them. The Islamic community needs to step up its activities to protect people from, shall we say, hate speech towards the other. We need to address these issues.
Open door
I want to say that we will not, as a Community, exclude dialogue with anyone. We will remain open to all people. Our doors are open for everyone because we should not make the mistake of ordering all people who think differently from how the Islamic Community thinks to be excluded from society and of driving them away. On the contrary, I think dialogue and conversation with these people is important. That's what we were doing all these years. It has not been easy, because is it never easy with those who have wandered into some things. We are faced with them. I had such experiences as mufti [in the region of] Tuzla.
 
Tuzla, Bosnia-Hercegovina.
I had to talk with people who were here in Sarajevo creating problems, and then they went there. It was not easy with them, if only because they are exclusivist. Exclusion is, I like to say, satanic. We should listen to people. The Community must not create an area in which you do not offer a message and do not listen to people who are against the Community. And to you it is clear that they are speaking against the Islamic Community.
 
Selimbegović: What should we do when our children are called to fight abroad?
Kavazović: We have a state. The state must prevent it. The Islamic Community must condemn it and authorities prevent it. We have to say clearly that it is wrong. The Islamic Community should speak, and the government must do its job. It must prevent it. How this will be effected is the question, but the state must be very committed to it.
SelimbegovićRegarding this issue, I wonder about the possibilities for a more active engagement of the Islamic Community and those Muslim intellectuals who live and work in Bosnia-Hercegovina so that we may say proudly that they represent our beautiful Bosnian Islam as promoters and interpreters of the faith, as participants in a dialogue about Islam and Muslims. Is the Islamic community thinking about using all the advantages offered by professor Rešid Hafizović, professor Adnan Silajdzic, and their colleagues from the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Sarajevo, who would, I'm sure, represent and speak about Islam opening a different perspective of Islam and Muslims around the world?
Kavazović: I think we have failed to use our potential as we should. It's a matter of comment, that we do not use our resources efficiently. Not only the Islamic Community, but the whole society. Since these people have much we can learn, since they have much to which we should listen, we have a lot to discuss with them. I have spoken with professor Silajdzić on several occasions. He told me himself that sometimes they suffer from the use of an academic language that the young generation does not understand sufficiently. We will need some time to determine how we need to adapt what we want to communicate…
Selimbegović: Have you spoken with professor Silajdzić about the language of the Internet?
Kavazović: I think it is most necessary to work on a variety of issues within the Islamic Community. I think the Islamic Community should open up. We have the Faculty,medresas, and they are all in some way formed in that academic language and closed up in the Islamic Community. A number of people listen to our muderris [medresa teachers]. We are thinking about the Islamic Community launching an open university, with access for everybody. It would, in my view, provide a different approach, reviving our culture, the life patterns of Bosnian Muslims. I am speaking of what we have had and what is attractive to the young: art, music, forms of spirituality, zikr [Sufi recitation]. We have opportunities in Sarajevo. We have people who can direct such an institution, which may expand from Sarajevo. I think it is time for the Islamic Community, along with the intellectuals, the municipality of Sarajevo, and the authorities of Bosnia-Hercegovina to seek answers regarding what should be revived and what has been lost from our culture and tradition – I have to say it – because of the force of Western culture and civilization,
A healthier society
Our young people are still seeking themselves. They are aware that they are Muslims. But what is offered to them, the forms offered to them, are somehow at odds with what they read. Not to say that now we need to revive anything, I say only that we have to elaborate on our values.
Selimbegović: You became head of the Islamic Community at perhaps the most difficult time for Muslims, not only in Bosnia-Hercegovina. The way you manage the Islamic Community testifies to an understanding of the moment, but also of the determination by the Islamic Community to gain recognition as an institution that protects specifically the traditions of Bosnian Muslims and nurtures indigenous values. Are you satisfied with the results? How are they visible?
Kavazović: Well, we have done some things. In the past two years we tried, in addition to the ordinary tasks we have every day and we have to perform, in spite of events that have occupied us and the whole of society, such as the disastrous floods, to fulfill the mandates of the Constitution of the Islamic Community. Of course, we assumed that we could initiate a process of redefining the goals of the Islamic Community. In the Constitution we pointed out very clearly that the Islamic Community in Bosnia-Hercegovina follows the practice of the Hanafi madhdhab [school of Islamic jurisprudence], which is our tradition as Bosnian Muslims. We wanted the Constitution to establish a very clear message for everyone, stating what you could and could not do in the Islamic Community and where it should lead us. We finished the constitutional changes. We are now at the stage where the leading bodies have been reorganized in a different form. And the same applies to theRijaset [office of the reis-ul ulema]. We have a Council of Muftis that will deal with doctrinal matters. Thus we are trying to establish the tasks for the Islamic Community. We assured that inside the Islamic Community a predominant role will be occupied only by the Assembly of the Islamic Community and the Constitutional Court of the Islamic Community. This is on paper, signed and done. Now it remains to be implemented in practice. Perhaps after another year or two we will see how much effect we have had, in improving the health of society in Bosnia-Hercegovina. We are committed to the Islamic Community, not entering into daily politics, but keeping it based on the values that should always appeal to the Bosnian Muslims, on basic attitudes and teaching, and leaving politics to those who have responsibility for conducting it. The Islamic community has responsibility for the teaching of Islam and the values of Islam.
Selimbegović: How would you describe Bosnia-Hercegovina today? What are the problems and tasks of the BH authorities as the country struggles out of the economic and political mire in which we are trapped?
Kavazović: Recent times taught that Bosnia-Hercegovina has never been a country left to define itself by its own inhabitants. At present another question arises, which may apply not only to Bosnia-Hercegovina, but, I would say, to all the regional states from Croatia on. It seems to me that these are, with us, failed states. What does that mean?
Morals and interests
We will be celebrated when we enter the European Union. Croatia and Slovenia have already joined, and with other countries in the club, it seems to me we can then speak about having a developed country. This is how I see Bosnia-Hercegovina today, and it means a lot of work for us.
Selimbegović: Yes, but it also means that the job of the government is to move us more rapidly toward reforms.
Kavazović: If we want Bosnia-Hercegovina to be a regular state, it must be a member of the club of serious states. The European Union is still a serious club. As long as we are outside it, Bosnia-Hercegovina will have many, many challenges and many problems. What may be done quickly will make the situation much easier economically and politically.
Selimbegović: Are you satisfied with Bosniak [Bosnian Muslim] politicians? I receive harsh reactions when I write that Bosniaks have the greatest responsibility for Bosnia-Hercegovina, but I really believe this to be true despite the counter-argument that "Bosniaks can gain nothing without the assent of [Milorad] Dodik [head of the partitioned 'Republic of Serbs' in Bosnia]."
Kavazović: I concur definitely with the statement that Bosniaks have the greatest share of responsibility. Not from the viewpoint many employ – that Bosniaks are largest in numbers. Of course, we all have a responsibility for Bosnia-Hercegovina, Serbs, Bosniaks, and Croats, a debt to the homeland. But Bosniaks have more responsibility. In this world, in the Balkans and in Bosnia-Hercegovina, many are looking at us with new eyes. Others see us as Muslims. We Bosnian Muslims, who have lived here for centuries, were "marked" in the last century as "the other" and different. Just because of that Muslim Bosniaks have to have more patience, must demonstrate a remarkable level of courage, so that within Bosnia-Hercegovina we can reconnect broken threads, insist on the improvement of society, on the more difficult social values through which society functions. Sometimes, I have to say, we must be ready to sacrifice for a later benefit. That is why I think it is true that Bosniaks have a greater responsibility.
Selimbegović: Morals and politics are parallel concepts, but you have spoken repeatedly of the need for a greater morality among politicians in their relations with the people. How do you fight for that goal?
Kavazović: It is likely that when it comes to politicians, the only judgment on them can be provided by the voters. Including about their morality. I am not sure they listen to anyone except in their concern for their electoral slate. I think that for this type of politician we have only one solution. Of course, we cannot say all are the same and that we can lump all of them together. Among them are people who have moral attitudes and see what they do. But in the vast majority of cases interests come before morality. Very often policies were sacrificed. People who are in the political parties – when they face the dilemma of whether to follow a political or moral stance – we know that politics comes first. And that is the problem. In the Islamic and other religious communities, in the whole of society, people warn us, talk about it, draw attention to it. I believe that as free citizens we have the right to judge each procedure, all politicians and religious figures, and all the rest. This adds to the morality of a society, when we can gauge the attitude revealed by one's practices. I see no other option except public openness and rating politicians on their work.
Selimbegović: Reis-efendi, after the devastating floods last May, you first went to the people in the areas affected. The [Muslim relief agency] Merhamet and the Islamic Community of Bosnia-Hercegovina did not distinguish among the victims by religion or ethnicity. Why are politicians so averse to this? The Interfaith Council speaks with a single voice; why does the government not listen?
Kavazović: Ordinary people guided us. That is what we observed: ordinary people, who are called little people, were great people in reality. I remember my trip to Doboj [in Serbian-occupied territory] and my discussion with the mayor of Doboj, and the successive means by which people from Tešanj [in the Muslim-Croat "Federation of Bosnia-Hercegovina"], Bosnian Muslims, helped the residents of Doboj, their Serbian neighbors. When it comes to the politicians, I have to say that some of them, in particular, showed an enviably high quality of conduct. The Presidency reacted well. As did the Armed Forces. I also met some people on the ground. I have to mention that I met Prime Minister [Nermin] Nikšić. I cannot say that he was not on the ground. I also met [Bakir] Izetbegović, we went the same day to Zavidovići. I want to emphasize that people did what they could do. They came with aid from the Catholic Church, sent from Croatia. And that is what opens up different perspectives regarding one another, between us as Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats. The Islamic Community reacted as it could at that time. I should mention that the Islamic Community with almost 3 million Bosnian Marks [US$1.75 million] helped our people.
Gratitude for flood relief
Of course, we are a small community, we are not a rich community, but we did what we could. To me it is very important, however, that the floods in some way showed that we have feelings for each other. This should deepen, it should somehow develop further. We should all come together. I think it would be good to mark the anniversary, to sum up the results, to meet, perhaps in Doboj, and to see and say what we have done. How many people have returned to their homes? What did we accomplish together? You know, there were politicians who advocated that the partition line should not be crossed to help people. That is shameful. And let me say that I want to thank everyone who provided assistance and whose presence helped people in a concrete way.
Selimbegović: I know – don't ask how - that during Ramadan, and on the eve of the election campaign, Bosniak politicians used iftar events to argue for a necessary mutual consent on a minimum of Bosniak interests. What are these interests? What is the minimum?
Kavazović: I think the interest of Bosniaks is very obvious. It is reinforcement of the state of Bosnia-Hercegovina, and in defending Bosnia-Hercegovina all Bosniaks must unite as one. This context is very important for our politicians, who unfortunately do not always work exactly in the best way, to understand and recognize. But I want to speak to the most powerful people. To what do I refer? To the existence of peoples, all peoples – Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats – and the economic situation of our people. We see the conditions in which we live; we must fight to improve those conditions. Then will come the time for cultural uplift of our people with policies that should have a meaningful content. These few points should be in constant focus. Every day we should draw a line to see the condition of our state and nation in Bosnia-Hercegovina. How do our friends in the international community look at us? What is our position in the international community and what do we as a people contribute to the global processes we see unfolding before us? I believe that the Bosnian Muslims and politicians should be looking at the state and the people, and then send a clear message to our friends in the Islamic world and the West about the direction toward which we want to move.
Selimbegović: A commitment has been observed and, it seems to me, accepted with interest that women should be included in the institutions of the Islamic Community of Bosnia-Hercegovina… I would like to hear how you assess and what you expect from the influence of women in the structures of the Community.
Kavazović: Some said I invited female participation in the structure. Women previously occupied a certain place in the Assembly of the Islamic Community, in our educational institutions, with a considerable presence. What dissatisfies me, when it comes to a Muslim women, is their presence in the jamaat [religious congregation]. In the primary unit.
Selimbegović: Please, I am sure many women attend prayers…
Kavazović: I refer to the Jamaat Committees. I think it is necessary not only to assure a significant presence of women, but that our Community has them in all its representative bodies. We are a rare Community in the world, with a certain peculiarity of the Bosnian Muslims in that we have an Islamic Community with its own elected representative bodies. Nowhere else in the Islamic world is this found. Everywhere else the official Community, the ministry [of religious affairs], and the government put people in charge and organize their agenda. The Islamic Community of Bosnia-Hercegovina is different. When we have in the Jamaat Committees representative bodies where Muslim women speak about important matters – education of children, family problems, economic questions, the role of the awqaf [pious foundations], property issues – only then will we have, in my mind, a healthy community. I am not saying we are sick, though illnesses are present, of course. But we will have a healthier community that will reflect the real picture of Bosnian Muslims, both men and women. Qur'an speaks about this. Qur'an addresses men and women together. It does not separate them. When Qur'an speaks about the Muslim community, it speaks about men and women together. This is very important. It is important for us to understand this today and to expound on it. I will say something more: today we have in our Assembly a lot more women than in the past. And that is a good outcome. Because they were elected, which shows their quality.
Selimbegović: Women gain nothing if they cannot choose for themselves.
Kavazović: That is right. And there is the proof. We discussed it. In the Islamic Community, there are other voices, as well as in society as a whole. But I understood their encouragement and insistence. I think we gained a result, but again I say –and I return to the jamaat – so long as it does not change inside the jamaat – we have not achieved much. When that changes, only then will we have the basis to move forward.
Selimbegović: It's good to hear, especially since Muslim women do not enjoy equal treatment in many Islamic lands. Islam is the best, but we Muslims are not the best, as Alija Izetbegović said long ago, and judging by events in Syria and Iraq, his comment is more topical than ever. How do you view these incessant conflicts, and the campaign of the Islamic State?
Kavazović: The Islamic world faces a difficult situation indeed. We see a large number of Muslim countries affected by internal turmoil and war. What is clear on the global Islamic stage, however, is the conflict of two ideologies, which are mutually exclusive. This confrontation, these ideological rivalries, are embodied in local wars that are connected. As Muslims we are victims of this.
Whose children suffer?
This ideology, that ideology, to be precise, are extremist. On one hand the revolutionary ideology, which developed in the 1980s. On the other, the ideology of the Islamic State. One may say there is a revolution and a counter-revolution in the Islamic world. This is what the West underwent in the Middle Ages: Reformation and Counter-Reformation. We see ourselves in a similar position. Islam is abused. It is a fuel for both ideologies. The fuel is consumed in the flames.
Selimbegović: Is there a way out?
Kavazović: I believe the Islamic world, Muslims in general, should put the faith in a place where they will not be politically exploited. And this is not possible without freedom for theulema. Currently in the Islamic world there are no free ulema. They belong to the regimes. They are mainly spokesmen for policies imposed on them. If the ulema take a position, if they act with a will to sacrifice, denouncing all these enemies, tyrants, and dictators, and saying that what they are doing is against Muslims, against Islam, and against common humanity, the Muslim world will return to the straight path.
Selimbegović: Ordinary people are starving, people are dying, and a whole region, very, very rich in resources, is destroyed.
Kavazović: That is right. So the ulema must ask: whose children suffer? These are our children. Children who expect from the ulema that they take them by the hand and show them the way. We must fight the oppressors, binding their hands, in a figurative sense, to stop their crimes against common humanity. The ulema should call on them to end their evil deeds. Be brave and explain why this is wrong. Unfortunately, over there they have regime ulema and the consequences are obvious… if we dismantle these two ideologies I believe that the Islamic world will produce, dedicated to common humanity, work, positive raising of children, education and everything else of benefit to people. Naturally, I cannot ignore the influence of Western powers that have interests in that area, and I am sure their interests are coordinated. Finally, in the end, we are all linked, with interests forever on one or another side.
Selimbegović: There is one contradiction that is truly inexplicable: regimes in that part of the world are richer than anybody else, while the people are crushed.
Kavazović: That is why I say the role of the ulema should be decisive in the liberation of our peoples, pointing to what is moral and what is immoral. For Muslims the ulema have always been crucial. When they followed the straight path, as we were saying, and when they raised a finger indicating something was wrong – then policies changed. But when they entered the palaces of the rulers, nobody was left to pursue resistance.
Selimbegović: Reis-efendi, which Bosniak officials do you consult for advice? What would you have suggested to Bakir Izetbegović, member of the Bosnian presidency, and leader of the Party of Democratic Action [SDA – a party of Bosniak interests but without an Islamist ideology]?
Kavazović: To Bakir Izetbegović, as a member of the Presidency, there is one thing I can say, and I believe he considers it important: keep watch over the state of Bosnia-Hercegovina. Together with the other two members of the Presidency, Dragan Čović [Serb] and Mladen Ivanić [Croat], you are observed by the whole of Bosnia-Hercegovina, all of the people of BH, and you must show how first to realize our common homeland and to learn how we must live together and thereby better than today. We must try because here we must communicate for our children whom we bless with selams. When it comes to Bakir Izetbegović, there is nothing I cannot say to him. Nothing.

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