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Saturday July 28, 2007

Bosnian Muslims mark 600 years of Islam in Bosnia

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) - Bosnian Muslims celebrate 600 years of Islam in their nation Saturday with a concert of spiritual music, a prayer for peace, and a gentle reminder to Europe: not all of the continent's Muslims are of immigrant origin. 

"Recently we have noticed that Europe is obsessed by the immigrant Muslims from the East,'' said Mustafa Ceric, head of the Bosnia Islamic Community, the official institution of Bosnia's Muslims. "This is an opportunity to remind that there are indigenous Muslims in Europe.'' 

"By celebrating 600 years of Islam here we want to naturalize Islam in Europe,'' he said, adding that Bosnia's Muslims have illustrated how Islam can be harmonized with a European way of life. 

Sarajevo is a good place to send a message of peace, since the last century started and ended with a with a war in Sarajevo, Ceric said. 

The 1914 assassination in Sarajevo of the crown prince of the Austro-Hungarian empire triggered World War I. And genocide was carried out on Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. 

Islam arrived in Bosnia with the Ottoman occupation in 1463 and found the local population split between Roman Catholicism, a dying indigenous Bosnian Church, and Christian Orthodoxy. 

Islam spread over the next 400 years of Ottoman rule, mostly thanks to tax cuts and other benefits given to those who converted. It remains the faith of almost half of Bosnia's population. 

The Bosnia Islamic Community is now seeking to impose itself as a model for several million European Muslims who have no organized authority to guide them. 

It believes that a lack of organized structure for Europe's Muslims leaves them at the mercy of sometimes dubious imams who often preach radicalization. 

"We live in a global world so we Muslims should be aware that global security is our interest,'' Ceric said. 

Ceric said that while he understood complaints by Muslims about being rejected in Europe, Muslims also need to make efforts to fit in. 

"Europe is not yet ready to accept Muslims the way they deserve but unfortunately, the Muslims are also not living up to their responsibilities in Europe,'' he said. "I think the Muslims are highlighting their presence in Europe in the wrong way.'' 

That's why the Bosnia Islamic Community has been campaigning for the establishment of a Europe-wide organization for Muslims that would control what is being taught in Islamic schools and mosques. 

"I think we Muslims have no choice but to work for our presence in Europe and to show that we are ready to accept the values of human rights, democracy, transparency, accountability, the rule of law and all those values that are also Islamic values,'' he said.-AP


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