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Analysis 08 Jun 16

New Splits Among Muslims in Serbia

The divided Islamic community in Serbia is at a crossroads which could lead either to further divisions or to unification.

Milivoje Pantovic, Zoran Maksimovic
 Bajrakli mosque in Belgrade. Photo: Anadolia

The Muslim community in Serbia faces new discord after a recent series of leadership crises at the Grand Assembly session of the Islamic Community of Serbia on May 29 in Novi Pazar.
The Great Assembly, the legislative body of the Islamic Community, dismissed former Mufti Reisul ulema Adem Zilkic and the entire leadership of Islamic Community of Serbia [IZS] and appointed Abdullah Nu’man as new Serbian Mufti in his place, a move that sparked anger in some.

However, others hope that the new leadership will spark reconciliation among the fractured Muslim community.
Despite repeated reconciliation attempts, Serbia’s Islamic population has been split since 2007 between the similiarly-named Islamic Community of Serbia, controlled from Belgrade, and the Islamic Community in Serbia with its seat in the Sandzak town of Novi Pazar, loyal to the leadership based in Sarajevo.

Fahrudin Kladnicanin, program director of the academic initiative Forum 10, said that recent elections in the Islamic Community of Serbia could be seen as a “political purge.”

Kladnicanin claims that Reisul ulema Zilkic was too close to a political party no longer in power and that new divisions within the Islamic Community should be seen part of a change in the country’s political climate.

He claims the new situation within the Islamic Community of Serbia could lead to the formation of a third Islamic community, but also said that it could be a chance for uniting the two existing factions since the leaders of both groups are now close to the ruling Serbian government.

Kladnicanin added that unification of the two communities will be slow and that political assistance from Belgrade, Turkey and Bosnia will be needed.

However, President of the Sandzak Council for Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms, Semiha Kacara, has a different view.  She says that it looks like the conflicts between fractions within Islamic Community of Serbia have reached their peaks.

“I do not believe that the conflict will escalate further but it has to come to depoliticisation on both sides of friction. Both sides are politically biased and that affects everything,” said Kacara.

She now thinks that Reisul ulema Adem Zilkic could form third Islamic Community but his power and influence are doubtful.

“I am not sure that he has enough imams on his side. In town of Tutin he has but that is all,” said Kacara.

However, when contacted by the BIRN, ZIlkic said that he has no interest at all in any of the “things that are going on within the Islamic Community” despite previous claims that he does not accept results of the recent elections within IZS and would appeal to the human rights court in Strasbourg.

Many in Novi Pazar believe that new divisions within the Islamic Community of Serbia are inspired by politics, and still have no clear view how the recent conflicts will play out.

“Many shady things will happen in the future since politics are involved in all this. Unfortunately, divisions among religious leaders is pure absurdity,” said Jusuf Skoko from Novi Pazar.

“I think that this situation is a chance for new ideological dimension. It is not new that things are not clear in religious institutions in our city,” said Zilha Ragipovic, also from Novi Pazar.

Sabahudin Abdagic from Sjenica said that he is neutral on this issue and that he is hoping that a new leader of IZS will deal with the problems that Muslims in Serbia have without the influence of personal interests.

The Islamic Community of Serbia has three religious centers (Mesihat) in the country – in Belgrade, Novi Pazar and Presevo, in south Serbia and Nu’man will take seat in Belgrade.

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