Interview 08 Feb 16

Stereotyping Serbian Muslims Fuels Extremism

Rights advocate Semiha Kacar says poverty and anti-Muslim prejudice are some of the factors powering religious extremism in Serbia’s Sandzak region.

Sasa Dragojlo, Zoran Maksimovic
BIRN
Belgrade, Novi Pazar
Semiha Kacar, president of the Sandzak Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms | Photo: Irfan Licina

When it comes to the threat of Islamic terrorism in Serbia, all eyes centre on the mainly Muslim region of Sandzak in the southwest of the country on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Semiha Kacar, president of the Sandzak Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms, told BIRN that stereotypical ways of looking at Sandzak date back to so called “Anti-bureaucratic revolution” of 1987, when Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and his Socialist Party of Serbia, SPS, organized “spontaneous” protests against the alleged dangers facing the Serbian people in the province of Kosovo and in Yugoslavia, generally.

“Stereotypes that were revived about Muslims [in Sandzak] back then have survived until today,” she says.

“Of course, in Novi Pazar [the region’s main town] there are young man with long beards and veiled women, but this is also a city of popular singers, athletes, successful students, and educated professionals in on all fields,” Semiha says.

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Background

Western Balkans on Alert Over ISIS Threat

Countries in the region have raised security levels and introduced new precautions to counter the threat of terrorist attacks by Islamic State.

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