Bosnian Muslims Ponder Backlash After Paris Attacks

(MENAFN- The Journal Of Turkish Weekly) The day after the attacks in Paris the leader of the Islamic Community in Bosnia Husein Kavazovic condemned the murders and expressed solidarity with the victims.

"The attackers do not represent our faith nor our community" Kavazovic said on Saturday.

Earlier the former leader of the Islamic Community of Bosnia Mustafa Ceric called on "Muslims from all Europe to defend the dignity of Islam against these people who don't show any respect for human life".

Although many worry that the attacks in Paris will impact negatively on perceptions of Muslims in the European Union few believers in Sarajevo think it will have much direct impact on their own community in Bosnia.

"There is a huge difference between Bosnia where Muslims are part of the indigenous population and European countries where they arrived as foreigners or immigrants" Mubina Muftic a young woman from Sarajevo told BIRN.

"Everybody here is used to having Muslims friends so we don't fear a possible rise in islamophobia or hatred against us" she added.

Sadzida Balic another Muslim believer says there is no conflict between Islam and other faith communities in Bosnia.

"We are not afraid of anti-Muslim attacks because we have nothing to do with the extremists who attacked people in Paris" she said adding that islamophobia "is most likely to grow when people only learn about Islam from media reports about tragedies like the one in Paris."

"There is no islamophobia in Bosnia because this is a multicultural place. There are many ways of professing Islam in the world but when you are raised as a Bosnian you will forever act as a Bosnian" Muhamed Hemceglija a man in his fifties told BIRN.

"We learned that Islam is first and foremost a religion that teaches the respect for other people's faith. After all the first neighbour of the Prophet was a Hebrew" he added.

"However some radicals are acting against the true spirit of our religion and are ruining the image of Islam" he continued.

"We feel caught between two fires" acknowledges Sumeja Hadzic another young Muslim believer.

"The media in Europe are fuelling fear and misconceptions about Islam. On the other hand we have radicals who have nothing to do with us and who obviously don't know the teaching of the Koran which clearly states that whoever kills an innocent life has indeed killed one hundreds lives."

Despite the general optimism about Bosnia's multi-faith heritage there are concerns that this situation will not help the international image of the country.

"We're in a difficult situation" Irvin aged 27 told BIRN.

"We are fully aware that what happened in Paris is a real tragedy. We experienced the same horror here during the war. But the world reacted far less loudly to the attacks in Beirut last week."

"Maybe islamophobia will not increase but this will have for sure an impact on this country especially when it comes to the fight against terrorism and foreign fighters" he said.

Bosnia is one of the main exporters of foreign fighters in the Balkans. According to a study published this summer 217 Bosnian citizens have joined the conflict in Syria.

At least 26 reportedly died so far. The Bosnian authorities last year passed a new law that imposed stronger sanctions against citizens who fight abroad and those who recruit them.

On November 5 Bosnia's state court jailed Husein "Bilal" Bosnic one of the chiefs of the local Salafi movement for seven years for recruiting fighters to join ISIS.

In October the same court imposed its first sentence against four Bosnian men who tried to join the militants fighting in Syria.

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