Dr Zlatko Lagumdžija speech at the Conference organized by Al-Azhar Al-Sharif in cooperation with Nizami Ganjavi International Center

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„Islam and The West – Diversity and Integration“, Zlatko Lagumdžija, Cairo,  October  22- 24,  2018.

„Tensions between Muslims and the rest of the Europeans: Citizenship is the solution“

Allow me to start from  a personal perspective of my  multiple identity existence, simple story of one of  Bosnian Muslims, ethnically Bosniacs, citizens of state of Bosnia, people  that are trying to  guard  best European  values  as well as  all of those multiple identities – Muslims who have been autochthonous  Europeans for centuries, sheltering Jews from Inquisition in Spain, living and mutually protecting their Christian neighbors during  war and peace periods by creating environment  which we would today name as Shared Society.

Coming from Sarajevo, European Jerusalem – just to use the name given to us by Pope Francis visiting us almost three years ago – as proud Bosnian Muslim, Bosniac, Bosnian  and European, I  belong to great majority of people, in the heart of Europe, where East meets West,  who have decisive and clear commitment for supporting, promoting and implementing, the concept of Shared societies and values in peace and sustainable development. Concept   that can be shared, in a world so rich with diversities, globally, regionally and within individual societies, while celebrating and enjoying diversities and multiple identities.

Our history has dark stains but even toughest challenges were marked with acts of brave, vise and honorable  people who were protecting their own  values, rights, identities  and dignity by protecting their neighbors of different identity  from evil forces. I will just briefly share with you, few  small illustration

 Next year Islamic Community and Jewish Community, together, are marking and celebrating  200  years of „Sarajevo Purim“. Back in 1819 group of local Muslim dignitaries, in Ottoman Empire,  stood up against Ruždi Paša, Bosnian Ruler on behalf of Sultan, who unjustly arrested their neighbors, Sarajevo Rabin and group of prominent Jews.

When WW I  started, after Gavrilo Princip assassinated  Arch Duke Ferdinand and his wife Sofia in Sarajevo,  Austro Hungarian authorities started brutal repercussions against Serb Orthodox population in  parts of Bosnia. Grand Mufti Džemaludin Čaušević published in „Jeni Misbah“ („New Beacon“) „Statement and Call to Muslims to protect Orthodox Serbs from Austro Hungarian repression“. Sarajevo Cardinal Josip Štadler supported Grand Mufti Statement and state authorities of great empire of that time withdrew from repression on innocent people.

In its 25 years long modern  history, as UN member state Bosnia and Herzegovina went through process of failing to prevent conflict, over the war, last Genocide in 20th century in Europe, peace process, and finally post conflict state building through ongoing Euroatlantic integrations and participation in UN peace missions.

We know that we are all different, as a people and as a nations. But at the same time we know that there is much more putting us together while understanding each other, than divide us along different lines while confronting us.

For centuries we lived, under different historical circumstances, in multiethnic, multicultural and multi religious environment as one, shared ,  society.  After losing medieval Bosnian statehood , for over five centuries we lived under occupations of great empires, totalitarian regimes and nondemocratic governments according to contemporary standards – from Ottoman and Austro Hungarian, to Yugoslav kingdom, WW II  occupation and Fascists puppet states, Marshal Tito and his way of socialism – but we always lived in shared and not in  segregated societies.

Then when Berlin Wall felled down, old totalitarian apartchics  took over nationalistic, segregated, exclusive societies policies and tried to explain to us that we can no longer live in tolerant, inclusive, shared societies because we have democracy – Nations, ethnic and religious groups should live in their exclusive and segregated societies, instead of inclusive and shared society in which we historically lived without democracy – So,  they concluded that in democracy, nationalism and segregation is our solution and destiny.

That was the time when  I simply could not accept the scary, but wrong, conclusion – that we can live and flourish in Shared Society, only if we have no democracy. People who are now sentenced for organized criminal projects were telling us that in democracy we have to be segregated along our ethnical and religious differences. That way of thinking got a verdicts in Hague International Court for war crimes and Genocide in Srebrenica.  For those criminal minds the „guilt“ of  Bosnian Muslims, victims of Genocide,  was  a simple fact that they were Muslims who believed in European values – democracy, shared future and unity in diversity.

Shared Society – multiethnic, multi religious and multicultural society – defined  as inclusive one in which all individuals and constituent groups hold status as equally contributing participants, free to express their differences while integrating their voices within broader population. It respects everyone dignity and human rights while providing every individual with equal opportunity.

Core values of Islam as well as of today’s Europe are the core values of Shared Society  and they are common  barriers to greatest causes of contemporary human degradation generated by global and local segregation, injustice and inequality.

I am not accepting that there is a natural and  inevitable tension between Muslims and the rest of Europeans because then I would be  neglecting the historical fact that Muslims in Bosnia are part of European tradition and identity. It would consequently lead  to a new  call for destruction of current core European values in capsulated in Unity in Diversity moto.

This is why the future of Bosnia as  a civil state and Shared society as well as the  future of Bosnian Muslims who are citizens of European Union is clear signal about the future of European Union based on its fundamental pillar –  European Convention on Human Rights and Freedoms.

Historical fact that Bosnian Muslims are part of European tradition and identity to certain extent explains why Bosnian Muslims and Bosniacs, despite of  Srebrenica Genocide experience, are still, in our multiethnic and multi religious state, the biggest promoters  of speeding up integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina as united, civil state, to full membership of EU and NATO as our common home and shelter.

No wonder that European and local radical and right wing political spectrum populists are promoting that  Bosnia and Herzegovina  should be either divided or to be put under „special status“ of rather ethnocracy then democracy. Our reality today  is that almost 2 million Muslims, or less than half of population of the country, want to live as citizens in secular state and shared society. They are not afraid of being citizens of one „great majority non-Muslim“  European home of over half Billion EU citizens. On contrary, they are looking for a way to have shared future along their multiple identities while celebrating and not exterminating their differences.

Islam and Europe today have same enemies as well as protectors. In order to be focused I will start with short list of Enemies of Islam and  Europe as well as of civilization in any part of the Globe today.

Staring Line up of „Enemies of Civilization,  Europe and Islam Team“ is: Anger, Exclusion, Ignorance, Inequality, Injustice, Insecurity, Fear, Populism, Poverty, Status Quo, and  Violent Extremism.

Our common and individual „Protectors of Civilization, Islam and Europe Team“, our Staring Line up, is: Compassion, Inclusion, Education,  Equitability, Rule of Law, Institutions, Hope, Accountability, Development, Change, and Shared Society and Values.

Of course, it is  Team play but, every player has its own role and spends most of the game  by taking care of concrete player from another Team.

Compassion should mostly be dealing with Anger, Inclusion with Exclusion, Education with Ignorance, Equitability with Inequality, Rule of Law  with Injustice, Institutions with Insecurity, Hope with Fear, Accountability with Populism, Development with Poverty, Change with Status Quo, and Shared Society and Values with Violent Extremism.

Enemies Team is led by Humiliation while Protectors Team is led by Dignity (as their respective coaches).

The major difference in  between  Dignity and Humiliation led Team is that in World in which  Dignity is winning over Humiliation,  there is no only place for few but there is  place for all –  including for Humiliation fans. Europe based on Human Rights and Unity and Diversity principle that has no place for Islam as well as Islam that is not ready to be part of Europe of Human Rights  and Unity and Diversity principles have no future.

Let me conclude with concrete example  on how we dealt with one of the biggest problems we have faced in last two decades. Presidents of Montenegro, Vujanović and Albanija, Nišani, were already talking about issue of foreign fighters in their respective countries.

Bosnia is  unique example  that shows two things. First, the way Bosnian Muslims faced the ISIL and foreign fighters issue which is even more sensitive in multi religious society like Bosnia and Herzegovina. Second, how holistic approach through institutions and full consensus of religious, state, political and academic community can give adequate responses to greatest challenges.

Four years ago we passed through the Parliament the laws that are prohibiting Bosnian citizens participation in  foreign conflicts. That was institutional response to problem we were faced with.

Institutional response is the only right one but it could not give proper results without comprehensive response based on clear position or some kind of „social contract“ of cross-section of Muslim community and leadership of different social and political structures calling for institutional action.  

That is why year later, when ISIL was on its peak, top religious leaders, state officials, political leaders and academic representatives, all Muslims in their individual capacity signed  „Sarajevo Joined statement On condemnation of terrorism and violent extremism”

They signed it as citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosniaks and Muslims, representatives of political, cultural and religious life that are worried by terrorist actions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Europe and world. They clearly stated that “we are aware of responsibility to preserve freedom, peace and coexistence in our homeland. Also we are aware of our responsibility in relation to ­the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its citizens.”

Their messages were directed to people, state institutions, Islamic community, Muslim states, and international community, Muslims in Bosnia and Muslim communities in Europe. In 9 points they outlined clear principles and guidelines for stakeholders in this complex issue.

“1. We severely condemn any form of terrorism and all terrorist activities performed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Europe and Muslim countries and anywhere in the world.

2. We express our decisiveness to oppose institutionally, intellectually, morally and politically any form of radicalization, violent extremism and terrorism, whatever person or whatever side they might be coming from. We especially highlight the need to intensify activities at all levels of legislative and executive power which would swiftly remove injustice and inequality and other sources of frustrations and radicalization in the society.

3. We demand from competent institutions in the country to act according to their legal competencies with an aim to preserve constitutional values, rights and freedoms of all citizens and people in Bosnia and Herzegovina and to oppose, without any reservation, all types of radicalism, violent extremism and terrorism as well as other forms of activity against constitutional order, public safety, morality or against the life and health of others i.e. against the rights and freedom of others. 

4. We are proud of our long religious tradition and determination for coexistence, and by respecting the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Constitution of the Islamic community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we demand all competent people in B&H society, as well as from all holders of religious authority in the Islamic community of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to oppose without any reservation every type of exclusiveness, radicalism, violent extremism and terrorism since from the Islamic viewpoint, where there is no compulsion in the matters of faith, these are inacceptable and opposed to universal civilization values.

5. We expect the governments of Muslim countries to respect our religious and educational tradition, institutions and autonomy and cooperate with state institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Islamic community of Bosnia and Herzegovina in relation to academic, religious, educational and student exchange.

6. From religious, theological and educational circles and institutions of Muslim countries we expect appreciation of our authentic historic experience and our identity ­for the preservation of which we have paid a high price and have laid down many of our lives. We expect them to appreciate our religious/Islamic and European self-awareness as our heritage which we continue to live and further develop in our specific cultural, social and political context. We expect them to continue respecting these principles in order not to develop fractions and religious strife among Bosniaks.

7. We expect leaders of European countries, especially EU countries, in which Muslims are a minority, to fight Islamophobia and discrimination of Muslims and stop their comparison with terrorist and enemies of civilization.

8. We expect the International community to be engaged, along the legitimate fight against terrorism, also on removal of political, economic and social barriers towards Muslim people and countries, since such injustice contributes to increase of poverty, despair and hopelessness which serve as suitable grounds for development of extremism.

9. We expect Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina and of Muslim communities in Europe to remain faithful to their traditional and universal moral, spiritual and civilization Islamic values, distance themselves from any type of radicalism, oppose any form of violence and not to allow injustice, which in this imperfect world will always be present, to make them cause ever any action which might increase injustice or evil, be it to others or themselves. “

Based on this Statement Islamic Community in partnership with governmental structures, EU and individual states maintained a program oriented to education and prevention of violent extremism as well as  de-radicalization of individuals and most vulnerable parts of society.

Result is that in last almost three years no one single Bosnian Muslim was registered to leave the country for similar reasons. Lack of hope and prosperity generated significant number of economic emigrants but that is not part of our conference agenda today.

About one third of overall number lost their life in ISIL combat territories, about  one third is still out of the country, and one third came back home. All of them that came back, including the ones that were sentenced for law violations are going through Islamic Community institutions, based on Sarajevo statement, program of de-radicalization and inclusion in our society.

My conclusion on title of our Conference is very clear. Islam and the West, Islam and Europe as a “mirror of the West” , their respective values and futures are here to stay. Together. And to be part of our shared future in shared societies. Otherwise we have no future. Together.

My conclusion on Sarajevo statement on condemnation of violent extremism, which I used as example of best practices, is that results and successes are inevitable when institutions function along bold social contract of key stakeholders and cross-section of society that are sharing goals, values and actions. In this case Europe and Islam in Bosnia were “marching hand to hand as one”.  That was another proof of old saying that “if there is a will then there is a way”.

We are here together clearly showing our will. It is time to walk along that way. Together. With our multiple and mutually reinforcing identities.

If someone is asking me which one out of my multiple identities, Muslim, Bosniac, Bosnian, European,  I like the most, then I will share with you best answer I learned from old and wise man almost three decades ago, when war criminals were killing people because of their “wrong” and different identities.

“The one I like the most and ready to fight to the very end is the one that you attack at me the most”.

For the very end I will just open one of the key questions that Europe as well as Islam have to tackle with more passion, energy  and knowledge. Few months ago, my dear friend, persuaded me to read again  ancient philosophers – but this time focusing on  today’s perspective.

„Techne“ (technical knowhow) and „phronesis“ (practical wisdom), two types of knowledge that Aristotle famously contrasted, in new coming time of greatest changes in human history, are growing rapidly but with dangerously different speeds.

History of Europe and Arab world is full of dark periods as well as of enlightening times of „techne“ and „phronesis“. In time of globally „exploding“ development of „techne“ we have to face greatest then ever challenges of „phronesis“. Great achievements, from Omars letter to Kadi symbolizing what is modern European fundamental principle known as Rule of Law,  to European Convention of Human Rights, are giving us hope that we have capacity to be unity in diversities of „techne“ and „ phronesis“.

As a realist I am pessimist. But with a force of wish being with me, driven by passion, values  and virtues, I am optimist.