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Thursday, 10 June 2010


Bosnia's Islamic Community has expressed its gratitude to Serb authorities for assisting with the reconstruction of a 16th century mosque destroyed by Serbs during the country's 1992-95 war. The leader of the Islamic Community, Mustafa Ceric, said Tuesday in Banja Luka, the largest town in Bosnia's Serb majority region, that the activities by the government there, in particular the more than €600,000 it provided for the reconstruction of the 16th century Ferhadija mosque, were a signal that “better times have come.” Ceric spoke after meeting with Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik at the site in Banja Luka where reconstruction of the Ferhadija mosque is ongoing. The mosque was one of Europe's most beautiful heritage sites protected by UNESCO before being razed to the ground in 1993. Although Banja Luka saw little combat during Bosnia's war, all sixteen mosques in the city were destroyed and nearly all of its 30,000 Muslims expelled. Initially, the intention by Bosnia's Islamic Community to rebuild the Ferhadija mosque was met with strong resistance by Bosnian Serbs. The cornerstone laying ceremony for the mosque in 2001 triggered Serb nationalist riots in which one person was killed. However, the Bosnian Serb authorities have over the years started supporting the project, including by providing financial assistance for the reconstruction work.

“We are now meeting here without any obstacles, there is no more violence and that is a great success of tolerance in Bosnia and Herzegovina which we achieved together,” Dodik said. “Ferhadija is an important religious and cultural symbol of this city, of Bosniak people and all other people who live here,” he added. Bosnian Serb Minister of Education and Culture Anton Kasipovic said that Muslims should feel good in Banja Luka because “this is also your city”. “I wish we did not need to talk about Ferhadija today, because if we had been [civilized] people we would not have destroyed it and there would have been no need to rebuild it,” Kasipovic said. “For me it is more than just a mosque, it is part of my childhood and my youth,” he added. The Banja Luka mufti Edhem Camdzic said the Serb support for rebuilding of the Ferhadija mosque was “a message that the century of violence and disrespect is behind us.” “We expect the authorities, current and future, to make Bosnia and Herzegovina an example of coexistence,” Camdzic said. Under the Dayton peace agreement which ended Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, the country was divided into two highly independent entities – the Serb dominated Republika Srpska and the Croat-Bosniak federation. The two entities are united by weak central institutions, but each has its own government, parliament and presidency.

Balkan Insight