Ottoman Empire National Anthem

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Two Years After: the Independence of Kosovo

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

San Francisco–Your reporter has held up writing the particulars of this speech by the current President of Kosovo for a month and a half to wait for that democracy’s second anniversary of their independence from Serbia (on February 17th) of the largely (ethnically Albanian) and (religiously) Islamic nation in the Southern Balkan Range of the Southeast Europe).

About two to three years ago, personalities from that greater area were making themselves available to American opinion makers quite regularly – including journalists, but after the freedom of Pristina (the Kosovar capital), interest waned in North America.  Yet, his Excellency, the President, (Doctor) Fatmir Sejidu spoke here on the Pacific Coast of the United States of America during January.

The Delaware-sized Republic of Kosovo is (politically) considered the world’s latest nation.  Currently, sixty-four countries have recognized the Republika Kosovo (Kosoves) as sovereign including Washington, NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the European Union (EU) plus the continued fiscal support of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank.  Despite the dire warnings of twenty-four months ago, Kosovo has become a stable political entity over the past two years.

American citizens failed to recognize the complexity of the struggle partially because of the failure of U.S. media outlets to explain the historical roots of the conflict: 

In the Seventh Century, the ancestors of the modern (now Orthodox) Serbs (Kososki) immigrated into the region, but were to be replaced by a branch of the Albanians, the Kosovars (now 88% of the population) who were eventually subsumed into the Medieval Serbian Empire, but were later incorporated into the Ottoman (Turk) State as a result of the Battle of Kosovo fought in 1389.  The modern history of the Kosovans began after the First Balkan War (1912) which was fought just before the First World War.  At first it was part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia founded in 1922; then, the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia as a result of the Second World War (established in 1946).  The great tragedy of the federation of Yugoslavia was that the former State Executive, General Tito, did not build the political basis for the union of States after his presence; so, this country degenerated into its constituent warring factions.  Under the Former Yugoslavia, the Kosovar’s territory was an autonomous Province within Serbia itself, but its self-government was revoked by Belgrade in 1989.  On February 17th of 2008, Pristina declared itself independent.

Although it is the 168th largest country the world in land mass (10,887 sq. km.), it is miniscule in compassion even to most U.S. States.   The Kosovars border three countries that block its access to the sea, and is poor in natural resources.  The demographic ratios show promise for the future, though, (highly tilting towards people in their mid-20s).    The majority of the citizenry are Albanian Muslims with the (Christian) Orthodox weighing in at fewer than 10% with six negligible minorities over three Muslim and Christian groups.

The host of this program of the World Affairs Council of Northern California and the Commonwealth Club of California that had invited Sejdiu to San Francisco, surprisingly, stressed that there were “Many strong views on Dr. Sejdiu’s subject.  Threateningly, the host stated that “Disrupters will be ejected and cited!  Join me in deference to a head of State!”

Fatmir stated on this the second anniversary of the success of our struggle to join the community of nations; we should remember our horrific (epic) battle with (our neighbors,) the Serbs.  It was a conflict for the indigenous Kosovars to reclaim their birthright (terrain) from ethnic cleansing.  He claimed it was the first incidence of a foreign intervention for human rights.  (Your author disputes this, but the interventions by the West against the reactionary and repressive forces in the Former Yugoslavia were one of the more noble ventures in the latter part of the Twentieth Century.)

Sedjiu asserted we could not succeed through negotiations alone with Serbia.  Thus, the international community of peoples supervised the talks.  We now have military co-operation with your country (the U.S.A.) as well as cordial relations with our neighbors.  A state of peace presently exists!

We are having good economic growth despite previous predictions.  Doing what heads of States often do, he “made a pitch” for the Republic’s financial prospects:  We have minerals (unfortunately not strategic ones), and the basis for energy (again, unfortunately, it is coal which adds to Global warming).  Our most valuable asset is our well-educated youth (who are leaving Kosoves in droves because of the lack of opportunity in their native land).

A severe strain upon the commonweal is the fact that the Serbians were stole well-earned pensions from the Kosovans before they left.  The new Administration in the Capital, Pristina had to “pick up the pieces,” and had to devote much needed legal tender to maintain the hard-earned social safety net of the workers!

Concluding the Doctor-President stated “Kosovo is…committed to a peaceful society…Kosovo is committed to integration with Europe,” and friendship with the United States!

12-9

Why Jerusalem? Israel’s Hidden Agenda

July 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dan Lieberman

Three huge granite stones rest comfortably on the top of Midbar Sinai Street, in Givat Havatzim, Jerusalem’s northernmost district. Cut to specification, the imposing stones represent one of several preparations by the Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful Movement to erect a Third Temple on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. Since the Islamic Wafq owns and controls all the property on the Haram al-Sharif, these stones cannot be legally transferred to the Temple Mount nor can a Temple be constructed there? The provocation, represented by the stones, which the Israel government refuses to curtail, lead to a belief that an eventual Muslim reaction to the increasing provocations will give Israel an excuse to seize total control of the Holy Basin – the ultimate of the properties that Israel intends to incorporate into a greater Jerusalem.

For decades, Israeli authorities have spoken of a united Jerusalem – suggesting a spiritual quality to its message – as if Israel wants the home for the three monotheistic faiths to be solid and stable. By being guided from one central authority, a united Jerusale m also offers a preservation of a common and ancient heritage. However, Israel disguises the lack of a sufficiently supporting and verifiable historical narrative that could bolster its thrust to incorporate all of an artificially created greater Jerusalem into its boundaries. Coupled with inconsistencies and contradictions, Israel’s eagerness to create a greater Jerusalem under its total control becomes suspect. The intensive concentration on a ‘united’ Jerusalem reveals a hidden agenda that debases Jerusalem’s religious ingathering and heightens division, hatred and strife.

Examine the Holy Basin. The Holy Basin contains well marked Christian and Muslim institutions and holy places that have had historical placement for millenniums. Although people of the Jewish faith had major presence in Jerusalem during the centuries of Biblical Jerusalem, which included rule by King Hezekiah and control by the Hasmonean dynasties, their control and presence were interrupted for two millennia. Extensive commentary has enabled the two thousand years of lack of control and presence to seem as if it never happened and that today is only a short interval from the ancient years of Hezekiah. Almost one thousand years of Christian and Crusader rule and more than one thousand years of Muslim rule are politely ignored, while their tremendous constructions and creation are not credited. Almost everything becomes nothing and a minor something becomes everything. Myth replaces reality. Spiritual quality replaces actual presence.

Some remains of Jewish dwellings and ritual baths can be found, but few if any major Jewish monuments, buildings or institutions from the Biblical era exist in the “Old City” of today’s Jerusalem. The often cited Western Wall is the supporting wall for Herod’s platform and is not directly related to the Second Temple. No remains of the Jewish Temple have been located in Jerusalem.

According to Karen Armstrong, in her book Jerusalem, Jews did not pray at the Western Wall until the Mamluks in the 15th century allowed them to move their congregations from a dangerous Mount of Olives and pray daily at the Wall. At that time she estimates that there may have been no more than 70 Jewish families in Jerusalem. After the Ottomans replaced the Mamluks, Suleiman the Magnificent issued a formal edict in the 16th century that permitted Jews to have a place of prayer at the Western Wall.

The only remaining major symbol of Jewish presence in Jerusalem’s Holy City is the Jewish quarter, which Israel cleared of Arabs and rebuilt after 1967. During its clearing operations, Israel demolished the Maghribi Quarter adjacent to the Western Wall, destroyed the al-Buraq Mosque and the Tomb of the Sheikh al-Afdhaliyyah, and displaced about 175 Arab families. Although the Jewish population in previous centuries comprised a large segment of the Old City (estimates have 7000 Jews during the mid-19th century), the Jews gradually left the Old City and migrated to new neighborhoods in West Jerusalem, leaving only about 2000 Jews in the Old City. Jordanian control after the 1948 war reduced the number to nil. By 2009, the population of the Jewish quarter in the Old City had grown to 3000, or nine percent of the Old City population. The Christian, Armenian and Muslim populations are the principal constituents and their quarters contain almost the entire Old City commerce.

In an attempt to attach ancient Israel to present day Jerusalem, Israeli authorities continue the attachment of spurious labels to Holy Basin landmarks, while claiming the falsification is due to the Byzantines, who got it all wrong.

King David’s Tower’s earliest remains were constructed several hundred years after the Bible dates David’s reign. It is a now an obvious Islamic minaret.

King David’s Citadel earliest remains are from the Hasmonean period (200 B.C.). The Citadel was entirely rebuilt by the Ottomans between 1537 and 1541.

King David’s tomb, located in the Dormition Abbey, is a cloth-covered cenotaph (no remains) that honors King David. It has not been verified that the casket relates to David.

The Pools of Solomon, located in a village near Bethlehem, are considered to be part of a Roman construction during the reign of Herod the Great. The pools supplied water to an aqueduct that carried water to Bethlehem and to Jerusalem.

The Stables of Solomon, under the Temple Mount, are more likely a construction of vaults that King Herod built in order to extend the Temple Mount platform.
Absalom’s Tomb is an obvious Greek sculptured edifice and therefore cannot be the tomb of David’s son.

The City of David contains artifacts that date before and during king David’s time. Some archaeologists maintain there is an insufficient number of artifacts to conclude any Israelite presence before David. In any case any Israelite presence must have been in a small and unfortified settlement.

The Jerusalem Archaeological Park within the Old City, together with the Davidson Exhibition and Virtual Reconstruction Center also tell the story. Promising to reveal much of a Hebrew civilization, the museums shed little light on its subject. The Davidson Center highlights a coin exhibition, Jerusalem bowls and stone vessels. The Archeological Park in the Old City contains among many artifacts, Herodian structures, ritual baths, a floor of an Umayyad palace, a Roman road, Ottoman gates, and the façade of what is termed Robinson’s arch, an assumed Herodian entryway to the Temple Mount.. The exhibitions don’t reveal many, if any, ancient Hebrew structures or institutions of special significance.

Well known archaeologists, after examining excavations that contain pottery shards and buildings, concluded that finds don’t substantiate the biblical history of Jerusalem and its importance during the eras of a united Jewish kingdom under David and Solomon.

Margaret Steiner in an article titled It’s Not There: Archaeology Proves a Negative in the Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August, 1998, states

“…from the tenth century B.C.E. there is no archaeological evidence that many people actually lived in Jerusalem, only that it was some kind of public administrative center…We are left with nothing that indicates a city was here during their supposed reigns (of David and Solomon)…It seems unlikely, however, that this Jerusalem was the capital of a large state, the United monarchy, as described in Biblical texts.”

West Jerusalem is another matter. With banditry prolific and Old City gates being closed before nightfall, living outside the city gates did not appeal to the population. Philanthropist Moses Montefiore wanted to attract the Jewish population to new surroundings and constructed the first Jewish community outside of the Old City. Yemin Moshe’s first houses were completed in 1860. From that time Jewish presence played a critical role in creating a West Jerusalem. Other institutions, Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Russian Orthodox and Muslim soon ventured forth and acquired much property in the evolving West Jerusalem.

In 1948, After the Israeli army seized absolute control of West Jerusalem, the new Israeli government confiscated all West Jerusalem property owned by Muslim institutions. Reason – enemy property. Few Muslims and no mosques remain in today’s West Jerusalem.

One contradiction. By attacking and ethnically cleansing the Christian Arab communities of Deir Yassin and Ein Kerem, Israeli forces characterized Christian Palestinians as an enemy. Nevertheless, Israel did not confiscate all Christian properties, many of which are apparent in West Jerusalem. The Greek Orthodox Church owns extensive properties in West Jerusalem, many marked by its Tau + Phi symbol, which translates to ‘Sepulchre.’

Another contradiction. Israel has cared for the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives and expanded it as a heritage site. Part of the famous Muslim Mamilla cemetery in West Jerusalem has been classified as refugee property and is being prepared to be demolished for the new Museum of Tolerance.

East Jerusalem reveals more contradictions. The desire to incorporate East Jerusalem into Israel contradicts the repeated warning by Israeli leaders that co-existence is not feasible and that it is necessary to separate the Jewish and Palestinian communities. Incorporation means accepting somewhere between 160,000 and 225,000 Palestinians into a Jewish state. Or does it? Whereas the older historical Jewish neighborhoods in West Jerusalem have their characters maintained or are rebuilt in their original style, the older Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem are entirely neglected (all of Arab East Jerusalem is neglected) or destroyed. How much deterioration and destruction can Palestinians absorb before they decide to leave?

Construction of Jewish homes in East Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods proceeds and destruction of Arab homes, ei ther declared illegally constructed or illegally purchased, continues. On 44 dunums of lands that previously belonged to Palestinian families, a private company has constructed the gated community of Nof Zion and conveniently separated Palestinian Jabal Al Mukabir from other parts of East Jerusalem. No Arabs need apply. The million dollar condominiums are advertised for American investors.

The Israeli ministry of Interior has approved a plan to demolish a kindergarten and wholesale market in East Jerusalem’s Wadi Joz neighborhood in order to construct a new hotel close to the Old City and near the Rockefeller Museum. The result will be the destruction of an Arab neighborhood and its replacement by Jewish interests, which will one day join with other Jewish interests.

These are only two examples of a master plan to replace the centuries old Arab presence in East Jerusalem with a modern Jewish presence. The ancient Arab presence in an ancient land is further divided by the Separation Wall, which runs through the East Jerusalem landscape and detaches East Jerusalem from the West Bank, making it unlikely for a Palestinian state to have its capital in East Jerusalem. The master plan extends the boundaries of Jerusalem to include the large Israeli settlement (city) of Maale Adumim. Between Maale Adumim and East Jerusalem, Israel proposes to construct the E1 corridor, which joins settlements in a ring and adds to the separation of East Jerusalem from the West Bank. The E1 corridor will divide the northern and southern West Bank and will impede direct transit between Palestine Bethlehem, which is south of E1 and Palestine Ramallah, which is north of E1. Construction of the E1 corridor, portions of which are owned by Palestinians, could prevent the formation of a viable Palestinian state.

So, if Israel is destroying Jerusalem’s heritage and subjugating its spiritual meaning, why does Israel want to unify Jerusalem?

Israel is a physically small and relatively new country with an eager population and big ambitions. It needs more prestige and wants to be viewed as a power broker on the world stage. To gain those perspectives Israel needs a capital city that commands respect, contains ancient traditions and is recognized as one of the world’s most important and leading cities. Almost all of the world’s principal nations, from Egypt to Germany to Great Britain, have capitals that are great cities of the world. To assure its objectives, Israel wants an oversized Jerusalem that contains the Holy City. That’s not all.

Jerusalem has significant tourism that can be expanded and provide new commercial opportunities as an entry to all of the Mid-East. An indivisible Jerusalem under Israeli control is worth a lot of shekels.

Israel competes with the United States as the focus of the Jewish people. It needs a unique Jerusalem to gain recognition as the home of Judaism.

By controlling all of the holy sites, Israel commands attention from Moslem and Christian leaders. These leaders will be forced to talk with Israel and Israel will have a bargaining advantage in disputes.

Whatever Israel gains the Palestinians are denied. Even if Israel agrees to the establishment of a Palestinian state, it will direct its policies to limit the effectiveness of that state. Since East Jerusalem and its holy sites greatly benefit a Palestinian economy and increase Palestine legitimacy, Israel will do everything to prevent East Jerusalem being ceded to the new state of Palestine.

West Jerusalem only gives Israel a North/South capital. An indivisible Jerusalem gives Israel a forward look towards an East/West capital or a centralized capital of the land of previous biblical Jewish tribes.

The Zionist socialist ideals and the cooperative Kibbutzim received support and sympathy from idealistic world peoples for many years. Israel’s attachment to the Holocaust tragedy extended that sympathy and support to more of the world. With the end of the Zionist dream, the decline of kibbutz life and the over-popularizing of the Holocaust, Israel needs a new symbol of identity that captures world attention.

If Israel has legitimate claims to Jerusalem, then those claims should be heard and discussed in a proper forum. However, that is not the process forthcoming. The Israeli government is using illegal and illegitimate procedures, as well as deceitful and hypocritical methods to force its agenda . Israel is not presenting its case but is exerting its powers to trample all legal, moral and historical considerations.

The Museum of the Citadel of David has an inscription: The land of Israel is in the center of the world and Jerusalem is the center of the land of Israel.

This self praise was echoed at a West Jerusalem coffee house in a conversation with several Israelis, A youthful Israeli abruptly sat at the table and entered the conversation with the words: “All the world looks to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the center of the world and Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Everyone needs Jerusalem and they will need to talk with Israel.’

And that is why Israel desperately wants its greater Jerusalem.

Dan Lieberman is the editor of Alternative Insight, a monthly web based newsletter. Dan has written many articles on the Middle East conflict, which have circulated on websites and media throughout the world.

11-29

Muslim scientists and thinkers–Abu Hamid al-Ghazali

September 11, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Syed Aslam

Imamghazali Abu Hamid  al-Ghazali,  also known in west as Algazel, was born at Tus, Iran in the year 1058 CE. His father died while he was very young. He received his early education at Tus and at the age of fourteen he went to Gurgan. Here he studied Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) and after seven years he moved to the city of Nishapur and became the student of famous scholar Abu Maali Juwayni.

He soon acquired a high standard of scholarship in religion,  philosophy and fiqh. The vizier of the Seljuk Sultan, impressed by his scholarship, appointed him as a Professor at the Nizamiyah University of Baghdad, which was the most reputed institution of learning at that time.

After a few years, however, he gave up his academic pursuits and worldly interests and became a wandering ascetic.

After spending  some time in Jerusalem, Makkah and Medina he came back to Tus and spent several years in seclusion. He finally ended his seclusion, opened a Sufi school khanakah and started teaching and lecturing. He remained in Tus until his death in December of 1111 CE.

Among the Muslim theologians, al- Ghazali was the most influential; in addition he was a philosopher, a Jurist and a Sufi mystic. He was a prolific writer, authoring more than 70 books. Probably his major work, the multi-volume Ihya ul-Uloom ud-Din, (The Revival of Religious Sciences), can be divided into four parts, which cover perhaps all aspects of Islam, including Islamic jurisprudence, theology and Sufism.

In this series he pointed out that the traditional teaching about Islam did not convince him in his adolescence. His conviction came later, through his Sufi mystical experience. In his autobiography; The Deliverance from Error, he recounts how his spiritual crisis was resolved by a light from God, the key to all knowledge. The Sufi mystical experience brought changes in his theological thought.

Al-Ghazali authored two books on Islamic theology, The Middle Path in Theology and The Jerusalem Epistle. In both books the theological position he expressed matches with the Asharite school of thought. He wrote three books on Aristotelian logic, The Standard Measure of Knowledge, The Touchstone of Proof of Logic and The Just Balance.

Al-Ghazali was  very much interested in logic and philosophy, and he studied intensively while he was teaching at Baghdad. He composed two books on philosophy; The Intention of the Philosopher, in which he has summarized his own conclusions about philosophy, and set the stage for the  second book; The Incoherence of the Philosophers. In this book he has used exhaustive logic against philosophers. He vehemently rejected Aristotle, Plato and all Muslim philosophers starting from eighth century who incorporated the ancient Greek philosophy into Islamic theology. The main among them were  al Kindi, al-Farabi and Ibn Sina. Point by point, he refuted their arguments.

For 100 years his arguments were unchallenged.  Ibn Rushd, an Andalusian  philosopher, made a counter-argument in his book The Incoherence of the Incoherence, but the epistemological course of Islamic thought had already been set by al-Ghazali.

Al-Ghazali divided knowledge into three categories; praiseworthy, permissible and blameworthy–which he has discussed in his book Ihya Ulum-id-Din (Revival of the Religious Sciences). All learning connected to religion is praiseworthy, but when mixed with other than religion sometimes becomes blameworthy. Learning medicine and mathematics he said are permissible and declared it as farze Kefayah, not ferze Ayin. If a man in a town or a locality acquires such knowledge, the whole community get absolved from the sin.

In his book al-Mustasfa which he wrote towards the end of his life, he stated that arithmetic and geometry are pure rational sciences and as such not recommended for study. They fluctuate between false and true knowledge that yield no practical application. He saw no usefulness in the study of physics and said some part of the subject as it was understood in his time contradicted the Shariah and thus were useless or blameworthy.

Al-Ghazali believed in the certainty of God which he experienced by mystic revelation, a phenomena he said was beyond logic or sensory perception. He argued that you can not prove the presence of God by logic or philosophy, and saw philosophy as largely a waste of time and inadequate for discovering the truth. Contingent events, he said, are not subject to natural physical cause, but are direct result of God’s constant intervention. This concept of God is consistent with the Asharite school of theology.   

Al-Ghazali’s work had a widespread influence on western medieval scholars especially Thomas Aquinas. He received wide recognition in the religious institutions of the Ottoman empire, southeast Asia, and Africa. In the Indian subcontinent, he enjoyed wide recognition both among the Deobandi school as well as the arch-rival Barelwi school.

Aslamsyed1@yahoo.com

SE Michigan News for week ending May 31, 2006

June 1, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

UMSA Sponsored Seminar/Conference Held at IAGD

Troy—May 28—The UMSA Udruzenje Muslimana Sjeverne Amerike), the Society of Bosnian Muslims of North America, held a conference this weekend with the support of the Islamic Association of Greater Detroit (IAGD).

About 300 people were in evidence this past Sunday at IAGD, part of a loyal following that attended the entire 3-day-long event. Most of those in attendance were from out of town, from as far away as Florida, Missouri, and elsewhere—reflecting the wide diaspora to which Bosnian immigrants to America have spread.

UMSA is an organization that is not particularly well-known among American Muslims, but which has had a growing presence since its founding in 2001. UMSA maintains an extremely well-organized website in the Bosnian language at www.umsa.org.

Speaking with The Muslim Observer on behalf of UMSA was its Secretary, Mirsad, who declined to give a last name. Mirsad is a huge bear of a man with a dark spot on his head from his prayers, who wore through the beginning of our meeting an artist’s beret, with a flowing beard that extends at least eight inches below his chin and that moves in chance breezes. He immigrated to the United States from Serbian Belgrade in the very early part of the war (1993), without himself serving in any military capacity because he was from the start on the wrong side of enemy lines. He had worked as a rock ‘n’ roll producer before the war, but prompted by Serbian and other antipathy to him during the war faced inward and embraced his own Islam.

Bosnians who came to the United States ended up, says Mirsad, in wildly different parts of the country. Some in Grand Rapids Michigan, some in Jacksonville Florida, some in Phoenix Arizona, some in Dallas Texas, some in Amarillo Texas, some in Hamtramck Michigan—in short a huge community of Bosnian refugees scattered across the US in cities—which cities that have nothing in common other than that they have Bosnian refugees.

According to Mirsad, there are within the United States about 500,000 Bosnian immigrants, refugees from the war, many of whom have had large families here. Therefore, he estimates that in the US (counting immigrants and their descendants) there are “more than one million” Bosnians, most of whom have taken American citizenship—a huge portion of the estimated 4 million Bosnians inside Bosnia itself. He estimates that 30% of Bosnians in America actively practise Islam.

But, surprisingly, he says that despite the Bosnian historical trend that most marriages crossed religious lines, within the diaspora that trend has become minimal and in fact Bosnians usually marry within Islam. Mirsad cites himself as an exception to that rule, as he married an American Christian woman who then converted to Islam—the couple has now had five children.
UMSA’s stated ambition is to “patiently work with our community to help them preserve and restore our Muslim identity,” therefore it was established in May of 2001 as an Illinois religious not-for-profit organization “for the purpose of da’wa in Islam.” Da’wa here refers primarily to preaching to people who are already Muslim, because UMSA focuses its efforts on reaching out to the Bosnian-American community.

The Bosnian community under communism lived under constant threat, and was unable to practise Islam fully; under the war of genocide of the 90’s, again Muslims were forced back on their heels. Now that Bosnians have come to the United States, they are faced with a different threat, that of assimilation. Being white and better able than other Muslim American communities to fade quietly into the American mainstream, they face a choice as to whether they wish to retain their Muslim identity or instead distance themselves from it and quietly merge with mainstream Americans. It is these threats to the Islam of Bosnians that UMSA was intended to counter.

Mirsad said that UMSA receives no outside funding for its activities, despite its having been very active since its inception—this week’s conference (though modest in its budgetary requirements—being held at a sympathetic mosque and with few speakers) was its sixth annual conference (UMSA also claims the ability to pay for tickets for Bosnian scholars to travel to the US)—UMSA also sports a publishing house which has already published two books independently, and the professional website mentioned earlier. Mirsad also claims that UMSA has distributed 100’s of thousands of audio tapes on Islam.

UMSA’s website shows that the organization sees the modern world through the prism of the Balkan war of the last decade. It features prominently ten-year-old pictures of murdered Bosnian civilians over whom stand merciless Serb paramilitary members or army soldiers. Random clicking around on the site leads to a disclaimer in English, which specifies that “any mention in any article of any type of weapons is for information purposes only. Udruzenje Muslimana Sjeverne Amerike and the maintainers of this website do not encourage you to commit any illegal acts anywhere, and disclaim liability for the same.”

The website is huge and well-organized—despite its being in Bosnian it is clear that through the website (which Mirsad claims has had millions of visitors since its beginning) viewers can easily access video, audio, and more.

The conference itself featured only three speakers who each spoke multiple times. They are: Dr. Anwar Hajjaj, Dr. Ibrahim Dremali, and Imam Edip Makic. Dr. Anwar Hajjaj is the President of the American Islamic Information Center, which advocates involvement in electoral politics by Muslims. Dr. Ibrahim Dremali is a proponent of the Wahhabi school of thought, featuring prominent and adoring references to the education and background of Mohammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab, and the usual detailed explications of what is bid’a and haram.

Mirsad, asked whether Dr. Dremali was representative of the thought of UMSA as a whole, answered absolutely not, that there were many speakers and in fact the speakers originally selected by UMSA had not been allowed to come to the US because of visa restrictions to their travel from Bosnia. Asked what their names had been, Mirsad declined to specify.

Imam Makic, another speaker, is the imam of a Grand Rapids community mosque. Grand Rapids, he explains, is the home of approximately 10,000 Muslim Bosnians, and is intending soon to build a new mosque. Imam Makic spoke in Bosnian to his primarily Bosnian audience—he spoke of the many benefits of Ottoman rule in Bosnia, of the linguistic abilities of historical Bosnian scholars (who spoke Arabic, Turkish, and other languages in addition to their own native tongue) and especially of the many scholars who have come from that area over the past 500 years. Scholars he mentioned prominently included Hasan Kafija Pruscak (1544-1615) and Mehmed Handzic (1906-1944). Imam Makic also mentioned the Rais-ul-ulama of Bosnia, who is Dr. Mustafa Ceric, who follows in the tradition of those great scholars by speaking many languages including Arabic and Turkish.

Describing the benefits of Ottoman rule in the Balkans, Imam Makic explained that since Ottoman rule was withdrawn from Bosnia, there have been 10 attempts at genocide against Bosnia’s Muslims.

In fact, the analogy which Mirsad applies to Bosnia is that of Andalusia, which likewise was a Muslim state in Europe, and which was over the course of a few centuries completely and bloodily hijacked away from the influence of Islam.

Imam Makic expresses his hope for Bosnians in America, saying that in fact their position is improving every day, with more schools and mosques. He says that Bosnian Muslims are also creating good relations with other refugees who somehow arrived in Grand Rapids (whose immigrant community is composed of Bosnians (the majority), Somalians, Ethiopians, and Kosovar Albanians), as well as with the other non-Muslim inhabitants of that western Michigan city.

The imam explained that his mosque is run out of a small rented building now, but that the community recently bought land for a large $1.5 million project intended to include a school, funeral home, and to be the home for many activities for young people.

Asked why the conference did not feature better-known speakers, Mirsad explained first that UMSA wanted to bring Bosnian scholars to speak, but was prevented because the scholars they chose were not granted visas. Secondly, he explained that UMSA wishes to sponsor speakers that speak as da’ees on political and social issues rather than imams who speak humbly on religious issues.

Mirsad explained that the nationwide Muslim organizations like ISNA and ICNA are not interested in UMSA because its base is relatively small, being able to pull only a few hundred people for one of its conferences rather than the tens of thousands attracted by ISNA or the thousands attracted by ICNA.

UMSA’s Mirsad says he is Hanafi, the madhhab claimed by the overwhelming majority of Bosnians.

He dislikes the celebration of Mawlid, which he claims is a cultural celebration which in Bosnia is celebrated with dancing and alcohol. Confronted with the suggestion that Mawlid is a world-wide Muslim phenomenon not confined to Bosnia, Mirsad bristles and appears deeply offended but retreats to his claims that he does not accept it because its Bosnian practitioners use alcohol. He does not debate that Mawlid and alcohol are two completely separate issues.
He proudly explains that UMSA’s participants take an active role in discussions with their lecturers or imams. They “demand the proof” for anything they hear and question, which itself is different from the absolute acceptance given Prophet (s) by sahaba, given sahaba by the tabi’een, given tabi’een by the tabi’ tabi’een, and so on—in fact this tradition of acceptance and following is an unquestioned one still practised by most Muslims and at most legitimate schools of Islamic instruction, that has only recently been upended by modernist reformers.

Mirsad sheds new light on the present situation of Bosnian Muslims, saying that in fact the entire war was decided in favor of the Serbs by the Dayton accords, which ceded huge lands to the Serb aggressors and which hamstrung Bosnia by appointing an EU “High Representative” with executive powers, able unilaterally to veto or ram through any change in Bosnia. He cites the Bosnian flag as the best example of this. Bosnia’s flag, he explains, was imposed on Bosnia by the EU—it is not a reflection of what the Bosnian people themselves wanted. While he avers his belief that the government’s employees are doing their best, whatever they do is subject to outside control and therefore in fact there is no autonomy.

Asked whether Bosnia now endures a lot of corruption, he argues that in fact corruption is everywhere around the world and perhaps less prevalent in Bosnia than in the United States itself.

As a further symptom of unfairness, Mirsad argues that the majority of prisoners brought to the Hague for war crimes trials have been Muslims, despite Muslims being absolutely the victims of the Bosnian war and despite Ratko Mladic and other prominent Serb war criminals living out their lives in hiding in Serbia with apparently very significant government support.

8-23