Islamic Leader Unpleasantly Surprised by President’s Statement on Muslims

Total Croatia News

ZAGREB, September 12, 2018 – The head of the Islamic Community in Croatia, Aziz Hasanović, said on Wednesday he was unpleasantly surprised by Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović’s statement that Muslims in Croatia lived in fear and that it was difficult to include migrants in the Islamic community.

In an interview with Austria’s Kleine Zeitung paper, Grabar-Kitarović said Croatian Muslims lived in fear, backing her claim with a recent talk with “Croatia’s mufti.” She said he was “completely exhausted from attempting to include migrants in Croatia’s Muslim community, which is integrated in Croatian society.”

“The man had ‘frustration’ written on his face. Our Croatian Muslims live in big fear. They fear for their inclusion in society, worried that they will become segregated and that this will be caused by individuals coming to us under false pretences, but actually to promote radical ideas,” the president was quoted as saying.

Mufti Hasanović said in a press release he was “not a little surprised.” “Such statements, if true, aren’t conducive to the development of trust and they also narrow room for developing cooperation in the future, regardless of the fact that it will be at everyone’s expense.”

“The question of all questions is: Why should Muslims in Croatia, who defended and created it with their fellow citizens of other confessions, be afraid and should they be?… People are either good or bad, not Muslims and others,” he said, confident that Grabar-Kitarović felt the same.

“Here one primarily means migrants who need help, but also all people who need help, of whom there are more and more in Croatia,” Hasanović said, adding that every Islamic Community project was coordinated with state services “as we are part of the team for the integration of asylum seekers.”

“This summer alone we managed to ensure 3,000 packages for migrants and complete equipment for the beginning of school for 56 pupils. Fifty families care for 50 of the most vulnerable persons who need constant help. We organise every religious activity solely in our mosques so that they don’t separate themselves and feel neglected or become ghettoised,” Hasanović said. “Those processes are supported and realised by members of our community, to whom I’m especially grateful, as I am to all state services and ministries,” he said, adding that Muslims in Croatia feared no one “but God.”

Migrants who may have come here for “some other motive” that was not existential have not been noticed in Croatia, Hasanović said.

“The situation in Europe is becoming more complex and any statement which contributes to exclusion is, unfortunately, welcome today as it ignites passions which were not lacking in Europe in the past and which, for some, were fatal,” he said, hopeful that, given the Islamic community’s very good cooperation with Croatian authorities, Grabar-Kitarović was misquoted and that a denial would follow soon.

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic responded on Wednesday to the reaction, saying she never claimed that “Croatian Muslims fear for their inclusion in society” and that a key part of her sentence was left out during editing. The president’s position on the Islamic Community in Croatia is well-known and has been repeated many times – the community is fully included in society, her office said in a press release.

The president often says that Croatia’s experience with the genuine co-existence of members of all religions is an example of how it is possible to establish true inter-religious dialogue, and she often highlights the important role of the Islamic Community in Croatia and of every individual, as well as the contribution of fellow citizens of the Islamic faith to the Homeland War, the press release said, adding that the president’s position is fully aligned with Mufti Aziz Hasanović’s statement.

The president’s office said she and Hasanović regularly held talks, given his reputation in Croatia and internationally recognised role in encouraging inter-religious dialogue.

We note that in the interview the president expressed her conviction that the Muslim community in Croatia is fully a part of Croatian society, and that she did not say that Croatian Muslims fear for their inclusion in society, the press release said. Unfortunately, when her answer was being edited, a key part of the sentence was left out, the part in which the president refers to appeals from Velika Kladuša, Bosnia and Herzegovina which express fears that the stability of the local community is under threat, the press release added.


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