by Dzenana KARUP-DRUSKO
The remaining locations encompassed by the newest Sarajevo building trend are also "not very important for the citizens" since all of them are parking lots (besides in Ciglane another Islamic center is also to be built on a parking lot in the Novo Sarajevo district) and parks (an Islamic center is almost finished in Mojmilo and another one will be built in Otoka) which are anyway "too numerous" in Sarajevo. There are also plans to build an Islamic cultural center in Dobrinja, on the inter-entity line ("to spite Serbs in Lukavica"), while the case of Kosevsko Brdo is also interesting. The object built there before the war was supposed to be a performance hall with the largest movie-theater in the city, but it has now been converted into a mesdzid [religious school]. According to our information it will soon get a minaret and be turned over to the believers.
Therefore, the citizens will get "mosques they were asking for". Namely, this is the expert opinion of the officials working on the modifications of the city zoning plan. What happens with those who do not go to mosques, or are by some chance Catholic or Serb Orthodox Christians or, God forbid, atheists? No one has given an answer to this question so far. However, some justification has been found in the fact that most plans were modified during the war. For example, the performance hall was converted into a mesdzid and parking earmarked for the construction of an Islamic center in 1993-94. "It would not be correct to claim that the war conditions did not contribute to that. Muslims constituted a majority of population, and the others did not dare protest. Well, it was a war...," was a comment of an architect from Sarajevo.
Until now, building permits for the building of mosques in Marijin-Dvor, Otoka, Ciglane, Kosevsko Brdo, Breka, Dobrinja, Grbavica, and Cengic-Vila have been issued, while a request for the building of a mosque in Ilidza is still being processed... The construction of a mosque costs anywhere between DM 200,000-300,000, for smaller mosques, and more than DM 2,000,000 for the ones in Kobilja glava, Mojmilo, or the one planned by Indonesia in Otoka. Although it has been stated that a mosque is built in Kobilja Glava, we unofficially learned that the object will apparently be a large Islamic cultural center, including a modern sport gymnasium for children.
None of the mosques have been built by the funds of the Islamic Community of Bosnia-Hercegovina. All the funds come from donations, either general purpose or specifically earmarked for the construction of mosques and Islamic cultural centers. What is truly important, however, is the goal of construction of these grandiose buildings. As far as the Islamic cultural centers are concerned, the situation is significantly different, because they presuppose instruction and education about Islam, of both young and older people. Similarities and differences between Islam in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Saudi Arabia are another problem which, obviously, does not bother those who enable these projects. They are seemingly only concerned that the mosques be built and they do not have to provide funding for them.
A few days ago invitations for a meeting with Reis arrived to a few selected addresses. The meeting was held on October 12. Among other, according to the information provided to Dani by one of the participants in this meeting, Governor Mustafa Mujezinovic, Jusuf Zahiragic the cantonal minister of justice, and Bakir Zahiragic the director of the traffic and communications in the Sarajevo canto participated in the meeting. At first glance it is difficult to find a cause and consequence relation behind the meeting of this trio apart from, for example, friendship or perhaps an attempt to inform the Reis about actions taken to uncover corruption in relation to traffic?! However, the topic of the meeting was, among other, exactly the construction of Islamic centers in Sarajevo. And who else can push through "popular demands" if not this confidential trio?
They say that people need mosques and that they demand them. Yes, but the believers also demand the reconstruction of old mosques built before the war but, as hadji Salih Avdukovic from Breza told us recently, and nothing!? His congregation, he says, begged, pleaded, cried and brought donors, all trying to rebuild the mosque in Vrbovik which was on the front line during the war. And what happened? It was impossible to find a cent for the reconstruction of the mosque in Vrbovik (although Avdukic suspects that certain funds were donated but were used for other projects), but on the other hand two new mosques and six mesdzids were built. Avdukic's comment? "These people are hypocrites. They want to do everything from scratch".
Besides, if the Bosniak oligarchs, who at the moment govern the lives of Muslims in the space ruled by SDA, are so eager to fulfill wishes of believers, why do not they do so when the aforementioned believers ask for their pensions, beg for new jobs, and plead for new apartments and houses to replace those demolished and burnt in some regions far away where SDA leader does not even deign to visit, let alone more seriously work on their return to their pre-war homes... Can a simplistic statement "donors pay and decide" provide cover for double hypocrisy: hungry people is offered Islamic centers equipped by computers instead of bread, and all for the sake of making an atmosphere of a waiting room for heaven whose all too rich owners are fulfilling the desires of their poor subjects. In the country without money to give a decent burial to the victims of the global crime in Srebrenica, it is disgusting to invoke desires of believers for magnificence. Since when does Islam prefer magnificence?
ZUKIC: We do not keep track of the number of new mosques, but let's mention that the big mosque in Mojmilo, prince Selman's mosque will soon be finished. That mosque is being built by the High Saudi Committee. They provided the funding for the mosque. A pretty large mosque was built in Kobilje Glava. Some of the funding was provided by the Saudi Committee and some by Adil Zulfikarpasic. At this very moment the building of the Indonesian mosque, funded by Indonesian donations, begins in Otoka. Several mosques should be built in Ali-Pasino Polje. People are getting ready, but the funds have still not been secured. A big church is being built there, but no one is making a fuss about that. At the time when in Mostar on wakf land they were building a church, we issued a permit for the building of a Catholic church.
What is the difference between a mosque and an Islamic cultural center?
Traditionally, in Bosnia-Hercegovina we only had mosques. More recently, the category of a state mosque has been established, and these mosques in practice become Islamic cultural centers. In these cases it is very important, and we also find it very important, that religious content is directly connected with education, meaning religious school, mekteb, youth club, library, reading room, etc. These centers do not exist in our tradition, and we are now seeking a place and size and right name for them.
Is an Islamic cultural center going to be built in Mojmilo?
That object is a mixture. A big mosque has been built and we wanted to add the educational part as well. However, Saudis are building their cultural center next to the mosque. In that center they will organize computer training courses, classes of Arabic, Islamic culture and civilization, education, various home making courses for girls and so on. It is clear that the goal is to draw the youth to the religious object and raise them in a religious spirit.
Where else in Sarajevo is the building of such centers being planned?
We participated in urban zoning and distributed those mosques based on the number of inhabitants in certain parts of the city, number of Muslims and number of potential students of religious education classes, children... There are three sizes of mosques: the smallest has 799 square meters, and others are obviously larger. For details you should inquire at the Planning Institute. There are more mosques in Novi Grad because that is a whole city but without a single religious object. That is the absurdity of the previous system, nonsense that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Now we intend to fit in religious objects into that environment. There are no cities without religious objects. Novi Grad is bigger than Tuzla, that is a scandal, and no one talks about that. We made a plan and distributed that all over the city. Namely, for example in Ciglane, the zoning plan was modified and we had a public competition for the best solution. That is a small center, but we had to come up with a project and find the place for some stores since that was a condition. However, funds for the building of that center haven't been secured yet.
Who did the projects for mosques in Mojmilo and Kobilja Glava?
Colleague Hadrovic worked on the Koblija Glava mosque. I do not know who hired him, we didn't. Colleague Kapidzic worked on the Mojmilo mosque. Saudis hired him directly. We tried to make sure that all those projects come to the Center to be checked, to make sure they are not too large or too extravagant, to make sure there are no failures, since we know what our needs are. However, those who pay make final decisions. If we had been asked, the mosque in Mojmilo would not have been so large and so extravagant, since we need several smaller mosques.
Do such projects influence changes in the look of Sarajevo?
That is not a problem since the project was done by the man who was at the time the director of the Planning Institute. But, had we used those funds rationally, instead of one we could have built five small mosques. Bey's mosque was until recently the largest mosque in the Balkans, and it has about 530 meters square. It is small in comparison with the ones that are currently being built.
When Bey's mosque was renovated after the war, what happened with the internal wall paintings?
That was a professional problem because there were several layers of paintings, so that in the end we were in quandary which layer to preserve. A practical solution came up. Some private entrepreneurs from Turkey offered to do that. They were experts for that. That was supposed to be their gift. And then, suddenly they disappeared, probably because of political changes in Turkey. I hope that they will do it in the end. If we have to pay, we shall have to wait for years. The reconstruction was funded by our meager resources, and again, the biggest contribution came from a Saudi donor. The top-most layer which was done during the Austro-Hungarian Empire was taken off and an even older layer was revealed. Parts remain, but most of the walls are white.
Will the parts that were taken off be preserved?
Parts we left on the walls. You know, if we cannot physically preserve Ferhadija mosque, even its foundations are gone, then I find it really hard to get excited over decorations in Bay's mosque. We are not in the situation like more fortunate European nations, to preserve our cultural heritage.
But exactly because Ferhadija, Aladza [historic mosques blown up by Bosnian Serbs during the war] and other similar mosques could not be saved, the value of Bey's mosque is even greater...
That was only an internal decoration and it definitely does not last forever.
This is a part of the letter sent by a group of citizens of Serb nationality to the high Representative Wolfgang Petritsch. They add that only he can help them. Explaining their situation they continue: "With such actions the current authorities do not support multiethnic Sarajevo, but want to preserve the situation which was produced by the war.(...) We cannot talk about equality between nations and multicultural and multiethnic Sarajevo when in Sarajevo at this moment there are at least 50 mosques and new are being built daily, while on the other hand, there are only three Eastern Orthodox and four Catholic churches. Among other, in this way also, we are daily reminded whose city Sarajevo is. Even honest Muslims are fighting against this problem, so that it is natural that we Serbs should also do something."
Just in case, Serbs from Grbavica at the end of their letter say the following: "Since this is an open letter and will be published in the press, we ask all people of good will to understand that we are not against Bosnia-Hercegovina, but against domination of one nation over others."