Wahhabi Rules: Islamic Extremism Comes to Bosnia

Wahhabi Rules: Islamic Extremism Comes to Bosnia

It was a strange scene. Over 3000 followers of the radical Wahhabi current of Islam had come to the northeast Bosnian town of Tuzla to bury their leader Jusuf Barcic, who had recently died in a traffic accident. The coffin in front of the mosque was draped in a green cloth. Men with long beards chanted "Allahu Akbar": "God is great." As press photographers tried to photograph the scene, they were first cursed and then beaten. The police did nothing. "We did not expect there to be so many people," an officer told the newspaper Oslobodjenje.

Religious fundamentalism is on the rise in Bosnia-Herzegovina. There had not previously been any mass demonstration of this size. But the local media have for some time now noted a marked increase in the activities of the Wahhabi sect, which counts al-Qaida founder Osama Bin Laden among its adherents. Barcic's funeral in Tuzla on March 31 was yet another sign that Wahhabism in Bosnia had ceased to be a marginal phenomenon. According to Resid Hafizovic, a Professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Sarajevo, the sect represents a "potentially deadly virus" for Bosnian Muslims.

An episode in February caused a particular stir. Jusuf Barcic and a group of his followers wanted to enter the venerable Careva mosque in downtown Sarajevo, in order to perform the Wahhabi prayer rites. For the first time in the over 500 year history of the mosque, the Imam had to lock the doors. Only the arrival of the police could prevent clashes between Barcic's followers and followers of the indigenous Bosnian form of Islam. Already last year, there had been a massive brawl in the town of Kalesija after the Wahhabis occupied the local mosque there and chased off the Imam.

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