Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Bakir Izetbegovic at the East London Mosque

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 28th October, 2013

Bakir IzetbegovicEast London MosqueIslam has a long history in Bosnia, but in the fratricidal war that followed the disintegration of Yugoslavia there were attempts by the (orthodox) Serbs, in particular, to ethnically cleanse Bosnia Herzegovina of its Muslim population, demolish many mosques and divide the territory up with the (Catholic) Croats. I went to Sarajevo not long after the siege of that city was lifted, bringing an end to the nightmare that its inhabitants lived through, running the gauntlet of “sniper alley” and seeing so much of their patrimony, including the library, destroyed. This in a city which had for centuries been a place of religious tolerance and co-existence, echoing Moorish Andalus. Two decades on the situation is much improved, if not perfect, and it was good to join many fellow residents of Tower Hamlets, as well as the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve. and other political figures, at a celebratory dinner this evening at the Maryam Centre, next to the East London Mosque, at which the guest of honour was Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniac member of the presidential troika of his country. I met his late father, Aliya, when he was President and like many was deeply impressed by his spirituality and generosity of spirit, determined to reconstitute at atmosphere of tolerance, while ensuring Islam’s survival in that corner of South East Europe. Bakir Izetbegovic, in his speech at the dinner, recalled his father’s work, and said how remarkable it is that Islam has flourished over the past 20 years including in Europe. This was not said in a triumphalist way and indeed the ethos of genuine multiculturalism was evident tonight. All guests were presented with a copy of Alya Izetbegovic’s autobiography as we left, which was a nice touch.

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