Issue 8, Article 19, 22 August 2000

Immediate reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in
communist and post-communist lands.
OF MOSQUE. In an area where over 300 mosques or Islamic religious
buildings were destroyed during the war which ended in 1995, the Muslim
community has decided to build one of the six mosques for which it has
general permission but not a specific license.

Tuesday 22 August 2000

by Branko Bjelajac, Keston News Service

The Islamic Faith Community (IFC) of Bosnia and Herzegovina has decided to
begin reconstruction of the destroyed Ferhadija mosque without the required
approval of the local municipality town hall of Banja Luka. The IFC submitted
its request in March 1997 and were obstructed by the then lord mayor until his
dismissal by the OSCE High Representative WOLFGANG PETRITCH at the
end of 1999 (see KNS Dec 1999). The mosque�s location in the Serbian
majority area of Bosnia, Republika Srpska, has been the focus of tension
although Petritch�s office told Keston that it expected such a license to be

MUHAREM EFENDI ORENDIC, the head of the religious and educational
department of the IFC in Sarajevo, told Keston by telephone on 21 August
2000,�The Chamber for Human Rights in Bosnia has decided that we have the
right to erect six objects [mosques] in Banja Luka alone. We are going ahead
with only one for the time, the Ferhadija. The municipal authorities should not
only allow us to do so, but to support our effort also financially, for some of
them have participated in the destruction of the old mosque. We only desire to
get our human rights established and to worship in our place with our religious
rights being restored." ended Orendic.

Mr DUSAN ANTELJ, Secretary of the Ministry of Religion in Republika
Srpska recognised the ownership rights on the land, but said it was not his
ministry�s responsibility - but that of the Banja Luka town hall. He told Keston,
�We should not involve politics in this again [as in the case of previous lord
mayor]. Our Ministry cooperates with all faith communities and we have
nothing against any of them. But, the proper decisions must be obeyed and the
license should be obtained prior to any activity. The municipality of Banja
Luka should allow them to do any construction work as in the case of any other
building. The politicisation of the issue of no good to any of us.�

�The Office of the High Representative (OHR) of the OSCE supports the
decisions of the Human Rights Chamber,� Mr OLEG MILISIC, OHR press-
officer, told KNS in a telephone interview from Sarajevo. ;Recently the
Republika Srpska Constitutional Court decided that the decision is in hands of
the department that received the request in the first place. The High
Representative has the same authority as in the case of dismissed mayor
UMICEVIC last year, and we will act accordingly. The Constitutional Court
has made its decision and now the local authorities should issue the license. We
will monitor the development and support the decisions from the Chamber and
the Court.�

Although the rebuilding of the mosque without a license and the issuing of the
license are much debated subjects these days in Banja Luka, no official
statements have been made. The aid to Banja Luka�s lord mayor Mr.
DRAGOLJUB DAVIDOVIC informed Keston that Davidovic was not
available for any statements regarding the Ferhadija mosque building �this
whole week and the next one as well, because he has scheduled meetings all
the time�. Neither would other municipal officials give statements.

During the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina 620 mosques and other Islamic
religious buildings were destroyed; more than a half of them were in Republika
Srpska where the IFC plans to rebuild the Ferhadija mosque. (END)

Copyright (c) 2000 Keston Institute. All rights reserved.