Friday 11 October 2019

Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries: Serbia

Serbia is a predominant Christian Orthodox country. However, there are many other religious minorities like the Muslims, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jews and others living in the country.

Islam has seen its rise and fall in areas that now constitute Serbia when the Ottoman Empire ruled here for almost five centuries. However, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Muslims weren't treated well by the Christians and of nearly 300 mosques in Belgrade alone, only one managed to avoid total destruction. Muslims left Serbia for friendlier territory to the south and the west. Some chose to stay however, continuing to live in a Serbia that eventually transitioned into the rump of Yugoslavia.

The Ottoman Empire hay days [Map]

Following World War II, the Muslims of Yugoslavia were given three census options. They could legally identify as Serb-Muslims or Croat-Muslims, or instead choose to tick the box marked Undetermined Muslims. Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority chose the latter. When Yugoslavia fell apart in an orgy of grotesque violence, many Muslims moved to Bosnia and Herzegovina. What was once Europe’s most multi-ethnic state became a region of religious blocks.

According to the last consensus conducted in the country in 2011 there were 228,658 Muslims in Serbia (3.1% of total population. Since many Muslims did not take part in the census, it is estimated that another 50,000 plus Muslims also live in territorial limits of Serbia. The Muslims in Serbia are mostly ethnic Bosniaks, Albanians and minor but significant part of Roma people as well as members of the smaller ethnic groups Muslims by nationality and Gorani.
Mosque, Novi Pazar, Serbia [Photo: CultureTrip © ollirg / Shutterstock ]

Muslims are predominant in the Sandžak region that borders Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Novi Pazar is the biggest city in the area. The people of Novi Pazar like to claim it to be the youngest city in Europe. Besides, largest concentration of Muslims in Serbia could be found in the municipalities of Tutin and Sjenica in the Sandžak region, and in the municipalities of Preševo and Bujanovac in the Preševo Valley.

The scars of Muslim brutal murder at the hands of Serbs are still afresh and tales of the sorry days are never ending. Twenty-four years ago the Srebrenica Genocide took place.  The population was expelled; mosques were blown up to the skies, and the land was converted into parks and parking lots; books and manuscripts were burnt – all traces of Bosnian Muslim presence were erased. There is no happy end to this story. The Bosnian Serbs got what they wanted. Each year on July 11 marks the anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide in which 8,372 Bosnian Muslims were executed in the United Nations ‘Safe Area’ of Srebrenica..

Muslims in Serbia are subordinate to the Islamic Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Islamic Community of Serbia founded in 2007 which traces its origins to the Principality of Serbia. In 2012, the reis-ul-ulema Mustafa Cerić of Bosnia published a fatwa against Adem Zilkić, leader of the Islamic Community of Serbia, categorizing his actions as Masjid al-Dirar.

Although, the Sandžak is majority Muslim area, it is one of the poorest parts of the country, with no acceptable transport network to speak of and next to nothing in the way of financial development. The mixture of poverty and helplessness has seen Islam gain something of a stronghold, as young men and women search for something to feel a part of.
The exterior of the mosque Bajrakli, Belgrade [Photo:  Wikimedia Commons / Author: Missty011]

As for the capital, about 20,000 Muslims living in Belgrade The Bajrakli Mosque, dating 1575, in Dorćol is still the only official mosque in the city, but there are plenty of ad hoc centres that perform the functions of the masjid. These are frequently shut down by the city authorities, which has the adverse effect of deepening resentment within the Islamic community. The shortage of Belgrade mosques was thrown into sharp relief this year when authorities tore down a makeshift mosque in the northern district of Zemun Polje on the eve of Ramadan in May 2017. Emin Zejnulahu, mufti of the demolished mosque in Zemun Polje, said Muslims would not be deterred. “We must practice our religion, regardless of the obstacles,” he said. “We have to be good neighbors to everyone, regardless of their faith and nationality.”

The Muslims in Serbia are not very well off. In fact they live in areas that are least developed or economically sound. Novi Pazar, one of the major Muslim hub,  is a city without an airport or train station, served by bad roads and enclosed by mountains, where the poverty rate is 50 percent, according to Serbia's statistics institute, making the Sandzak region the most deprived area of the Balkan country. The economic deprivation certainly adds to the grievances of the Muslims. And when such voices are raised, they are taken to be as negative expression f sentiments by the Serbian government rather than meeting their legitimate demands.

The Islamic community in Serbia says Belgrade authorities have repeatedly ignored requests for new mosques to be built and says the shortage raises questions about the country’s commitment to minority rights, an important gauge of its readiness for membership of the European Union, reports Reuters.

Muslim youth in hijab [photo: Culture Trip / © david djordjevic studio / Shutterstock]

Muslims though marginalized, celebrate their festivals with religious zeal and fervour. Hijab by Muslim women generally doesn't go well with Serbians and a touring Muslim woman wearing hijab should not mind Serb men staring to her as in Yugoslavian days, religious representations were strictly forbidden. However, wearing hijab in younger generation is picking up momentum while older generation still carrion without it.

Halal food can be found in Belgrade and other Muslim populated areas. Recently, a new restaurant opened in the city center called Zuwar restaurant, they are on the corner of Adidas in Knez Mehaila (The main walking street in Belgrade. They offer a wide range of Arabian dishes and all main dishes are prepared on charcoal. 

As of now, the life for Muslims is not a bed of roses. Serbia's Muslim leader says discrimination is eroding his people's religious freedoms in the capital Belgrade. The local government is accused of pressuring the Muslim community to build its mosques without minarets. The Mufti says it's trying to keep the highly visible towers out of the majority Christian Orthodox city. TRT World's Melinda Nucifora filed this report from the Serbian capital.

Watch the video below wherein Serbian Muslims demand more religious freedom:
Author's Note: The data for this post has been collected from the references as given below. If any one differs with the material contained in this post, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make the post all encompassing.

To know more about life of Muslims in other non Muslim countries, please visit our page: Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |
For more Q&A about Understanding Islam click here
If you like Islam: My Ultimate Decision, and to keep yourself updated on all our latest posts to know more about Islam, follow us on Facebook

Please share this page to your friends and family members through Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp or any means on Social Media so that they can also be benefited by it and better understand Islam and the Holy Qur'an - Insha Allah (Allah Willing) you shall be blessed with the best of both worlds.


Post a Comment

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More