Tuesday, May 6, 2008


BRUSSELS, Belgium (May 6,2008) – Leader Of Bosnia's Islamic Community Reisu-l-ulema Mustafa ef. Ceric, speaking at the Conference of Faith Leaders in Brussels organized by the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, said yesterday the EU should show that Islam is a part of Europe by admitting Turkey as a full member.Regarding the Christian attacks against Muslims in Europe, Reisu-l-ulema Mustafa ef. Ceric said Europe should respect the concept that Muslims in Europe "are not ghosts but hosts."

The conference with religious leaders to find answers to contemporary problems using religious “capital” comes at an interesting time for Turkey, when the nation is yet again embedded in a fierce debate about the public role of religion.

Twenty high-level representatives – 19 men and one woman - from European Muslim,Christian and Jewish congregations met in Brussels yesterday to discuss the sensitive issues of climate change and reconciliation between peoples.

All three presidents of the EU, i.e., the presidents of the European Commission, Parliament and the European Council, participated in the conference with the religious leaders.

In a very high profile meeting, in which Barroso, European Parliament President Hans Gert Poettering, the term president and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, commissioners Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Ján Figel as well as European Parliament Vice President Mario Mauro took part, religious leaders exchanged views on climate change and reconciliation. In the meeting, Muslims were represented by Dr. Mohamed Bechari, the president of the National Federation of French Muslims, Imam Abduljalil Sajid, the Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony, Ceric and Ayatollah Abdolhossein Moezi, the director of the Islamic Center in England.

In reacting to Barroso’s comment that Islam is a part of Europe, Reisu-l-ulema Mustafa ef. Ceric said the EU now had a good opportunity to showcase Turkey’s accession as a sound rebuttal to those who see Islam as non-European.

“I agree with the president. Islam is a part of Europe, but unfortunately Turkey is still not admitted as a EU member.The EU has to prove that Islam is a part of Europe by taking Turkey in. Why is the EU so hesitant and delaying Turkey’s accession?” said Reisu-l-ulema Mustafa ef. Ceric.

Reisu-l-ulema Mustafa ef. Ceric stressed that as a Bosnian he learned that tolerance was a sign of strength and intolerance a sign of weakness. He argued that the EU’s strength would be tested with Turkey’s possible membership.

“But Turkey is still not a EU member. The reason may well be that Bosnia is still not in the EU. So Bosnia first should be a member and then Turkey,” he quipped.

In another question on freedom of speech, Reisu-l-ulema Mustafa ef. Ceric strongly criticized the EU attitude and stressed that as a survivor of a genocide he was very surprised to see people who still did not understand that Europe needs mutual respect.

“Insults to the Prophet Mohammed will not decrease the love and affection of Muslims toward their prophet but will break many hearts all over the world. EU should learn and respect that we, Muslims in Europe, are not ghosts but hosts.”

Asked whether one of the best options for intercultural dialogue would be to hasten the accession process with Turkey, Barroso said accession talks were well underway with Turkey, stressing that Islam was “a part of Europe, not outside of Europe.”

Citing Muslims’ contribution to European civilization from Andalusia, Barroso said the EU did not only have relations with Turkey but Muslim countries like Bosnia and Albania as well.

This year, discussions centered on the theme “Climate change: an ethical challenge for all cultures.”

Barroso stated: “Climate change obliges all of us to take urgent action. Each part of civil society must contribute to ensuring a sustainable future of our planet. Thanks to their outreach and role in our societies, religions and communities of belief are well placed to make a valuable contribution in mobilizing them for a sustainable future. Let’s unite in our common endeavor and prove that the preachers of a clash of civilizations are wrong.”

Participants in the meeting shared their views on the two main themes and agreed on the essential role of religions and communities of belief in tackling our common challenges and mobilizing our societies for a sustainable future.

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