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Activities during Bosnian Civil War Involvement in Bosnian politics

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  1. Bio

  2. Activities during Bosnian Civil War

  3. Involvement in Bosnian politics

  4. Involvement in Sandzak politics

  5. Conclusion

  6. Annexes (list of publications, CV, etc.)

Mustafa Ceric was born in Visoko, which is considered one of the centers of Islamic education in Bosnia. He later studied in the University of Azhar in Cairo and received his PhD at the University of Chicago where he studied Abu Mansur al-Maturidi, early Medieval Islamic scholar who developed early theories of Islamic Jurisprudence. Before becoming the Supreme Head (Raisu-l-ulama) of the Islamic Community in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1993 he was also a Full Professor at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Ceric is considered a liberal and moderate Islamic leader. In October 2007 he penned a joint letter with Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Tala of Jordan and Shaykh Al-Habib Ali Zain Al-Abidin Al-Jifri of UAE an open letter calling for open dialogue and respect between Islam and Christianity. He is member of the World Economic Forum, leader of “A Common Word” (group that looks to foster meetings between Muslims and Christians) and the World Conference of Religions for Peace. He is as likely to quote Marthin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi as he is to read from Koran in his speeches. Nonetheless, he has been cited before that he personally does hope to see Shariah law implemented in Bosnia.
However, it is clear that his role during the Bosnian Civil War and as the Raisu-l-ulama of Bosnia and Herzegovina can create controversy with neighbors and domestic politicians. At the heart of this is not his particular form of belief in Islam (which is quite liberal), but the very nature of his role as the religious leader of the Bosniak community.
Activities During Bosnian Civil War
Educated abroad and with a professorship at a renowned Islamic School in Malaysia, Ceric was the obvious choice to help fledgling Bosnian Muslim entity raise funds during the Bosnian Civil War. In that capacity, Ceric was part of the Bosnian official delegation to Saudi Arabia in March, 1992; was part of the Bosnian official delegation to the Islamic Republic of Iran in October 1992 and was the official representative of Bosnia in Malaysia from May 1992 onwards.
While there is no direct evidence that Ceric had any connections with terrorist linked relief agencies or with recruitment of foreign fighters to fight in Bosnia, it is obvious that he was an important representative of Bosnia to Muslim nations at a time when Sarajevo was fighting for its very existence. Since the end of the Bosnian war he has cautioned against Wahhabism being perceived as the “real faith” and has called for the preservation of the centuries-long tradition of Bosnian Islam (very liberal). However, he has also opposed Bosnian government decision to strip foreign-fighters of citizenship and has equated opposition against Wahhabists as “Islamophobia”.
Ceric’s attitude towards religious extremism can therefore be summarized as being practical. As long as Wahhabists and religious relief funding agencies are providing the Bosniak community with funds and resources, then they are to be tolerated in the interest of the community. However, he himself has not become less tolerant or liberal as result of this relationship.

Involvement in Bosnian politics
In Bosnia, Ceric has supported Bakir Izetbegovic, son of late Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, for the leadership of SDA (Party of Democratic Action, party founded by Alija Izetbegovic). However, with the election of Sulejman Tihic to the leadership of SDA Ceric’s influence in the party has been reduced.
Ceric has been criticized by some in the Bosniak community, particularly SDA’s opposition parties “Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina” and the “Social Democratic Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina” for trying to introduce Islamic teaching in public schools.
There is also an intense debate within Bosnia whether Bosniaks are to be defined as purely a religious group (which seems to be Ceric’s point of view) or as a politico-religious community, which is what seems to be the view of most politicians in Bosnia. The debate is at the heart of how Bosniaks see themselves in relation to their neighborhood. In particular, if Bosniaks are a purely religious community, then Sarajevo should seek to include the wider community of Muslim Slavs in the Balkans under its leadership.
Involvement in Sandzak politics
Because Ceric believes that Bosniaks are a religious community -- and therefore the borders of such a community do not end in Bosnia -- he has been very active in the neighboring Serbian region of Sandzak. He has explicitly stated that Sarajevo has a role to play in the lives of the Muslim community in Serbia. This has created tensions in the region which is already split between the Islamic Community in Serbia (led by Ceric ally Muamer Zukorlic) and the Islamic Community of Serbia (led by Adem Zilkic).
Ceric’s involvement in Sandzak puts him squarely in the middle of a serious security and political concern for Belgrade. Belgrade is concerned that there has been a rise in Wahabbi activity in the region and has recently sought to crack down on Wahabbi activity. Meanwhile, violence has erupted between the two Muslim communities in Sandzak over who owns lucrative religious property in the region.
Zukorlic’s Islamic Community in Serbia is supported by one of the most powerful Serbian Muslim politicians, Rasim Ljajic, who is one of the most important political allies of Serbian President Boris Tadic. However, the Islamic Community of Serbia is supported by Sulejman Ugljanin who is also in the current Serbian government due to the complex coalition agreement that has created a mélange of parties to keep Tadic’s DS in power in Belgrade.
Ceric’s support of Zukorlic therefore puts him at odds with Sulejman Ugljanin. It is not that Ugljanin is against Sarajevo’s influence in Sandzak (after all, he is the leader of the Sandzak wing of the Bosnian SDA), but that he resents not having control over that relationship. Considering that Zurkolic-Ugljanin rivalry often leads to violence in the region, Ceric’s involvement only creates problems.
Mustafa Ceric is clearly a very powerful figure in Bosnian politics. He is also clearly a very liberal Muslim scholar who seeks dialogue and interfaith communication. This is not necessarily the line of thinking he takes domestically in Bosnia, but mainly because he seeks to strengthen the Muslim community in relation to the Croatian and Serbian communities. He therefore is very liberal in his thinking when at conferences abroad, but at home in Bosnia he often defends Wahabbi presence in the country or supports a separate Muslim political entity in Bosnia, separate from its current union with the Croatians. But one must put this into the context of the threats that the Muslim community has faced in Bosnia from the Serbian and Croatian.
However, his liberal scholarship on the questions of Islamic theology aside, he does equate his role to the spiritual leadership of the entire Muslim population of the Balkans. As such, he believes that Sarajevo’s Muslim leadership has a role to play in neighboring Sandzak. This not only puts him at odds with Belgrade’s security and political sphere of influence, but also puts him in the middle of an inter-Muslim conflict in Sandzak between the two main political/religious groupings of Muslims there.

DATE OF BIRTH: February 5, 1952

PLACE OF BIRTH: Visoko, Bosnia
MARITAL STATUS: Married, with three children


Bosnian, Arabic, English
Knowledge of Turkish, German and French


· Comprehensive School in Veliko Cajno, Visoko, Bosnia-Herzegovina (Grammar School)
· Gazi Husrevbegova Medresa of Sarajevo, 1974 (Islamic High School)
· University of Azhar, Cairo (Faculty of Arabic Language and Literature) Graduation, 1978 (B.M.)
· University of Chicago, Ph. D., June 1987. Dissertation: A Study of the Theology of Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (ca. 235/850-333/944). Mentor Fazlur Rahman.


· Imam
Islamic Cultural Center, Northbrook, Chicago, 1981
· Lecturer
American Islamic College, Chicago, 1985
· Grand Imam
Islamic Center of Zagreb, 1986
· Lecturer
Faculty of Islamic Theology, Sarajevo, 1987
· Editor
Islamic Symposium of Islamic Center of Zagreb, 1988
· Associate Professor
International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, Kuala Lumpur, 1991
· Full Professor
International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, Kuala Lumpur, 1992
· Raisu-l-ulama (The Supreme Head)
of the Islamic Community in Bosnia-Herzegovina (the Highest Post for Islamic Affairs); Elected on April 28, 1993


· Roots of Synthetic Theology in Islam: A Study of the Theology of Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (ca. 235/850-333/944), ISTAC, KUALA LUMPUR, 1995
· "A Choice Between War and Peace", New Sunday Times, January 5, 1992, Kuala Lumpur


· "Ljudsko pona?anje izme?u teorije i prakse" (Human Behavior in Theory and Practice), Preporod, 1987
· "El-Maturidi, zivot i djelo" (al-Maturidi: Life and Works), Glasnik, 1987
· "Islamska teologija" (Islamic Theology) Opca enciklopedija Jugoslovenskog leksikografskog zavoda >Miroslav Krleza< -Dopunsko izdanje A-Z, Zagreb, 1988
· "Prenetalna medicina i humana genetika" (Prenatal Medicine And Human Genetics), Preporod, 1988
· "Medicina i islam" (Medicine and Islam), Preporod, 1988
· "Islamski koncept zivota" (Islamic Concept of Life), Preporod, 1988
· "Ljudski zivot" (Human Life), Preporod, 1988
· "Kontracepcija, sterilizacija i abortus" (Contraception, Sterilization and Aborts), Preporod, 1988
· "Refleksije o porijeklu i razvoju sufizma" (Reflections on the Origin and Development of Sufism), Zbornik radova prvog simpozija Zagrebacke dzamije 1408/1988, Published 1989
· "Zivot, zdravlje i bolest nerodenog djeteta" (Islamski stav) (Life, Health and Disease of Unborn Child (Islamic View)), Anali, Opca bolnica >Dr. Josip Kalfe?<<, Zagreb, 1989
· "Suvremena duhovna kretanja u islamskom svijetu" (Contemporary Spiritual Movements in Islamic World) Zbornik radova drugog simpozija Zagrebacke dzamije 1409/1989, Published 1990
· "Ebu Mensur el-Maturidi: glavna djela o fikhu, tefsiru i kelamu" (Abu Mansur al Maturidi: Main Works on Fiqh, Tafsir and Kalam), Zbornik radova 3, Islamski teolo?ki fakultet u Sarajevu, 1990
· "Autoritet u Islamu" (Authority in Islam), Preporod, 1990
· "Islam izme?u religije i nacije" (Islam Between Religion and Nationality), Glasnik, 1991



· "Palestine and Justice: the Next Phase", Forth Annual Commemoration for the Victims of the Sabra-Shatila Massacres, September 16-18, 1982; Palestine Human Rights Campaign: National Conference, Chicago, September 19-20, 1986,

· "International Educational Conference on Muslim educational System: Goals and Orientation", Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Association of Greater Chicago and Muslim Community Center, Chicago, October 22, 1988.
· "Current Issues in the Islamic World", Wabash College Religion Department, Crawfordsville, Indianapolis, March 27, 1990
· "Muslim Unity in the unity of Islamic Belief of Tawhid", al-Durus al-Hasaniyyah Held During the Month of Ramadan at the Palace and in the Presence of His Majesty King Hasan II, the King of Marocco, Ramadan, 1411/1991
· "Muslims in Yugoslavia: Present and Future", King Faisal Center for Islamic Research and Studies, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 16, 1992
· "Islamic is mercy (Rahmah) to Mankind", The 2nd International Seminar on al-Qur'an at Dewan Muktamar, Pusat Islam Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, February 27-28, 1992
· The Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders, United Nations, New York, August 28, 2000
· World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland, 28-31 January 2001


· A member of the Bosnian official presidential delegation to Saudi Arabia that held talks with His Majesty King Fahd ibn Abdul Aziz in March, 1992
· A member of the Bosnian official presidential delegation to the Islamic Republic of Iran that held talks with his Excellency President Rafsanjani in October, 1992
· Special Representative of the President of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina Mr. Alija Izetbegovic in Malaysia, in 1992
· Official Representative of the Government of the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Malaysia, from May 13, 1992
· As the Supreme Head have represented the Islamic Community and Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina all over the world, since 1993


· European Council for Fatwa and Research, Dublin;
· Board of Trustees, International Islamic University, Islamabad;
· Inter-religious Council of Bosnia- Herzegovina, Sarajevo;
· Executive Board of the Foundation for Srebrenica/Potocari Memorial and Cemetery, Sarajevo
· Honorary President of the WCRP International, New York
· Comoderator of the WCRP European Religious Leaders Council, Paris

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