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    • By Saracen21stC
      Ramadan in the Balkans


      Muslims in the Balkans celebrate the days of Ramadan as if they are in a feast that lasts for 29 or 30 days and nights. Streets and shops are adorned with lights, Masaajid (i.e. Masjids) are filled with prayers and Athkaar and day to day customs and traditions are changed only to be replaced by the values and manners of Ramadan. The time of cooking and sitting at the table with the family changes. Those fasting quit drinking coffee and eating food till the time of Iftaar (i.e. breaking the fast at sunset). Unveiled women wear modest clothes out of respect for Ramadan. Neighbors exchange food as well as visits and Iftaar invitations. Masaajid are filled with worshippers unlike the other days of the year.

      The Grand Mufti of Bosnia, Dr. Mustafa Ceric, said: "Ramadan is a test for our readiness to be patient, and to endure and realize the reality of hunger that is suffered by many people around the world. Moreover, Ramadan visits us every year to purify our souls from the accumulation of heedlessness, negligence and sins." He continued: "Muslims should be happy with their religion and obedience to Allaah because whoever obeys Allaah and His Messenger, the gates of Paradise are open for him." He added: "Islam teaches us how to live happily and teaches us that whoever declines to remember Allaah leads a miserable life. Fasting people should be happy with their success in defeating the pressures, requirements and desires of the body." He also said: "Ramadan is the individual happiness and ʻEed is the collective happiness." The grand mufti mentioned that the second day of 'Eed every year is specified for the martyrs among the sons of Bosnia who died while defending the survival of Bosnia and preventing the enemies from dividing it.

      Multi-featured happiness:

      Muslims in the Balkans prepare for the blessed month of Ramadan and 'Eed according to the traditions they are accustomed to. These traditions are characterized by delight and dominated by happiness irrespective of material problems and social, economic and political circumstances. Muslims in these days find time for happiness when they forget their sorrows and pain all throughout the year whether they are personal, family-related, popular or national.

      The Mufti of Banja Luka, Shaykh Adham Samcic, said: 'Eed is happiness in our hearts, our homes and among our neighbors." Furthermore, Muslims in Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia celebrate Ramadan and the blessed 'Eed Al-Fitr in a high spiritual atmosphere that is characterized by tolerance and calling for coexistence" in an environment of harmony, recognition of everyone and observing the right of difference and the duty of respecting the principles and viewpoints of others whoever they are."

      Masaajid and places of prayer in the aforementioned countries witness great crowds in the days of Ramadan as Muslims visit them from everywhere whether they are used to praying or usually abandon prayers. This is because witnessing the Taraaweeh prayer in Ramadan is a firm tradition for Muslims in the Balkans. No one abandons it except the sick or travelers.

      In the Balkans, people who memorized the Quran lead the worshippers in prayers. Religious lectures increase in the Masaajid to emphasize that "religion is peace, justice is respect, reality is security and the wishes of the soul are the health of the body." The wisdom that Muslims learn from such lectures includes the following: "If faith disappears from the lives of people, peace will disappear among them. If justice is not the basis of judging, the judgment will not be respected by the nation. If the spirit is not full of faith and hope, the soul will deteriorate and determination will weaken and despair will increase. Also, submission, hypocrisy and searching for false individual salvation will prevail. Moreover, it should be known that lying is the origin of sins." Preachers warn against sedition. Allaah The Almighty Says (what means): {Fitnah is worse than killing.} [Quran 2:191]. They also call for cooperation and coexistence among the different peoples, nations, cultures, sects and schools. Yards and playgrounds, like the commercial hub in the middle of Sarajevo, witness a great number of people praying as the Mufti of Sarajevo, Shaykh Husayn Samaic, leads the masses.

      The following is some of what Muslims learnt in his lectures: "The life of faith is the best choice between the natural happy and quiet life and the other disordered, competitive and exhausting life." "If we have no role in choosing the time of our birth or our parents, then we do have the choice in how we live and think and what we will be like before our death." "Whoever does not respect the thoughts of others and wants to restrict them is violating the laws of nature and the creatures whom Allaah Made different. He Called for coexistence, respecting others and preserving Islamic values.”

      In Mostar, Muslims pray in thirty-seven different places. The Mufti of Mostar leads the worshippers in prayer in the cultural center of the University of Mostar.

      In Zvornik, the Mufti of the Eastern province of Bosnia leads people in prayer in the largest Masjid in the region.
      In Zagreb, Croatia, the Mufti, Shaykh Shawqi ʻUmar Bactic, said that Muslims in Croatia receive congratulations from the Grand Mufti in Bosnia, the president of Croatia, Stjepan Mesiو, and Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor for the arrival of the blessed month of Ramadan.

      Furthermore, Muslims in Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania receive congratulations from senior officials in these countries. Ramadan, for the Mufti and the Imaams of the above mentioned countries, represents an opportunity to deliver messages to Muslims through lectures that call them to return to their religion in terms of learning, understanding and applying it as well as a chance to send a message of peace to non-Muslims in order to recognize the right of Muslims to practice Islam without restriction, harassment, hate, projections or insinuation.
      Senior Muslim officials in the Balkans perform the Taraaweeh prayers with the Muslims and exchange congratulations with worshippers (without the interference of guards or security measures) for the advent of the virtuous month or in the morning of ‘Eed day directly after the prayer.

      Great enthusiasm from young people:

      Masaajid in Bosnia witness an unparalleled attendance of youths and adolescents, especially in the blessed month of Ramadan. This is a glad tiding in a country that is targeted from everywhere. Although Bosnia is a country of multiple sects and ethnicities, whoever wanders in the streets of the cities, especially in Sarajevo, before Iftaar will only see a few people who are not fasting, sitting in cafes and restaurants or smoking. Young people occupy the first rows when performing the five prayers and Taraaweeh. Moreover, their relation to one another is very intimate. This means that it is a collective return and not merely personal religiousness or a state that is related to the virtuous month.

      Having Iftaar inside the Masaajid:

      Young people and the newly practicing among them are keen on having Iftaar before performing the Maghrib prayer. Afterwards, they go to their homes or collective Iftaar centers that are established by some foundations like Al-Marhamah, which is affiliated to the Islamic Sheikhdom or other charitable foundations including Arabic ones.

      Twenty-one year old Raamiz said: "I love performing the obligatory prayers in the Masjid including the Maghrib prayer as we eat three or five dates upon the Athaan to be ready to perform the prayer immediately after the Iqaamah." He added: "After performing the prayer, we go back as guests at one another's homes, at the collective Iftaar centers or as hosts." Young people are keen on arriving early to the Masjid, especially at the time of Ishaaʼ, for performing prayer and reciting the Quran." Twenty-one year old ʻAamir said: "Voluntary prayers are better at home but voluntary prayers, reciting the Quran in the Masjid, taking frequent steps to it and staying there are considered by the youth as one of the aspects of maintaining the Masaajid." Furthermore, young people are keen on quiet and not wasting time in idle talk inside Masaajid, especially upon delivering short lectures that are given by preachers before the Ishaaʼ and Taraaweeh prayers.

      Lectures and activities:

      Every year in the Masaajid of Bosnia, lectures and activities are organized. Young people and whoever could attend take part in these activities especially between Thuhr and 'Asr and 'Asr and Maghrib. Quran is recited alternately, that is to say that one of them reads an agreed upon amount of the Quran and then another follows. Usually among the attendants, there is a person who memorized the Quran or is skillful at one or more type of recitation to correct pronunciation and recitation.

      Before Ishaa', religious lectures are given that remind the performers of prayer of the virtues of the month of Ramadan and the necessity of utilizing it to support the basics of the spiritual structure and strengthen the relation with Allaah The Almighty. Young people love these lectures. Twenty-four year old Almir said: "These lectures comfort the soul and bring about happiness. When I listen to them, I forget all my concerns and life, with its sweet and bitter aspects, seems to me as something that does not deserve killing oneself in its pursuit. Instead, one should live according to his potential and remember that the Hereafter and all that which it contains is the centre of the real life of man. The life of this world is but a stage to win what is there." These lectures played a role in improving the religiousness of many people whether in Ramadan or outside Ramadan.

      Ramadan talk:

      In Sarajevo, a new piece of writing about Ramadan was recently celebrated. It was added to the Ramadan library that is still showing noble cultural and human manifestations. For many people, it became an occasion for learning through the cultural nights of Ramadan in which thoughts are expressed and merged.

      The book "Ramadan Talk" was written by Adham Mula Abdic and Rida Begh Kabyatanovic and presented to people by Samir Sadiqovic. The book emerged as one of the topics that were discussed in the conversations of Ramadan this year in Bosnia. The book, in addition to the worship and spiritual aspects of Ramadan, gathers the experiences of a huge number of believers in Ramadan, how they fasted and their feelings in this noble month in which the souls of believers are elevated and superior wishes and divine grants prevail over whatever is mortal and earthly. In addition, thoughts and minds become clearer for they were screened by previous months. Man spends his day thinking of the Hereafter and noble values so he becomes very close to Allaah The Exalted. The author quoted some of those whom he asked saying: "There is no other month in which I feel the depth of faith, the sweetness of worship and the happiness for being a Muslim like in Ramadan."

      Another said: "In Ramadan, I glorify the Symbols of Allaah The Almighty and avoid His prohibitions more than in other months. I feel that Allaah The Exalted Is very close to me so I fear Him more than in any past time. There is no month in which I remember Allaah The Almighty and recite the Quran like in Ramadan."

    • By Saracen21stC
      DO NOT SCROLL if you can NOT tolerate pictures showing violence, dead bodies ,etc
      DO NOT SCROLL if you can NOT tolerate pictures showing violence, dead bodies ,etc
    • By Saracen21stC
      Srebrenica: A town still divided
      Ethnic divisions continue to plague this town, where more than 8,000 people were slaughtered in July 1995.

      Selma Milovanovic Last Modified: 12 Jul 2012 15:16

      Mina Subasic slowly walks with a cane into the missing persons' identification centre in Tuzla, northern Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the table in front of her is a handful of bones. Her face frozen with pain, Subasic listens to a forensic expert who explains why it would be good if the remains of her 20-year-old son, Mesud, were buried on July 11, along with those of 519 other victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide - a massacre described by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.
      "I came once more to see him, so I, too, can cross over to the other side. If I could, I would lie down next to these bones right now and never wake up," Subasic says. Mesud's remains were located in two mass graves in the Srebrenica area. The remains of his 18-year-old brother Nermin were buried two years ago.
      Wednesday marks the 17th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide in which Serb forces reportedly under the command of General Ratko Mladic killed more than 8,000 people, mainly Bosniak Muslim men and boys. While the figure on the headstone at the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial Centre is 8,372, the number of missing persons, experts say, may never be discovered. At midday, an estimated 30,000 people will gather at the centre for the burial of the remains of 520 victims. Among them will be those of six 15-year-old boys, and the oldest genocide victim, a 94-year-old woman. Two Srebrenica families will pay their final respects to three brothers each lost from their homes.
      Road to justice
      In Apil 1993, the United Nations declared the besieged enclave of Srebrenica, in north-eastern Bosnia, populated by 36,000 people (27,000 Bosniaks and 8,000 Serbs) a UN "safe area". In July 1995, a 400-member contingent of Dutch peacekeepers from the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) failed to prevent the capture of Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces, assisted by irregular fighter units from Serbia, nor the subsequent mass atrocity.
      In a unanimous ruling in 2004, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, ruled that the Srebrenica massacre constituted genocide. Three years later, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concurred with this judgment.
      The then-Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was cleared of direct responsibility for, or complicity in, the massacre, but was found responsible for not doing enough to prevent it and not prosecuting those responsible.
      The entire government of the Netherlands resigned in 2002, upon publication of an international report on Srebrenica, which blamed Dutch officials and Dutch soldiers for not preventing the mass killings. In 2005, Kofi Annan, the then-UN Secretary-General, noted that, while the blame lay first and foremost with the perpetrators, the tragedy of Srebrenica would haunt the UN. It has been documented that more than 25,000 people participated in the atrocities in Srebrenica in July 1995. So far, more than 30 people accused of war crimes have been sentenced at the ICTY and at Bosnian war crimes courts. General Mladic and Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic are currently on trial in The Hague, accused of genocide and war crimes.
      Survivors' tales
      When the 520 coffins are laid to rest this afternoon, about 7,000 participants of the annual March of Peace will be present to lend a hand. The 120 kilometre (74 mile) walk marks, in reverse, the path which 10,000 citizens of Srebrenica passed in 1995 on their way to free territory. There are no definite figures on the number of those ambushed and killed by Serb forces during what was then known as the March of Death, but it is estimated that more than two thirds were slaughtered.
      Al Jazeera reporter Almir Seckanovic, who has been live blogging from the three-day march, which ended Tuesday night, said only a few women survived the trek in 1995, through inhospitable mountainous terrain in the searing July heat.
      "Among them was Fatima Dautbasic-Klempic, a Srebrenica doctor, who was 30 at the time," reported Seckanovic. "During this year's march, at Mt Udrc, she remembered constant grenade attacks, spies who tried to lead the marchers to ambushes, the crashing of booby-trapped trees.
      "Today, she is married to Smajo Klempic, a fellow marcher whom she didn't know 17 years ago. He separated from the line at Kamenica Hills and roamed through the forest for 20 days before making it to safety."
      After the war, 15 secondary mass grave sites were found in the village of Kamenica - containing
      the remains of bodies previously buried elsewhere, exhumed, then broken up and reburied. The site is now known as the Valley of Mass Graves.
      "Marchers this week found several human bones in the valley and they have been handed over to authorities for identification," said Seckanovic. At Mt Udrc, which overlooks the valley, 65-year-old Muharem remembered how he made it to freedom in 1995 after a 10-day trek. "Here, at this turf, I found two potatoes. I had separated from the line and accidentally walked towards these meadows," said Muharem. "Do you know what those potatoes meant to me? Life. For days, I had been eating just fruits and leaves."
      This year, one of the speakers at the commemoration will be Holocaust survivor and New York Rabbi Arthur Schneier, one of the leading world figures in the field of inter-religious dialogue.
      Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, told Al Jazeera there was no greater evil than nationalism.
      "If you want to bring about a reconciliation, there is no shortcut," Schneier said. "There has to be an admission, and also [a recognition that] the present generation is not responsible for the brutality of what happened in the past."
      Many of the genocide survivors gathered at the memorial have participated in the Cinema for Peace (CFP) foundation's project in Bosnia and Herzegovina, entitled Genocide Film Library. Inspired by Steven Spielberg's Shoah Foundation, CFP aims to record 10,000 video testimonies of Srebrenica genocide survivors over five years. The online archive will be made available to relevant museums and universities worldwide.
      "About 95 per cent of those we have contacted have wanted to tell their story," says project director Selma Hadzic. "Some people have found it too traumatic to participate and we fully understand and respect that. We always underscore that this is a volunteer project which exists in memory of those whose voices will never again be heard."
      Ethnic tensions
      In Srebrenica, survivors' families have slammed plans for a concert which is to be held at the town's central Serb Orthodox church during the "Days of St Peter" festival, on the same day as the mass burial.
      Hatidza Mehmedovic, president of the Mothers of Srebrenica group, who lost her husband and two sons, said that such provocation on July 11 were common in a town that remains deeply divided along ethnic lines.
      "In previous years, there were songs celebrating Mladic and Karadzic," she said. "We don't expect anything good this year. After all that happened, letting such songs to be sung from year to year... the international community is to blame."
      Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two separately governed units, or entities, the Bosniak-Croat-dominated Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) and the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska (RS). There is also an overarching state government.
      As Srebrenica is part of the RS, whose government does not recognise the genocide, July 11 is not considered a day of mourning as it is in the FBiH.
      Srebrenica's primary and secondary schools follow the RS curriculum, which means Serb and Bosniak children, who make up roughly half each of the school's population, are taught that Srebrenica was "freed" in 1995. In a petition currently before the RS Education Department, Bosniak parents are requesting that a joint, more acceptable curriculum is developed for subjects such as language and history.
      The ethnic divide is most pertinently felt in activities surrounding the local elections, to be held on October 7. The central fight in these elections is not over which candidate would bring economic prosperity to a war-ravaged town without a bakery, health centre other basic services - but whether they will be Bosniak or Serb.
      During the 2008 local elections, a legal exception was made for thousands of displaced Srebrenica citizens to vote in Srebrenica, despite their address at the time of the elections.
      Srebrenica's Bosniaks view the removal of this exception as the continuation of ethnic cleansing, says Bosniak candidate for mayor, Camil Durakovic, the current acting mayor and a survivor of the March of Death.
      A citizens' group "I'll Vote for Srebrenica" was formed, aimed at lobbying as many displaced Srebrenica citizens as possible to register their residency in the town and vote there. Bosniaks claim they are allowed to work in only one of a handful of local factories, while Serbs say they would be threatened if a Bosniak were mayor.
      Durakovic, an independent Bosniak candidate, is backed by 13 citizens groups and the four most influential political parties in the FBiH. His opponent, council head of commerce Vesna Kocevic, a Serb, has the backing of nine RS-based parties.
      Durakovic says that he wants to make Srebrenica a multi-ethnic town with a more prosperous future, but one which must not forget genocide. He says Srebrenica's economic potential - its mines and wood industry - were first ravaged through a corrupt post-war privatisation process, while he says the RS government is now blocking council efforts to retain control of the area's vast natural resources. Durakovic estimates that, with better management, Srebrenica could join the ranks of the most developed local councils in Bosnia and Herzegovina within three years.
      Kocevic did not respond to numerous Al Jazeera requests for an interview. During a recent press conference in Belgrade - where she lobbied for Srebrenica Serbs displaced in Serbia to register for the local elections - she said that, during 10 years of Bosniak rule, all the money had been channelled into Bosniak interests. She accused the Bosniak vote-registering campaign of being a ruse for the fictitious registrations of people who do not - and would never again - live in Srebrenica.

      Source: Al Jazeera