Riada Asimović Akyol, a doctoral candidate at Galatasaray University in Istanbul, recently wrote an article for the Atlantic entitled, “Want to Cultivate a Liberal European Islam? Look to Bosnia.” While many Muslims we know in Sarajevo might balk at their interpretation of Islam being called “liberal,” it is with pride that they talk about how their faith can square with European values, a focus on human rights for all, and the ability to not only tolerate, but cherish, diversity. In fact, many would passionately argue that Bosnian Islam has inherited the true and peaceful spirit of Islam, without the cultural trappings that have prevented some Muslims in other parts of the world from embracing diversity as a truly God-given opportunity for us all to grow and mature (cf. Qur’an 49:13).
Akyol’s concise article discusses how Bosnian Muslim religious and intellectual leaders began to wrestle with interpretations of Islam that could embrace modernity without abandoning their faith. This first began as the Austro-Hungarians took over Bosnia from the Ottomans in 1878. As many Bosnian Muslims were emigrating to Turkey, the Grand Mufti at the time began to argue that any Muslim can live happily under non-Muslims “where he is neither abused nor insulted for his acts of devotion.” As a result, Bosnian Muslims began to organize themselves under secular rule, resulting in the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Hercegovina, which lasts to today.
Akyol goes on to discuss how the Islamic Community of BiH has adapted to changing historical circumstances: how they wrestled with whether Muslims could obey a draft and serve in militaries led by Christians, modernized Sharia courts, integrated Sharia into civil law, and debated the traditional face veil.
She finishes by emphasizing the internal diversity of Islam in Bosnia, encouraging the world that “Bosnia’s intellectual legacy offers plenty of evidence that Europe and Islam are far from incompatible—in fact, they have been intertwined for centuries.”
Read the full article here.