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Bosnia: International envoy and chief mufti clash over religious education

last update: May 24, 14:00

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Sarajevo, 24 May (AKI) - The top international envoy in Bosnia, Valentin Inzko, and Muslim spiritual leader Reiss-ul-Ulema Mustafa Ceric have been plunged into row over religious education with each accusing the other of intolerance and religious incitement, local media reported on Tuesday.

The controversy was sparked by the resignation last week of Sarajevo canton minister for education Emir Suljagic after his proposal that religious education should be optional and not included in overall rating of students’ success was rejected.

Ceric accused Suljagic, himself a Muslim, of “hating Muslims and Islam”. The cleric called on Suljagic to resign and warned a “Sarajevo summer could happen” similar to the violent unrest that topped Egypt's former president Hosni Mubarak in February.

Inzko, who has broad powers in Bosnia, said in a statement he was “personally disappointed by such a statement from a person obliged to promote peace and understanding”.

Ceric’s statement was “contrary to human dignity”, he added

“Such rhetoric can have only negative consequences for peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina,” Inzko said.

“If this country can’t find the humanity to reject hatred and mistrust, then it can’t offer a future for its children,” Inzko was quotee as saying by Sarajevo daily Dnevni avaz.

The Austrian diplomat's remarks drew a sharp reaction from Ceric. “I’m deeply disappointed at the biased and inflammatory statement by high representative Valentin Inzko,” he stated.

He accused Inzko of “anti-Islamist phobia and rhetoric to which nothing is sacred, including the will of parents and their children to have religious education in schools”.

Sixteen years after the 1992-1995 war, Bosnia is still under a sort of international protectorate and animosities between majority Muslims and the other two groups, Serbs and Croats, continue to run high.

The country is facing its worst crisis since the end of the war because of Serb secessionist policies aimed at paralysing the country, Inzko warned in an April interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper.


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