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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 March, 2004, 17:04 GMT
Appeal for calm
Grand Mufti of Bosnia, Dr Mustafa Ceric.
Grand Mufti of Bosnia, says Islamic hysteria in the West must end

In a HARDtalk interview on 22 March, Lyse Doucet talks to the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, Dr Mustafa Ceric, about the escalating violence in Kosovo and the future of Islam in Europe.

Dr Mustafa Ceric said he was surprised by the violence in Kosovo, but warned it could spread throughout the Balkans.

He has called on Europe and NATO to take immediate action to end the violence.

"Whenever the west is serious to bring peace to the Balkans it works. Whenever the West is playing with emotions and doesn't have the plan then we get into this trouble"
Dr Mustafa Ceric

The recent clashes between ethnic Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo have been the worst since Nato forces entered the province in 1999.

Twenty eight people were killed and some 3,600 people, mostly from the minority Serb community, were driven from their homes in three days of bloody rioting by ethnic Albanian mobs last week.

At least 15 Orthodox churches were damaged by Albanian rioters, and several mosques in Serbia have also been damaged or burnt.

NATO troops were unable to stem the violence until the weekend when some 2,000 reinforcements were rushed to the province.

No confidence

Dr Ceric warned European leaders not to trust Serbian President Kostunica like they trusted Slobodan Milosevic.

He said he did not have confidence in local political leaders to sort out the problem because they had so far not shown they were up to the responsibility.

Dr Ceric has also expressed concern about the rise of anti-Islamic hysteria in the West. He has said it is becoming intolerable.

The Grand Mufti told HARDtalk that he was not happy with European media and politicians' handling the issue of terrorism and identifying it with Islam.
"There is no such thing as Islamic terrorism as there is no such thing as Christian terrorism."
Dr Mustafa Ceric

He accused terrorists of using any name, like Islam, to attract followers, and said Osama bin Laden was not elected by Muslims and therefore does not speak for them.

"Europe and the West are obsessed by political Islam. They can not see there is a culture of Islam. There is something that the West can learn from Muslims and something Muslims can learn from the West."

There have been accusations that there have been links to al-Qaeda in Bosnia itself. Dr Ceric denied any knowledge of that. But he told HARDtalk that he was certain there were no charities linked to al-Qaeda operating in Bosnia today.

HARDtalk can be seen on BBC World at 04:30 GMT, 11:30 GMT, 15:30 GMT, 19:30 GMT and 00:30 GMT

It can also be seen on BBC News 24 at 04:30 and 23:30


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