Bosnia’s Grand Mufti opens Srebrenica Week at the East London Mosque, marking the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide

The Grand Mufti of Bosnia, Husein Kavazovic, delivered the keynote speech on Sunday at a reception and Iftar (breaking of fast) event at the London Muslim Centre, held in collaboration with Remembering Srebrenica.

Members of the Bosnian community in Britain along with leaders of different faith and community organisations gathered to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide in which more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were systematically massacred in less than one week at Srebrenica, then a UN protected area (safe haven).

Muhammad Habibur Rahman, chairman of the East London Mosque, said: “Srebrenica is etched in our hearts. We watched the horror of the genocide unfold before our eyes. Those who were in a position to do something, to their shame were unwilling to do anything. As a result over 8,000 men and boys were callously separated from their families, brutally slaughtered then dumped in mass graves by the Chetniks.”

The evening was full of reflections, talks and videos plus a special exhibitionby Bosnian photographer Jasmin Agovic, and Qu’ranic recitation by guest Imam Abdul-Aziz Drkic from Bosnia.

Several speakers shared their experiences of visiting Bosnia. Reverend Christine Hall of St John on Bethnal Green said: “I had seen and met people who had been affected by the conflict many years later. Visiting and participating in the Srebrenica memorial on 11th July was truly a sad and moving experience.”

Reverend Alan Green, chair of Tower Hamlets Interfaith Forum and leader of a British interfaith delegation to Bosnia in 2010, said: “I was deeply shocked at the 15th Anniversary Commemoration at Srebrenica because it was not just about the past; 500 coffins were being buried and relatives were grieving in the present. Shocked too because it was clear that the massacre of 8,000 men and boys was clearly not just a result of violent madness, but part of a planned ongoing strategy to obliterate a racial and religious group of people which not only killed all these people but tried to scatter their bones so that they could never be identified.”

Imam Dr Sejad Mekic, an expert on Islamic Law, Ethics and the Balkan cultural history as well as a lecturer in Islamic Studies in London and Cambridge, said: “Without remembering we cannot hope to learn. Srebrenica, like the Holocaust, the Rwanda, Kosova, Kashmir and Burma, is a moral responsibility without compromise.” Journalist, political and social analyst Niaz Hlivnjak quoting German Jewish academic Walter Benjamin lamented that “not even the dead will be safe from the enemy, if he is victorious”. His friend, economist and poet Jasmin Jusufovic, lost his father, uncle and tens of other members of his family in the Srebrenica genocide. Having survived the genocide he has been searching for the remains of his father for 18 years, and only two years ago he finally got his moment of closure by burying the remains of his father. Despite his experiences, Jusufovic said: “Still I don’t hate. I do not know how to hate. I was a learning child when I felt on my own being what it meant to be hated, I’ve seen a shouting human faces disfigured with hate.”

The evening closed with the Grand Mufti thanked the organisers and called for optimism and dialogue: “We appreciate the efforts of many like the East London Mosque and The Cordoba Foundation for supporting Bosnia over the years. This period of the year is especially difficult for us because of the vivid memories of the atrocity of 1995. However, we must learn to live with one another; we must be optimistic, have hope in a better future for tomorrow.”

A team of young Muslims who all previously visited Bosnia presented a cheque to the Grand Mufti to help families affected by the conflict in Srebrenica.


Notes to editors:

  1. The East London Mosque will dedicate this week’s Friday sermon to the Srebrenica genocide. An exhibition of photographs of the Srebrenica genocide by Jasmin Agovic will be open from Friday 11th July – Sunday 13 July in the Visitor Centre, East London Mosque.
  2. Media and interview requests please contact Dilowar Khan at [email protected] or call 020 7650 3009