The new ruling coalition opened the 15-year-old issue of signing a contract between Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the Islamic Community. Political exclusivity for Islamic Community or equality of religious communities.
Somewhere in the drawer of the BiH Presidency, the contract between the Islamic Community in BiH and the state has been waiting for confirmation for eight years. The whole story surrounding the imaginary secularism of BiH began in 2006, when the state signed a contract with the Vatican, and a year later with the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC). The adoption of the contract with the Islamic community was awaited until 2015, when the document passed the Council of Ministers and was sent to the BiH Presidency for confirmation. However, no convocation of the tripartite body has been given the green light so far.
Before talking about any reasons for such a scenario, sociologist Ivan Sijakovic asks why a sovereign, secular state would need an agreement with any religious community.
“Religious communities are completely different organizations compared to the civil sector such as trade unions or parties. They rest on completely different foundations,” told Sijakovic, who understands the debate about it within BiH.
“You can see that you are immediately in an unequal position because each religious community issues its own laws. If you sign anything with the church, then you cannot apply the rule that the church is completely separated from the state”.
Most objections to the contract were in the part related to the “time for juma” and its guarantee. There were also disagreements regarding BiH’s guarantee of the right to “dress and look in accordance with religious beliefs”. Bakir Izetbegovic, as a Bosniak member of the BiH Presidency, put this issue on the agenda of one of the sessions at the end of the mandate in 2018, but the other two members, Mladen Ivanic and Dragan Covic, were against it. Ivanic then had his own proposals for the text of the contract, which were not accepted.
“There was a whole range of things there. This means that the doctor who performs the surgery would leave the surgery to go to Juma,” said the Serbian member of the Presidency at the time, stressing that the contract with the Islamic community is different from the signed agreements with the Vatican and the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Islamic Community ahead of the state in terms of security?
The Islamic community in BiH announced that it supports every effort to correct the injustice and discrimination against Muslims in BiH, which is reflected, among other things, in the fact that the signing of the contract between this religious community and the state has been unjustifiably blocked for years.
“The contract of the Islamic Community in BiH should not and cannot be the subject of any political trade or blackmail,” says the statement of the Rijaset of the Islamic Community in BiH, arguing that it is not true that the contract gives more rights to the Islamic Community than to other religious communities.
“The only difference between these agreements is certain specific religious practices related to Islamic teachings and traditions, which are accommodated in the BiH society with respect for all the principles of secular society and individual freedoms,” the announcement states.
The contract signed with the Vatican and the Serbian Orthodox Church has the character of an international contract, considering that the headquarters are in the other two countries. In this sense, the contract with Islamic Community in BiH cannot be treated the same, but an agreement should be reached on this. Ivan Sijakovic says that this is a very sensitive issue, which answers the question of whether the state is independent or under the influence of religious communities.
“It is not a political issue. Political and religious ideology are not and cannot be the same by definition. But unfortunately, since religious organizations in BiH have helped many political parties without which many would not even exist, then we have come to such a situation that we are trying to do something that is pointless,“ Sijakovic concluded, DW reports.