ERIN NAPIER/THE HOYA Mustafa Ceric, the former Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegonia, gave a speech Tuesday in the Intercultural Center stressing the importance of maintaining interreligious dialogue.
Mustafa Ceric, the former Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegonia, gave a speech Tuesday in the Intercultural Center stressing the importance of maintaining interreligious dialogue.

Mustafa Ceric, who served as Grand Mufti of Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1999 to 2012, spoke at Georgetown on Tuesday on the interplay of religion and governance and peace and conflict at an event co-sponsored by the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

The former leader of religious law in the Eastern European nation emphasized the importance, especially now, of the power that lies in interreligious dialogue.

“Indeed, at this time of intellectual, intercultural and interreligious tensions in different parts of the world, it is of utmost importance that we share a positive political and religious message on the significance of peace and dialogue,” Ceric said. “This message is important not only for the enlightened one, but also for the whole world as we are faced with a range of genocidal proportions in many parts of the world.”

Ceric called on leaders, both political and religious, to work together to create global peace, but also focused on the power of average individuals.

“Individual rights are the means of subordinating society through moral law. In this context, the first of the two fundamental ingredients for righteous social context in a democratic society is the capacity for every individual to think for him or herself,” Ceric said. “The problem is less the extremists than the silent majority that sits by and watches things happen. Most people are peaceful. But too few speak up when necessary.’”

In particular, Ceric highlighted the injustice that arose in Bosnia and Herzegovina after the 1995 signing of the Dayton Agreement, meant to stop over three years of the Bosnian War. Ceric outlined how the agreement systematically discriminates against segments of the population.

“The Dayton Agreement is made on the basis of structural discrimination, where only two or three ethical groups are eligible for election in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Ceric said. “It is not acceptable that now and here, in the heart of Europe, any nation, any man and woman, has no right to elect and to be elected. Therefore Bosnia, with its European peace accord, must be among European moral questions of the highest order.”

Ceric also displayed philosophical insight into law and order, based on his years as the voice of religious law in his country.

“It is the sense of my Bosnian experience that the law and order will not rest in the books. The law is in the heart of every individual, the heart with the first blessings of innocent faith or innocent trusting,” Ceric said. “A powerful religious mind lies between an innocent faith and good morality.”

Ceric harkened back to one of the defining moments of the 20th century.

“With the centennial of World War I which was ignited in Sarajevo, the challenge remains: building social structures that are just and inclusive, pluralistic and secure. … This challenge is not only in Europe, but around the world,” Ceric said. “No person is too small or too big to make an impact. As long as there is at least one of you with me, we are many. Let’s not settle until we uncover the common code of global ethics, security, peace, freedom and justice for all.”

Ahmet Caskurlu (SFS ’17) said that he was impressed by Ceric’s speech, although he was surprised by Ceric’s occasional confidence in international law.

“Grand Mufti Ceric seemed really knowledgeable and also quite brave in his speech,” Caskurlu said. “He challenged much settled concepts of the Muslim world and he tried to lay out a blueprint for the advancement of Muslim societies. While doing that he underlined the importance of universal humanist values, which is not the kind of rhetoric you hear from religious leaders.”

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