The Grand Mufti of Bosnia thinks the election of Barack Obama as American president is a gift from God that could help foster greater international tolerance of Muslims. “I believe that Obama is a divine sign to humanity,” Mustafa Ceric told me in an interview in Sarajevo. Americans “think that they have elected him, but I believe that he was elected by God.” (Photo: Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric, 27 Jan 2009/ Danilo Krstanovic)
“Barack Obama is one of these most noble goods of our time and our civilisation, that is why I think he is a gift of God,” he said. “At the moment we feel a trend to change. Whether this change will be really in practice and life, we need time to see.”
Sometimes called one of the world’s most liberal grand muftis, Ceric is considered a voice of moderation with an international reputation. He is active in dialogue with other faiths and discussions of how Islam can integrate into European societies.
Bosnia may be the European country where this integration is most evident. The call for prayer from Sarajevo’s hundreds of mosques wafts over cafes where alcohol is served in abundance and young couples cuddle in a mix of East and West traditions that has long characterised the capital. Women wearing headscaraves walk in the old quarter alongside others with revealing tank tops and uncovered flowing hair.
Yet the post-Sept. 11, 2001 atmosphere has impacted the image of Muslims everyone, from Bosnia to Indonesia. Ceric blames former U.S. President George W. Bush for fuelling further suspicions by using charged words such as a “crusade” against terrorism. The Republican president “will be remembered for creating a sort of Islamaphonia,” said Ceric, who was educated at Al-Azhar University in Cairo before receiving a doctorate at the University of Chicago.