bosnia report
New Series No. 3 March - May 1998
 
The Ferhad Pasha Mosque and the RS Authorities

The graceful Ferhad Pasha Mosque in Banja Luka, built in 1579, was the city's best known landmark and best loved monument for four centuries until, on 7 May 1993, it was blown up with dynamite and subsequently razed to the ground, bull- dozed over and its site turned into a car park (later a park).

On 8 January this year, encouraged by the emergence in RS of the new Dodik coalition government, representatives of the Islamic Community wrote both to the government and to the local planning authorities requesting permission to rebuild the Ferhadija. According to the April issue of the independent Banja Luka fortnightly Reporter, after three months - and in response to a direct intervention by Carlos Westendorp - Dodik eventually acknowledged that his government had indeed received the request, with the comment: 'The world will insist on the rebuilding of the Ferhadija. We have no room for manoeuvre and will have to give permission for its reconstruction. However, this is a matter for the local authorities in Banja Luka.' The paper also reported the Banja Luka mufti Ibarahim ef. Halilovic as saying: 'the rebuilding of the Ferhadija would be the most wonderful thing that could happen for the Moslems still living in Banja Luka and those who intend to return there'.

Such hopes were soon dashed, however, when the mayor of Banja Luka, Djorde Umicevic, a member of the Serb Party of Krajina and Posavina forming part of the one-vote majority in the RS assembly on which Dodik's coalition is based, wrote an indignant letter to Carlos Westendorp saying, among other things: 'If the international community wants to establish peace and help reconciliation in Bos- nia, it should stÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ op insulting the Serb people', by calling for 'the restoration of mementoes of the blackest days of their enslavement. The Serb people would experience the rebuilding of the Ferhadija as the blackest humiliation, and this would inflame old wounds and provoke far-reaching consequences.' Uminevic described the Ferhadija as a 'monument to the cruel Turkish occupation' and denied that it could be treated as a 'national monument of the Bosniak people', since the Bosniaks 'are not the descendants' of the Turkish elite who ruled Bosnia for five centuries. The president of the mayor's party, Predrag Lazarevic went even further, saying that there could be no question of rebuilding the Ferhadija until Orthodox monuments 'razed during World War II by the Germans and the Croat and Moslem Ustashas' had been restored, rejecting the idea precisely because it might encourage Bosniak refugees to return, and ending with the following astonishing claim: 'Personally, I am deeply convinced that the Ferhadija, like the other mosques in Banja Luka, was destroyed by the Moslems themselves.'

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