This is according to Sead Šahman, a member of Montenegro's parliament and the president of the Youth Forum of the Bosniak Party in the country.
He contributes as a columnist to several newspapers in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Montenegro. Šahman has also written two books of poetry. He has a postgraduate degree from the University of Sarajevo School of Economics and Business in the field of Macro finance Economics.
Šahman, who attended the 29th International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran a few weeks ago, shared his views and comments on the current situation of the Muslim world in an interview with IQNA.
What follows is excerpts from the interview.
IQNA: First of all, I would appreciate it if you could briefly introduce yourself.
Sahman: I am Sead Sahman from Montenegro. I am a representative from the Parliament of Montenegro and advisor to the Parliament’s vice president. Montenegro is a small country in the Balkan in south Eastern Europe which was formed after the disintegration of Ex Yugoslavia. Muslims account for 20 percent of my country’s population. I come from a political organization called Bosnian Party, who represents Bosnians and Muslims in the Parliament, which has in total 81 MPs.
I support my Islamic community. Montenegro consists of various faiths and ethnicities including Christians, Orthodox, Catholics, and some other minorities that are not officially recognized.
I am here to support the Islamic Unity Conference. Unity of Muslims is so important. Shia and Sunni should manage their differences, which is absolutely needed in today’s world.
IQNA: One current challenge facing Europe is a massive inflow of Muslim refugees coming from the Middle East and Africa, especially from Syria, which has been wrecked by war. Do you think European countries take the issue as a challenge or an opportunity?
Sahman: I personally appreciate the decision made by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel to open her country’s doors to the refugees. Despite many objections and disagreements made against her decision, she is welcoming Muslims refugees to Germany.
On the other hand, we had the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who made biased and unfriendly comments towards Islam and Muslims, refusing them entrance into the country.
As a matter of fact, Muslims are an integral part of Europe. They are domestic and too large to be ignored.
IQNA: Following terrorist attacks in Paris, Muslims in western countries such as Europe have undergone a new wave of Islamophobia, suffering injustice, prejudice, and discrimination. From your point of view, what are the reasons for which Islam and Muslims are mistaken with extremism and terrorists?
Sahman: Radicalism, fundamentalism, and extremism have nothing to do with Islam,
which is the religion of peace and moderation. Islam is a very nice religion. The far right centered parties in some European societies such as France or Germany try to associate Muslims with radicalism and terrorism. It is a totally baseless discriminatory claim.
On the other side, we see that terrorists such as ISIL (DAESH) falsely claim to be Muslim, trying to justify their heinous acts of terror and violence by resorting to Islam and the holy Quran.
It is not fair to jump hastily to conclusion by saying that all Muslims are terrorists since DAESH commits horrible crimes in the name of Islam. In order to give any comment about Islam, one should first study the Quran thoroughly and think about it carefully.
Extremism is not limited only to some Muslims. In fact, extremism is an unbalanced way of life that can be seen everywhere. So we are not allowed to associate it with a particular faith or belief, and, consequently, attribute it to the followers of that faith or ideology. For example, when some Jews or Christians do something extremely radical, nobody concludes Jews or Christians are all terrorists.
But unfortunately this is the case when it comes to Islam, which is due to propaganda against Muslims and the spread of Islamophobia by the enemies of Islam. There are a wide variety of people doing good or bad deeds, regardless of their faith. These are individuals, not divine faiths, who must be held responsible for their acts. This is my motto in this regard.
IQNA: Do you think that the promotion of inter-faith dialogue between different denominations within the Muslim world, and in a broader scale, between different faiths around the globe could pave the ground for better understanding, enhanced tolerance and mutual respect among the followers of monotheistic religions?
Sahman: Dialogue can play a very constructive role in today’s world, which is deeply suffering from sectarian strife and violence. Dialogue can help people of different faiths find solutions for current religious issues. Difference does not necessarily mean or lead to division.
Human beings including Muslims and non Muslims can be different from one another by race, gender, ethnicity, color, and nationality in order to get to know each other, as the Quran tells us: "People, we have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you might know one another. The noblest of you before Allah is the most righteous of you. Allah is the knower, the aware” (49, 13)
However, the thing that the Quran invites us to take seriously into account is that we should not be divided, as it says: "And hold fast to the bond of Allah, together, and do not separate.” (2, 103)
The 29th International Islamic Unity Conference kicked off in Tehran on Dec. 27, 2015 with the participation of hundreds of Shia and Sunni scholars and thinkers from 70 countries.
The current crises facing the Islamic world were the main subjects discussed in the 3-day event.
The conference is annually held by the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought (WFPIST) with the aim of promoting and strengthening unity among all Muslims in the world.