Questions Continue Over Paradzemats in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Village in Una-Sana, Bosnia-Herzegovina

Since December 2015, the Islamic Community of Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH), known as the Rijaset, has been in a dialogue with informal religious communities, known as paradzemats, about the legal status of the latter in BiH. The Rijaset is the official body that registers Islamic places of worship and clergy in BiH. Most paradzemats, by contrast, are informal Salafi religious communities in central and northwest BiH that primarily worship in private homes. Paradzemats began appearing in BiH in the late 1990s. The Rijaset’s move to enter into dialogue with paradzemats is related to tensions over paradzemat’s independent activities and the connections of a small number of members to violent extremist groups.

The Rijaset’s actions are positive. Finally things are moving. We were at the point before where all Bosniaks were confused and didn’t know who to trust and who to follow for a resolution. Now we see that there is someone in Bosnia who is thinking about how to confront and solve the problems regarding different types of Islam.
— Bosniak, Male, 32, Tuzla, Imam

The Rijaset has repeatedly stated that they are the primary contact for managing dialogue with paradzemats, but state institutions such as the Ministry of Security and the State Investigation and Protection Agency appear to be becoming more involved. The Rijaset set a deadline of 01 March 2016 for paradzemats to dissolve or integrate into Rijaset administration. However, in April 2016, the Rijaset published a report stating it had conducted dialogue with leadership from 36 paradzemats, of which only 14 indicated they would join the Rijaset. The remaining paradzemats have so far refused. This leaves lingering questions about what could happen to those who refuse to join and how the Bosnian government will ultimately respond.

The role of Rijaset should be neutral. They cannot take care of their own mistakes, yet now they’ve made a request to shut down paradzemats. The Rijaset doesn’t seem to understand that any person in this world has a right pray wherever they wish. People in paradzemats are not doing any harm to anyone and they only wish to be left in peace while praying.
— Bosniak, Male, 48, Kalesija, Unemployed