Wahhabism: From Vienna to Bosnia

world | Apr 09, 2007 | By Anes Alic

Only the funeral of former Bosnian Muslim leader and wartime Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic had a larger crowd and more security than that of Jusuf Barcic, the informal leader of Bosniaís radical Muslims of the Wahhabi movement.

More than 3,000 Wahhabis arrived in the northern city of Tuzla to attend the funeral held last weekend, and according to local media, almost half of them came from Slovenia, Kosovo, Macedonia and the Serbian region of Sandzak. A number also came from Western European countries, mostly from Austria, whose capital, Vienna, is said to be the Western financial and ideological center for the Bosnian Wahhabi movement.

More than 50 uniformed and undercover policemen monitored the funeral of Barcic, who died in a car accident in Tuzla on 30 March after hitting a light pole while speeding, according to the preliminary police report.

Barcic, a self-proclaimed sheikh, became known to the Bosnian public two months ago after he and his followers attempted to enter the central Czar's mosque in Sarajevo to preach for a return to traditional Islam. Their attempt was prevented by Bosnian Islamic community officials, local worshipers and police. Shortly before that, however, Barcic and his followers had already occupied several mosques in the Tuzla region, clashing with local Muslims.

Barcic began preaching radical Islam after he returned from schooling in Saudi Arabia in 1999. In 2001, a local court sentenced him to seven months in jail for harassing his wife and her family, who left him after they returned home.

Vying for influence

Another incident earlier this year in the Serbian province of Sandzak, populated predominately by Muslims, at first seemed unrelated to the recent incidents in Tuzla and Sarajevo, led by Barcic. However, a police source close to the investigation last month suggested there could be a connection. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Bosnian radical Muslims, as well as those from Serbia, were being financed and led by Bosnian Muslims living in Vienna and other Austrian cities, as well as by Saudi Arabia.

The source said that he believed, based on cooperation with the Serbian police, that the recent incidents were not related to terror activities but represented an attempt to increase the influence of the Wahhabi movement in Bosnia and Sandzak, or even to create a parallel Islamic institution in the two Balkan nations.

It appears that both Wahhabi movements were financed and led by Bosnian and Serbian Wahhabi clerics living in Vienna.

Bosnian Islamic community officials and police accuse former Bosnian Muslim cleric Muhamed Porca, who runs the Vienna-based Islamic community administrative unit, of serving as the financial and ideological supporter of Barcic and his movement.

Porca, who was Barcicís colleague at university in Saudi Arabia calls for the creation of a parallel Islamic community in Bosnia, which would lean toward radical Islam. Some Bosnian Islamic community officials also accused Porca of organizing and financing visits to Bosnia for radical Muslims from Germany and Austria.

Bosnian media and Islamic community officials also named another Vienna-based Bosnian cleric, Adnan Buzar, as a main supporter of Barcic's movement. Buzar is the son-in-law of Palestinian Sabri al-Banna, also known as Abu Nidal, the founder of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and the most wanted international terrorist in late 1980s. Al-Banna was killed in Iraq in 2002.

In the late 1980s, Swiss authorities blocked Abu Nidalís Sociťtť de Banque Suisse and Credit Suisse account and its US$18 million balance. In January 1998, the accounts were unfrozen and Buzarís wife and Abu Nidalís daughter, Badija Khal'il, withdrew US$8 million. Badija Khal'il was granted Bosnian citizenship in 1995 through the Bosnian embassy in Vienna.

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Anes Alic is a senior writer a
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only, not of Spero News.

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