The Islamic Community of Belgrade

Last night I attended the Belgrade Philharmonic’s performance in the New Year Cycle. The cycle is a concert series based on the various religious New Year celebrations. Last night’s concert was the Islamic New Year. It is always interesting to watch the “VIPs” enter hall and last night was no exception. With a lot of cameras, etc, Belgrade Mufti Muhamed Jusufspahić came in to be seated. I snapped this photo of him speaking with the Philharmonic Director, who looks “artistic” with the spiked hair and fashionable glasses.

The Islamic community in Belgrade and in Serbia is quite small with only one mosque in Belgrade and about 300,000 Islamic people in the country. Most are found in the Sandzak, a region in Southern Serbia that borders Kosovo, Montenegro, and Bosnia.

Jusufspahic is a somewhat controversial figure in that he is the self-proclaimed leader of the Islamic community in Serbia. Several muftis in the Sandzak dispute this and there is political tension because of it.

I think it is nice for Serbia and the rest of the former Yugoslavia to have an Islamic community. It gives a bit of “exoticness” to the overwhelming majority Slavic Orthodox Serbian architecture and culture. The Islamic followers however, are Slavs, having been converted during the 500-year Ottoman occupation of Serbia. They don’t have different foods and look very Slavic. I enjoyed visiting Sarajevo and Mostar and hearing the call to prayer and seeing the towers of the mosques. I also visited the Bajrakli Mosque here in Belgrade in January of 2009.

We didn’t stay for the whole concert and Nadia and I went for a drink next door to the Hotel Square 9. A really nice atmosphere with not much smoking. We laughed quite a bit.