THE BLOG
03/10/2007 04:26 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Utah Paper Reassures Americans by Interviewing Moderately Violent Bosnian Imam

There's been a recent break in the investigation of what led the shooter in Salt Lake City to kill.

(KSL News) Federal agents have traced the handgun used by Trolley Square shooter Sulejman Talovic to its original owner and are now trying to figure out how it ended up with Talovic.

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The Deseret Morning News also reports police are questioning witnesses again about what they saw or heard during the shootings.

So after a break in the case, the Feds have determined that they need to go back and re-interview people from the scene about what they saw or heard during the shooting.

But what relevance do sounds at the scene of the crime have to a traced gun? How does the origin of the gun connect to "What did you see and hear at the scene?" Unless it has something to do with those recorded shouts of "Allahu Akbar" on a witness's cell phone camera, which weren't conclusive. And so the previously dismissed testimony of eyewitnesses who confirmed the inconclusive recording is now needed. For some reason. That we aren't being told. But which has to do with the break in the investigation.

One of the only two papers covering developments in Utah and Bosnia since Talovic's shooting spree last month, the Deseret Morning News interviewed Bosnia's "most influential religious leader" Nezim Halilovic in his offices at the Islamic Center in Sarajevo last Monday. And he lies. A lot. The paper describes Halilovic as:

a distinguished-looking man of middle age, who was wearing a dark suit and a tie with a clip. His gray hair was offset by a short, dark beard. On his desk were a small, decoratively carved wooden chest; a jar of honey; a cup holding many pens; a tiny replica of a mosque; and several copies of the Quran...

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Besides directing the society, every Friday Halilovic teaches at the King Fahd mosque in Sarajevo, which he notes is the largest mosque in the Balkans. It was built through donations of King Fahd, the late ruler of Saudi Arabia. [Emphasis added.] ...[He] does not believe the Trolley Square shooter was motivated by his Muslim religion.

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"I think that here, in this case, it wasn't a religious motive, because Islam doesn't embrace terrorism or violence. It's something Islam just doesn't preach."

However, Muslims are allowed to fight for self-protection under prescribed rules, according to the imam.

Of course, this comes from a former commandant of the 4th Muslim Brigade, that is Bosnian mujahedeen:

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"Victory or Death"

Interestingly, Halilovic's name came up in an AP report last year, titled "Terrorists Recruiting White Muslims":

Terrorists have been working to recruit non-Arab sympathizers -- so-called "white Muslims" with Western features who theoretically could more easily blend into European cities and execute attacks -- according to classified intelligence documents obtained by The Associated Press.

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Among the Islamic leaders Bosnian authorities are monitoring closely is Nezim Halilovic, chief mufti of the King Fahd Cultural Center...Its imam has repeatedly has [sic] been accused of using his sermons to preach violence in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Israel, Iraq and Kashmir."

So as usual, terrorism is "self-protection." But here's one you don't hear every day: Apparently, the West's open immigration policies are a form of "ethnic cleansing," as Halilovic explained to Deseret News:

He said that when Western countries encourage Muslims from Bosnia to leave their country and work in the West as poorly paid workers, they help the vicious practice of ethnic cleansing.

So, many Bosnian Muslims have gone to other countries, Halilovic said, and after a few decades, they will not have any connection with their country of birth. "They'll just be French, German or some other group.

"The possibility is that they will have children, and those children will be taught that way," he said. "In that way, the whole world is helping in the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia."

Could we please, please make this argument our own -- and adopt it as a strategy to curb immigration: "We MUST stop immigration, as it is a form of ethnic cleansing of the immigrants' countries of origin. Immigration is a war crime!"

But back to the lying:

We want a multinational and multicultural Bosnia and Herzegovina (the country's formal name), a place that every citizen will have all the rights he deserves. And because of that, we share this country and law...The world should do everything to help Bosnia and to delete Republika Srpska, because it was formed on a genocide.

Actually, the Serbian entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina was formed by a civil war started by Islamic separatists in Bosnia wanting a Muslim state in Europe and led by fundamentalist president Alija Izetbegovic. They didn't succeed, and that's why Bosnia is divided. Halilovic actually mentions the fundamentalist president Izetbegovic whom the U.S. allied itself with but who was about to be indicted by the Hague for war crimes when he died. Let's see in what context:

He recalled a comment by a former president of Bosnia, the resistance hero Alija Izetbegovic, that a divided Bosnia "looks like a man that just suffered a hard car accident, and he's in the hospital covered up with bandages."

Then the Deseret News shines a small but, as always, de-contextualized spotlight on the self-inflicted and U.S.-abetted conundrum of Bosnia and the Balkans in general:

King Fahd Mosque has attracted a number of what the press terms Wahhabi, a name its members generally dislike. They are adherents of a strict interpretation of Islam. Immediately in front of the huge mosque, some of its members have erected a small market. Members of the group walked about the vicinity, men with long beards and trousers shorter than most Bosnian men's, women wearing black burqas.

Some Muslims interviewed were wary of the Wahhabi, saying they were attempting to win moderate people to their beliefs.

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Halilovic said it's important to protect the integrity of the Bosnian Islamic community from the Wahhabi.

"But still, the Islamic community and the government cannot forbid these people to practice Islam in their own way, just the same way that here the law says you can dress like you want."

Halilovic is talking out of all 72 sides of his mouth, as there isn't much of a conflict for him per se. From MuslimEuro.blogspot:

His name is Nezim Halilović but Bosnian Muslims affectionately call him "Muderris". He went to the locally well-known Islamic Madrassah of Gazi Husrev-Beg, in Sarajevo and later studied arabic at the famous al-Azhar University.

He became the Imam of a Masjid in central Bosnia when he returned from his studies and when the war in Bosnia broke out in the 90's he participated in the Jihad and became a commander in the 4th Muslim brigade...Today he is the Khatib in the biggest Masjid in the entire Balkans, which is located in Sarajevo.

He is active in the struggle to call the Muslims of Bosnia to the Sunnah and to generally serve the Muslim community.

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It must be hard to appear worried about Wahhabist intolerance while running a mosque founded by the country where Wahhabism originated. From a recent article titled "Bosnian Muslims Divided over Inroads of Wahhabism":

The senior imam of the mosque, a concrete behemoth the size of a shopping mall, denies believers are radical Muslims.

"In this mosque there are ... no extremists," said Nezim Halilovic, who avoided the term Wahhabi.

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Wahhabism was brought to Bosnia by fighters who came to support the outgunned Muslims during the 1992-95 war and missionaries who arrived later.

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But [Wahhabism's] self-proclaimed Bosnian-based leader Abu Hamza, who represents foreign former Islamic fighters who married Bosnian women and stayed in the country, is not apologizing for his religion. Hamza said in October that Islamic practice in Bosnia was "communist" and urged Muslims to return to "genuine Islam."

When "moderate" Bosnian Muslim leaders publicly but mildly admonished Hamza for his comments, analysts posited that "Islamic leaders avoid the issue so as not to fan long-time accusations by Serb and Croat nationalists of a terrorist threat from radical Muslims in Bosnia. They also do not want to alienate generous donor Saudi Arabia."

Halilovic's name also comes up in a 2005 article titled "Muslim Beheading Videos from Chechnya, Afghanistan sold in Bosnian Capital." Here is a partial text of a report from the Bosnian paper Dani, via BBC Monitoring International Reports:

The conversation took place recently in Sarajevo, in front of the Begova dzamija (mosque). There A.S. has a makeshift stand....Along with digital copies of the Koran, spiritual music and videos of Alija Izetbegovic's dzenaza (funeral service), he offers the biggest hits and compilations from recent battlefields worldwide. Compilations of horror. Afghanistan Palestine: The Slaughter of Children, Chechnya -- only parts five and six, actually, as the first four sold long ago.

"I am interested in Chechnya. Which part do you recommend?"

"Part six. It shows everything. I have not watched all of it, I have not had the time, but I can attest that it is great. The particularly good part is the one where they kill a captured Russian soldier. You can see everything."

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They, of course, are Chechen independence fighters...whoever is interested (and sales suggest there are not few) can watch bearded guys in uniforms pray in their camps before going into action, a white civilian van hit by a shell fly into the air and, of course, a captured Russian soldier being beheaded to the sound of the present party praying tekbir (Islamic prayer).

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Indeed, things that Nezim Halilovic Muderris, head of the Vakuf Fund and the chief imam of the mosque, talks about during his hutba (Friday sermon), although they sound funny, have a distinctly ominous tone when viewed from that lens: "In Fallujah, according to statements from the US command, Spirits have appeared in the form of enormous spiders, weighing about a kilogram, that only attack US soldiers, and the person who is bitten dies within seconds."

At the moment we tried to get an explanation from Muderris, he was busy preparing for a hajj and did not want to comment on the horrifying videos that were freely sold.

And here's some coverage of a sermon given by Halilovic at the King Fahd mosque, from a 2004 report via BBC Monitoring service:

Muderris recalled the events of the previous week, mentioning a "shehid" (martyr) operation in Jerusalem, when eight Israelis were killed and 60 injured. He also spoke about "the innocent civilians being killed in Palestine" and the Israelis continuing to build the "Security Wall", "which confirms the Israeli occupation of Palestine". Muderris prayed to Allah "to help our bothers in the smaller entity of Bosnia-Hercegovina (Serb Republic), Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya, Iraq and any other place where Muslims are attacked by enemies of Allah's faith..."

With moderates like this to lead the "non-practicing" Bosnians, who needs radicals?

Given that Sulejman Talovic's weapons of choice were guns, we're again seeing some finger-pointing at guns over this. But remember: Guns don't kill people. Mosques do.

(Or, to be fair, guns and mosques kill people.)