Thursday, September 6, 2012

High Saudi commission for Donations to Bosnia-Herzegovina (HSC), by Ioannis Michaletos

The organization was founded in 1993 by Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz and supported by King Fahd. It operated in BiH under auspices of Saudi government ministry. The seat of HCS was in Travnik, with an additional office in the King Fahd cultural center in Sarajevo. Initially its stuff was exclusively Saudi. Abd al-Hadi Qahtani, the first director of SHC in BiH, was allegedly killed in Afghanistan in 2001.

Another high employee of HSC was Sheikh Nasser, who participated at the meetings organized by Al-Furqan and sponsored by Al Haramain, where he spoke to a “selected group” about the problems of dawa. HSC was one of the main charity organizations in BiH with the strongest influence on Bosnian Muslims and their social and physical environment. In March 1997, Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz was awarded the Golden Bosnian Medal by Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, in recognition of the role played by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in BiH.
According to the last report on the web site of Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington the Saudi donations for the past 9 years to Bosnia by the HSC reached in July 2001 US$ 0,6 billion, from both governmental and private sources. The donations included the distribution of relief material, food baskets, sponsorships for 10.000 Bosnian orphans, and invitations for 3300 pilgrims to perform Hajj. As well, a number of economic and service projects have been implemented by the Commission, including US$33,79 million for constructions of mosques, cultural centers, Islamic institutes, orphanages, and housing compounds. In addition some 160 mosques have been restored, including King Fahd Cultural Center in Sarajevo.
In October 2001 US peacekeeping troops carried out a high profile raid at the HSC offices in Sarajevo, seized computer files and other materials which were suggesting terrorist intentions. Among the items found at the Saudi charity were before-and-after photographs of the World Trade Center, US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the USS Cole; maps of government buildings in Washington; materials for forging US State Department badges; files on the use of crop duster aircraft; anti-Semitic and anti-American material intended for children. After the raid, the HSC published newspaper advertisements, which condemned the raid and denied any link with terrorism. Among the arrested in connection to the raid was Algerian Bensayah Belkaçem (arrested on 8.10.). Bensayah had Bosnian citizenship, which he admitted he received under false pretenses. Police found on him the phone number of Abu Zubeid, high ranking officer of Al-Qaida and confirmed the existence of taped phone conversations between the two. Bensayah was one of the 6 Algerians deported to Guantanamo in January 2002, suspected of plotting an attack on the US embassy in Sarajevo. The police findings prompted the US and UK embassies to temporarily close down due to security threat (17.10. 2001).
The authorities also discovered that $41 million were missing from the commission’s operating funds. The commission was then forcibly closed down although its name still appeared on the list of organizations for which the BiH anti-terrorism team wanted to carry out a financial investigation in May 2002. A month before that (April 2002), an announcement on the web site of the Royal Embassy in US said that the kingdom continues to provide aid to the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina with blankets and tents delivered to Sarajevo through the Saudi Red Crescent Society.
Ideological role: The January 1996 report of Commission on the Saudi Embassy’s web site illustrates how the money from donations was spent. The collected money was divided as following:
“Two-thirds of all that is collected by the Commission is remitted directly to the Bosnian government either in a dedicated bank account, or through the Bosnian Embassy in Riyadh, or to President Izetbegovic by a delegation visiting Bosnia. One-third of the donations are used to purchase relief aid or extend monetary assistance to individuals in need, as well as to secure health care, restore gas supplies, and repatriate displaced persons. Seventeen shiploads of food, clothes, vehicles and other supplies have been sent to the Commission’s office in Bosnia, which distributes aid to Muslims in Bosnian towns through eight affiliated centers.”
“In addition, the Commission distributes religious books and organizes seminars and training courses, including Qur’an memorization. The media is asked to highlight the need in Bosnia for rebuilding mosques as well as factories and agricultural centers.”
Part of donation money was always intended for missionary activities. In one of the HSC’s official publications about King Fahd complex it is stated that one of the goals for which the complex was built is: proliferation of Islamic culture in various segments of Bosniak society and binding the Muslims to the “correct Islamic belief”. According to local media reports SHC, in return for financial help to widows, orphans and other victims of the war, requested from the women to cover their heads, and that children go to religious classes. According to statements of some of the Bosnian former wahabi followers they all learned the basic rules about the movement from a book containing the insignia of the SHC.
Among the most known objects, sponsored by SHC, are:
- Islamic Teacher’s Academy in Bihac (wahabi oriented), mosque of Prince Abudllah bin Abdul-Aziz in Tuzla, Saudi cultural center in Mostar, mosque and cultural center of King Fahd bin Abdul-Aziz al Saud in Alipasino Polje in Sarajevo (opened in Sept. 2000),
Mosque of Princess Al-Dzuhara Al-Brahim and cultural center in Bugojno (financed by one of the wives of Saudi king). At the time of the opening of the mosque (2001), SHC published a discriminative brochure against Croats living in Bugojno, stating that Bugojno is one of the few cities in Bosnia with almost no Croats, even though it borders to the Croatian territories. The publication upset the Bosnian Croats who before the war made up a much bigger percentage of the population in the town, but left afterwards from the fear of Muslims who took the control of the town. Bosnian interior ministry filed a protest to the Saudi Embassy for upsetting Bosnian Croats with such statements.
The King Fahd Cultural center and mosque in Sarajevo is said to be the biggest Islamic center in the East Europe. The construction costs were estimated to be around 10 million EUR. With its 2 minarets is an unusual mosque for Bosnian environment. The mosque can accommodate about 5000 people. Since September 2001 the Hatib of the mosque is Nezim Halilovic Muderis, who is also a Mufti of Cultural center of King Fahd. Muderis, Bosnian graduate from Al-Azhar, was a known personage during the war. At the beginning in 1992 he formed a religious unit with his friends from the mosque called the Commando-reconnaissance company Muderis. Later he became the commander of the Fourth Muslim Brigade in Konjic, was 2 times wounded and awarded the highest war recognition Zlati ljiljan and Golden coat. In 1996 he retired from the army on personal request with the rank of colonel.
Since 1997 he is the director of the Waqf Head Office and a member of Rijaset (main board of IZ). From 1997-1999 he was also a member of parliament of BiH and a member of SDA board. His preaching takes often fundamentalist tone. He went as far as agreeing to legitimacy of suicide bombers, justifying them with “when all other methods are used… shahidic actions are justified according to sharia and have a meaning”. He praises Chechen rebels, and glorified the woman that drove into Russian camp with a car loaded with explosives and killed 27 soldiers. His hutbas are very political, addressing current political issues considering Muslims worldwide, especially in Iraq, Palestine and Chechnya, with an emotional tone. He is encouraging people to be more conscious about global Muslim problems (for ex. to join protests against Iraqi war). Halilovic still belongs to and supports IZ and Party of Democratic action, however, he announced that if the internal situation in the party and IZ is not revised the solution would be in formation of a new Islamic party.
The King Fahd mosque is known for its Wahhabi oriented worshippers. According to some sources it was put under the surveillance of police for suspicious activities among wahabis that gather there. There were also rumors that the Mosque was taken over by wahabis and that IZ’s authority over the mosque is only on paper. This was denied by Ceric (IZ’s Rais ul-Ulama), however it still points to certain existing problems. That the Fahd complex is a gathering place for many of radically oriented Muslims, is also seen from the following incidents: Mirsad Baktasevic, the leader of a multinational terrorist cell that planned to blow up European and US targets in Bosnia or Europe (caught in Sarajevo in October 2005), acquired explosives from two friends, which he met in 2003, after prayers at the King Fahd mosque. In 2005 American Evan Colman, international counselor for terrorism, warned that in front of the King Fahd mosque terrorist literature and videos are being sold, many of them translated to local language. In February 2007 Jusuf Barcic (deceased wahabi leader) said that while IZ officials forbade him to hold lectures in Careva mosque, him and his group can pray at King Fahd mosque any time they wish.
SHC also financially contributed to AIO, from its office in Zenica.
High Saudi committee’s office in Vienna had ties to the wahabi dai Mohammed Porca. During the war when Porca arrived to Vienna in early 1993 he became an imam and a lecturer in religious education at the SHC. He held lectured and made audio tapes with the financial help of SHC. In this way SHC supported Porca, who few years later established his own Islamic institution, which does not recognize the authority of IZ and in which he propagates Wahhabi Islam.