February 2, 2010

Serbian Patriarch Apologizes to Muslims

Patriarch Irinej Insults Islam

28 January 2010

BELGRADE -- Islamic communities in Serbia have condemned statements of the Serbian Patriarch Irinej about Islam, describing them as insulting.

The Islamic Community of Serbia (IZS) sent a letter to the Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) demanding an official interpretation of Patriarch Irinej’s statement about Islam, said ISZ General Secretary Eldin Ašćerić.

Belgrade Daily Blic reported yesterday the patriarch as saying that “Islam’s philosophy was that Muslims, when they are in small numbers, can behave well and be fair, but that once they become superior, they start to exert pressure”.

“We have requested an official statement from the SPC – whether the patriarch himself makes it, or the Synod, it is completely irrelevant. It is important to have an official interpretation of what was said. As long as it can be understood, but this message can be understood in many ways. That is extremely unacceptable and unfair,” he told Beta News Agency.

Ašćerić added that the newspaper said its quote of the patriarch’s statement from January 27 was genuine and that they had video footage to back that claim up, while the IZS website published an announcement saying that words of the head of the SPC were “insulting Islam”.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Community in Serbia (IZuS) also reacted, condemning and rejecting “insulting and false accusations” uttered by Patriarch Irinej.

“It is unbelievable that the newly elected patriarch is beginning his mission with unscrupulous statements about Islam, a religion that more than a billion people in the world belong to,” it is stated.

“It is completely clear that this statement calls for genocide, because it undoubtedly shows that Muslims are acceptable to the patriarch only when they are in minority and when they live with their heads bowed down,” this Islamic community said.

“If the head of the SPC wants a minimum dialog with the Muslim representatives, we expect a clear and definite apology,” the statement concluded.

In Belgrade on Thursday, Patriarch Irinej met with reporters in his first news conference since he was elected, to say that “the Serbian Orthodox Church has always been tolerant and respected every religion”.

Speaking about relations with the Islamic community, the patriarch said that the SPC respected it as a religious community.

“It is their religion and why would we interfere and give our opinion? We respect them as a religious community. That’s what we have always been doing. We will continue that in our time as well, and fully tolerant toward every religion, religious community and ideology,” he said.

Patriarch Apologizes to Muslim Citizens

29 January 2010

BELGRADE -- Serbian Patriarch Irinej apologized on Friday to the Muslim citizens for his recent statement in which he spoke of Islam in an imprudent manner.

In a statement issued by his office, Patriarch Irinej pointed out that his actual position on Islam is based on the absolute appreciation of identity, dignity and integrity of Muslims as individuals, the Islamic community as a whole, and Islam as a great world religion.

Explaining that his statement was taken out of the context, Patriarch said that Belgrade daily Blic, which published the interview, left out the beginning and the end of his statement, in which he said that “we are all God's creation, and, as a consequence, we are invited to overcome all existing differences with human affection, and to live together in mutual love and respect.”

“I express my deepest regret over the statement and its consequences, and I apologize sincerely to Muslims – our fellow-creatures and brothers,” the statement reads.

In the interview, as published by Blic on St. Sava's Day, Patriarch Irinej evaluated that the philosophy of Islam is that Muslims, when there is a small number of them, know how to behave themselves and be fair, but when they become predominant and superior, they exert pressure.

Islamic communities in Serbia reacted harshly to this, demanding apology.