Sanjak: Funding Hinders Serbia Islamic Education
Facing a dearth of donations over government pressures, Muslim education institutions in Serbia are risking to shut down over the lack of funding. “Our educational institutions are facing a financial crisis that hampers them from delivering their message,” Sheikh Muamer Zukorlic, the Grand Mufti and Head of the Islamic Sheikhdom of Serbia, told IslamOnline.net.
“The crisis facing our institutions is the result of a political standoff between the Sheikhdom and Serbian authorities.”
Zukorlic blamed the standoff on government attempts to restrict the expansion of Sheikdom institutions. The government has adopted a policy to dry financial sources feeding our projects and institutions,” he lamented.
The government has suspended aid to the Sheikhdom though Serbian laws allow aid to religious organizations. “It is also pressuring businessmen funding the Sheikhdom projects to stop funding, resulting in a dearth of donations as they fear harm to their businesses,” he said. “Authorities are also launching media campaigns against the Sheikhdom to blemish its image and lose the people’s confidence.”
The Sheikhdom is overseeing seven kindergartens catering 1,000 children and three secondary schools catering 500 students. It is also running a faculty for Islamic studies as well as the International University of Novi Pazar, which has 4,000 students. “Though we need to expand our educational institutions to preserve our identity, the crisis has forced us to halt our new projects,” Zukorlic said.
The Muslim leader appealed to Muslims abroad to provide help to the Sheikhdom to overcome the financial crisis. “There is no other option but to rely on foreign help in order to keep our education institutions running.”
Serbia has a Muslim minority of nearly half a million, mostly ethnic Bosniaks and Albanians.
The Islamic Studies Faculty is one of educational institutions at the risk of closure over lack of funding.
“The faculty is facing financial problems that threaten it to get shut,” dean Almir Pramenkovic told IOL.
“The faculty professors have not been paid for months,” he said. The faculty has 300 students and 45 professors.
“The crisis, which started two years ago, has escalated in recent months,” said professor Hajrudin Balic.
“The faculty staff could be forced to seek another job if the crisis continued,” he warned.
The lack of funding is also leaving its impact on the GAZI ISA BEG secondary school. “Many generations have graduated from the school,” said headmaster Mustafa Fetic.
Built in the 16th century, the school is considered the oldest in the Sanjak region. It has 328 students and 95 staff.
“In order to allow the school to keep playing its role, it urgently needs help to pay teachers, who have not been paid for months,” said Fetic. “The school is at risk of shutdown.”
Pramenkovic, the dean of the Islamic Studies Faculty, also appeals for help. “We need urgent help in order to continue our educational role in accordance with moderate Islamic teachings.”