Bosnian Imam attacked seven times for calling ISIS a 'perverted version of Islam'

ReutersIslamic leaders have urged Muslims in Bosnia not to join militants fighting in Iraq and Syria

A Bosnian Imam has been attacked seven times in the past year for urging Muslims not to join Islamic jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

The attacks, three of which have taken place in the past month, have been attributed to Muslim extremists. On one occasion, the Imam – Selvedin Beganovic – was stabbed in the chest three times in the grounds of his mosque.

Despite the attacks, Beganovic has pledged to continue to speak out against the ongoing violence in the Middle East. He has accused groups such as Islamic State of perpetuating a "perverted version of Islam".

"When did (the Prophet) Muhammad ever behead anyone?" he asked in an interview with the Associated Press. "When did he take a knife and slaughter an innocent journalist?"

Beganovic added that Allah is known as "The Exceedingly Merciful" and "The Exceedingly Gracious". "That is what we teach our children here," he said.

Estimates suggest that around 150 Bosnians from a single conservative Muslim community have joined Islamic militant groups in Syria and Iraq. A man thought to be the leader of the community was charged with recruiting people to join the jihadist movement last month.

"This is not our war," Beganovic insisted. "Our jihad in Bosnia is the fight against unemployment. The care for our parents who have small pensions. The care for the socially jeopardized."

Bosnia is predominantly a Sunni Muslim country, and its most senior Muslim leader, Husein Kavazovic, has repeatedly spoken out against Islamic State.

In August, he released a statement urging IS to release British humanitarian worked David Haines, who had been held captive in Syria since Mach 2013 and was later murdered by the jihadi group.

"Islam teaches us that human life is sacred," Kavazovic said. "Having suffered grave injustices and death themselves, Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina feel that it is their moral and religious obligation to express their serious concerns when innocent people are being killed or tortured.

"For this reason, and in the peaceful spirit of Islam, I appeal for the release of the detained British aid worker as the killing of an innocent person equals the killing of the whole humankind."

"Our job is to keep repeating, to keep warning that this is evil and cannot be justified," he told AP.

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