Though Belgrade is overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian, there are still approximately 20,000 Muslims residing in the Serbian capital and they only have one mosque, which dates back to 1575, for the entire community. The shortage of places to worship was apparent this Ramadan when locals protested the destruction of a makeshift mosque only to have authorities move forward and bulldoze it. Muslims are now forced to gather in homes and other makeshift places of prayer around the city.
According to Reuters, many Muslims left during the collapse of socialist Yugoslavia when Serbia backed its ethnic kin in Bosnia in the massacre of Muslim Bosniaks and fought a counter-insurgency war in its own southern province of Kosovo against mainly Muslim Albanians.
Muslims in Serbia says that Belgrade authorities have repeatedly ignored requests for new mosques and are questioning the country’s commitment to minority rights. Emin Zejnulahu, mufti of the demolished mosque in Zemun Polje, tells the community not to give up. “We must practice our religion, regardless of the obstacles. We have to be good neighbors to everyone, regardless of their faith and nationality.”