Imam Qari Asim MBE

25 years ago, the genocide of more than 8,000 Bosnian men and boys took place on the doorsteps of Europe. The violence, mass-scale rape and systematic killing of Muslims in Bosnia symbolises the horrors committed against Bosnians during the conflict between 1992-1995. I have visited Srebrenica many times and have felt that death still haunts Srebrenica. A sea of white tombstones in the Srebrenica cemetery reminds us of what intolerance and hatred can lead to if they go unchecked.

Genocide is something inexpressable and incomprehensible. Fresh graves continue to be dug at the memorial cemetery and in some cases graves are reopened many times as and when partial remains of bodies are found. The families have not been able to find closure to their ongoing trauma. Many families still continue to search for the truth and an acknowledgement that genocide did take place in Srebrenica. But I was deeply touched by the forgiveness, courage and hope that the survivors and their families continue to display. The ethnic cleansing of Bosnians may have happened 25 years ago but the criminal act of murderers still continue to incite hatred against Muslims. In Christchurch, New Zealand last year, the terrorist who brutally murdered 15 Muslims had been listening to a Serbian nationalist song which glorified one of the architects of the Srebrenica genocide, Radavan Karadzic.

Despite saying “Never Again” after the Holocaust the world has stood by and watched many genocides play out. Europe’s worst atrocity since the Second World War could have been stopped if the world had acted in a timely and decisive manner against the war criminals in Srebrenica. The theme of Srebrenica Memorial Week 2020 is ‘Every Action Matters’. Every action matters reinforces the point that doing something, no matter how small can make a difference. The Holy Qur’an inspires us to act when it says: be witnesses in justice. Doing nothing to stop injustices or persecution is not an option for humanity. The potential genocide of Rohingyas and the systematic terrorising of Uychurs in China are examples at hand.

The world must not fail these communities as it did fail Bosnians 25 years ago. The genocide of Srebrenica is a stark reminder that it can happen anywhere unless we learn to respect and appreciate our differences. With increasing levels of Islamophobia, we must challenge normalisation of hostility towards Muslims. In post-Brexit Britain, we must stand against all forms of racism, bigotry and xenophobia. This week provides us with an opportunity to reflect in our personal, professional and corporate lives to show that those who raise their voice against prejudice, hatred and racism, those who stand up and unite against hatred can make a difference.