Interview with: Senad ef. Agić

Interview with: Senad ef. Agić, Founder of the Islamic Community of Bosniaks in North America

Senad ef. Agić was born in 1960 in the municipality of Novi Travnik. From 1965 he lived in Hrasnica near Sarajevo. He completed his high school education at the Gazi Husref-Bey school in Sarajevo in 1980, and his higher education at the Faculty of Philosophy in Sarajevo, Department of Arabic, Turkish, and Persian Language. In 1989 he moved to Chicago, where he still lives. In 2004 he acquired the title of a doctor of Islamic Studies and received a Jalaluddin Rumi prize for scientific work and contribution to the history of Islam in America. In his research and doctoral dissertation he scientifically elaborated social and historical context of the experience of Bosniaks in the United States. 2006 was the year he acquired the degree of Doctor of Science with concentration on Islamic sciences, in the field of the history of Islam in America at the Graduate Theological Foundation in South Bend, Indiana, United States. This dissertation was proclaimed best. Agić defended it in 2006 at the same institution of higher education (GTF), which is formally associated with Oxford University. He also worked as Imam and administrative director of the Islamic Cultural Center in Chicago since 1989. In 1994 he was appointed Chief Imam of the Bosniak in USA. Dr. Agić’s works have published translations from English and Arabic, interviews and reviews of the Quran, Arabic literature, religion and violence in Bosnia and spiritual traditions. His current interest is focused on the traditional moderate Islam without extremism and religious animosities in favor of coexistence, mutual respect and vital cooperation. He is one of the founders of Averroes Academy in Chicago, the Congress of North America. Dr. Agić is a member of the Supreme Islamic Council of America, the First World Congress of Imams and Rabbis in Brussels, the Interfaith Council of the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago, the Association of Students of Oxford University and the Executive Board of Iqra -International Educational Foundation and former president of the Association of priests Northbrook.

Dr. Agić, you are closely associated with BiH diaspora for many years. Can you tell us what is it like to run this kind of cooperation?

Cooperation with BiH diaspora is handled via Riyaset. I am satisfied with its quality, but it can get better with additional efforts and investments. A few years back, with the help of Riyaset we managed to maintain programs with Female Madrassas in Visoko. This is one of many steps to reach the Bosnian Diaspora community in America but it is certainly not our ultimate achievement. It takes a lot more to do in order to constantly build bridges of cooperation wherever possible. As for cooperation in the field of culture, there is no initiative from the state. Our children attend classes of Bosnian and in doing so we rely solely on the creativity of our teachers and volunteers who each in their own way manage to bring their children basic knowledge of Bosnian language, history and culture. Our children, although not born in Bosnia and Herzegovina are willing to learn and acquire additional knowledge about their country of origin. Sometimes it is really difficult to explain to our children that the state simply cannot provide more help in order to improve and strengthen the relationship with our homeland. It all comes down to providing consular services to our citizens who mostly have dual citizenship. Our man in the Diaspora are not and do not wish to be politically active. They even very reluctantly approach the voting process.

 Can you tell us more about the life of people of BH diaspora in America?

Lives of the people of American Diaspora are focused mostly at work and their dedication to children, above all finding possibilities for better studies at good universities. All that parents have not been able to achieve for themselves they want to provide for their children. Sometimes it does happen that inconsistency occur in the sense that people do not set equal or similar priorities and parents start overemphasizing sports activities in schools instead of other things. Some 'fall in love' with musical instruments and the like. Parents who send their children to religious classes are trying to get their children more than just an education. Without faith they are not happy people. Americans who have a strong sense of their identity are psychologically stable and professionally more successful than those who are in any kind of crisis and awareness of identity.

Do you think that the BH Diaspora is familiar enough with the universities and education system in BiH?

BiH Diaspora is unfamiliar with universities in BiH. I know from experience of people in my congregation who had inquired about the possibility that their children continue their education in Europe. They complained that the cost of studying at American universities and colleges are very high, and can range from 50,000 $ a year. These prices are often too high for our average people. Therefore, best alternative solution for the Bosnian-American Diaspora community is to orientate towards BiH universities.

Recently you visited the International University of Sarajevo. What are your impressions of the IUS?

First impressions are more than good. Being located in the historical center of Bosnia and Herzegovina near the Roman settlement and the famous Roman bridge, not far from the airport and the center of Sarajevo, as well as at the foot of the legendary Mount Igman and the Source of Bosnia, this modern institution truly leaves every visitor breathless. Add to these advantages a good curriculum, young and professional teachers and you cannot avoid the conclusion that this university is an appropriate solution for many of our high school graduates who study in Western Europe or America.

 Students from America also visited IUS with you. What were their impressions?

37 of our students from the United States that are part of the program stayed at IUS and immediately asked about opportunities to continue their education right here. It takes work to promote what IUS offers in the right way in order to animate a vast number of our high school students abroad, but I believe in doing so success will follow. Our students especially like the fact that they can continue their education in the language they feel comfortable- in English.

Something for the end - a message to all young people and future students?

In the end I’d like to say that nowhere is far if the quality is offered. If by sending our children to study at higher education institutions in BiH we achieve more than acquisition of knowledge then no university such as IUS is inaccessible when we talk about it in geographical sense of the word. What I mean is that we achieve the establishment of a historical continuity with the past in our homeland. Students of our origin in the United States love BiH very much and wish to return their love to it by helping its economic development. It is up to us to recognize it and take the necessary steps that will speed up the reintegration of the Diaspora with its homeland - Bosnia and Herzegovina.