SARAJEVO (Reuters) - The spiritual leader of Bosnia's Muslims protested on Wednesday against what he called the Hungarian premier's "arbitrary and damaging" remarks about Islam and Europe in the migrant crisis, saying they were uttered out of ignorance.
As hundreds of thousands of mainly Muslim migrants and refugees poured into the European Union including Hungary this year, right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban called them a threat to Europe's prosperity, security and "Christian values".
Hungary has since sealed its southern borders with a steel fence to keep out migrants trekking north through the Balkans from Greece, and issued new laws rights groups say deny refugees their right to seek protection from war and persecution.
Bosnia's Efendi Husein Kavazovic, who leads Europe's largest community of indigenous Muslim Slavs known for their moderation and tolerance of other religions, objected to remarks by Orban in an interview with German magazine Focus earlier this week.
Focus quoted Orban as saying that Islam "has never been part of Europe but came into Europe," and that it did not spiritually reflect Europe but rather a different way of life.
"Every (kind of) ignorance is damaging, and particularly the one advocated by senior political officials who have social power and the role to publicly influence the opinion of others," Kavazovic said in a statement.
He said that educated people know that just as Islam had come to Europe, so had Christianity and Judaism.
He said Orban's comment that Western efforts to impose democracy on the Arab world had failed, and Europe's demographic problems could not be resolved through immigration but rather by focusing on the family, denied the principle of democracy and betrayed the "spirit of Christianity".
"Democracy is not an original European product," Kavazovic said. "It was invented in Greece at the time when Europe did not exist as a cultural concept and when Greek cities were part of the world that as a civilization gravitated towards the East."
He said Orban's assertions were "arbitrary and damaging" and that he hoped not to hear similar claims by senior European officials in the future.
(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Mark Heinrich)