Political Islam and Bosnia and Herzegovina


  The role and function of Islam (not only as religion and fate, but also as a civilization and cultural circle) in the context of modern, global political, economic, ideological, and cultural trends and its competitive intersection (particularly in the example of Bosnia and Herzegovina) is almost constantly impregnated by a large dose of negative attitudes and relationships on the side of "western" mankind - the Christian, that is, the Christian civilization and cultural circle. There is no doubt that this Christian cultural and civilization side has a dominating feeling that does not accept, or more accurately, a phobia of the Islam religion, and is understood as a completed cultural and civilization paradigm.
Normally, this conclusion does not imply that the same feelings and views, on the side of the members of Islam, in regard to other cultures and civilizations are neglected, particularly in relation to Christianity. Moreover, one should not forget the political trends, especially the ideological and political ones that are transmitted from both sides (Christian and Islamic) and that are filled with warring intolerance directed towards those who belong to the other civilization and cultural circle.
In any case, there are professional elaborations and arguments that are in favor of both stereotypes of relationships towards different cultures and civilizations, religious and ideological doctrines included. We wish to emphasize that there are arguments for both attitudes, which both have a theological-philosophical and ideological-political character
Such an attitude towards the different cultural and civilization paradigm is denoted in the region of the Balkans as well, particularly in the geo-political and socio-cultural area of Bosnia and Herzegovina; and that is not all. The process of conflicting and civilization proximity in the Balkans contains an essentially significant dimension that is related to the verified truth that the Christian and Islamic cultural paradigm is autochthonous in the region. So, when we are speaking about the Islam in the Balkans, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we cannot speak of a "peripheral Islam."
A different matter is the geo-politically and geo-strategically generated instruments through the miscellaneous "activation" of some aspects of Christian and Islamic religious and civilization concepts and models.

Bosnian "Political - Islamic" Realities

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The problem of the ideological-political trends in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the context of this analysis implies, first of all, focuses on the controversies created around the question about possible ideological-political plans and activities with the aim of forming a "Muslimania" in the European geo-strategic and geo-political space. At the same time, there is the need for emphasizing some of the most indicative views of top personalities in the Islamic hierarchy in Bosnia and Herzegovina in relation to these plans and activities, as well as, for shedding some light on the present, relevant internal Islamic - religious divergences.
We cannot deny the existence of an international geo-political and geo-strategic stance that fears the possible constitution of Islamic power in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a center from which Islamic ideology would be diffused throughout the old Continent. It would have the greatest possible negative repercussions on the "western" cultural and civilization paradigm, by establishing its overall social relations - essential values, principles, and norms. In doing this, the model that was so plastically elaborated by Huntington, is applied. It is an ideological form with a cardinal subtext that different civilizations would definitely come to a mutual conflict thus placing in the margins the alternative, at least the theoretical one, for their convergence and coexistence.
We must point out the hopelessness of the Government in Sarajevo, a Government of a UN and OSCE member state, when the international community (the UN, OSCE, and first of all the United States) hesitated to help it respond to the attacks against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the then pre-Dayton Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the other hand, this hesitation was multiplied by the totally transparent game of France, England, and Russia on the map of the Serbian political and military factor in their efforts to conquer a better geo-strategic and geo-political position in the re-establishment of the global world's constellation.
Under such circumstances, the only practical alternative for the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina was to accept the overall assistance of the largest part of the Islamic world. The military component of this assistance was of particular importance, in which the help from Iran dominated in quality and quantity. (2) Later, after the Dayton Agreement, it was not by accident that the United States and all the other relevant western international factors asked the authorities in Sarajevo to eliminate, as a priority and with efficiency, the dominating Iranian presence in Bosnia. The Iranian, like the rest of the Muslim military aid, was eliminated thanks to the "Equipment and Training" program for the Bosniak-Croatian military component (the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina) and the appropriate productive western pressures - political, economic and so on by the example of the "stick and carrot" approach.
The cultural, and particularly the political Iranian and Muslim influence are generally present, but it is not dominating, which is not the case with in the "west." This is due to its historically long cultural and political lack of communication, as well as, the pressures and requests from the West (the United States in particular) to install an efficient barrier to Islamic political and cultural influences. In this context, it is a fact that speaking about religious Islamic connections and influences, there are significant differences: there are Sunits - Shiits, there is the acceptance and domination of various mehzabs, etc.
Moreover, the historical and current reality, in this context, is the dominating conceptualization and practice of a tolerant kind of Islam in the sense of religion, as well as, a philosophical earthly system in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the entire Balkans. This means that, besides the presence of some opposed religious manifestations, in this region the ecumenism was basically dominating over the clericalism and "political Islam" was basically in the shadow of the "Secular Islam." (3)
In the top circles of the Bosnian military and police hierarchy, the persons who helped get the Iranian aid to Bosnia, are no longer present. Normally, we herein refer to the top logistic persons of the Bosnian Army - "mostly Muslim" - Haid and Hasan Chengic and Bakir Alispahic, first minister of the interior and then director of AID (Agency for Intelligence and documentation).
However, on the other hand, it is still not totally clear how intensive and influential, on the Bosnian political scene, the personalities, that in some periods of time had perhaps the main ideological and political effect, on the Bosniak political-military situations and determinations were. We here again refer, first of all, to the father and son Chengic and Omer Behmen (who presently have neither state nor leading party functions), as well as to Husein Zhivalj (deputy minister of foreign affairs) and Dzemaludin Latic (Izetbegovic's advisor and probably main ideologist of the Islamic strong wings of the SDA).
In any case, we can say that the possible Iranian presence in Bosnia is not serious. Mudjahedins - Shiits, who were not in the majority in the ranks of the Islamic soldiers, have mostly left Bosnia and only a small part that got Bosnian citizenship as a result of marriage have remained. They are mainly located in the village of Bochina in the middle Bosnia. A transformation of Bosniak military structures is underway, in which the famous Muslim brigades have been thoroughly disbanded in the transformation of the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina by NATO standards and principles.
In regards to the (pro) Islamic philosophical, ideological, political, and socio-cultural influence, which is not in dispute for the largest part of the most influential people in the SDA, regardless of their present formal positions. However, this does not come to an explicit expression in the present conceptualization and practice of their concrete political option. Basically and dominantly, they also accept and follow the positions of "Secular Islam."
This means - and it is of essential importance - that in the hierarchy of SDA, prevails, judging by all, the determination to become a part of the western political option, which first of all implies to accept the principles of a laic state, that is to accept modern (neo) liberalism, as a constitutionally legal, political and economic concept.
However, at the same time, the determination to strengthen the socio-cultural plan, the Islamic cultural foundation and the specific features of the Bosniak spirit, as a completed national identity and self-being, has basically not been abandoned. The emphasis is on pointing out that, in full conformity with the Hatamy's theory for dialogue among cultures and civilizations, the religious and cultural (Christian - Islamic) divergence, the Bosniak roots in the Islamic cultural and civilization circle do not handicap them at all as regards history and civilization. As a matter of fact, the affiliation to the European - Christian civilization is not projected as a restricting factor in the cooperation with other Muslim worlds, particularly with those states marking a fast economic development. In this, they do not expressively deny the social and cultural respect for and application of their Islamic religious identity in establishing and running social life (with a special accent on Malaysia). 
These are the two sides fully integrated into the theoretical and ideological concept and the practical and political model of the Bosniak political identity, so that this entity is seen and accomplished by the dominating circle of the Bosniak - Muslim policy, the one around Izetbegovic.
The above elaboration opened a very important question. There is a possibility for Bosnia to be integrated, as a tolerant multi-ethnic state, in several directions - national, religious, cultural, and so on. As a matter of fact, the core of ideological and political options and the moves drawn by the Bosniak policy, aimed at the accomplishment of this option of multi-ethnic Bosnia inside its internationally recognized borders, was the rationalization of the ideological fundament of this option. It is followed by the connotation related to the centuries-long tolerance in Bosnia and of Bosnia as an undisputed part of Europe, regardless of the religious and cultural particularities or divergences.
In this context, there is the indication of Eshref Champara, a historian, who pointed out through a historical retrospective the co-life of the Muslims and Jews, which led to magnificent results in the field of arts and education (4). In other words, throughout the entire period of Bosnia's independence, a Jew was the ambassador of Bosnia in Washington, a descendent of one of the most famous Jewish families in Bosnia, Sven Alkalaj.
In the same context, another historian, Avdo Sukjeska, indicates the tolerance the Ottomans built over the Kurhan's ajet that claims that there is no pressure in fate. In other words, the non-Muslims had their freedom of fate guaranteed, as well as security of their properties as long as they fulfilled their duties to the Government (5).
The director of the German Oriental Institute from Hamburg Udo Steinbach, by emphasizing that modern Europe is dominated by the picture of the Muslim as a symbol of intolerance and militant spirit, does not agree with this presentation. He particularly stresses that from a historical aspect, as well as from the aspect of the modern situation in Bosnia, says that it is totally ungrounded to treat the Bosniaks as fundamentalists. On the contrary, the Islamic renaissance should be evaluated as something positive and that shall lead to an Islamic "moderna" capable of creating a synthesis with the European Christian civilization (6).
In analyzing the modern situation in Bosnia, one cannot bypass the question concerning the relationship between religion and the national. This is so because the national determination, "Muslim," which originates from the 70's, has been replaced with Bosniak on the Second Bosniak Assembly held in Sarajevo on 28 September 1993.
It is a fact that the national name, Muslim, had its founding determinant as a name for a particular national independence that is in its nature undoubtedly religious. Namely, the Islamic religion was the basic national particularity of the Muslims in relation to, for instance, the Serbs, the Croats, and the Montenegrins.
The new national name Bosniak, which has to be respected as an immanent right to a national particularity to define its identity with a name, creates a specific dilemma in the Bosnian society. The question is whether this name is a replacement for the name Muslims or whether it indicates a process for the creation of a Bosnian over-nationality in which sense, for instance, there would be Bosniaks - Muslims, Bosniaks - Serbs, and Bosniaks - Croats. Normally, this is unacceptable for the Croats and Serbs in Bosnia not only because of day-to-day political interests and motives. There is a strong influence here in terms of deep cultural and religious particularity. However, there are some opinions, for instance of the outstanding sociologist Esad Kjimic, who once emphasized that he could not imagine the Bosniak spirit without its Orthodox and especially Catholic component. Furthermore, the change of the national name is the only solution for Muslims because they do not have a fatherland in reserve and because of their major participation in the assimilation of the traditional values of the Bosniak spirit. The Muslims are simply recognized through the Bosniak spirit (7).
In this context, Mustafa Imamovic points out that Islam in Bosnia is first and foremost a manifestation of seeking justice and equality. It is a factor of patriotism and national self-consciousness (8).
We can conclude that the national determination of the Bosniaks at this moment is related only to the former Muslims and that the name of the language that is forced by the Bosniak ideologists and intelligentsia is the Bosnian language. Most often they do not indicate that the language codification with which the Bosniaks speak but also to the language codification of the Serbs, Croats, and other nationalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The explanation and the argument is that, for instance, the language codes of the Serbs and the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina are quite close or identical with the language code of the Bosniaks compared to the language codes of the Serbs and Croats from the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Croatia.
We will end this elaboration about Islam and Bosnia by repeating the thorough conclusion that on top of the Bosnian policy, one could not discover the plights for Bosnia as an Islamic -theocratic state. As a matter of fact, this is what Mustafa Imamovic aims and claims, quite resolutely, that it is necessary to evade the link with "political Islam." On the contrary, the resolution for Bosnia is a modern legal state because a state cannot be constructed on subjective categories, as is fate. On the contrary, fate is a private matter of the people; it protects man's freedoms and civil rights, including free choice and religious fostering. However, "…in order to strengthen and affirm it all as a political tradition of a particular society, it has to be followed and completed with a cultural and historical content in which religion, no matter how important, is nothing but one of the components" (9).
Even the deputy head of the Islamic religious community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Effendy Spahic, on one occasion very precisely and clearly emphasized that "Islamic Bosnia can never be our goal. If it wants to survive, Bosnia must belong to all. If we do not want Bosnia to survive, then the Islamic state is possible: we will construct a coffee cup Islamic little state, the Croats will construct a coffee-cup Croat little state, and the Serbs their own. However, if Bosnia wants to survive, it must be multi-national, multi-cultural, and multi-religious" (10).
Nevertheless, one must never forget the world's powerful political circles, whose most distinguished representative is Kissinger. They permanently indicate, with a clear geo-strategic, geo-political, ideological, and political motivation that the existence of "multi-ethnic Bosnia" is an illusion. They propose (and are certainly engaged in this) its division on national and religious lines: annexation of "Serbian" Bosnia to Serbia (FRY), annexation of "Croatian" Bosnia to Croatia, and formation of a Muslim (Bosniak) state in the central part of Bosnia (with Sarajevo as a kind of a gravitation axis).


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  1.  Samuel Huntington: "Crash of Civilizations," Foreign Affairs (summer 1993, 22 - 51)
  2. This Iranian involvement, among the rest, led to a reserved attitude of Egypt towards Bosnia. Egypt is probably still the leading country in the Muslim world because of its secular character
  3. About the problem of "Political Islam": Sasajkovski Slavejko: Revitalization of social function of religion, religious-political facing with religious phenomenon, Ph.D. work, ISPPI, Skopje, 1998, 206-223
  4. Ljiljan, Sarajevo, 14. 12. 1994, 43
  5. Ljiljan, Sarajevo, 14. 12. 1994, 16 - 17
  6. Ljiljan, Sarajevo, 25.09.1996, 45 - 35
  7. Nedjeljna, Split, 25.11.1994, 9 - 11
  8. Ljiljan, Sarajevo, 1.3.1996, 23.
  9. Ibi
  10. Globus, Zagreb, 11.11.1994, 44 - 45