Bosnia’s dangerous liaisons between Islam and hardline Nationalism


Bosnia’s Dangerous Tango: Islam and Nationalism – International Crisis Group.

“The Bosniak community is deeply frustrated with the dysfunctional government, flawed constitution and economic stagnation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), as well as renewed Croat and Serb challenges to the state’s territorial integrity. The Islamic community has taken a leading role in channelling popular anger, filling a vacuum left by Bosniak political parties, whose leadership seems adrift. Political Islam is a novelty in Bosnia, and its rise is seen as threatening to secular parties and non-Muslims. On the margins of society, a plethora of non-traditional Salafi and other Islamist groups have appeared, raising fears of terrorism. They are small, divided and largely non-violent, however, and the state and the Islamic community should work to integrate them further into society. Real instability and violence are more likely to come from clashing nationalisms. The Islamic community’s best contribution would be to help craft a vision for Bosnia that Croats and Serbs can share.

The Islamic Community (Islamska zajednica, IZ) in BiH, is a religious organisation as well as an important political actor that has shaped Bosniaks’ national identity, though it has recently become more divided and disorganised. Its still influential and charismatic former leader, Mustafa ef. Cerić, ensured that Islam became a strong element in the post-war Bosniak nationalism of which he was a main author and promoter. He likewise linked the Bosniak cause to BiH, which, though also multi-ethnic, he argued, should be a nation-state for the Bosniaks, since Croats and Serbs already had countries of their own.

The threat of fundamentalist Islam has been evoked repeatedly in Bosnia since several thousand mujahidin arrived in the early 1990s, though it is foreign to the great majority of the Muslim population.”

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