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Fundamentalism in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Fundamentalism in Bosnia and Herzegovina probably deserves more attention as a sociological and political phenomenon, than it does in other European countries. It is a country with a very weak democratic and parliamentary tradition, until 15 years ago Bosnia suffered from extremely destructive war which in this case was more than just a civil war. The territory of the country was literally trampled by many paramilitary forces and by ambiguous political regimes from both inside of country and the neighborhood. Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of the rare European countries with a Muslim majority, struggles with a difficult political system, an economy that is in an unsustainable state. It has huge unemployment and corruption rates and the highest illiteracy rate in Europe. This small country is comprised of three constitutive peoples: Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats, which are characterized by three different and strong religious communities: Muslims, Orthodox Christians and Catholic Christians.

Many of European and domestic officials have for some time believed that Bosnia might be the potential zone of rising terrorism. The terrorist attack in the town of Bugojno on the 27th of June and the case of the village of Gornja Maoca where, on the 2nd of February, Special Forces of Bosnian security agencies entered the isolated Wahhabi community are a few major incidents which exemplify the rise of Fundamentalism in Bosnia in 2010.

Fundamentalism seems to be growing in the country, notably among the youth and even in the youth intellectual circles. Individuals, shaken by uncertainty, search for ways to secure themselves. Several internet based sites promote the alternative ways of surviving. Domestic media promote Fundamentalism often enunciated by people close to clerical institutions.

They don’t belong here, they should go back to the places where they come from… They have nothing to do with Bosnia and Bosnian traditions, they have never existed in Bosnia before the war…

Said Samra, a 22 year old student of Sociology, about Wahhabi movement members in Bosnia.

There are many Wahhabi followers in Bosnia. They came here from Arab countries during the war. Nobody asked them to come, and they should return… They are destroying the dignity of Bosnian people…

Samra added.

Male members of Wahhabi movement are easily recognizable on the street by their specific wardrobe and their long beards. Females are required to wear a hijab. It is widely believed, as Samra said, that members of Wahhabi and other similar groups came to Bosnia from the Middle East. This is actually not true. Most of them, about 97%, are domestic or from neighborhood countries.

It’s not about ideology, it is about surviving. Everybody knows that every girl that ’covers’ herself gets money, I don’t know how much, but they say it’s about 300 euro’s per month. Anyone can do it, even me…

Said Selma, 21, other student from the University of Sarajevo, but she fails to say where that money comes from.

When analyzing diverse forms of Fundamentalism there is one other term that is used a lot in the field and that is the notion of supremacy, although the groups following this ideology of supremacy usually avoid this term and often identify them self’s as a part of Neo-Nazi movement.

In the Bosnia’s case, things are more specific. First of all there is an anti-Semitism, motivated mainly by the emphasized empathy of Bosnian Muslims exclusively with Muslims from Israel and Palestine. Many of Bosnian Muslim citizens are very critical of Israeli political decisions, and often blame Jewish people globally for most of today’s World’s problems. The wars on the Middle East are seen as pure aggression and never as a multisided conflict or civil war caused by complex dynamics on the region. There is actually inflexibility in the reasoning of the majority which is often governed by the notion of Muslims brotherhood and not by the fact that there are people belonging to no matter what ethnicity in the Middle East who are affected by or involved in war. Such deviation and generalization lead often to increasing of the prejudices’ against Jewish people, and fit into the concept of Neo-Nazi ideology.

Bosnian Movement of National Pride is a Neo-Nazi group represented in February 2010 in Bosnia. Aside of proclaiming Jews as their enemies, this group lists many others: Gypsies, ex-Yugoslavian president and Communist leader Josip Broz Tito, Communists, homosexuals and blacks, than Chetniks (Serbian nationalist paramilitary organization), Croatian separatists and even radical Islamists. This group launched the site, where they declared radical views about Bosnian constitution, and made announcements of their future actions. Yet again, they are blaming the Zionists for the current disrupted state in the World.

Today I went to buy my breakfast before going to my Faculty, but I didn’t know what to buy. Everything is produced by Jews. There was one ‘free’ Serbian company that produces food, but recently Jews bought it too. I don’t want to buy anything that is made by Jews. I don’t want to sponsor an evil.

Says Amela, Medical student from Sarajevo.

In general, Bosnian Fundamentalism is most often associated with Islamic terrorism. It is believed that Fundamentalism in Bosnia is getting stronger every day because of the lack of the political will to resolve the problem, and because of desperate economic circumstances that are getting worse with the time.

Bosnian politicians are not aware of the urgency and size of the problem, and in rare moments when they are, they are using it for their political aims…

Said Nihad, professor from Sarajevo, after Bugojno terrorist attack in June.

Such situations are defining more and more the image of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Europe and the rest of the World. Government officials recently stated that there are three thousands of potential terrorists in the country.

It remains to be seen if freshly formed Government can change directions of ideological temptations in Bosnian society. It is believed, also, that the travel visa free regime, that Bosnia is about to reach in few months, will assist in opening up communications and help to deflect people from fundamentalist ideas.

1 Comment

  1. Great article.

    It’s such a shame that Bosnian Muslims cannot identify with Jews and with Zionism. Doubtless a result of anti-Semitism.

    It might help causes like this if Israel would recognize Turkish genocide of Armenians during World War I.

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