This comprehensive posting on the rising ethnic-religious tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of two parts: an examination of the present situation, and an overview of the history that has created its context.
While the recent religious incidents that triggered this posting might seem to be fairly insignificant, the issues and their potential to inflame conflict are not. In fact the issues emerging in Bosnia and Herzegovina today are reminiscent of those that led to war in 1992. When sparks appear in the midst of an incendiary environment, then regardless of how small they appear, they must be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly with the goal of preventing an explosion.
This posting submits that Bosnia and Herzegovina warrants the immediate, diligent attention of religious liberty monitors, advocates and intercessors, as well as peace-makers who can recognise romanticism, embrace realism, and care more about protecting flesh-and-blood than illusory political ideals.
------------------------------------------------------- BOSNIA: RELIGIOUS TENSIONS RISING -------------------------------------------------------
On 11 August, an explosion damaged the tomb of Bosnia's 1992-1995 war-time Muslim President, Alija Izetbegovic.
While portrayed by his Western allies as a moderate, Izetbegovic was actually an up-front Islamist backed by Iran. His "Islamic Declaration", first published in 1970, was republished in Sarajevo in 1990 just as Yugoslavia was starting to break apart. Izetbegovic was awarded the King Faisal Award in 1994 and the Figure of the Year in the Islamic World in 2001.
Izetbegovic's Islamic Declaration clearly expresses his worldview: "There can be no peace or coexistence between Islamic faith and non-Islamic faith and non-Islamic institutions. The Islamic movement must and can take power as soon as it is morally and numerically strong enough, not only to destroy the non-Islamic power, but to build up a new Islamic one." And, "Panislamism always came from the very heart of the Muslim peoples, nationalism was always imported stuff."
This is doubtless why, as conflict was escalating in Croatia and Yugoslavia was tearing apart, Izetbegovic withdrew his signature on 28 March 1992 from the 18 March 1992 Lisbon Agreement that had been constructed to prevent conflict in Bosnia by dividing the state into three autonomous entities: Bosniac, Croat and Serb. Two days after withdrawing his signature Izetbegovic illegally called for a referendum on secession despite the objections of the Bosnian Serb minority.
For a critique of Alija Izetbegovic and his role in instigating the Bosnia conflict see "Alija Izetbegovic, 1925-2003", by Damjan de Krnjevic-Miskovic, a Senior Fellow at the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. (Link 1)
Izetbegovic's tomb is located in the Kovaci (Martyrs) Cemetery in Sarajevo's Old Town. Nobody was injured in the bombing, which occurred a little after 3 am, and damage to surrounding buildings was slight. Dejan Anastasijevic reported from Belgrade for TIME magazine (29 August), "Most Muslims blamed the Serbs, who for their part insisted that Muslims staged the explosion; the ongoing investigation has so far proved fruitless."
The following week, a group of Muslims forced their way into a Serbian church which has been built on the site of a mosque in eastern Bosnia. (Link 2)
MINOR INCIDENTS - SIGNIFICANT ISSUES
The issues fanning tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina today bear a striking resemblance to the issues of 1992 that triggered the Bosnian war. In 1992, war was triggered by calls from Bosnian Islamists, led by Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, for Bosnia to secede from Yugoslavia and become an independent, single, undivided state. This would have placed some 1.3 million Bosnian Serb Christians of the Eastern Orthodox tradition under Muslim and Croat domination in what Islamist openly planned would become an Islamic State. Serb resistance was met with jihad. Fighting was halted through the Dayton Accords (December 1995) which created the independent state of Bosnia and Herzogovina, but divided it into two autonomous entities: the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Republika Srpska (Serb Republic), each with its own government, parliament, army and police.
The issue today is that the West led by the US is agitating for Constitutional reform in Bosnia that will strengthen the central (Muslim dominated) government at the expense of the entities. Ekrem Krasniqi in Brussels and Anes Alic in Sarajevo, wrote for ISN Security Watch in November 2005, "In essence, the constitutional changes aim to reverse the international community's quick-fix measures to end the war, which entailed making ethnic division a political reality - a reality that is no longer feasible in a country hoping to join the EU." (See ISN's "Redefining Bosnia": Link 3)
While the US is not calling for the dismantling of the Republika Srpska, some Bosnian Muslim leaders are. Nicholas Wood reports for the New York Times, "Haris Silajdzic, a Muslim, a former foreign minister and a presidential candidate, has campaigned against the proposed changes, saying they would leave the Serbian republic in place. The Serbian entity should be abolished and absorbed into a stronger Bosnian state, he contends. That idea, diplomats here say, is unrealistic, but it appeals to nationalist Muslim voters." (Link 2)
Prime minister of Republika Srpska (RS), Milorad Dodik, has said he will never agree to reform police and security forces as demanded by the European Union as a condition for EU association talks. Serb leaders have responded to Islamist calls for the abolition of RS by saying that if moves are made to dissolve RS, then RS will hold a referendum on secession. It is estimated that around 90 percent of Serbs in RS would vote to secede from Bosnia if a referendum were held.
Sulejman Tihic, the Muslim member of Bosnia's three-man rotating presidency said that Serbs wanting to secede could pack their bags and leave but they could not take one inch of Bosnian territory with them.
AKI reports: "RS Prime Minister Milorad Dodik retorted that Tihic's statement represented a drastic example of 'hate and chauvinism' which will only further inflame ethnic passions in Bosnia. 'In Tihic's statement one can easily recognise an Islamic concept which sees Bosnia as its exclusive right,' said Dodik. 'Serbs are constituent people in Bosnia [and] claim the same right to the country and to live in it,' said Dodik." (Link 4)
The Islamist principle that "Islamic lands" cannot be seceded is why Bosnian Islamists regard any RS move towards a referendum or secession as unacceptable and doubtless as grounds for jihad. As in 1992, the Serbs would rather face jihad rather than be returned to dhimmitude (the subjugated state of non-Muslims living under Islamic domination).
The stated aim of the Constitutional reform is to move Bosnia from "stabilisation" to "transition". The Dayton Accords which ended the 1992-1995 war stabilised Bosnia by separating warring constituents into two entities: the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Republiska Srpska. Now, the West alleges, it is time for Bosnia to transition toward EU membership by strengthening its State institutions at the expense of the entities.
While the Islamists are anxious not to cement any degree of Serb autonomy, the Serbs are anxious not to lose their autonomy. Most Serbs are concerned that the Constitutional reform could simply be a slow road towards the dissolution of RS.
The appeal of Mr Dragan Cavic, the President of Republika Srpska, is simply that the stability brought by the Dayton Accords' division of Bosnia should not be sacrificed in the transition process. "We are committed to success [of transition into Europe] and we need success, but a clear prerequisite of our support should be keeping the Dayton's Entity Status of the Republic of Srpska within Bosnia and Herzegovina . . . European phase can not replace the Dayton phase. . . . These two cannot confront each other, they can supplement each other." (Link 5)
While economics is the primary subject being openly discussed by EU and US advocates of constitutional reform, behind the scenes the talk is equally of unity, democracy, eliminating ethnic divisions, religious tolerance and other fine-sounding ideals.
Bosnia's present set up of two autonomous entities, each with its own parliament, government administration, courts, police force and services, as well as a central government makes for a very expensive system. In fact, around 60 percent of Bosnia's GDP is spent simply maintaining state and entity apparatus, and this is contributing significantly to the weakness of the Bosnian state.
The less talked about reason behind the US-led drive for constitutional reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina is more idealistic. The West still has a desire to "prove" that Muslims and Christians can live together in harmonious, tolerant, democratic, golden Islamic societies, as allegedly in history(!) and in Lebanon(!). And as they will in the new Iraq! It is important to Europe and the US that this human experiment, which is little more than a forced marriage, not fail. If the Bosnia experiment fails, then the prospects for London, Paris and other multicultural, pluralist democracies with rapidly growing Muslim populations are grim.
A hugely important address on this subject was given by Bat Ye'or on 31 August 1995 at the International Strategic Studies Association's Symposium on the Balkan War - "Yugoslavia: Past and Present". Bat Ye'or's address, entitled, "Myths and politics: Origins of the Myth of a Tolerant Pluralistic Islamic Society", is essential reading for understanding the politics of and international ideals behind Bosnia and Herzegovina. (Link 6)
While intended to unite Bosnian Muslims (Bosniacs), Croats and Serbs under Bosnian nationalism, the proposed constitutional reforms are actually dividing the constituent peoples. A March 2006 nation-wide survey conducted by the International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (Ljubljana, Slovenia) revealed that only 29.3 percent of those surveyed supported the constitutional amendments while 59.8 percent disapproved. (Link 7)
Serbs in the Republika Srpska generally reject the reforms as they strengthen the Muslim-dominated central authority at the expense of the entities, lessening Serb autonomy. The Croats also reject the reforms and are voicing their preference to carve out their own autonomous ethnic entity. Most Bosniac Islamists either support the reforms or want them to be more radical because they conform to Islamist aspirations to strengthen the central (Muslim-dominated) government and extend its powers to all corners of Bosnia.
But Bosniac Islamists who advocate the forcible abolition of the Republika Srpska do not do this with shouts of jihad or with the language of Islamic imperialism. They do this by denouncing ethnic and religious separation and by extolling the virtues of unity, tolerance and democracy, in much the same way that Arab nationalism did. They do this by crying victim and saying the murderous, evil, demonic Serbs should not have any right to self- rule on "Bosnian" (read "Muslim") land.
PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS: 1 OCTOBER
The proposed constitutional reforms failed to pass a vote in the Bosnian parliament on 27 April, so further discussion has been put off until after the 1 October 2006 parliamentary elections. However, constitutional reform is now an election issue. As the tension and rhetoric escalates, international voices are calling for calm. (Link 8)
>From the early 14th Century to the early 20th Century the Serbs and other Southern Slavs lived as persecuted dhimmis, cruelly subjugated under the Islamic imperialism of the Ottoman Empire. During that era most Bosnian Slavs converted to Islam.
As the Ottoman Empire started to crumble Christian Slavs fought for and won their liberation from Islamic rule through the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913. Yugoslavia was created in 1918 as a Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes - all Southern Slavs. But the long history of Islamic repression and persecution and the trauma of the bloody wars that brought it to an end left a wedge between Christian Slavs and Muslims.
(Muslim Slavs live predominantly in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They accounted for 8.9 percent of Yugoslavia in the 1981 census but are around 44 percent in modern-day Bosnia.)
WORLD WAR TWO
World War Two saw Yugoslavia split apart. The Axis powers annexed modern-day Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovenia, creating the fascist state of Croatia. They also occupied Serbia which was aligned with the Allies. The "lesser races" - the Serbs, Jews and Gypsies (Romas) - were targeted by the Nazis for extermination.
Some two million Serbs lived in Croatia at the beginning of WW2. Of that number, around one million were killed, around half the remainder were expelled while the other half were forcibly converted to Roman Catholicism under threat of death. Of the Serbs killed, multitudes were murdered by the 20,000-strong Waffen-SS "Handschar" (scimitar) division. This was established in Bosnia by SS head, Heinrich Himmler, and the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Muhammad Amin al Husseini, and consisted of Bosnian and some Albanian Muslims. Around 390,000 Serbs were murdered by the fascist Croat "Ustasa", while between 300,000 and 700,000 Serbs, Jews and Romas, including 20,000 known, named children, were executed by Croat forces in Camp Jasenovac <http://www.jasenovac.org/>.
The barbarity and horror of the WW2 holocaust in Yugoslavia is concisely documented at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum <http://www.ushmm.org/> (with an excellent search engine). The terror of those days created a deep wedge between Serbs, and Bosnian Muslims and Croats. Nowhere is this wedge more evident than in Bosnia where Muslims, Croats and Serbs have lived interspersed for centuries.
Most Bosnian Serbs have been raised by parents or influenced by grandparents who are remnant survivors of the Bosniac-Croat attempted genocide of Serbs during the World War Two holocaust in Yugoslavia.
After WW2, Josip Broz Tito's Partisans, a Communist-led, anti-Axis resistance movement, recreated Yugoslavia as a federal republic. Tito drew the Bosniacs into his Communist Partisan forces and fostered the creation of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a separate Muslim republic.
Serbs were by far the largest ethnic group in Yugoslavia and Tito, a Croat, was determined to destroy Serb hegemony. While Tito was hailed for uniting the warring Slavs under Communism, he actually carved up Yugoslavia, primarily along ethnic lines, but in a way that deliberately weakened the Serbs by ensuring that the republics had large Serb minorities. In fact 42 percent of Serbs were left outside Serbia proper. As Tito advanced his policy of decentralisation, Serb minorities grew anxious. Tito's carve-up of Yugoslavia deliberately created artificial, geographical wedges between Serbs.
In the early days of the Bosnian war, terrorism expert Yossef Bodansky and Vaughn S Forrest wrote "Iran's European Springboard?", a report for the task force on terrorism and unconventional warfare, the House Research Committee. This report is as hugely significant and relevant today as it was in September 1992. (Link 9)
Bodansky and Forrest describe in detail how Tito's pro-Arab policies unintentionally contributed to the radicalisation of Bosnian Muslims as early as the 1970s. After the Iranian Islamic Revolution, Izetbegovic "renewed his call to implement his Islamic Declaration, began organising an Islamist political movement, and within a few years was thrown in jail for subversion." By the 1980s Palestinian, Syrian and Iranian groups were using Yugoslavia as a base of operations, and Bosniacs were undergoing terrorist and ideological training in Lebanon and Iran.
"Meanwhile," wrote Bodansky and Forrest in 1992, "Iran has also consolidated a Muslim leadership network supportive of Tehran's world view. At the centre of the Iranian system in Europe is Bosnia-Hercegovina's President, Alija Izetbegovic, 'a fundamentalist Muslim and a member of the Fida'iYan-e Islam organisation,' who is committed to the establishment of an Islamic Republic in Bosnia-Hercegovina."
According to Bodansky and Forrest, Izetbegovic developed close cultural and economic ties with Iran. Bodansky and Forrest described the Bosnia War as " . . . a proxy battlefield for the future and fortunes of the growing Muslim community of Western Europe".
Terrorism experts including Bodansky assert that the Balkans is integral to Islamist plans for escalation of conflict against Israel, Europe and the USA. According to the experts, Muslim Slavs are being recruited to a "white al-Qaeda" (also known as "white devils") that can be easily deployed for terror operations in the West. (Link 10)
THE CONSEQUENCE OF UNHEALED WEDGES: DIVORCE
It was the deep and valid fear that Serb minorities had of Muslim and Croat domination that led Serb minorities in Croatia and Bosnia to react against Croatian and Bosnian calls for independence and secession. As Yugoslavia broke apart in the early 1990s, around 2 million Serbs faced the prospect of living as minorities under Muslim and Croatian rule.
Civil war erupted as Serbs sought to guarantee their future liberty and security by redrawing the borders to form a Greater Serbia. The Bosniacs and Croats, not believing a Greater Serbia had a right to exist, fought against the Serbs to ensure no territory was lost. As is common in war, atrocities and criminal acts were committed by all sides.
For a Bosniac Islamist such as President Alija Izetbegovic the fight was not primarily about nationalism but about Islamic lands. This was a jihad for which they had the support of their allies in Iran, Saudi Arabia and al-Qaeda. According to Bodansky, on 29 July 1992, Iran's Ayatollah Ali Hussayn Khamene'i gave a sermon in which he described the war in Bosnia as a US-led Western/Christian campaign "against the Islamic wave throughout the world", and he exhorted Muslims worldwide to mobilise and join the jihad for Islam in Europe.
And join they did, by the thousands. The Dayton Accords gave the foreign mujahideen 30 days to leave Bosnia. However, it appears that multitudes of mujahideen did not leave but instead were granted citizenship.
Today a Bosnian state commission is reviewing 1,500 citizenships granted post-war to foreign mujahideen. The commission head, Vjekoslav Vukovic, says many names on the list are linked to al-Qaeda and international terrorist organisations. So far 400 of the 1,500 names have been reviewed and 50 citizenships have been revoked. AKI reports, "Kadrija Kolic, a lawyer for several naturalised citizens, has said that it was a 'crime' to revoke the citizenship of the former fighters, as they had been granted by the wartime government of Bosnia's late president Alija Izetbegovic." (Link 11)
DEMONISATION: A WEDGE WITH THE WORLD
The Serbs as a people have been collectively demonised. This has resulted in a pervasive anti-Serb mindset that is irrational and unjust. Much like modern anti-Semitism, anti-Serbism has been built on the exaggerations, lies, disinformation, conspiracy theories and propaganda professionally churned out by expert Islamist PR and media agents to lazy, gullible, predominantly left-wing journalists.
It was primarily through strategic disinformation and propaganda the Islamists also managed to win the support of a US regime that was keen, (according to the opinion of some analysts), to repay debts incurred to Iran after supporting Iraq in the Iran Iraq war.
According to Bodansky and Forrest, the Serb siege on Sarajavo caused Izetbegovic to become convinced "that it was necessary to undertake drastic measures of a kind that had long been advocated by Tehran. The Iranians had argued that before any escalation in the fighting could take place, it was imperative to either gain the sympathies of the West or at the least to ensure that there existed a legitimate excuse that would enable the presentation of any action undertaken by Muslim forces as justifying revenge for Serbian atrocities.
"To that end, beginning in May 1992, a special group of Bosnian Muslim forces, many of whom had served with Islamist terrorist organisations, began committing a series of atrocities, including 'some of the worst recent killings,' against Muslim civilians in Sarajevo 'as a propaganda ploy to win world sympathy and military intervention.'
"A UN investigation concluded that several key events, mostly strikes against civilians, that had galvanised public opinion and governments in the West to take bolder action in Bosnia- Hercegovina, were in fact 'staged' for the Western media by the Muslims themselves in order to dramatise the city's plight. Investigations by the UN and other military experts count among these self-inflicted actions the 'bombing of the bread queue' (May 27), the 'shelling' of Douglas Hurd's visit (July 17), the 'explosion in the cemetery' (August 4), and the killing of ABC producer David Kaplan (August 13). In all these cases, Serbian forces were out of range, and the weapons actually used against the victims were not those claimed by the Bosnian authorities and the Western media."
The popular narrative of Srebrenica is just as fictional. "The Srebrenica Report" is essential reading for those seeking to understand Srebrenica, "the politics of war crimes" and how Islamists have turned strategic disinformation into both a weapon of war and an art form. It is a high-level report conducted over three years by professional researchers and former UN officials. The following information comes from various reports on their site. (Link 12)
According to General Sefer Halilovic, Commander of the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina, 5,500 soldiers of the Muslim Army's 28th Division were stationed at "safe-haven" Screbrenica with sophisticated arms, including anti-tank weapons. He also confirmed to The Hague Tribunal that when the Serb force of some 200 men and five tanks entered the town on 11 July it was nearly empty.
In the weeks before the Serb capture of Srebrenica, the Bosnian government of President Izetbegovic in Sarajevo withdrew Srebrenica's most significant Islamist militant leaders (including the infamous mass-murderer, Naser Oric, who liked to be filmed torturing, beheading and mutilating his Serb victims) and sent them for retraining in Zenica. This left the 28th Division virtually leaderless.
Muslim soldiers were then ordered to launch provocations against surrounding Serb villages. When the Serbs responded, advancing from the south, the Muslim soldiers retreated north. Former UN Deputy Director of UN Monitors, Carlos Martins Branco, reports: "Muslim forces did not even try to take advantage of their heavy artillery . . . Military resistance would jeopardise the image of 'victim' which had been so carefully constructed, and which the Muslims considered so vital to maintain." Many UN and other observers concluded that Izetbegovic sacrificed the town for political purposes.
The Muslim claim that 8,000 unarmed civilian Muslim men and boys had been executed in Srebrenica by Serb soldiers triggered the American and NATO bombing raids on the Serbs. This in turn gave motivation for the Muslim-Croat alliance which effected - with US sanction - the August 1995 ethnic cleansing of up to 250,000 Serbs from western Bosnia in Operation Storm.
Today, 11 years after the Srebrenica massacre, that claim still stands despite the fact that the figure of 8,000 was only the Red Cross' list of "missing", the majority of whom were simply displaced. After 11 years of searching and of forensic investigations led by teams of international experts around 2,000 bodies have been found buried in Srebrenica, and that number is made up of victims of US and NATO bombs, Muslim Bosnian Army soldiers who died of battle wounds, Serbs, and Muslim victims of execution-style killing. (Between 200 and 300 blindfolds and ligatures were exhumed with bodies.)
Quoting former UN Civilian Affairs Co-ordinator Phillip Corwin, the senior UN civilian official in Bosnia at the time of the capture of Srebrenica, "What happened in Srebrenica was not a single large massacre of Muslims by Serbs, but rather a series of very bloody attacks and counterattacks over a three-year period which reached a crescendo in July 1995. Moreover it is likely that the number of Muslim dead was probably no more than the number of Serbs that had been killed in Srebrenica and its environs in the three preceding years by Naser Oric and his predatory gangs. But my point here is not to argue equivalence, but to expose distortion."
According to Corwin, the official version of events at Srebrenica has been a "campaign of disinformation that has all but buried the facts along with the bodies".
The American government perpetuates the myth of a massacre of unparalleled evil to justify its alliance with Islamist forces. It is highly probable though, that if the Islamic terror attacks of 11 September 2001 had occurred a decade earlier the US may have been less hasty to enter a conflict as allies of Iran and al-Qaeda- backed Islamists. They may have been less quick to bomb European Eastern Orthodox Christians based primarily on reports churned out by the same Islamist propaganda machines that have since given us "Genocide in Jenin" and other tall tales.
While the sectarian incidents that triggered this posting seem relatively insignificant, the issues are in fact highly significant and reminiscent of those that led to war in 1992.
If Tito's borders are inviolable and a Greater Serbia is not to be, then the Serbs of Republika Srpska need the assurance that they can maintain a high degree of autonomy in this forced marriage and not be returned to dhimmitude. They will face jihad (again) rather than be returned to dhimmitude.
The strategy of the Islamists on their road to the creation of an Islamic State, is to use disinformation to collectively demonise the Serbs so as to isolate them from those who should be their friends and allies. The Islamist aim is to ensure the world regards Serb peace as undeserved and Serb suffering as justice, establishing the foundation for Western support of the Islamist agenda.
12) Srebrenica and the Politics of War Crimes Findings of the Srebrenica Research Group into the allegations of events and the background leading up to them, in Srebrenica, Bosnia & Herzegovina, in 1995. http://www.srebrenica-report.com/
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