News 30 Oct 13

Montenegro's Bosniaks Oppose Njegos Holiday

Montenegro's Bosniak party said it opposed declaring the anniversary of the birth of Petar Petrovic II Njegos, the famous poet-bishop, a holiday, on account of his controversial legacy.

Milena Milosevic

Montenegro’s move to declare Njegos's birthday a state holiday has ruffled feathers among some of the country's ethnic minority communities.

The government on October 24 proposed declaring November 13, the anniversary of his birth, a state holiday. Montenegro is marking the 200th anniversary of his birth this year.

The Bosniak Party, which represents the country's significant Bosniak-Muslim minority, and is a member of the ruling coalition, on Tuesday said it opposed the changes.

“We consider it highly inappropriate for his birthday to be declared a state holiday... especially if we recall that some ideas of his works, literally interpreted, were used to justify genocide against the Muslim community in both the 19th and 20th centuries in Montenegro and in the region,” the party stated.

The main problems centre on the meaning and legacy of Njegos’s most famous literary epic poem, ‘The Mountain Wreath".

Although the poem is much prized in purely literary terms, its approving description of an alleged mass execution of Muslims has now become more controversial, in the aftermath of the mass executions and pogroms of Muslims in Bosnia in the 1990s.

The Bosniak Party recalled that after World War II Germany purged its educational curriculum of many prominent writers and poets whose ideas were seen as having contributed to or fed the growth of the Nazi ideology.

“We expect the authorities to re-consider the decision about pronouncing this holiday, as it endangers the concept of a civic and multi-confessional Montenegro,” the party added.

Serbs and Montenegrins prefers to see Njegos's literary heritage as affirming their national and cultural identities.

In May, Metropolitan Amfilohije Radovic, the Serbian Orthodox Church’s top cleric in Montenegro, declared him a saint, symbolically carrying an icon of Njegos into a monastery in the town of Cetinje.

The official canonisation of Njegos by the Serbian Orthodox Church is not yet a done deal however, as the Church’s Holy Synod has yet to approve the idea.

Muslims acount for almost 20 per cent of the population of Montenegro according to the 2011 census, though not all these are Bosniaks. The figure also includes ethnic Albanians.

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