news 29 Dec 16

Montenegro’s Bosniaks Thwart Njegos National Holiday

Montenegro’s government dropped plans to declare the birthday of Petar II Petrovic Njegos a national holiday after opposition from Bosniaks who accuse the poet-prince of glorifying the killing of Muslims.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
Petar II Petrovic Njegos. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Djordje D. Bozovic.

The Montenegrin government informed parliament on Wednesday that it will withdraw a bill on public holidays which was to include a state holiday to mark the birth in 1813 of Njegos, a bishop, prince and poet who ruled Montenegro in the 19th century.

The move came after the Bosniak Party, a member of the ruling coalition, said it would not vote for the proposal to celebrate November 13, Njegos’s birthday, as a national holiday.

Without the support of the Bosniak Party, the legislation could not secure a majority in parliament.

The party’s senior official, Adnan Muhovic, who is also mayor of the small majority-Bosniak town of Petnjica in the north of the country, welcomed the move.

“I want to share the pleasure with all of you,” Muhovic told locals via the Petnjica radio station.

This was the second failed attempt by the Montenegrin government to declare Njegos' birthday a holiday.

In October 2013, then Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic’s cabinet also proposed a new law but was forced to withdraw after opposition from the country’s Bosniaks, who disdain the approving description of an alleged mass execution of Muslims in his poem ‘The Mountain Wreath’.

The Bosniak Party said at the time that certain ideas in Njegos’s works “were used to justify genocide against the Muslim community in both the 19th and 20th centuries in Montenegro and in the region”. 

The latest proposed amendments to the law on state holidays were endorsed last Friday by the Parliamentary Committee on the Political System, the Judiciary and the Administration, by MPs from the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, led by former PM Djukanovic.

The envisaged that November 13 would be marked as Njegos’s day, but also as the day of Montenegrin culture.

A day afterwards, the Bosniak-American National Association in New York, said it was “disgusted with the news” that the new government of Prime Minister Dusko Markovic had proposed such a law. 

“This is an intolerable and utterly uncivilised act to propose at the national level memorialisation of the birthday of a genocidal poet, author of criminal epic ‘The Mountain Wreath’,” the organisation said in a statement.

It accused Njegos of inflaming hatred and violence against Muslims.

The government argued that Njegos was on the throne at a time of tribal divisions, poverty and undeveloped state institutions.

It said it said in a statement explaining the proposed legislation that with his reformist and visionary spirit, Njegos succeeded in establishing the foundations of the modern Montenegrin state.

“After almost two centuries, his literary opus is topical not only in Montenegro, but also among European and other nations,” it added.

Muslims account for around 19 per cent of the population of Montenegro, according to the 2011 census, although not all of them are Bosniaks. The figure also includes ethnic Albanians.

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