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news 27 Feb 13

Islamism and Bosniak Nationalism May Unite, Report

New International Crisis Group reports says the danger is growing of a politicised Islamic Community harnessing frustrated Bosniak nationalism for its own purposes.


The latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, a think tank, entitled "Bosnia’s Dangerous Tango: Islam and Nationalism", warns of the danger of a fusion between Bosniak nationalism and Islam.

"Political Islam is a novelty in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), and its rise is seen as threatening to secular parties and non-Muslims," the report issued on Tuesday said.

According to the report, in spite of growing concerns about terrorism, the plethora of non-traditional Salafi and other Islamist groups that have appeared on the margins of society remain small.

“Virtually every act of violence inspired by Islamism has come from places where Islamic institutions – džemat (congregation), mosque, madrasa and family – are weak or absent, and many perpetrators have a troubled past,” says Marko Prelec, the ICG Balkans Project Director.

But he added that there was a lot of anger and frustration among Bosniaks, and leading figures in the Islamic establishment have sought to harness this feeling to advance their own political aims.

The Islamic Community in Bosnia has grown from a religious organisation into an important political actor that has helped shape Bosniak identity, the report notes.

According to the report, Mustafa Ceric, the former head of the Islamic Community of Bosnia who is now president of the World Bosniak Congress, advocated a vision of Bosnia as a Bosniak nation-state, arguing that Croats and Serbs already have their own countries.

That vision appeals to many Bosniaks, including some who are thoroughly secular, but it repels most Croats and Serbs, the document adds.

"If this becomes the dominant Bosniak view, it is hard to see how it could be reconciled with the viewpoints of Bosnia’s other communities; persistent conflict and instability would then be likely," the report concludes.

The International Crisis Group has called on Bosnia's Islamic Community to foster a view of the state as a shared enterprise in which all groups feel equally at home.

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