Bosnia, 06.17.2017: Ideas have consequences. Root ideas especially. “There is no monasticism in Islam; the monasticism of this community is the holy war,” says a hadith (a book of attributed sayings) of the Prophet of Islam (in the Sahih Muslim collection), which is one Islamic root idea meant to enjoin Muslims to practice for the wars of Jihad serving as a form of monastic preparedness for wartime trials and sacrifices.
This key thought removes all doubt about where Islam as religion stands on the questions of war and peace. It is a religion born of war that uniquely values war as the means for spreading the faith. The defense is always the same thing as the offense in the traditional thinking of Muslim ideologues. It is rooted in the ancient Manichaean dualism through which the motto of “you are either with us or against us” was presented first as the universal attitude. In every Muslim state in history, only Muslims were allowed to bear arms.
Ideas make things move and not adverse social conditions. It was the prospect of an Islamic state arising out of the secessionist former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina that caused the Bosnian civil war, 1992-1995. The prospect of living either as second-class citizens in a Muslim country (as Copts of Egypt do today) or worse, of being kicked around, killed or expelled under intimidating pressure (as was already happening in the nearby province of Kosovo during the 1980’s) tempted the non-Muslims of Bosnia to resort to arms in order to win freedom from the Bosnian Muslim government in Sarajevo.
To this day, the non-Muslim populations of Bosnia live largely outside the designated domain of the Muslim faction, with the Croat population (which never received its own autonomy) dwindling by 50% due to its exodus, while the Muslim population happily increases from year to year due to outside Muslim immigration inflows and a higher birth rate. Meanwhile, there are Bosnian Muslim intellects, like author Edina Bechirovich, who seek to placate and deflect the implications of the political, cultural and demographic trends on the ground. She is one in a team of secular intellects gathered inside a think tank formed a few years ago with foreign money, called ‘Atlantic Initiative’, with which to promote Bosnian membership in NATO (and the German-run European Union) as their ultimate goal. They do produce social reform initiatives on gender equality, sexual harassment, spousal abuse, issues that linger in the more primitive parts of the country, as part of their agenda.
This group is a kind of artificial intelligentsia that is largely unknown to the Bosnian public, and yet this group is the first to talk to Western news outlets and NGOs on subjects of concern involving Bosnia (such as the translated interview with Radio Free Europe, below). To achieve NATO membership for Bosnia (with covert Turkish help) they make sure they work with Bosnian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to lobby for Bosnian participation in NATO. This group also sets up workshops and conferences in the Serbian region of Bosnia to lobby for the acceptance of these unpopular goals.
Ultimately, the Atlantic Initiative group is the Bosnian political image cleanup crew. Atlantic Initiative prints out fancy political science-based studies of radicalization, Islamic activism and psychological abuse in Bosnia and the Balkans with the aim of explaining away these negative phenomena on the basis of standard liberal ideas of social justice and social engineering, which are evaluated against an impossible middle class ideal that conveniently cannot be satisfied by the social conditions of dysfunctional youths in a struggling country (notice the tendency to abusive parenting as red herring) never allowing for root religious ideas to be in the focus of scrutiny.
It never occurs to these people that World History possesses a logic of evolution all its own, which recruits willing executioners from all walks of life, regardless of social conditions. Atlantic Initiative operates on the standard liberal-atheist assumption that all people, all individuals, all religions are equal, and are equally useless exploiters of miserable conditions of growth of youths who, in their helplessness at the doorstep to adulthood, turn towards radical ideas as an escape. Groups such as ‘Atlantic Initiative’ are not too far removed from George Soros-style organizations, so their agenda prevents them from considering the logic of historic ideas that can move the hearts and minds of people of any social ranking.
They excuse terrorism not on ideas but on adverse living circumstances, on standard psychological themes like “identity crisis,” on poor government, and, if all else fails, on Serb friendship with Russia. And that is dangerously misleading. They do admit (without naming the group) that “a very specific worldview is reinforced through group dynamics.” They don’t explain how come a specific worldview is in play at all! In the interview translated below, one can sense a subtle political agenda pervading the reasoning offered by Atlantic Initiative leader Edina Becirovic. This agenda is all about Islamic radicalization perception management to enable Bosnia to get closer to the heart of the West, thereby bringing a dangerous political dagger closer to a civilization that already felt the pain of this unfortunate proximity back when another group of Bosnian radicals plotted to kill the Austrian Archduke in 1914 to spark a world war. Ideas have their victims, it is true, but willing victims matter more because action takes place through them.
Edina Becirovic: Politics of the Serb Republic in Bosnia are more dangerous than Islamic terrorism
Radio Free Europe, after years of promoting the Bosniak nationalism, also set about minimizing the threat of Islamic radicalism. In an interview with Edina Becirovic, the author argues that “moderate Bosnian Islam” has nothing to do with Islamic radicalism, trying to shift the focus of security threats. Namely, according to the author, a dozen terrorist attacks by Islamic fanatics (Mostar, Konjic, Bugojno, Vitez, Zvornik, Sarajevo, Rajlovac …) is nothing when compared with the “secessionist” politics behind the Serbian Republic that performed a total of 0 terrorist attacks. What follows is the entire interview.
The arrest of Enes Mesic (on the way to the Syrian battlefield) on the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, initiated the question of whether Bosnia is again smuggling soldiers from this part of the world. And the fear of continuing radicalization in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Edina Becirevic, the author of the study that pits moderate Islam against Salafism in Bosnia, is a member of a reputable NGO called ‘Atlantic Initiative’, believes that the trend of departures of radicals stopped, while another radicalism is born, writes magazine RSE.
Recently, on the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina a person was arrested and convicted for going to the war in Syria on suspicion of planning to go again. Recently, this has become a rare occurrence (that people from Bosnia go to the battlefield). Atlantic Initiative is doing research on these departures, so what are the findings?
According to a recent study published by the Atlantic Initiative and research conducted by Professor Vlado Azinovic, the total number of fighters from Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2012 to 2016 that went to the battlefields in Syria was 240; 56 returned, 70 were killed in Syria, and in Syria and Iraq there are still 114 persons, including 53 women and 40 children. Research professor Azinovic is also found that the departure, not only from Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also from the region, significantly reduced in 2015 and almost completely stopped by early 2016, except for a few cases of extradition from the Turkish prisons.
In connection with the person who was arrested yesterday, it can be said that the border police did their job. He was in the system, police agencies operated correctly and monitor the movement of persons under surveillance who have returned from Syria and who would be a potential threat to security. The big question is why he was not in prison, and that’s a question for the judicial authorities because he received a sentence of three years. Therefore, it is necessary to ask why the person who was arrested two days ago on suspicion of planning to go to Syria was not immediately sent to serve his sentence.
In her book, which was written on the basis of research and published in English, she compares the narratives of traditional Bosnian Islam and Salafi Islamic interpretation, which was imported during the 1990’s war. One of the conclusions is that this imported Islam is foreign to the Bosnian context of interpretation and that the two are difficult to reconcile. Islam traditionally practiced in Bosnia and Herzegovina is moderate and inclusive, and Salafi proselytism is what they call the “cleansing” of Bosnian tradition.
Although the focus of the book is the comparison between the Salafi interpretation and the Bosnian Islamic tradition, the discussion in the book is placed within the broader context of radicalism in our country, in which every day we are faced with ethnic, especially secessionist radical ideas. We have various illiberal influences that inspire each other, whose goal is to create a climate of instability that will turn Bosnia and Herzegovina away from the path to membership in NATO and the European Union. In creating this radical context Russia plays a key role, supporting secessionist ideas in the Republic of the Serbs. All this creates a context which may encourage groups and individuals in the process of radicalization.
The argument of “bad Muslims”
What diverts the youth towards radicalism, and is the legal threat of placing “paradzemata” [the term for those radical Islamic mosques in Bosnia that refuse to be under the control of the official Bosnian government-run Islamic Society of Bosnia] under government control going to fix this?
I think we have to be careful when we talk about radicalization and do not point out that this phenomenon is related only to young people who have accepted the Salafi interpretation of Islam. Within the Salafi movement, it is also necessary to distinguish between radicalization in belief and behavior that does not lead to violence and radicalization in belief and behavior that does lead to violence. This same division should be used with other types of radicalism. Excessive emphasis on one type of radicalism suggests that there is neglect of the other, much larger threats that endanger the security of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Finally, this is a country where genocide was committed against Muslims during the period of 1992-1995.
But also because of this fact, we must not neglect a long-term threat that Salafism has for Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the scene, there is organized proselytism of the Salafi interpretation of Islam that recruits vulnerable young people, who have an identity crisis, with a need for a sense of belonging, who are frustrated by the general state of our society and country. During the investigation, one of the most crushing facts was the fact that Salafi leaders, as a way of recruiting, use the argument of “bad Muslims” and that young people say that their parents were “bad Muslims”, so they go on to say that in Bosnia a genocide occurred because of that.
The issue of prevention is something you seriously worked on, even presented your findings to the young people and to those who were once willing to commit radical actions in the world, but who are today ardent opponents of such ideas. What are the conclusions?
Atlantic Initiative during the last year and until June of this year had a series of workshops with young people in several Bosnian cities. The workshops were based on the methodology of action research. The aim of the workshops was to explore what kind of educational approach in the prevention of radicalization and violent extremism is most effective in working with young people. So we tested it to accept humor as a method of prevention, then the use of moderate religious narrative in the fight against violent extremist messages. A guest at the workshop was Adam Deen, a former extremist from Britain. Participants best responded to the workshop of Adam Deen. There is nothing more effective in working with young people than the authentic experiences of the former radical or violent extremist. The power of authentic personal stories by a de-radicalized person is the best prevention.