Islam in the Balkans. Religion and Society between Europe and the Arab World
Harry T. Norris
THE SERBIAN VIEW OF ISLAM IN THE 1980s. (Tito's fancies) [*]
During the 1980s the well-known Belgrade newspapers and journals Politica, Nin and Duga devoted much attention to a large number of articles, because of either their provocative titles or their content. All of them were connected with Islam and Muslims — in Yugoslavia, in Europe generally and in the world at large. It is not easy for us to conceive that these articles were spontaneous or reflected the personal feelings of the authors. The media, in Serbia, during those years, was subservient to the ‘one party system’ (Communist then, ‘Socialist’ now, what tomorrow?). Most important, among this and that, was that these articles totally succeeded in their goal, which was to stir up and rekindle latent and dormant animosity within the Serbian people towards Islam and the Muslims, which had existed since the Middle Ages. This was accomplished by magnifying and inflating the Islamic ‘menace’, thereby bringing to the surface ‘solutions’ which justified everything in order to free and rid oneself of the other side by any means possible.
Out of the thousands of articles which I have collected, I offer here one specimen. It purports to give an account of a meeting arranged and held by the journal Duga (no. 9, 22 December 1989) with Dr Miroljub Jevtić, assistant professor in the Faculty of Sciences, Belgrade University.
Here it should be observed that the Belgrade press, in its endeavour to convince readers of some message that it particularly wishes to convey, from time to time invites ‘experts’ and ‘scholars’ to speak in turn about the Islamic ‘menace’ and ‘threat’ to and within Yugoslavia. Thus Duga reminds its readers that Jevtić is one of the experts and authorities in this field and that he is the author of a recent book entitled ‘The Current Jihād as a War’ (its Serbo-Croat title was Savremeni džihad kao rat, Belgrade, 1989). The book was lauded by the Belgrade orientalist, Darko Tanasković.
In this ‘model’ meeting we discern four grave elements, on which the Serbian attack on Islam in general and the Muslims [of Yugoslavia] in particular fastens in order to make its views known:
(a) The upsurge of basic or ‘fundamentalist’ Islam in Yugoslavia happened only recently as a result of the firm relations established by Tito with the Arab and the Islamic countries. Thus, this element was turned towards and shifted to Tito himself in blame as part of the Serbian attack that was launched against him at that time.
(b) The Arab Muslims have a strategy to enable them to dominate the world and form a single world-wide state. To further it, they will try to ‘re-animate’ Islam in Yugoslavia.
*. See Muḥammad Mūfākū’s book on Belgrade and Sarajevo referred to in the Bibliography on p. 288, above.
Translation by H.T. Norris —freely in places to make the sense clearer
(c) By its very nature, Islam allows the extermination of others who are not in agreement with it. Hence, the idea of Muslim domination of Yugoslavia becomes terrifying.
(d) The Bosnian Muslims have betrayed their race. They have acted disloyally to their history by embracing the Islamic religion. This was the most grave matter of all, the re-opening of the ‘dossier’ of ‘wilful betrayal’ after a number of centuries. The Muslim now becomes responsible for his ancestors’ conversion to Islam 400 to 500 years ago!
Here follow some of the questions and answers from this exhaustive interview.
‘Now, when the review of the ties with ‘the Third World’ is complete, it would seem that these ties have cost us dear, does it not?’
‘I agree with you on that.’ Here the question is posed again: ‘Where does Tito’s mistake over those links and ties with the Islamic countries lie hidden?’
‘Quite simply, it is hidden in the fact that Tito and his aides did not look with a critical eye at the Islamic world, and Yugoslavia accepted that part of the world as it is, as progressive and friendly to us. This was a big mistake and an illusion.’
‘Did the ties between Yugoslavia and the Islamic states play a part in the introduction of ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ in our midst?’
‘The answer to this question needs some wider comment. Even so I shall answer briefly. Yes, it did have a share in it, even though the introduction of ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ was unintentional.’
‘There is an impression that study of those phenomena was prevented because of interference from the supreme political leadership in both Bosnia and Kosovo.’
‘This is true. Islam differs from Christianity and Judaism in that it came to this country as the ideology of an occupier. When we say this, many of the elements on which the notion of ‘Muslim nationality’ rests have to be seen as null and void, since its essential notion goes back to the resistance of the ‘Jugoslovenstvo Union’. [*] So Yugoslavia, as is well known, was created as a substitute, ousting the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires’.
‘How do you explain the action of the Islamic states in offering huge sums
*. Jugoslovenstvo was a term coined to express an idea of one great people (narod) among the South Slavs (including the Bosnian Muslims). It was aired by J.J. Strossmayer in Zagreb in 1849 and by Franjo Rački in his ‘Jugoslovenstvo’, published in the journal Prozor, in Zagreb, on 31 October 1860. Such views are no longer in favour in Serbia. The whole subject is fully discussed in the article ‘Jugoslovenska i Južnoslavenska ideja’, in Enciklopedija Jugoslavije (Zagreb, 1990), pp. 128-44.
of money to Islamise [aslama] Yugoslavia, and in financing the building of mosques in particular?’
‘The Islamic centres in the world offer vast quantities of money to finance Islamic institutions in Yugoslavia. Qadhdhāfī, for example, has promised ten million dollars to build an Islamic centre and a mosque in Belgrade. King ‘Abd al-‘Azīz [Muḥammad Mūfākū suggests King Khālid] from Saudi Arabia donated 25,000 dollars. Saudi Arabia has presented a quarter of a million dollars for the Islamic Sharī’a college. The Saudi King Fahd has contributed 720,000 dollars to build the Zagreb mosque, and so on. ... in their strategy to dominate the world or, to be precise, the ultimate creation of one single Muslim state. Inevitably, every financial donation will widen the space to dominate and impose a hegemony on Yugoslavia and so include it within the world-wide Islamic state.’
‘Then surely Qadhdhāfīs dollars will cost us dear?’
‘Every single cent from Qadhdhāfī which reaches Yugoslavia will carry evil kernels within it. Naturally, he does not call on the Muslims of Yugoslavia to wage a jihad here and now. But it is not far-fetched to think that this is what he'will want to do tomorrow.’
‘Is it true that the Islamic Sharīa automatically regards all non-Islamic systems and ideologies as antagonistic to it?’
‘Would you like to give us some examples [of the contradiction and incompatibility of the Sharī’a with equality before the law as conceived by civilised humanity]?’
‘Egypt was once a Christian country; now it is Muslim. At one time Turkey, was the land of the Armenians and the Greeks; then the Turks came from Central Asia. They slaughtered some, they converted others to Islam and they expelled many more. Why? Because there is a collection of commands in the Sharī’a which allows for the extermination of those who believe in other religions. There are other examples. Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia were not Arab but Berber countries. Then the ‘sacred’ Sharī’a came and swallowed them up. This is the Islamic tolerance which is called for by Džemaludin Latić [editor of the Islamic Sarajevo newspaper, Preporod].
‘In one of the articles, you mentioned the participation of the leaders of Bosnia such as Niyaz Duraković, Mehmet Filipović and others in the projection of‘Islamic fundamentalism’. These are the leaders of the Communist party in the state.’
‘Yes, I said something about this. This group more than any has participated in the Islamisation of Bosnia. Bosnia has sunk to the lowest depths through the name of Islam. Those who embraced Islam betrayed Bosnia. The Ottomans came to the Balkans in the name of Islam, and in the name of Islam they slaughtered and exterminated the inhabitants. Those who embraced Islam in fact acknowledged the occupiers as their own brothers, just as they took on
their shoulders the deeds which were committed by their “brothers”. Because of this, the hands of the Muslims who are with us are stained and polluted with the blood of their ancestors from among the inhabitants of Bosnia at that time, namely those who did not embrace Islam. They [the converts] were the traitors in regard to the Bans [governors], governor Kulin and King Tvrtko [of Bosnia, claimant to the throne of Serbia, who offered his help at the battle of Kosovo].’
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