Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot exist without burning political issues. The Constitutional Court of this country has outraged the public opinion by the statement that the national or in fact state symbols of both entities comprising this state, namely the Republic of Serbia and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, are unconstitutional, because they promote the predominance of one, or rather, two ethnic groups in the entity given. In the Republic of Serbia, Serbian symbolism prevails in the absence of Croatian and Bosnian symbols, and vice versa, Bosnian-Croatian symbols in the absence of Serbian symbolism dominate the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The judicial decision of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina came quickly to effect to a great surprise. All the symbols mentioned have been removed and put out of use, but harsh public statements made by politicians in response to this measure linger until now. Quite frankly, also the new temporary symbols of the Republic of Serbia spark polemics and scepticism among the representatives of “non-Serbian” nations, which amounts to yet another argument. Thus the opinion is confirmed that ethnic dissensions, which have deteriorated after the International Tribunal’s verdict and the commencement of investigation of the Srebrenica massacre of 7,000 Bosnians, will again rock the stability of institutions to its foundations on statewide level as well as in terms of individual entities.
This is an overt signal for the International Community that there is something dramatic going on with the Dayton Peace Accord and its result, namely Bosnia and Herzegovina in its current shape. None of the leaders of all the three nations, however, will venture to proceed in a more rational way. They confine themselves to standard hackneyed rhetoric according to which “Bosnia is on the right way” and avoid the real assessment of the situation.
Contrary to all expectations of the International Community, nowadays, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a paralysed country in which there is nothing to be done without an intervention from outside. The confrontation among entities, which is under way more or less on a verbal level with certain elements of national exclusiveness, has reached such an extent that the optimism of Miroslav Lajčák, the High Representative of the International Community for Bosnia and Herzegovina, appears to be in stark contrast to the statements of the leaders of ethnic communities, for instance, Sulejman Tihič, Haris Silajdžić, Milorad Dodik and Dragan Čovič who aren’t capable of reconciling their opposing stances on two fundamental and simultaneously controversial questions, i.e. the reform of the constitution and police.
Bosnia in anticipation
Not only the collision of relations between particular ethnic groups is the cause of continual tension, but also to a large extent vague and often conflicting interpretations of Bosnian history in several national historiographies. In the case that the International Community decides as well that the Dayton process has achieved its full potential, logically, a question arises what is then to be done first. One of the options is to insist on the current state arrangement which would mean to keep on searching for a compromise under the circumstances of fragile relations among the three nations. The second option is the change of inefficient structure emerging from the 1995 peace treaties which were signed with the aim of undertaking necessary constitutional reforms. There is dilemma over the conflicts between two national concepts of the building of Bosnia and Herzegovina, namely the Bosnian one presupposing the establishment of a powerful centralised country with the restriction of the internal autonomy of entities, and the Serbian one which interprets the reform of constitution and police as a perfidious attempt to dissolve the Republic of Serbia. The Croatians have taken up a centric position meanwhile, but the Serbian concept is more acceptable for them.
Milorad Dodik’s endeavours aimed at official bodies of which he asked to dismiss the Bosnian leader Haris Silajdžič’s thesis on the autonomy of entities, in the Republic of Serbia above all, are in fact a response to the more or less informal demand for the acceptance of collective responsibility for the Srebrenica crimes according to which the Republic of Serbia would be labelled as the instigator of the genocide. The International Community is helpless. Meanwhile, it has only announced that the fundamental changes of the Dayton Accord are out of question. It still remains a question whether the Slovak diplomat Lajčák, in case he comes to the conclusion that things go awry, will be in his office as restrained as his predecessor in connection with the exertion of his authority to substitute disobedient politicians, abolish passed laws and replace them by his own ones. It was supposed that one of Miroslav Lajčák’s first steps will be the removal of Milorad Dodik and Haris Silajdžič from the political scene, which would hypothetically create a more favourable atmosphere. The Community, however, has ignored the fact that the activity of both politicians is just a result of a more serious condition of severe mistrust and the predominance of nationalistic parties alongside their political conceptions. In the end of August 2007, Lajčák warned Dodik so that he didn’t provoke the International Community. This was a dire warning after Dodik’s appearance in the television where he said that the Republic of Serbia is a constant category, whereas Bosnia and Herzegovina is in his opinion solely “a community of interests”. This at the same time explains rather noticeably the attitude of Bosnian Serbs to Bosnian’s territorial integrity.
In the given context, an important role plays also the waiting for the solution of the Kosovo problem which may have influence on the future development of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Regardless of categorical statements made by foreign circles that the connection of the Bosnia and Kosovo issues is only an “illusory wish of Serbian nationalists”, we shouldn’t underestimate warnings that Beograd will not officially reconcile itself to the loss of Kosovo, unless it is compensated by territorial concessions at the expense of Bosnia and Herzegovina, i.e. the attachment of the Republic of Serbia to Serbia. For a longer time, these speculations resonate not only in the unofficial statements of the representatives of Serbian nationalist circles in Beograd, but also in occasional claims of the now only formal social democrat and antinationalist, the current Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia M. Dodik, who is the staunchest ally of the Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica.
The expansion of militant Islam
Nevertheless, there are also good news coming from the Republic of Serbia. The important Ferhad Pasha Mosque in Banja Luke, built in 1579, also known as Ferhadija, will be reconstructed. This historical religious and cultural sight, which is included in the UNESCO list as well, was destroyed on May 7th 1993 by Serbian military troops. Although the new foundations were laid as early as 2001, financial troubles haven’t been overcome until a well-off (unknown) sponsor from London granted a subsidy for its renewal. That’s why we may say that not only pessimistic assessments are felicitous.
Taking an in-depth view, however, we cannot ignore justified voices according to whose the task of militant Islam has been on increase in the current Bosnia. The adherents of fundamental Wahhabism based in Saudi Arabia enter the public life in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Recently, minibuses with dim windows carrying women dressed in black hidjabs and children accompanied by bearded men dressed in short Wahhabist trousers are an integral part of everyday life in Sarajevo. At present, there is a saying going round the Bosnians that Wahhabits were the only people that didn’t act as nationalists after the war and who open the door to a right religious life for other people. In reality, the truth is that in the period from 1992 to 1995, Bosnia and Herzegovina was almost completely destroyed by the war among three ethnic communities.
The latest warnings concerning potential terrorist threats within the Islamic community of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina come primarily from the Republic of Serbia. The fear of Wahhabist activities occurs also inside the Federation and springs from their aggressive behaviour when convincing indifferent citizens. A large part of theologians emphasise that similar actions are in conflict with the centennial heritage of Sunni Islam in Bosnia. Exact data on the number of Wahhabits in Bosnia and Herzegovina are not at disposal, but it is known that this Islamic stream appeared in the country in the early 1990’s, namely in the period at the beginning of war in this former Yugoslav Republic. Nowadays, everybody assumes that their influence has been stepped up. Recent research in Bosnia hints at the growing polarisation of society in relation to the Wahhabist movement activities, its values, strategies and objectives. Almost 70 per cent of Muslims in Bosnia maintain that they reject Wahhabist goals, whereas 12 per cent of Muslims support their activities. The Islamic Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is an official representation of Bosnian Muslims, refuses the opinion that Wahhabits could pose a threat to the country’s interests, although a Committee for the Analysis of the Community of Islamic believers was established in 2006. Their unpreparedness for an open confrontation and the condemnation of many Wahhabist’ activities evoked among many individuals well-founded discomfiture. In the course of last eight months, in the media as well as open discussions, several authors point out the fact that the silence of the Islamic community as regards the Wahhabist activities is caused by its financial dependence on the sources from Saudi Arabia which backs also Wahhabist activities. According to other authors, however, the ambivalent stance of the Islamic Community’s top representatives is the consequence of an internal conflict among its members the opinions of whose are polarised as to this question.
Experts at human rights insist on the adherence to the principles of freedom of denomination as to this stream as well. However, they claim that Wahhabism shouldn’t limit the freedom of others. The majority of experts consider the movement in question a “religious virus” and demand tougher stance of the Islamic community as well as international structures on the consequences of their activity. Some Islamist theologians perceive Wahhabism to be a real threat, for example, the Professor of Islamic Dogmatism at the Faculty of Islamic Sciences in Sarajevo Rešid Hafizovič who regards Wahhabits as “a potential lethal virus”. (1) The Wahhabit following are rather taciturn as far as statements for the media are concerned, although some of them confess that the arrival of mujaheddins, i.e. strangers who fought in the Bosnian Army on the side of local Muslims, became the key factor in terms of the recruitment of local people for the Wahhabit movement. The adherents of Wahhabism from among local people are convinced that but for the help of mujaheddins, all Muslims in Bosnia would have been exterminated.
In the 1993 United Nations’ annual report two combat activities of mujaheddins in Central Bosnia are mentioned (2). Lots of them were mercenaries dispatched to the aid of Bosna by Arabian countries. They strived to push through apart from a specific look also such a kind of Islam which was unknown for local Muslims. They requested utter subordination to their rules. In that time they regarded the Bosnian Islamic tradition as inferior and relegated it to solely a local habit. They acted according to the conviction that it must perish, therefore they begun to bully the citizens of the town of Zenica who rejected to dress in accordance with their notion. For the women it meant to be compulsorily dressed in a hidjab, the men had to wear a beard. Later on, confrontations between Bosnian traditionalists and Wahhabits broke out. These lingered during the entire war. The sentence of the Department for War Crimes with the Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina (3) on a mujaheddin, who had received Bosnian nationality Abdulah Maktouf, is a proof of what some foreign fighters did on Bosnian territory. Maktouf was born in 1959 in Iraq and in 2006 he was sentenced to five years in prison, because was a member of a group which had kidnapped and murdered several civilians of Croatian nationality near the town of Travnik.
Another case, which the ICTY International Tribunal started to deal with, is the Šefik Alič affair. Šefik Alič is a former member of the Fifth Army Corps of Bosnia and Herzegovina and is accused of not preventing the murder of four prisoners of war of Serbian nationality in the Bosnia Country in 1995. A citizen of Saudi Arabia is accused of the murder. The police have already arrested Alič and launched a manhunt after Tefik who acquired Bosnian nationality as well and is still at large. That’s why the question, what kind of development scenario the Wahabits prepare in this part of Europe which can be carried out also in Kosovo in the near future, will remain unanswered. Thus, for instance, the acceptance of the project, in a spirit of which all Albanians should live in one state (i.e. the unification of all territories resided by Albanians), could turn for the Wahhabits or al-Qaeda members to an essential part of their “action” or “secret strategy” in the foreseeable future. That might pose a real challenge for some local Albanians who could integrate themselves under the standard of Islamic Fundamentalism if they figure out that they may achieve given objectives in terms of global terrorist war. These questions alongside the concerns emerging from them are likely to reach culmination by the end of 2007.