Islam and Nationhood in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Surviving Empires By Xavier Bougarel, translated by Christopher Mobley

Islam and Nationhood in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Surviving Empires By Xavier Bougarel, translated by... Originally published in French in 2013, Bougarel’s book presents a clear and concise political history of Bosnia-Herzegovina since the late nineteenth century, with a focus on the relation between Islam and national identity in the discourse of Bosnian Muslim elites. In particular, the book analyses the history of the country’s Islamic institution—the Islamic Community headed by a Mufti, the reis-ul-ulema—and the positions of its major Islamic thinkers. While the Bosnian Croats and Serbs developed strong national ideologies linked to the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, respectively, and enjoyed backing from what became Croatia and Serbia, the Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) had difficulties in formulating a national identity that could serve for building a nation state; traditional religious or local/regional identities prevailed. To make up for this deficiency, so Bougarel argues, the Muslim elites used to seek protection for their communities from the subsequent ‘empires’ that ruled over the area—the Ottomans, Austria-Hungary, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Croatian Ustaša regime and the Third Reich, and eventually Tito’s Yugoslavia. In the late 1960s, secular Yugoslavia gave up the implicit expectation that at one point the Bosnian Muslims would decide to identify as either Croats or Serbs (or ‘Yugoslavs’), and recognized the existence of a ‘Muslim’ nation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which it however tried to detach from the religion of Islam and from other Muslim nationalities in Yugoslavia. In the absence of strong national institutions, the Islamic Community of Bosnia-Herzegovina became a proxy institution for the emergent Muslim nation. When Yugoslavia fell apart, a group of former ‘pan-Islamic’ dissident intellectuals established the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) that organized the defence of the Muslim-populated parts of BiH against Croat and Serb attacks and ethnic cleansing, and dominated politics in the Muslim parts of BiH. The SDA employed the Islamic Community to present Islam as the major cornerstone of what they now called ‘Bosniak’ identity (as opposed to ‘Bosnian’, which would also encompass the other two major nationalities in BiH), to build a Muslim national entity while at the same time calling for the preservation of a multinational Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the face of war and genocidal violence, the outside forces that they now put their hopes on were partly the Muslim world (for fundraising and circumventing the arms embargo), and, more consistently, the UN, the United States, and the European Community/EU. The Dayton Agreement of 1995 established peace at the cost of cementing the national delimitation between the entities of BiH, of protecting the respective political, military and economic networks that came to power in the war, and of making the return of refugees almost impossible. Since the late 1990s political pluralism eliminated the monopoly of the SDA in the Muslim part of BiH, and religious pluralism—including the intrusion of ‘Neo-Salafism’ and ‘Neo-Sufism’—challenged the dominance of the Islamic Community in religious matters. Bougarel closely follows the debates among progressive Islamic ‘reformers’ like Džemaludin Čaušević (1870–1938), who as Reis-ul-ulema strove to eliminate the perceived ‘backwardness’ of his community and to break the dominance of the traditional Muslim elites, and of the more conservative Islamic ‘revivalists’ like the famous Azhar-educated Mehmed Handžić (1906–44). These are followed by the ‘pan-Islamist’ association of Young Muslims (Mladi musulmani) who emerged in the inter-war period and were persecuted in Yugoslavia. For the 1960s and 1970s, Bougarel’s major protagonists are university historians and linguists who argued for or against a Muslim nationality; and for the 1990s, centre stage is given to former representatives of the Young Muslim movement, above all President Alija Izetbegović (1925–2003). In the last chapters Bougarel analyses the positions of Reis-ul-ulema Mustafa Cerić (in office 1993–2012), known in the West for his promotion of a vague ‘Euro-Islam’ with the Bosnian Muslims as its vanguard. ‘Pan-Islamic’ and ‘Neo-Salafi’ positions are contrasted by the strict secular views of two eminent professors of Islamic studies, Fikret Karčić (b. 1955) and Enes Karić (b. 1958). Well-translated and equipped with useful maps, this monograph weaves together many insights that Bougarel has presented in separate publications since the early 1990s. What I still find confusing is his use of the term ‘pan-Islamism’. Bougarel acknowledges that after the 1920s, pan-Islamism ceased to be a major current in the wider Muslim world, but he insists on using this term to characterize the ideology of the Young Muslims and the SDA leadership up until the 2000s. True, Izetbegović became famous for his Islamic Declaration of 1969/1970, when he was still a dissident; this treatise can be read as ‘pan-Islamist’ in nature since it celebrated the model of Pakistan. But what Bougarel actually describes is that when Izetbegović and his comrades came to power, they strove not for an overarching Islamic state, or for strong alliances throughout the Muslim world, but for a Muslim national identity on a limited territory, within a broader Bosnia that needed the Bosnian Serbs and Croats. Also, the actual point of orientation in most of the speeches and texts that Bougarel quotes is not the umma but Europe, in its imperial, socialist and unionist reincarnations. What Bougarel understands as ‘pan-Islamism’ is therefore simply ‘the emphasis on Islam as a central component of Muslim/Bosniak national identity’, which, as he writes, ‘went hand in hand with the nationalization of Islamic religious institutions in Bosnia-Herzegovina’ (p. 150). As he concludes, ‘pan-Islamism proved to be merely a form of proto-nationalism’ (ibid.). Islam thus became a nation-marker by default, in the absence of a suitable ethnonym, and was highly secularized in the process. Given that ‘pan-Islamism’ was also a Serb propaganda foil before and during the war, why not find a better term? This well-documented book leads us through many paradoxical turns, and will surely become a standard work on the topic. In the meantime two central topics of Bougarel’s narrative—the history of the Young Muslims and the process through which the Bosnian Muslims were upgraded to one of Yugoslavia’s state nations—have been analysed in more detail by Armina Omerika, Islam in Bosnien-Herzegowina und die Netzwerke der Jungmuslime (1918–1983) (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2014), and Iva Lučić, Im Namen der Nation: der politische Aufwertungsprozess der Muslime im sozialistischen Jugoslawien (1956–1971) (Uppsala Universitet, 2016). © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Islamic Studies Oxford University Press

Islam and Nationhood in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Surviving Empires By Xavier Bougarel, translated by Christopher Mobley

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Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com
ISSN
0955-2340
eISSN
1471-6917
D.O.I.
10.1093/jis/ety032
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Abstract

Originally published in French in 2013, Bougarel’s book presents a clear and concise political history of Bosnia-Herzegovina since the late nineteenth century, with a focus on the relation between Islam and national identity in the discourse of Bosnian Muslim elites. In particular, the book analyses the history of the country’s Islamic institution—the Islamic Community headed by a Mufti, the reis-ul-ulema—and the positions of its major Islamic thinkers. While the Bosnian Croats and Serbs developed strong national ideologies linked to the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, respectively, and enjoyed backing from what became Croatia and Serbia, the Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) had difficulties in formulating a national identity that could serve for building a nation state; traditional religious or local/regional identities prevailed. To make up for this deficiency, so Bougarel argues, the Muslim elites used to seek protection for their communities from the subsequent ‘empires’ that ruled over the area—the Ottomans, Austria-Hungary, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, the Croatian Ustaša regime and the Third Reich, and eventually Tito’s Yugoslavia. In the late 1960s, secular Yugoslavia gave up the implicit expectation that at one point the Bosnian Muslims would decide to identify as either Croats or Serbs (or ‘Yugoslavs’), and recognized the existence of a ‘Muslim’ nation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which it however tried to detach from the religion of Islam and from other Muslim nationalities in Yugoslavia. In the absence of strong national institutions, the Islamic Community of Bosnia-Herzegovina became a proxy institution for the emergent Muslim nation. When Yugoslavia fell apart, a group of former ‘pan-Islamic’ dissident intellectuals established the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) that organized the defence of the Muslim-populated parts of BiH against Croat and Serb attacks and ethnic cleansing, and dominated politics in the Muslim parts of BiH. The SDA employed the Islamic Community to present Islam as the major cornerstone of what they now called ‘Bosniak’ identity (as opposed to ‘Bosnian’, which would also encompass the other two major nationalities in BiH), to build a Muslim national entity while at the same time calling for the preservation of a multinational Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the face of war and genocidal violence, the outside forces that they now put their hopes on were partly the Muslim world (for fundraising and circumventing the arms embargo), and, more consistently, the UN, the United States, and the European Community/EU. The Dayton Agreement of 1995 established peace at the cost of cementing the national delimitation between the entities of BiH, of protecting the respective political, military and economic networks that came to power in the war, and of making the return of refugees almost impossible. Since the late 1990s political pluralism eliminated the monopoly of the SDA in the Muslim part of BiH, and religious pluralism—including the intrusion of ‘Neo-Salafism’ and ‘Neo-Sufism’—challenged the dominance of the Islamic Community in religious matters. Bougarel closely follows the debates among progressive Islamic ‘reformers’ like Džemaludin Čaušević (1870–1938), who as Reis-ul-ulema strove to eliminate the perceived ‘backwardness’ of his community and to break the dominance of the traditional Muslim elites, and of the more conservative Islamic ‘revivalists’ like the famous Azhar-educated Mehmed Handžić (1906–44). These are followed by the ‘pan-Islamist’ association of Young Muslims (Mladi musulmani) who emerged in the inter-war period and were persecuted in Yugoslavia. For the 1960s and 1970s, Bougarel’s major protagonists are university historians and linguists who argued for or against a Muslim nationality; and for the 1990s, centre stage is given to former representatives of the Young Muslim movement, above all President Alija Izetbegović (1925–2003). In the last chapters Bougarel analyses the positions of Reis-ul-ulema Mustafa Cerić (in office 1993–2012), known in the West for his promotion of a vague ‘Euro-Islam’ with the Bosnian Muslims as its vanguard. ‘Pan-Islamic’ and ‘Neo-Salafi’ positions are contrasted by the strict secular views of two eminent professors of Islamic studies, Fikret Karčić (b. 1955) and Enes Karić (b. 1958). Well-translated and equipped with useful maps, this monograph weaves together many insights that Bougarel has presented in separate publications since the early 1990s. What I still find confusing is his use of the term ‘pan-Islamism’. Bougarel acknowledges that after the 1920s, pan-Islamism ceased to be a major current in the wider Muslim world, but he insists on using this term to characterize the ideology of the Young Muslims and the SDA leadership up until the 2000s. True, Izetbegović became famous for his Islamic Declaration of 1969/1970, when he was still a dissident; this treatise can be read as ‘pan-Islamist’ in nature since it celebrated the model of Pakistan. But what Bougarel actually describes is that when Izetbegović and his comrades came to power, they strove not for an overarching Islamic state, or for strong alliances throughout the Muslim world, but for a Muslim national identity on a limited territory, within a broader Bosnia that needed the Bosnian Serbs and Croats. Also, the actual point of orientation in most of the speeches and texts that Bougarel quotes is not the umma but Europe, in its imperial, socialist and unionist reincarnations. What Bougarel understands as ‘pan-Islamism’ is therefore simply ‘the emphasis on Islam as a central component of Muslim/Bosniak national identity’, which, as he writes, ‘went hand in hand with the nationalization of Islamic religious institutions in Bosnia-Herzegovina’ (p. 150). As he concludes, ‘pan-Islamism proved to be merely a form of proto-nationalism’ (ibid.). Islam thus became a nation-marker by default, in the absence of a suitable ethnonym, and was highly secularized in the process. Given that ‘pan-Islamism’ was also a Serb propaganda foil before and during the war, why not find a better term? This well-documented book leads us through many paradoxical turns, and will surely become a standard work on the topic. In the meantime two central topics of Bougarel’s narrative—the history of the Young Muslims and the process through which the Bosnian Muslims were upgraded to one of Yugoslavia’s state nations—have been analysed in more detail by Armina Omerika, Islam in Bosnien-Herzegowina und die Netzwerke der Jungmuslime (1918–1983) (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2014), and Iva Lučić, Im Namen der Nation: der politische Aufwertungsprozess der Muslime im sozialistischen Jugoslawien (1956–1971) (Uppsala Universitet, 2016). © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

Journal

Journal of Islamic StudiesOxford University Press

Published: Jun 1, 2018

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