Michael Totten reports from Sarajevo. Sarajevo has largely recovered from the physical scars of the 1990s battles. The one thing that has changed -- ripped apart by ethnic powerplays -- is the easy sort of intercommunal tolerance of 30 years ago. In its place is a simplified map consisting of more or less homogenous ethnic groups. It's as if the ingredients in a stew suddenly agglomerated themselves together until you had lumps instead of a mix. Totten writes:
I have no idea if Bosnia will ever actually split into three. Dividing it up peacefully, equitably, and in a way that would satisfy everyone wouldn’t be possible. Partitioning unevenly mixed countries, especially those with so many mixed families like Bosnia and Iraq, is a nasty business.
Some individuals are, not surprisingly, refusing to go along with the political formula that has been foisted on them.
“We are all friends,” Delibasic said. “We don't care about ethnicity. But others, people around here…it's hard. The radish is too deep. It cannot be uprooted.” ...
“My best friend now is a Serb who married a Bosnian woman,” Delibasic said. “Jovan Divyak, the Serb defender of the city of Sarajevo.”
What is truly scary about the experience of the former Yugoslavia is how quickly a multicultural society could turn in an historical instant from harmony to savage intercommunal violence. Niall Ferguson, in his study of the conflicts of the 20th century, the War of the World describes the terrible ethnic carnage that surrounded the First and Second World Wars. Listening to what it was like before the battles of the 1990s makes sobering reading.
“When I was a kid in Sarajevo,” Delibasic said, “some visiting Montenegrin nationalists asked me, who are you? I had no idea, and I didn't care. So I made up an answer. I am Jewish! I said. My mother said no, no no. But I didn't know or care. My friends were Jews, Muslims, and Catholics. After I was told I wasn't Jewish, I said I was a Muslim. But that wasn't right either. So after that I've always just said I am a Yugoslav. If I could, I would take citizenship in Slovenia, Croatia, and Montenegro, as well as in Bosnia and Serbia. But I can't. I still call myself a Yugoslav, but the census-takers won't accept that as an answer.”
Maybe the real threat to multiculturalism are the demagogues who see identity politics as the road to power, even if that process involves the destruction of the larger polity. Under the color of multiculturalism, the ship of separatism steams majestically on.
And yet the post-war Balkans seems to have a kind of stability of its own. It may have engendered warfare and hatred, but it was of a local kind. Imported varieties were unwelcome. It's interesting to learn that despite the vast effort expended in the Middle East to deploy Wahabi fighters and missionaries there, they were largely treated with disdain by the local Muslims themselves. Still they are trying, though without much success -- so far.
Bosnia has a bit of an Islamist problem, but they aren't its biggest cause. Saudis and others from the extremist Wahhabi school of Islam swooped in after the war ended to rebuild damaged mosques in their own severe style and to impose their rigid interpretation of religion, as much as they can, on culturally liberal Europeans. ...
“They say We have to Islamize you,” he said. “That's the notion they are using, to Islamize. They think that even the practicing Muslims – that means going to mosque, praying – they think they are not good enough, they have to be better. And also that our perception of Islam is wrong.” ...
“What is it about your version of Islam that they don’t like specifically?” I said.
“Every segment of it,” he said. “Meaning our clothes, we are dressing like Europeans, the way we look, we don’t say you have to wear a beard, or that it doesn’t have to be long. It’s also the literature we are using because mostly we are leaning on the traditional scholars of Islam while they are leaning on the so-called reformers. There are lots of things. The logical aspects of Islam, the interior and exterior of the mosques, everything. Almost everything we do is wrong. It's very hard to recognize why and from where they get this kind of attitude.”
Where do the Wahabis get this attitude? Maybe from four dollar a gallon gas.
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