Ariel Center for Policy Research (ACPR)


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From Bosnia to Kosovo:
the Re-Islamization of the Balkans

Raphael Israeli

Policy Paper No. 109,

(In the book Muhammad's Monsters David Bukay, (ed.),
AR: Balfour Books and Israel: ACPR Publishers, 2004, 300 pages.)


The Bosnia and then the Kosovo Wars, which were conceived in much of the world only in terms of Serbian nationalism under Milosevic, have yet another dark side to them that is not widely discussed, and that is the rise of Islam in the Balkans.

During the Ottoman domination of the Balkans, many of the region's inhabitants: Bulgars, Serbs, Albanians, Montenegrins and Croats embraced Islam as a way to elevate their status in the eyes of the occupying Muslim Power. But when those peoples attained independence through bitter wars of liberation, Muslim populations remained in their localities, for the most part as minorities in the countries where they belonged.

Yugoslavia, which consisted of a federation of six states and two autonomous territories (both belonging to Serbia), elevated Bosnia-Herzegovina to the status of an "ethnic" state, like all others, by making Islam as an identity, parallel to the identities of the Serbs, Croatians, etc. So, when Yugoslavia disintegrated, Bosnia had to assert its Muslim identity because it had none other, in spite of the fact that the majority of its population was either Serb or Croat.

In Bosnia it was the revivalist Islamic ideology of Ilia Izetbegovic which was the engine of this new Bosnian Nationalism, which was aided by Iran and other Muslim countries, happy to see Islamic politics back in Central Europe. Then came the Albanian uprising in Kosovo, which duplicated the same situation, and drove the re-Islamization of that land under the support of the West.

The result is that while the Muslims have established a continuity which drives a wedge within Christian Central Europe, the West is looking with indifference to that evolving situation which they hope will create a docile Turkish-like Islam. But in view of the trouble Turkey itself is suffering from Muslim fundamentalists, it is doubtful whether these hopes will be fulfilled.

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