Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Strangers in Their Own Land

Though it may have appeared that way, Friday's post was not actually a response to Asma Ishak. I just used her invective as an illustration of projection, prejudice and name-calling that passes for internet debate these days. I've learned long since not to get into arguments with trolls; unlike them, I have better things to do with my time.

One of the commenters, however, was curious about the intermarriage of "Serbs and Bosnians" (sic - she meant Muslims, obviously) that Ishak had mentioned. There is this myth that Bosnia was a harmonious, perfectly integrated multi-cultural paradise that evil Serb nationalists brutally destroyed, forcing the Muslims to rediscover their identity. Those who believe this have it precisely backwards, as the subtitle of Alija Izetbegovic's "Islamic Declaration" (PDF) was "A Programme for the Islamization of Muslims." What better way to become the undisputed leader of Bosnia's Muslims and implement an Islamic agenda than to claim they were all in danger of perishing from "Serb aggressors" and their alleged "genocide"?

It is true enough that there were many mixed marriages in Bosnia. Previously, intermarriage required one of the spouses to convert to the other's faith, so they could be married in a church or a mosque. After 1945, however, the couple simply had to take two witnesses to a court clerk. With Communists actively discouraging religious practice (though not banning it outright, except for Party members), the faith of the children was a non-issue.

Few people in the countryside intermarried, though; it remained a characteristic of urban centers. The collapse of Communism and the rise of ethnic parties put mixed-marriage families under a lot of pressure. People found themselves sidelined because they had the "wrong" spouse. Children were pressured to "choose a side." Some did. Others packed up and left. Many found refuge in Serbia, where people were comparatively less obsessed with ethnic purity than in either Bosnia or Croatia. In fact, Serbia remains the most ethnically heterogeneous Balkans state even now - while in other republics, from Slovenia to Macedonia, the trend has been homogenization.

Official Truth has it that the Serbs engaged in "ethnic cleansing" while the Muslims were multi-ethnic and tolerant (Croats are somehow not mentioned at all). While the "Bosnian Army" did start out with a number of non-Muslims in its ranks (Serbs, Croats and those of mixed heritage who believed Izetbegovic's propaganda), that number dwindled down to nearly none by late 1993. From the army to the state, everything was becoming Islamized. When the reis-ul-ulema (head of the Islamic religious community) Mustafa Ceric called the children of mixed parentage "genetic garbage," there was no longer room for doubt.

Even though Annex VII of the Dayton peace treaty contained the "right of return" of refugees to their homes, and in 2000 a set of quotas was imposed to ensure representation of Muslims and Croats in the Serb Republic (RS) and Serbs in the Muslim-Croat Federation, both entities remain overwhelmingly ethnically homogeneous. People would return, reclaim their property, then sell it or exchange it and move back to areas where their own were the majority. While the RS has meticulously observed the quota system, the Federation never bothered, and somehow the "international community" never cared, either.

After the war, there were several immigration programs (notably in the U.S. and Canada) favoring mixed-marriage families. Not surprisingly, most people seized the opportunity. There is still some intermarriage in Bosnia. By and large, however, for those who found a mate in a different community it was much more bearable to become Americans, Canadians, or Australians than to be strangers in their own land.

12 comments:

Marko said...

You`re right on the mark. Intermarriages were an urban phenomena. In some towns up to one third of couples could be "mixed marriages", but stil in the surronding rural area, the communication between the communities was really at a minimum.

dena said...

Thank you all for your clarification. I know Asma from another blog, she makes outbursts without thinking most of the time.

Aleks said...

You missed the obvious one to contradict Izetbegovic propaganda, namely he of Agrokomerc scandal fame and former elected head (he beat Iz) of the SDA, Fikret Abdic.

The same one who set up his own autonomous territory in Velika Kladusa and ironically jailed for war crimes, despite bearing the brunt of Izetbegovic's foreign mujahedeen...

Of course considered a traitor in Sarajevo, but I suppose he wasn't really prepared to martyr his own people for foreign intervention...

There was a web-zine called Sobaka (you may have heard of it) which did a very good profile on Fikret Abdic:
http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.diacritica.com/sobaka/dossier/abdic.html

P.S. I always describe the conflict in Bosnia as a four-sided civil war. If that confuses someone who claims mastery of 1990s balkan history, then it is a good opportunity to rub their prejudice and ignorance in.

Gray Falcon said...

Oh, I'm well aware of Abdic, but I saw no reason to involve him in this particular conversation. One of these days I'll probably write about all the people Izetbegovic used to climb to power, then threw under the bus (sometimes more than metaphorically), and call it "All of Alija's men."

I do suppose I could have noted that many of his followers were also brought across to the U.S., as cheap but skilled workers for the Midwestern meat and poultry industry. Yet another proof of how the Empire "helped protect" the "multiethnic Bosnia"...

Deucaon said...

I know people who intermarried but remained as bigoted as they ever were. I don't think the war changed anyone or made anyone pick sides. Everyone knew which side they were on long before the war started. The war didn't create monsters, it just revealed them.

Gray Falcon said...

Deucaon, that's partly true. There were plenty of people who could not make up their mind - so others decided for them. But you are right, I didn't mean to imply that everyone was just a sailor on the sea of fate.

Suvorov said...

Look whose article appears above yours on antiwar. Sometimes this world is too small. It is warmongers masquerading as pacifists who are most dangerous. I also have another question, about Srebrenica this time. What is the latest count of identified bodies? The reason I am asking you is that I found that sources like Wiki to be similar to the Official Truth sometimes, and so it's difficult to find a reliable source. Thank you!

Gray Falcon said...

I'd need to check about Srebrenica. Not surprised that the Wiki is reflecting OT - anything that challenges it is probably edited right away. But the fact that the body count has not been updated in a while in itself suggests some things...

Suvorov said...

Yes, there are rumors circulating as to who might be editing Wiki (and youtube and...).

Robstar said...

Being the product of a mixed marriage i know how difficult it was even living on the other side of the world during the war. The hardest thing about the whole choose a side thing is getting to terms that there is a choice to be made and not choosing is a choice itself. They all had their ramifications on different relationships. For me the choice wasn't difficult and there has never been any regret about it.

Deucaon said...

Concerning Wikipedia:

http://a-place-to-stand.blogspot.com/2009/04/wikipedia-how-it-censors-in-alarmist_17.html

Suvorov said...

Thanks. Yes, I remember reading an entry about the war in Croatia, written by a Croat on Wiki. But it's equally refreshing on a number of subjects. I also recall, for example, reading about "CIA attempts to remove Fidel Castro from power". Of course, who would argue that assassinations do indeed remove politicians from power. Someone should publish a Wiki-English and English-Wiki dictionary, just as Neil Clark proposed to publish a Neoconservative dictionary. Oh, another thing I recall reading on Wiki is that the bombing of Yugoslavia was opposed by radicals on the far left and far right.