The [Muslim] politicians have built their careers on the war and the myths surrounding that war. If there is a census then a lot of things about the war will come to light including how many Serbs and Croats are still left in central Bosnia, who of those which have been listed as missing or dead are actually alive and the radical changes in the religious dynamic among [Muslims] in Bosnia since they've started importing foreign Mudjahedin during the war. Not to mention how many babies were really born from rape during the war and how many battles were incorrectly listed as massacres. Among other things.
I daresay I have a pretty good understanding of Bosnia and the Balkans in general. Only a few things truly baffle me. The Muslim politicians' position on the census is one of them.
Now, some libertarians may regard opposition to the census in general, or disclosing ethnic or religious background in particular, to be a worthy cause on grounds of liberty, privacy, etc. Be that as it may, it isn't a factor in Bosnia. In most cases, it is easy to figure out one's ethnic or religious (as, by Ottoman legacy, ethnicity is based on religion) affiliation simply by their name. There are exceptions, of course, but they only confirm the rule. So trying to hide that data from census-takers is rather pointless, as it can be extrapolated (at great expense, mind, and somewhat inaccurately) later. Furthermore, in Bosnia ethnicity is a constitutional category; with public offices set aside for quotas of Serbs, Croats and Muslims, being "undeclared" is simply not an option if one desires government work. And there isn't much of another kind these days.
One explanation I've tended to credit for the past several years is that the Muslims simply fear no longer being the most numerous. But would it really fatally undermine their argument about Bosnia being their nation-state (with Serbs and Croats as interlopers or "aggressors") if they became outnumbered? Muslims weren't a majority in 1991, ether - Bosnia was over 55% Christian back then. Yet that didn't stop Izetbegovic from trying to create an Islamic government. The argument holds no water either way, census or no census.
Dejo's explanation above sounds a bit more plausible. The trouble I have with it is that the number of war dead has been pretty well established, at just under 100,000. It isn't really clear how a census would prove how any of those 100,000 perished. However, it stands to reason that official numbers showing precisely how many Serb and Croat villages have been obliterated and how many Serbs and Croats actually live in Muslim-controlled areas, would easily explode the claims of Muslim multi-ethnicity and tolerance.
Currently the lack of a census allows Muslim officials to maintain the fiction that the Muslim-Croat Federation has implemented Annex VII of the Dayton Accords, and that Serb refugees have returned to their homes. But if the census shows that all those Serbs (and in some cases, Croats) returned only nominally and claimed their ID cards so they could reclaim their property, sell it and leave again - as has overwhelmingly been the case - that would certainly deprive people like Haris Silajdzic of the ability to claim they represented progressive humanitarianism, rather than, say, radical Islam. The fact that Muslim lawmakers have tried to propose using ID card data in the census - knowing that it didn't reflect reality - indicates there might be something to this.
And yet... anyone who cares to spend a day researching can easily reach the same conclusion. But myths are myths precisely because they are immune to facts and reason. The Western media (and hence the public) persist in thinking Sarajevo is still a paragon of multi-ethnic tolerance. Yet there's nothing "multiethnic" about a city whose councilmen interpret "diversity" as giving representation to "Bosnians," "Bosniaks" and "Muslims."
Come to think of it, that may be another reason Muslim politicians fear the census. Back in 1991, they actually declared themselves as "Muslims" (Muslimani). It was a 1993 meeting of self-proclaimed national leaders that changed their name to "Bosniaks" (Bošnjaci), in an attempt to assert nation-statehood. What if some people are still confused, and put "Bosnian" or "Muslim-Bosnian" or just "Muslim" on the census form? Oh what a nightmare that will be for the statisticians...
The argument Bosnian lawmakers are currently chewing over - whether Eurostat regulations require ethnic or religious data - is pointless; they may not require it, but they certainly allow it. Besides, Bosnia has its own laws and regulations that must be followed, and the underlying principle of those may be called habeas ethnos. How do Muslim politicians imagine protecting "Bosniak rights" if, by the census, there are no "Bosniaks"?
It just doesn't add up. Such vociferous opposition has to be motivated by something. What are they trying to hide? What are they trying to achieve? Is this malice at work, or stupidity, or both?
As I said, few things about the Balkans baffle me, but this remains one of them.