Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Jihad's Other Victims

During the 1992-95 civil war in Bosnia, hundreds of Islamic militants from all over the world came to fight for the "beleaguered Bosnians" in what they considered a part of the ongoing jihad against the infidels. Many stayed after the war's end, marrying local women and taking over ethnically cleansed villages, where they would establish theocratic communities based on Wahhabi Islamic teachings.

Bosnian Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic wrote as early as 1970 (PDF) about the need to "re-Islamize" the Muslims as a way to improve their position in the world (Izetbegovic devoted a lot of space in his Islamic Declaration to the pathetic state of contemporary secular Muslim countries, comparing them most unfavorably with the former Ottoman Empire - a Caliphate, whose fall he blamed on the Western infidels). The Bosnian war provided him with an opportunity to put his ideas in practice. Izetbegovic's rejection of any agreement with the Bosnian Serbs started the war in the spring of 1992; his troops clashed with their erstwhile Croat allies from 1993 to 1994; and a portion of Muslims loyal to a rival politician in Western Bosnia were declared "traitors" and mercilessly repressed in 1995. Parallel to his efforts to establish a "Bosniak" nation, Izetbegovic and his followers sought to ensure its Islamic identity. Turkish and Arabic phrases that were once used only in religious context became commonplace; the new "Bosnian" language abounded with words borrowed from Turkish, Arabic and Persian, often resurrected from century-old linguistic oblivion; and new mosques appeared in every neighborhood.

In addition to their fighting prowess (which remains dubious), foreign mujahedin were one of the instruments of "re-islamization." Their integration into the "Bosnian Army" (ARBiH) enabled the Izetbegovic regime to transform it from a self-proclaimed "people's self-defense" force into a heavily Islamic organization. Thanks to universal conscription, the subsequently demobilized soldiers would come home more receptive to the message spread by immigrant imams from Saudi Arabia, Iran, and elsewhere in the Islamic world. As a side note, every Muslim soldier who died during the war was considered a "martyr" in a jihad, and given the appropriate burial. Izetbegovic himself is buried in a "martyrs' cemetery" in Sarajevo

After the war, hundreds of new mosques were built by foreign donors - most prominently Saudi Arabia - and the imams preaching there introduced a new, different version of Islam. Adherents to Wahhabi teachings were soon easily identified by long beards, distinctive headwear, and rolled-up trousers. The carefully nurtured atmosphere of hatred and mistrust of Bosnia's Serbs and Croats, coupled with a persecution complex and victim mentality (according to which the Bosnian Muslims were victims of "genocide" not just in the 1992-95 war, but multiple times in the 20th century, ever since the Ottomans were forced out), created fertile soil for widespread discontent. Jobless, frustrated men turned to the mosques, where the foreigners plied them with money and promises, if only they turned to the "true" faith.

From helping the "Bosnians" in their jihad against the Serbs and Croats, to recruiting "Bosnians" for the greater jihad in the West was but a small step. Mirsad Bektasevic, a.k.a. "Maximus," who was convicted earlier this year of a plot to conduct terrorist attacks against foreign embassies in Bosnia. Sulejman Talovic's rampage in Salt Lake City last month was in all likelihood an act of Islamic terrorism. Though Talovic was pitied by the American media as a victim of the Bosnian war (Americans even collected donations to fund Talovic's funeral; he was buried in Bosnia - as a martyr for the faith!), information that has surfaced recently indicates that he was in fact a jihadist, and that his shooting spree was a premeditated attack on "infidels" planned with the help of a "friend" at a nearby mosque. According to the young woman who claims to be Talovic's long-distance girlfriend, he had told her the night before the attack that tomorrow would be the "happiest day of his life."

Many Balkans Muslims, however, resent the heavy-handed attempts by the Wahhabis to impose their view of Islam as the only one allowed. There have actually been physical confrontations between the official Islamic clergy and the Wahhabis, both in Bosnia and in the Raska region of Serbia, which has a significant Muslim population. Last November, three people were injured in a shooting clash between the Wahhabis and traditional Muslims in Novi Pazar. And just last week, four men were arrested in Novi Pazar, when Serbian police raided a nearby Wahhabist camp and found weapons, explosives, and terrorist literature.

Serbia's leading expert on Wahhabi terrorism, Darko Trifunovic, was quoted by the Italian news service AKI on that occasion: "[T]here is no doubt that the main victims of the divisions in the Muslim community will be Muslims themselves."

With the well of coexistence with Serbs and Croats already deeply poisoned, fratricidal violence in Novi Pazar, and young Muslims being recruited for jihad across the world, it appears the bill is already coming due.

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