Religious Puritanism Emerges in Bosnia as War Drags On

Article excerpt

"We want to be Coca-Cola Muslims," says Ekrem Avdic, a Bosnian government spokesman sipping a glass of Scotch in his office.

That means staying part of the West, with Western democracy, science and cultures.

The city's deputy mayor, Sead Avdic, who is no relation to Ekrem, offered the same line on Bosnia remaining a secular state. But, he conceded, "Islam has reawakened."

Tuzla was the only major Bosnian city that chose the multicultural Reformist Party over parties of Muslims, Croats or Serbs in 1990 elections. But 2 1/2 years of war have changed things, and even authorities partial to whiskey and Western ways are reluctant to buck the trend toward religious puritanism.

Tuzla's chief imam, Muhamed Lugavic, did not get much official argument when he recently recommended restrictions on liquor sales and a dress code for women - unthinkable notions in prewar days.

"Of course, women should not wear short skirts and makeup," said Izet Hodzic, the region's new governor. "The influence of Islam has provided crucial support in (the) defense of this region. People have begun to see that life without God was the biggest fraud Communists ever invented."

When Bosnian Serbs rebelled against the Muslim-Croatian vote to secede from Yugoslavia in 1992, predominantly Muslim Tuzla became the Muslim-dominated Bosnian government's northernmost enclave.

Most Serbs, who are Orthodox Christians, left, and so did many Croats, who are Roman Catholic. …