Dictionary of East European History since 1945

By Joseph Held | Go to book overview

were maligned in the Yugoslav press. This charge was, of course, patently untrue. The Croatian Catholic hierarchy felt compelled to defend the spiritual and national values of Croats, offering an alternative to the official atheism of the Yugoslav state. The church's position identified it with the Croatian nation once again, as had happened so many times in the past. With all the vituperation and hostility exhibited by the federal Yugoslav state toward the Catholic hierarchy, the church had fared infinitely better than Roman Catholic churches in Bulgaria and Romania.

The third religious group in Yugoslavia, the Muslims, had an entirely different relationship with the communists. The federal government treated them differently than members of other religious groups. There is no church hierarchy in Islam; therefore, the Yugoslav authorities attempted to encourage the emergence of Muslim national consciousness in order to establish a balance between Serb and Croat religious nationalism. Tito believed that Muslim identification with the Yugoslav state was a given fact; therefore, Islam could not be a competitor with the state for the believers' allegiance. In 1961, the census recognized Muslims as a separate national group for the first time. Nevertheless, until 1966, Muslims were generally treated as second class citizens. After the removal of Alexandar-Marko Rankovic (see Rankovic, Alexander-Marko) from the ministry of the interior, the government finally recognized the Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina as a nation.

Until 1972, the Muslims were supported by the Communist party. The Ulema, that is, the preachers, soon began to suggest that Bosnia-Herzegovina be declared a republic within the Yugoslav federation. They repeatedly tried to establish Muslim cultural centers, similar to the Matica hrvatska and the Matica srpska, the Croatian and Serb cultural organizations, respectively. Yet Muslim cultural and national revival was not encouraged further. Yugoslav officials clearly worried that such a revival would be encouraged by the fundamentalist Muslim regimes in the Near East. That their fears were not completely imaginary was shown by the bilateral arrangements that some Muslim-owned enterprises established with Iraq, Syria, and Libya. In 1982, Muammar Qadaffi met the mufti (spiritual leader) of Belgrade Muslims when he was on an official visit to Yugoslavia, and he promised funds for mosques to be built in the capital city. Alija Izetbegovic (see Izetbegovic, Alija), wrote a so-called Pan-Islamic declaration in 1983, that reinforced the fears of communist leaders of real Muslim aspirations. According to Izetbegovic, Muslims cannot coexist with other peoples in the same state. He also suggested that socialism was an alien ideology, and that it would not tolerate the existence of Islamic peoples in its territories. When Izetbegovic was elected president of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1991, and the republic declared its independence from Yugoslavia, his declaration was remembered by Serbs living in the republic. Hence, the civil war is especially vicious in Bosnia- Herzegovina exactly because of the intolerance of religious and political minorities on both sides.


Bibliography

Fine John V. A., The Bosnian Church: A New Interpretation ( Boulder, CO, 1975); O'BrianAnthony H.,

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