Thursday, September 18, 2008

Islam in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Islam in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The modern Bosniaks, often referred to as Bosnian Muslims, descend from Slavic converts to Islam in the 15th and 16th centuries, that lived in the medieval Bosnian Kingdom (they called themselves Good Bosnians, in old Bosnian: "Добри Бошњани"). Bosniaks are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims, but many of them are a lot more western and express themselves differently then their fellow Muslims in the Middle East. They often chose to be more lenient on the rules mandated by their religion - both in terms of behavior as well as dress and appearance.
Reliable statistics on the precise membership of different religious groups in Bosnia remain unavailable since 1991 due to the recent war in Bosnia.
According to the UN Development Programme's Human Development Report 2002 and many other sources, Muslims constitute 40 percent of the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Other religious groups with which Islam coexists in Bosnia are the Serbian Orthodox Church 31 percent, Roman Catholic Church 15 percent, Protestants 4 percent, and other groups 10 percent. The small Jewish community has approximately 1,000 believers and maintains a special place in society by virtue of its long history of coexistence with other religious communities and its active role in mediating among those communities.

The Ottoman era

Islam was brought to this region by the Ottomans. Turks gained control of most of Bosnia in 1463, and seized Herzegovina in the 1480s. In the centuries after the invasion, a large number of South Slavs converted to Islam. Bosnia and Herzegovina remained provinces of the Ottoman Empire until the 1878 Congress of Berlin gave temporary control of the region to Austria- Hungary. In 1908, Austria-Hungary formally annexed the region.
Bosnia, along with Albania, were the only parts of Ottoman Europe where large numbers of Christians converted to Islam.
Under Turkish rule, much of what used to be central, eastern, and southern Yugoslavia took on a distinctly Islamic character.


For some Bosniaks that identify themselves as Bosnian Muslims, religion often serves as a community identifier, and religious practice is confined to occasional visits to the mosque or significant rites of passage such as birth, marriage, and death. Due to more modern influences and 45 years of socialism, some Bosniaks have Atheist, Agnostic or Deist beliefs (Pre war estimate of 10% of total population). While there are significant numbers of Bosniaks who practice their faith to varying degrees, for others, this identity tends to be secular and is based primarily on ancestral traditions and ethnic loyalty. Bosniaks also have a reputation for being "liberal" Muslims. Headscarves for women, popular in middle-eastern countries, are worn only by a minority of Bosniak Muslim women, and otherwise mostly for religious obligations

Bosnian war

The genocide during the 1992-1995 war caused internal migration, which almost completely segregated the population into separate ethno-religious areas. Increased levels of returns in 2001-2002 slowed markedly in 2003-2004, leaving the majority of Serbian Orthodox adherents living in the Republika Srpska and the majority of Muslims and Catholics still living in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Within the Federation, distinct Muslim and Catholic majority areas remain. However, returns of Serbian Orthodox adherents and Muslims in recent years to their prewar homes in Western Bosnia Canton and Muslims to their prewar homes in eastern Bosnia near Srebrenica have shifted notably the ethno-religious composition in both areas.
Throughout Bosnia, mosques were destroyed by the armed forces of the major Christian ethnic groups. Among the most important losses were two mosques in Banja Luka, Arnaudija and Ferhadija mosque, that were on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) register of world cultural monuments. These mosques were leveled by Serb authorities in 1993, with even the stones removed from the sites.

Religious leaders from the three major faiths claim that observance is increasing among younger persons as an expression of increased identification with their ethnic heritage, in large part due to the national religious revival that occurred as a result of the Bosnian war.Many Muslim women have adopted Islamic dress styles that had not been common, especially in cities, before the war. Leaders from the three main religious communities observed that they enjoy greater support from their believers in rural areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina rather than urban centers such as the capital Sarajevo or Banja Luka.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, there are eight Muftis located in major municipalities across the country--Sarajevo, Bihać, Travnik, Tuzla, Goražde, Zenica, Mostar, and Banja Luka. The head of the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina is Mustafa Ceric


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the well written article, although i still have some doubts about the history. May be some confusion because I'm taking in too many new names at once. Let me read the article once again, and i'll contact you for further clarification. Hope you don't mind.

Anonymous said...

Must be tough work for reps of all religions to maintain peace between all three communities.

Umm Salihah said...

Assalam-alaikam Sister,
Jazakh'Allah-khairun for the interesting and informative post.

muslimahh said...

Very interesting, what diversity! Thank you so much for the information! Salaam!

Anonymous said...

Hey salaams!

It's very nice to come across your blog, I love reading bloggers from around the world, you yours is a welcome addition :)

From the pics I can see the strong influence of Turkish architecture and also how (atleast the women from your pics) people dress. I have spent a fair amount of time travelling in Turkey so I think I will enjoy reading your posts and identifying similarities in both your cultures and ways of life!


Safiyyah said...

As Salaamu Alaikum Sister:

I am interested to know your position on the Bosnian Muslim SS Division that was called the Hanjar during World War II.

Do Jews and Muslims really get along well together so well in current times considering this history?

No disrespect intended sis. But as a Jew who converted to Islam, the Bosnian Muslim involvement in the extermination of Jews during World War II fascinates me. It is painful to know that the Bosnians later became victims of the same kind of genocide.

Lovely blog, Masha Allah. I have come to know many Bosnian Muslims here in the US. Alhamdulillah, they are dear people! Most of the sisters I know are very pious, Alhamdulillah, and wear niqab. I also know of the kind you mentioned in your piece who are mainly Muslim by identity.

Bosnian hijab girl said...

The 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar (1st Croatian)

was one of the thirty-eight divisions fielded as part of the Waffen-SS during World War II. It was the largest of the SS divisions, with 21,065 men at its peak composed almost entirely of non-German Muslim and Catholic recruits drawn from Bosnia. Handschar (Bosnian/Croatian: Handžar) was the local word for the Turkish scimitar (Arabic: Khanjar خنجر), a historical symbol of Bosnia and Islam. An image of the Handschar adorned the division's flag and coat of arms.

In Spring 1943, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, (aka Amin al-Husseini), was recruited by the Nazis to assist in the organizing and recruiting Bosniaks into the Waffen SS and other units in Yugoslavia. He successfully convinced the Bosniaks to go against the declarations of the Sarajevo, Mostar, and Banja Luka clerics, who in 1941 forbade Bosnian Muslims from collaborating with the Ustaše. Croatian Foreign Minister Dr. Mladen Lorkovic suggested that the Division be named "SS Ustasa Division", not an SS Division but a Croatian unit raised with SS assistance, and that its regimental names be given regional names such as "Bosna", "Krajina",

Al-Husayni insisted that "The most important task of this division must be to protect the homeland and families (of the Bosnian volunteers); the division must not be permitted to leave Bosnia", but this request was ignored by the Germans (German archives cited in Lepre, p34)

According to Chris Ailsby, "Himmler convinced himself that Balkan Muslims were neither Slavs nor Turks, but were really Aryans who had adopted Islam." (Source: "SS: Hell on the Western Front. The Waffen SS in Europe 1940-1945", 2003. p.70). He believed the Muslims of Bosnia to be the same, racially, as the Croatians, and saw the Croatians as descended of Gothic and Persian stock.

Recruitment for the division fell as the war progressed and when rumors spread that the division was going to fight the Soviets.

At the end of 1944, the separate Kama division was merged into the Handschar division

"Una" etc.

The Handschar division was a mountain infantry formation, known by the Germans as "Gebirgsjäger". It was used to conduct operations against Yugoslav Partisans in the Balkan Mountains from February to September 1944.The Handschar division was commanded by German officers, and composed of native Germans from Croatia (Volksdeutsche), and Bosniaks, who are Muslims from Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was the largest of the Muslim-oriented divisions and the SS Divisions with 21,065 men, of whom 10% were Croatians. The division had a Muslim Imam for each battalion and a Mullah for each can saw more on net about that...

Anonymous said...

very interesting masha Allah
jazakAllah ou kheiryan

awa said...

VERY informative and interesting post,thank you :)

mtq said...

Asalam mualakum. I am from Malaysia. I want to visit your country and stay with family for a few days. Move around. Will you give some idea. my email :

bashirlawal said...

How can I get list of Islamic centers or Muslim organizations in Bosnia.I want to visit the country.

Pipseater said...

A well written history, I love reading it. Well done.