It is more than a mere coincidence that in 1992 when the Euro-American world celebrated the five hundredth anniversary of the Columbian campaign to the Indies, Muslims in Bosnia bled in the longest-ever siege in European history. Cities like Sarajevo, Mostar, Vitez, Gorazde, Ahmici, Banja Luka, Pale, Srebrenica and several other small towns across this beautiful, mountainous Balkan peninsula suffered the worst-ever destruction in recent history. But while Bosnia burned, the United Nations, the EU and the Muslim regions watched passively. Was Bosnia a unique case where the primordial identities struck back jingoistically or is it a microcosm of a Third World-wide malady where the processes of globalisation and modernity have gone haywire, causing serious fragmentation? Can we define it simply as the revival of age-old rivalries, or could it be characterised as an anarchic void following the dissolution of a state-based centralism?
The relationship between modernity and Islam is still a largely under-researched intellectual realm, though the erstwhile discourse defining it as a contestation between tradition and modernity, universalism and cultural particularism, or between change and stagnation, is gradually giving way to a fresher academic perspective. The ‘recent’ forces of modernity brought into the Muslim heartland by colonialism and highlighted by post-coloniality and mobility have intensified the debate on Muslim identity itself. The Bosnians, especially the Bosnaks/Bosniaks, have been undisputedly European, rooted in a secularist vision of Islam, pursuing modernity with full force in reference to liberalism, rationalism, feminism and, of course, pluralism. Their nationalist aspirations never hinged on religio-lingual monoethnicity, yet still they suffered from the most harrowing crimes ever committed against a human community. In other words, here it was not Islam battling against modernity, rather the latter itself became disputed and went wild, negating the entire thesis of clash of civilisations or Islam being static or pre-modern. The very core of this modernity, nationalism became the most reactionary weapon for ethnic cleansing. Subsequent upon the dissolution of communist centralism, the ideological vacuum in the former Eastern bloc is being claimed by xenophobic nationalism in collusion with religious extremism. This phenomenon largely explains the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. The Balkan tragedy is a mixture of old and new; globalisation and peripheralisation; integration and fragmentation, and a contestation between primordial and modernist loyalties.
Publisher: VANGUARD BOOKS