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Islamist Terrorism in Bosnia as Turkish Interference Continues in the Balkans

1:14 PM, Nov 3, 2011 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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Further, the intrusion of the Turkish Diyanet and Gormez in the Sandzhak stirred lively condemnation by Bosnian Muslim intellectuals, similar to recent protests over Turkish meddling in the affairs of the Muslim communities of Macedonia, where Islam is a minority faith, and Kosovo, where it represents the overwhelming majority.

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a state visit to Macedonia in September, prayed publicly at a Sufi shrine that has been vandalized and occupied by Wahhabis. As head of the Diyanet, Gormez reports to Erdogan. Turkish religious outreach in the Balkans as well as in the large Turkish emigrant communities of Germany and the Netherlands is guided by the politicians in power in Ankara, representing Erdogan’s Justice and Development party, known by its Turkish initials as the AKP. In Kosovo, Erdogan’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, and his education minister, Omer Dincer, have called for revision of local textbooks to provide a more favorable picture of Turkish dominion over the Balkans, from the mid-14th to the early-20th centuries. Kosovar historians have protested that textbooks should not be changed to accommodate Turkish demands.

When news arrived in Bosnia that the Sandzhak Muslims had been handed over to control by Serbia, reactions were much sharper. A blog, Glasnik Nacionalnog kongresa Republike BiH (the Newsletter of the National Congress of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is a political group rather than a legislative institution), is well-known for its sharp criticism of corruption in Bosnian politics. Unfortunately, it appears only in Bosnian. But in its October 17 issue, it included an article by one Vahid Sendijarevic, declaring “Turkey was only an occupier in Bosnia-Herzegovina and cannot be trusted,” and denouncing Turkish mediation between the Bosnian Muslims and Muslims in Serbia.

From a Muslim intellectual, such language was startling. Sendijarevic stated, “Turkey’s relations with Serbia were always more important than the fate of the Muslims in Serbia and the Muslims in Bosnia, and of Bosnia itself.” He pointed out that during the 19th century, the Ottomans granted autonomy to Serbia, including the right of Serbia to expel its Muslims, but turned “uncontrollable” Bosnia-Herzegovina over to the Habsburg empire. Sendijarevic added, “Turkey thinks only of the interests of one nation, the Turks.” He concluded, “the worst trickery played in Bosnia-Herzegovina today is symbolized by Ceric, who issued the policy statement, ‘Turkey is our mother,’ meaning that the Turks are our guardians and have a green light to interfere in our affairs and decide things on our behalf.”

Bosnians perceive that Turkey is undergoing an economic boom and that Serbia has been promised entry into the European Union, while Bosnia-Herzegovina sinks deeper into poverty and unemployment, with an increasing brain drain of its educated youth, who yearn only to emigrate, with no hope of their country’s acceptance by the EU.

With his Wahhabi beard, short pants, and automatic weapon, Mevlid Jasarevic from Novi Pazar was motivated probably more by hatred of the West than outrage at Bosnian Muslim machinations in his community, when he fired at the American Embassy. But the little strip of land in south Serbia called the Sandzhak bears watching, as it becomes a new theater for the intrigues of Erdogan’s government, and a place where distant clashes half-glimpsed by outsiders may produce major consequences in an increasingly chaotic world.

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