Bosnia’s Dangerous Tango: Islam and Nationalism

Occasional violence notwithstanding, Islamism poses little danger in Bosnia, whose real risk stems from clashing national ideologies, especially as Islamic religious leaders increasingly reply with Bosniak nationalism to renewed Croat and Serb challenges to the state’s territorial integrity.

Bosnia’s Dangerous Tango: Islam and Nationalism, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines a growing fusion between Bosniak nationalism (which can be Islamic or secular) and Bosnian state identity. Political Islam is a novelty in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), and its rise is seen as threatening to secular parties and non-Muslims. A dozen or so attacks attributed to Bosniaks in the past decade have raised fears of terrorism. However, the plethora of non-traditional Salafi and other Islamist groups that have appeared on the margins of society remain small and isolated.

"Virtually every act of violence inspired by Islamism has come from places where Islamic institutions – džemat (congregation), mosque, madrasa and family – are weak or absent, and many perpetrators have a troubled past”, says Marko Prelec, Crisis Group’s Balkans Project Director. "There is a lot of anger and frustration among Bosniaks, and leading figures in the Islamic establishment have sought to harness it to advance their political aims”. (continue reading...)