General Information

National Name: Bosna i Hercegovina

Total area: 19,741 sq mi (51,129 sq km)

Population (2008 est.): 4,590,310

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Sarajevo, 581,500 (unofficial)

Other large cities: Banja Luka, 189,700; Tuzla 119,200; Mostar, 90,800

Monetary unit: Marka

Languages: Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian

Ethnicity/race: Bosniak 48%, Serb 37.1%, Croat 14.3%, other 0.6% (2000)

National Holiday: National Day, November 25

Religions: Islam 40%, Orthodox 31%, Roman Catholic 15%, other 14%

Literacy rate: 96.7.

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $27.73 billion (note: Bosnia has a large informal sector that could also be as much as 50% of official GDP); per capita $7,000. Real growth rate: 5.8%. Inflation: 1.3%.

Bosnia and Herzegovina make up a triangular-shaped republic, about half the size of Kentucky, on the Balkan peninsula. The Bosnian region in the north is mountainous and covered with thick forests. The Herzegovina region in the south is largely rugged, flat farmland. It has a narrow coastline without natural harbors stretching 13 mi (20 km) along the Adriatic Sea.

Emerging democracy, with a rotating, tripartite presidency divided between predominantly Serb, Croatian, and Bosnian political parties.

Called Illyricum in ancient times, the area now called Bosnia and Herzegovina was conquered by the Romans in the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. and folded into the Roman province of Dalmatia. In the 4th and 5th centuries A.D., Goths overran that portion of the declining Roman Empire and occupied the area until the 6th century, when the Byzantine Empire claimed it. Slavs began settling the region during the 7th century. Around 1200, Bosnia won independence from Hungary and endured as an independent Christian state for some 260 years.

The expansion of the Ottoman Empire into the Balkans introduced another cultural, political, and religious framework. The Turks defeated the Serbs at the famous battle of Kosovo in 1389. They conquered Bosnia in 1463. During the roughly 450 years Bosnia and Herzegovina were under Ottoman rule, many Christian Slavs became Muslim. A Bosnian Islamic elite gradually developed and ruled the country on behalf of the Turkish overlords. As the borders of the Ottoman Empire began to shrink in the 19th century, Muslims from elsewhere in the Balkans migrated to Bosnia. Bosnia also developed a sizable Jewish population, with many Jews settling in Sarajevo after their expulsion from Spain in 1492. However, through the 19th century the term Bosnian commonly included residents of all faiths. A relatively secular society, intermarriage among religious groups was not unknown.

Neighboring Serbia and Montenegro fought against the Ottoman Empire in 1876 and were aided by the Russians, their fellow Slavs. At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, following the end of the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), Austria-Hungary was given a mandate to occupy and govern Bosnia and Herzegovina, in an effort by Europe to ensure that Russia did not dominate the Balkans. Although the provinces were still officially part of the Ottoman Empire, they were annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire on Oct. 7, 1908. As a result, relations with Serbia, which had claims on Bosnia and Herzegovina, became embittered. The hostility between the two countries climaxed in the assassination of Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, by a Serbian nationalist. This event precipitated the start of World War I (1914–1918). Bosnia and Herzegovina were annexed to Serbia as part of the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes on Oct. 26, 1918. The name was later changed to Yugoslavia in 1929.

When Germany invaded Yugoslavia in 1941, Bosnia and Herzegovina were made part of Nazi-controlled Croatia. During the German and Italian occupation, Bosnian and Herzegovinian resistance fighters fought a fierce guerrilla war against the Ustachi, the Croatian Fascist troops. At the end of World War II, Bosnia and Herzegovina were reunited into a single state as one of the six republics of the newly reestablished Communist Yugoslavia under Marshall Tito. His authoritarian control kept the ethnic enmities of his patchwork nation in check. Tito died in 1980, and with growing economic dissatisfaction and the fall of the iron curtain over the next decade, Yugoslavia began to splinter.

In Dec. 1991, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia and asked for recognition by the European Union (EU). In a March 1992 referendum, Bosnian voters chose independence, and President Izetbegovic declared the nation an independent state. Unlike the other former Yugoslav states, which were generally composed of a dominant ethnic group, Bosnia was an ethnic tangle of Muslims (44%), Serbs (31%), and Croats (17%), and this mix contributed to the duration and savagery of its fight for independence.

Both the Croatian and Serbian presidents had planned to partition Bosnia between themselves. Attempting to carve out their own enclaves, the Serbian minority, with the help of the Serbian Yugoslav army, took the offensive and laid siege, particularly on Sarajevo, and began its ruthless campaigns of ethnic cleansing, which involved the expulsion or massacre of Muslims. Croats also began carving out their own communities. By the end of Aug. 1992, rebel Bosnian Serbs had conquered over 60% of Bosnia. The war did not begin to wane until NATO stepped in, bombing Serb positions in Bosnia in Aug. and Sept. 1995. Serbs entered the UN safe havens of Tuzla, Zepa, and Srebrenica, where they murdered thousands. About 250,000 died in the war between 1992 and 1995.

U.S.-sponsored peace talks in Dayton, Ohio, led to an agreement in 1995 that called for a Muslim-Croat federation and a Serb entity within the larger federation of Bosnia. Sixty thousand NATO troops were to supervise its implementation. Fighting abated and orderly elections were held in Sept. 1996. President Alija Izetbegovic, a Bosnian Muslim, or Bosniak, won the majority of votes to become the leader of the three-member presidency, each representing one of the three ethnic groups.

But this alliance of unreconstructed enemies had little success in creating a working government or keeping violent clashes in check. The terms of the Dec. 1995 Dayton Peace Accord were largely ignored by Bosnian Serbs, with its former president, arch-nationalist Radovan Karadzic, still in de facto control of the Serbian enclave. Many indicted war criminals, including Karadzic, remain at large. NATO proved to be a largely ineffective peacekeeping force.

The crucial priorities facing postwar Bosnian leaders were rebuilding the economy, resettling the estimated one million refugees still displaced, and establishing a working government. Progress on these goals has been minimal, and a massive corruption scandal uncovered in 1999 severely tested the goodwill of the international community.

In 1994, the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia opened in The Hague, Netherlands. In Aug. 2001, Radislav Drstic, a Bosnian Serb general, was found guilty of genocide in the killing of up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995. It was the first genocide conviction in Europe since the UN genocide treaty was drawn up in 1951. In 2001, the trial of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic began. He was charged with crimes against humanity. The expensive and lengthy trial ended without a verdict when he died in March 2006.

Under pressure from Paddy Ashdown, the international administrator of Bosnia authorized under the Dayton Accord, Bosnian Serb leaders finally admitted in June 2004 that Serbian troops were responsible for the massacre of up to 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995. Until then, Serb leaders had refused to acknowledge guilt in the worst civilian massacre since World War II. In Feb. 2007, the International Court of Justice ruled that the massacre was genocide, but stopped short of saying Serbia was directly responsible. The decision spared Serbia from having to pay war reparations to Bosnia. The court's president, Judge Rosalyn Higgins, however, criticized Serbia for not preventing the genocide. The court also ordered Serbia to turn over Bosnian Serb leaders, including Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karakzic, who are accused of orchestrating the genocide and other crimes. Bosnians expressed disappointment with the ruling; they had demanded that Serbia pay war reparations.

In Dec. 2004, the European Union officially took over NATO's peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. It is the largest peacekeeping operation the EU has undertaken. In March 2005, Ashdown, the international administrator, sacked Dragan Covic, the Croat member of the presidency, charging him with corruption and abuse of office. Covic became the third member of the Bosnian presidency forced to resign since the tripartite presidency was established.

Elections in October 2006 reinforced the lingering ethnic tensions in the country. The Serbian coalition, which favors an independent state, narrowly defeated the Muslim-Croat Federation that prefers moving toward a more unified country. In January 2007, Bosnian Serb Nikola Spiric took over as prime minister and formed a new government. He resigned in November 2007 to protest reforms introduced by an international envoy, who was appointed under the Dayton Accords by the UN and the European Union and has the power to enact legislation and dismiss ministers. Spiric said the reforms, which the EU said would help the country's entrance into the organization, would diminish the influence of Bosnian Serbs and enhance those of other ethnic groups. Crisis was averted later in November, when Spiric and the country's Croat and Muslim leaders agreed on a series of reforms approved by Parliament.

On July 21, 2008, Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb president during the war in Bosnia in the 1990s, was charged with genocide, persecution, deportation, and other crimes against non-Serb civilians. Karadzic orchestrated the massacre of almost 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995 in Srebrenica. He was found outside Belgrade. He altered his appearance and had been openly practicing alternative medicine in Serbia. The arrest will likely bring Serbia closer to joining the European Union.

Islamic History and Muslims Islam in Bosnia & 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.

Increased religious identification

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.[4] 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.

Missionary activity is limited but growing and includes a small number of representatives from the following organizations, some of which have their central offices for the region in Zagreb or another European city outside of the country: Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Methodist Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and Krishna Consciousness.

Status of Religious Freedom

The State Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and individuals generally enjoyed this right in ethnically mixed areas or in areas where they were adherents of the majority religion.

Religious education in Bosnia and Herzegovina is largely decentralized, as is the education system generally. The canton and entity governments and the Brčko District authorities have responsibility for education; there is no national education ministry or policy. Public schools offer religious education classes, but with the exception of Brcko, schools generally offer religious instruction only in the area's majority religion. In theory, students have the option not to attend, but in practice, students of the majority religion face pressure from teachers and peers to attend the classes[citation needed]. For example, the RS requires Serbs to attend religion classes but does not require attendance for Bosniaks and Croats. If more than 20 Bosniaks or Croats attend a particular school in the RS, the school is required to organize religion classes on their behalf. However, in the rural RS, there is usually no qualified religious representative available to teach religious studies to the handful of Bosniak or Croat students. It is similar in the Federation, where students of the ethnic majority are required to attend religious classes[citation needed], either Bosniak or Croat, while the minority is not required to attend. In the Federation's five cantons with Bosniak majorities, schools offer Islamic religious instruction as a 2-hour per week elective course.

Acts of anti-Semitism against the small Jewish community in the country are significantly less frequent than in other parts of Europe. However, Jewish leaders state that there is a growing tendency in the country to mix anti-Israeli sentiment with rare acts of anti-Semitism, as the general public and media often fail to distinguish between criticism of Israeli policy and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Following Istanbul Bombings, the Jewish community was quickly granted police security at its synagogues and no incidents were reported.


The Tsar's Mosque built in the Ottoman era, the oldest mosque in Sarajevo, the capital and largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina

                  The Ferhadija mosque, dating from 1579, was located in Banja Luka, the second largest city in Bosnia, before being destroyed by Serb extremists in 1993.

Mosque in Bosanska Dubica


Mostar (Мостар) is a city and municipality in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the center of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton of the Federation. Mostar is situated on the Neretva river and is the fifth-largest city in the country. Mostar was named after its Old Bridge (Stari most) and the towers on its sides, "the bridge keepers" (natively: mostari).


Ali Pasha's Mosque Sarajevo, 1560-61   Baitus Salam, Sarajevo, 2004   Ferhad Begova Mosque Sarajevo   Gazi Husrev-beg's Mosque,  Sarajevo 1531




Europe's Endangered Species: Yugoslavia's Forgotten Muslims
A Survey of the Indigenous Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Past History- Current Situation - Future Prospects
Saffet Abid

According to a 1989 estimate, there were 5 million Muslims in Yugoslavia (20% of the population). Of the six republics, Muslims are located in the republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Albanian autonomous region of Kosovo.
From early 6th century through the 9th century, the indigenous population of southeastern Europe was host to multiple waves of migration of various Slavic tribes. From the 12th through 14th centuries, those who chose not to submit and convert to religious-political entities of either the Catholic Church or Byzantine Orthodox Church were fortunate to escape to the mountains of Bosnia-Herzegovina, where they encountered a people who were known as 'Bogomil' by faith. The Catholic Church branded them as heretics for their rejection of the Biblical concept of the Trinity among other heresies.

Bosnia-Herzegovina came under Ottoman rule in 1492, the year Muslims lost Spain. The Bogomils, seeing the merciful and tolerant nature of these conquerors declared en masse their allegiance to the Ottoman Empire and their acceptance of Islam. Contrary to some "historical writings," the Ottomans did not force conversion by the sword. Instead, they guaranteed religious freedom and simply undertook the administrative functions of the conquered land. Such en masse acceptance of Islam by various populations was not unusual in Muslim history.
Bosnia-Herzegovina was officially annexed in 1908 by the Austrio-Hungarian empire. The Congress of Berlin Agreement stipulated that the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina were guaranteed the freedom to practice their religion and the freedom to conduct their own religious affairs. Included in the Agreement was the right to full autonomy over their religious institutions, educational programs, religious endowments (Waqf), as well as the right to implement the Islamic personal and family law.
The situation for Muslims of Yugoslavia worsened in 1941 when general Draza Mhaijlovic, head of the Yugoslav Royal Armed Forces and Cetniks (radical Serbian-Orthodox groups), issued an order to 'cleanse' the "cancer of Islam" from Christendom by eradicating the last remnants of Europe's indigenous Muslim population. This led to a systematic and barbaric campaign of genocide against them. Hardly any Muslim village or household was spared the murderous onslaught of the Cetniks. The terror includes horrors such as men being stripped naked, tortured and paraded in front of their families before being executed. Mothers and daughters being repeatedly raped in front of their own family members.
In the early 1980s, Muslim intellectuals and workers were once again being arrested and brought to trial for their reassertion of the Islamic heritage and cultural values. As in the past, they were accused of treason and other such crimes. The "official" ulema of Yugoslavia, who attended various religious conferences in the Middle East, were only too happy to label the Muslims on trial as being 'religious fanatics' and 'innovators in the religion'. Many of them made public statements declaring that the Yugoslav government was committed to the right of complete religious freedom for all its citizens. These statements were in direct contradiction to the oppressive practices of the government. The writer is an American Muslim of Bosnian-Herzegovnian and British extraction.

In the mountain ranges and valleys of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Yugoslavia's central republic, one can see piercing through the skyline, like arrows suspended in time between heaven and earth, the pointed tops of age old minarets from thousands of mosques. This remains a living testimony to the glorious and often forgotten Islamic heritage of the last remnants of Europe's indigenous Muslim population: a people, a society, a civilization possibly on the verge of extinction. This is not different from the fate experienced by the indigenous Muslims of areas such as Sicily, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, and Malta.
Today, as a result of the bitter-sweet winds of change that have swept through Eastern Europe beginning in 1989, the Muslim population of Yugoslavia and its leadership find themselves - for the first time since 1878 - in a situation where they can effectively take control of their political and social-religious future. The Muslims of Yugoslavia, however, have never been in a more precarious and life threatening situation as they find themselves in today. This paradox lies at the very heart of the contemporary Yugoslav Muslim experience. The roots of present day problems can be traced to the birth of Yugoslavia as a nation-state in 1918. Another destablizing factor is the religious-ethnic strife that has been the core of the micro-nationalism which has brought Yugoslavia today to the brink of what portends to be a devastating and bloody civil war.

Yugoslavia, (literally translated 'South-Slavs') is located in southeastern Europe in the Balkan peninsula. Its population according to a 1989 estimate is 25 million of which 5-6 million (20%) are Muslims). Yugoslavia is composed of six republics: Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, Macedonia, Monte-Negro and two autonomous regions: Vojvodina and Kosovo. Muslims are located in the republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Albanian autonomous region of Kosovo. For the most part each republic has its own unique socio-cultural, religious and political history that is more in common with the nation it borders than its sister republics.

Yugoslavia, as it exists today, is a recent phenomenon. It was created out of the ruins of the Austrio-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires at the conclusion of World War I in 1918. The area is rich in history. From early 6th century through the 9th century, the indigenous population of southeastern Europe was host to multiple waves of migration of various Slavic tribes. These incursions resulted in the slavinization of the area (as evidenced in the famous Slavic 'ovo'-'ic' (ich) being added as a suffix to family names). The next few centuries following saw the conquering and reconquering of most of present day Yugoslavia (except the inaccessible and remote parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina), by various kings from surrounding countries. While the kingdoms rose and fell, what remained constant was the strength and power of the Church. From the West with Rome as the seat of the Catholic Church, Catholicism followed the conquerors spreading ever eastward leaving in its path populations whose religious orientation and loyalty were purely Catholic.

Simultaneously, the various conquerors from the East were followed by the Byzantine Orthodox Church spreading ever westward from the seat of its Patriarch in Constantinople. This thrust gave the affected groomed a people whose religious orientation and loyalty were purely Eastern Orthodox. Those who chose not to submit and convert to either of these two religious-political entities, or were fortunate to escape to the mountains of Bosnia-Herzegovina, encountered a people who were known as 'Bogomil' by faith. The exact historic details of these people, their culture, and their religion are sketchy. The Catholic Church branded them as heretics for their rejection of the Biblical concept of the Trinity among other heresies. The Bogomils, hearing the horrid tales from the refugees of both the East and West, were convinced that the future was bleak and their forced conversion to one or the other side was inevitable. Then, when all seemed bleak, a beacon of light appeared from the East from the area of Kosovo.

In 1389, the Ottoman army routed the Serbian (Orthodox) forces, bringing with them the rule of Islam and religious freedom. It was during this time that many Albanians whose ethnic origins were Illiric (an ancient tribe living in that area prior to the invasions of the Slavic Serbian tribes) accepted Islam. The next several decades witnessed a series of military encounters between what can be collectively termed 'Christendom' and the Ottoman Empire. These ultimately resulted in the fall of Constantinople to Sultan Mehmet Fatih in 1453 and its subsequent renaming: Istanbul. Ten years later in 1463 General Mahmood Pasha under the direction of Sultan Mehmet Fatih led the Ottoman armies to total victory over hostile forces in Bosnia. By 1492, (the year Columbus is said to have 'discovered' America) the rest of Herzegovina came under Ottoman rule. The Bogomils, seeing the merciful and tolerant nature of these conquerors declared en masse their allegiance to the Ottoman Empire and their acceptance of Islam. Contrary to some 'historical writings', the Ottomans did not force conversion by the sword. Instead, they guaranteed religious freedom and simply undertook the administrative functions of the conquered land. Such en masse acceptance of Islam by various populations was not unusual in Muslim history. This historical account of the origins of Islam in Bosnia- Heaegovina is widely held to be the most accurate one. Some Croatians as well as Serbians claim that Muslims were originally Croats (Catholics) or Serbs (Orthodox) who were forced to convert to Islam by the Ottomans. A claim, that if accepted as true, would lend much needed support to contemporary Croatian/Serbian political desires, that the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina, divorce themselves from the idea of an undivided and territorially integrated Bosnia and Herzegovina, 'return to the Mother Church', and give their political allegiance to either the Croatian or Serbian Republic/State.

From the mid-15th century through the late 17th century, Bosnia-Herzegovina with its capital of Sarajevo blossomed into a center of culture, education and commerce in the western part of the Ottoman empire. Institutions such schools, religious institutes, public health care facilities sprung up everywhere. Maktebs were set up as early as 1500, where Muslim children learned the principles of Islam and Muslim culture as well as recitation of the Qur'an in Arabic. Then came the Medresa or full-time elementary-secondary school. In 1537, under the direction of the regional Ottoman governor, Ghazi Husrev Beg, the first full-time Medresa was established in Sarajevo.

The program was one which integrated the latest sciences of the time, such as mathematics, literature, science, with the religious sciences like, tafsir, hadith and tajweed. In fact, over 30 'buyuk vezier' (chief ministers) of the Ottoman Empire including the renowned Mehmet Pasha Sokulu and Mehmet Koprilu were from Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was also during this period that the indigenous Muslim population of Bosnia-Herzegovina and surrounding areas served successfully as the first line of defense against the constant attacks of the Crusader armies. They defended the 'heartland' of Islam from the evil designs of the enemies. It was because of their sacrifice that Muslims of the Middle East and Northern Africa were able to enjoy security for several centuries.
Towards the middle of the 17th century, the Ottoman empire began its long process of decline and disintegration due to internal corruption and incessant external attacks. This decline ultimately led to the epithet of the 'sick man of Europe'. In 1683, the Ottoman armies were defeated at the Gates of Vienna after their second siege of that city. As a result of the armistice reached in Karlovac in 1699, the Ottoman forces retreated east and south, losing lands north of the Sava and Danube rivers, and west of the Una and Sana rivers (site of the current armed conflict in Yugoslavia between Serbs and Croats). The Muslims in these territories migrated to the new Ottoman empire borders, others were forced into conversion, or met death.

After their defeat in the Russio-Turkish wars in 1878, the Ottomans were forced to surrender administrative and physical control of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. This occurrence was set down in the Congress of Berlin Agreement of 1878. Nominally Bosnia-Herzegovina remained an Ottoman province until it was officially annexed in 1908 by the Austrio-Hungarian empire. The Congress of Berlin Agreement further stipulated that the Muslim population of Bosnia and Herzegovina were guaranteed the freedom to practice their religion and the freedom to conduct their own religious affairs. Included in the Agreement was the right to full autonomy over their religious institutions, educational programs, religious endowments (Waqf), as well as the right to implement the Islamic personal and family law. The Supreme Council for Endowments and Education, headed by the supreme religious leader, Reis Ulema, was set up for the conduct of Muslim affairs.

By 1908, the Ottoman empire's control over what is now Yugoslavia came to a complete end. Many Muslims found themselves within two new 'Kingdoms': Serbia and Montenegro, where they were victims of oppression and atrocities. Following the defeat of the Central powers in World War I (1918), the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovens was created. It took the form of a constitutional monarchy under the rule of the Serbian King Alexander I. Until 1929, the Kingdom, which was renamed Yugoslavia, was subject to a series of internal jolts and near breakups as a result of various alliances created between different parties (organized along economic as well as nationalistic lines), after which, King Peter I assumed dictatorial powers. He was forced into exile as a result of the fascist invasion by Germany and Italy.

In 1941, prior to the fascist invasion, an organization, Mladi Muslimani (Young Muslims), embracing Muslim high school and university students (male and female), was set up in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its main objectives: (i) the revitalization of Islamic thought and culture to their pristine and dynamic form, (ii) the reeducation of the Muslims as to the true nature of their historical and religious traditions, and (iii) the development of social and charitable institutions through which Muslim refugees, orphans and victims of the war could be cared for. Although it had no formal or informal relations with similar movements of resurgence and renaissance within the Muslim world, Mladi Muslimani developed along similar lines owing to the universal anatomy of Islamic renaissance (a return to the Qur'an and Sunnah).
Later that same year, the situation for Muslims of Yugoslavia worsened when general Draza Mhaijlovic, head of the Yugoslav Royal Armed Forces and Cetniks (radical Serbian-Orthodox groups- pronounced 'Chetnicks'), issued an order to 'cleanse' the "cancer of Islam" from Christendom by eradicating the last remnants of Europe's indigenous Muslim population. This led to a systematic and barbaric campaign of genocide against them. Hardly any Muslim village or household was spared the murderous onslaught of the Cetniks. The terror includes horrors such as men being stripped naked, tortured and paraded in front of their families before being executed. Mothers and daughters being repeatedly raped in front of their own family members. Later, these women had their skulls smashed and then thrown, often still alive, into mass graves and cave-pits i.e. Cavkarka Kod Trusine. These and similar inhuman events still haunt the memories of those who were fortunate enough to escape the macabre massacre to the relative security of major cities. Over 300,000 men, women and children were massacred in this campaign.

[The author is personally acquainted with these facts because over 144 out of 250 members of his extended family were among those massacred. His father and uncle are the only surviving members of their immediate family of 10. What remains of the bodies of the other members, most of whom were girls under the age of 12, can be found in the cave-pits which line the Bosnian-Herzegovina countryside.]
There were pockets of resistance to this onslaught. Some organized military units like the Panjar Division arose, but they were too few and too scattered to alter the overwhelming tide of death and destruction.

After the war, the partisans, controlled by the Communist Party led by Tito, took absolute control. Yugoslavia became the 'Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia'. The new government quickly took control of all means of production, financial/economic institutions and communications. A 'dictatorship of the proletariat' was formed in line with Stalinist communism.
This resulted in a highly centralized, one party administration. All other parties and organizations, including Mladi Muslimani were banned.

This change brought with it a new round of anti-Muslim pogroms. Now the policy of persecution was orchestrated by the atheistic-communist regime against the Muslim people and in particular the members of Mladi Muslimani and their sympathizers. Those who were unable to escape the country, were arrested and 'tried.' These kangaroo courts started work in early 1946 and continued for nearly a decade. The fabricated and unsubstantiated charges brought against the defendants by the state, who were in their early twenties, were couched in classical Bolshevik jargon used in labeling perceived threats. These charges included accusing the defendants of being 'anti- revolutionary' and 'reactionary' characters organizing and plotting to overthrow the peoples revolution. All universally accepted rules regarding the rights of the defendant to responsible representation and a fair trial were circumvented. The trials came to a head in 1949 in Sarajevo, when four members of the leadership (Hasan Biber, Halid Kajtaz, Omer Stupac and Nusret Fazilbegovic) were sentenced to death and subsequently executed. By the end of these trials, in the early 1950s, more than 1,000 Muslims had been sentenced to harsh prison terms some up to 20 years. During their incarceration, quite a few prisoners died, some under mysterious circumstances.

In keeping with the state ideology of atheism, the Muslim masses were subjected to a series of actions aimed at separating them from their religious and cultural heritage. The communist regime abolished all Shariah courts, civil marriage became obligatory, and civil law replaced the Islamic laws of inheritance. All Mektebs were systematically closed, as were all but one of the country's Medresas (Ghazi Husrev Beg in Sarajevo). Even the Higher Islamic Shariah Theological Academy of Sarajevo, founded for the education and training of Islamic Judges (hakim) was shut down. The religious endowment property (Waqf) was nationalized. Separate food for Muslims in the armed forces (Yugoslavia like many Third World nations maintains a conscript mandatory military service for at least one year), hospitals, schools, penal institutions and so forth was not available. The eating of pork was promoted by the state and its various organs as a sign of 'progress and freedom from religious prejudice' or 'religious backwardness'. Membership in the Communist Party was a condition for career and professional advancement and success in public life. Any visible sign of religiosity, even a whisper of it, could earn one the label of reactionary', making employment, housing and other aspects of life extremely difficult. The news media and educational system was under direct Communist party control and was systematically utilized to promote the party line and its view of all things, in particular its atheistic philosophy. What can be said of the immediate post war period was that although communism as a political system provided for the biological survival of the Muslims, it left nothing to chance in attempting to secure their ideological and moral demise.

From 1979 through the early 1980s, the initial successes of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, as well as other similar events in various Muslim countries, brought about to a great extent a reawakening of Islamic consciousness and a rekindling/revitalization of the Islamic spirit worldwide. This renewed consciousness helped to spurn the Islamic resurgence among Muslims throughout the world and was also felt by those in Yugoslavia. By 1983, Islamic activity and the reassertion of the Islamic nature of their own cultural heritage and values was on the rise among the Muslims of Yugoslavia. As in the past, Muslim intellectuals and workers were once again being arrested and brought to trial. They were accused of treason and other such crimes. The official ulema of Yugoslavia were sent to attend various religious conferences in the Middle East, where these so-called scholars, were only too happy to label the Muslims on trial as being 'religious fanatics' and 'innovators in the religion'. In addition, many of them made public statements declaring that the Yugoslav government was committed to the right of complete religious freedom for all its citizens. These statements were in direct contradiction to the oppressive practices of the government.

The rest of the 1980s saw a great deal of agitation and an ever increasing public outcry for greater political, economic and religious freedom within Yugoslavia. Towards the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, the situation changed dramatically. The press became free, allowing the Islamic press to publish literature on Islam without governmental censorship. Religious services for all religions were broadcast on state television. Freedom of religion was redeclared. Governmental institutions, including the armed forces began to allow Muslims to have access to pork free products, to read religious books and even to pray in public. The number of worshipers in mosques and other houses of worship increased ten-fold. Furthermore, the number of applications for entrance into religious schools increased far above all expectations.

In the air of freedom that seemed to envelope the entire nation and the governmental liberalization of political participation, Muslims as well as other groups moved to establish political parties. In Bosnia and Herzegovina a group of 40 Muslim intellectuals and workers founded the Initiative Committee for the Establishment of the Party for Democratic Action (PDA) (Stranka Demokratske Akcije-SDA). It was the desire of the founders that the PDA be called the Yugoslavian Muslims' Party, but at that time the parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina was still controlled by the communists and they issued a statute preventing organizations on a national or religious basis. The constitutional court later found that law unconstitutional. The PDA held its founding convention in Sarajevo on May 26, 1990, elected its governing body, and adopted the program and declaration prepared by the Initiative Committee. The opening paragraph outlined the mission and objectives of the PDA. It sated The Party for Democratic Action is a political union of the citizens of Yugoslavia who belong to the Muslim cultural and historic circle as well as other citizens of Yugoslavia who accept the Program and the aims of the PDA'. The elected president of PDA is Alija (Ali) Izetbejovic (author of Islam Between East and West). Local chapters of PDA were subsequently established throughout Yugoslavia in all areas with Muslim populations. Several other Muslim political parties were formed as well, but none of them could muster the popular support enjoyed by PDA. This was evidenced by the outcome of the October 1990 elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina which were swept by PDA and the subsequent election of Aliia Izetbejovic as the President of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the elections, the Muslim leadership began the long overdue process of reform (including the release of all political prisoners). Because of the centralized nature of the Yugoslavian bureaucratic structure, economic controls by the federal government and the general resistance to change by the Communists/ socialists, the speed and intensity of the progressive reforms, stipulated in the party platform, have been slow.

In the past few months, events in Yugoslavia have once again taken a turn for the worse. The Declaration of Secession by the Republics of Croatia and Slovenia early this year brought about a series of armed confrontations between the Republican armed units and the Serbian dominated federal armed forces. Each of the republics have taken, the aura of independent states rather than liberated republics through both legislation and common practice. The historic ethnic and religious tensions between the various republics and groups within the country have been resuscitated and have assumed horrific proportions. The resurgence of Cetnik groups within Serbia, Croatia and parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, have revived specter of persecution among Muslims.
At the time of this writing the Muslim leadership of Bosnia and Herzegovina has been able to maintain neutrality in the armed conflicts. It is reported that bodies of Muslims serving in the Serbian-controlled federal army are arriving daily in Sarajevo as well as other cities. These deaths are usually termed as 'training accidents'. To make things worse, mixed messages (both political and economic) are being transmitted by the United States, Soviet Union as well as the members of the European Community as to their expectations of the future of configuration of Yugoslavia.

Is There a Future?
The Muslim experience in Yugoslavia is far from over. Its leadership is sailing into the unchartered stormy waters of a new world. The recent chain of events within and outside the country on the one extreme portend the inevitability of the breakup of Yugoslavia into mini-states. On the other extreme, a situation in which the concept of a 'Greater Serbia' may become a reality. In keeping with the Islamic tradition of moderation (wasata), the elected Muslim leadership of Bosnia and Herzegovina seem to favor a middle road between these two extremes. That is, an end in which the territorial and political integrity of Yugoslavia be maintained along with its existing internal republic borders. The political and economic authority of the federal government over the republics would be drastically curtailed and its roles specifically delineated. This would result in more of a 'confederation' than a 'federation' of republics (states). The Muslims insist that the territorial and political integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina remain intact and undivided irrespective of the new model of Yugoslavia that eventually emerges.
The breakup of Yugoslavia seems imminent. The only question that seems to remain is 'how'? Considering the historic role of Muslims in Yugoslavia and the West's general antagonism toward Islam and Muslims, a possible outcome would be one in which the territorial and political integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina would be compromised. Its counties would subsequently be divided up according to some mutually agreed upon formula between Serbia on the one hand and Croatia on the other. This worst possible scenario would have to carry with it the blessings of the European Community, the Soviet Union and the United States (which may have already been unofficially given).
The future will to a great extent be determined on what steps are taken now. The Muslim leadership of Yugoslavia should keep the following critical points in mind:
1. History is the best teacher. The Qur'anic paradigm is one which asks man continuously to look to the past in order to gauge future actions. To forget and bury the past as some have suggested is a mistake; as it will cause one to lose the ability to build on its successes as well as make one a victim of its mistakes. Furthermore, the Truth will remain hidden from view. No one should fear the Truth for ultimately the Truth will set one free.
2. Every effort should be made to publicize among Muslims and non-Muslims alike (both people and nations) the plight and struggle of the Muslims of Yugoslavia. For one never knows, 'from where the assistance of Allah will come'.
3. All endeavors should be undertaken to work towards a peaceful and equitable solution to the ugly possibilities which are faced, but reliance for a Muslim is ultimately tied to his preparation for the worst (in other words making the necessary preparations for securing ones person), trust in Allah and the continued support of the True Believers.

Saffet Abid
The Message International, 1991
 Web version prepared by Dr. A. Zahoor.

  Islamic Centers and Organizations

Masjids, Islamic Centers and Muslim Owned Businesses

Begova Dzamija, Sarajevo, Canton Sarajevo
Phone: -
Ali Pasha Mosque, Sarajevo, bihać
Phone: 061442526
Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe, Dragodol
Phone: 387-33-467134
Medresa Dzemaluddin Causevic, Cazin
URL:   Phone: 387-77 514 893
Mak Invest, Sarajevo, Bosnia and herzegovina
Phone: ++387-33262340
URL:   Phone: +387-35 28 11 51
BOSNIAN Muslim STUDENTS UNION, Sarajevo, livak
Phone: livoke
Medžlis Islamske zajednice Gračanica, Gracanica
URL:   Phone: ++387 (0)35 702 778
Bijela dzamija (White Mosque), Visoko, erh
Phone: 45 981 25
Dinina Street Mosque, Sarajevo
  Ali Pasha Mosque, Sarajevo
  Atik Masjid, Bijeljina
  BAKIJE, Sarajevo-Stari Grad
  Begova Dzamija, Sarajevo
  Bijela dzamija (White Mosque), Visoko
  Breka Mosque, Sarajevo
  Carsijska Mosque, Sarajevo
  Dinina Street Mosque, Sarajevo
  Dzafer beg mosque, Tomislavgrad
  Dzamija Glavicine, Konjic
  Dzamija Hidajeta Polovine ef., Kljaci
  Dzamija Kočine, Mostar
  Dzamija Podorasac, Konjic
  Dzamija u Glavicinama, Glavicine
  Džematski odbor, Torlakovac
  Egipatska mosque, Ilijas
  Fethija Masjed, Bihac
  Gradska dzamija - City Mosque, Vitez
  Hadijska Mosque, Sarajevo
  Hadzi Timur Khan Mosque, Sarajevo
  Islamic center Zivinice, Zivinice
  Islamski Centar Vrbanjci, Kotor-Varoš, Kotor-Varos
  Istiqlal Mosque, Sarajevo
  kalibunar mesdjid, Travnik
  King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz Alsaud Mosque, Sarajevo
  Majlis e Islami, Gracanica
  Masjeed divich, Zvornicko Jezero
  Medžlis islamske zajednice Sanski Most, Sanski Most
  Mosque, Tuzla
  Mosque, Kozluk
  Mosque Dobrinja IIIb, Sarajevo-Novi Grad
  Muharrem-pasina dzamija, Novi Seher
  Sadrvanska dzamija, Visoko
  Sejmenska dzamija, Zenica
  Vrnogracka Dzamija, Vrnograc
  Aktivna islamska omladina, Cazin
  Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe, Dragodol
  Fondacija'Hifz Casnog Kur'ana'مؤسسة تحفيظ القرآن الكريم, Sarajevo
  Islamska Omladinska Organizacija Hamza, Tuzla
  Islamska Omladinska Organizacija Jihad Bosna, Sarajevo
  Islamski Internet portal, Sanski Most
  Medzlis Islamske zajednice Buzim, Buzim
  Medžlis Islamske zajednice Gračanica, Gracanica
  Omladinski Kulturni Centar - Gorazde, Gorazde
  Rijaset islamske zajednice u Bosni i Hercegovini, Sarajevo
  Daru-l-Kuran, Mostar
  elci Ibrahim pasina Medersa, Travnik
  Gazi Husref-Begova Medresa (secondary school), Sarajevo
  Medresa, Visoko
  Medresa Dzemaluddin Causevic, Cazin
  svjetlost, Konjic

  Muslim Owned Business

  Mak Invest, Sarajevo

Islam in Bosnia and Herzegovina  (   , October, 2008).
Info please ( ,  October, 2008).
Islam Finder (    , October, 2008).
Anonymous, Documents from Representatives of Islamic Organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, October 2008.