Bosnia's Islamic Revival

CAIRO — With mosques sprouting and Islamic schools becoming a common scene in the multi-ethnic country, Bosnia is undergoing an Islamic revival, thirteen years after a devastating civil war.

"Children are fasting on Ramadan, going to the mosque more than their parents," Grand Mufti Mustafa Efendi Ceric told The New York Times on Saturday, December 27.

"We had de-Islamification for 40 years during Tito's time, so it is natural that people are now embracing the freedom to express their religion."

Since the country's 1992-1995 war ended, Bosnia has seen an Islamic revival in an assertion of the country's identity.

Several Islamic schools and mosques have been built in recent years.

Beard-wearing men and hijab-clad women have also become common in the multi-ethnic country.

Before the war, beard-wearing men and veiled women were almost unheard of.
In the cosmopolitan capital Sarajevo, Islamic education has been introduced in state kindergartens.

Dozens of streets named after Communist revolutionaries have also been renamed after Muslim heroes.

Political parties stressing Muslim identity have also won big in elections.
Bosnia, a small country on the Balkan Peninsula, is home to three ethnic "constituent peoples": mainly Muslim Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.

Out of Bosnia and Herzegovina's nearly 4 million population, some 40 percent are Muslims, 31 percent Orthodox Christians and 10 percent Catholics.

Muslim Identity

The Islamic revival is seen as an assertion of the country's Muslim identity following the war.

"The Serbs committed genocide against us, raped our women, made us refugees in our own country," said Mufti Ceric.

"And now we have a tribal constitution that says we have to share political power and land with our killers."

Bosnia fell into a devastating civil war in 1992 that left 200,000 people dead and displaced millions.

In the final months of the war, Serb forces overran the city of Srebrenica, killing some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in one of the most shocking massacres in modern history.

The 1995 Dayton peace accord ended the war by splitting Bosnia into two ethnically-based autonomous regions, the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serb Republic.

"We Bosnian Muslims still feel besieged in the city of Sarajevo," said Ceric.
That resentment is evident across the capital.

As several thousand worshipers streamed into the King Fahd mosque on a recent Friday, a young man sat outside selling a popular Muslim magazine with US President-elect Barack Obama on the cover.

"Hussein, Will Your America Kill Muslims?" the headline asked, using Obama's middle name.