Serbia, the EU and Muslims in the Balkans

Dutch Courage

The Dutch held out but Europe, as usual, wants to have its way so after a threat to ram Serbia’s EU ‘assessment’ through by majority vote, the Dutch folded.  However, there is a provision that every step of Serbia’s accession will have to be subject to a unanimous vote.  The Dutch, we can imagine, will watch that closely.

It’s hard to know what to say at this early hour, although I’d caution Westerners to pin all hopes on Serbia.  Much analysis has mentioned that Serbia, as the largest and most populous ex-YU state, is the linchpin of the Balkans.  Well, Greece seemed to be the most well-off until recently, and it has hardly assumed a leadership role in the region.  Tadic’s government has done much, esp. in defreezing the lock over Kosovo, but remember that there are blocs — substantial ones — of extremely regressive bodies politic in Serbia that could come to power.  Would Serbia continue to enjoy this prestige of leadership if so?  The lesson is not to conflate territory and population with leadership.

And while I’m at it I’d like to point out the folly of articles like these. (The latter being far more reputable than the former.) Saudi and Iranian money in Bosnia and other Muslim parts of the Balkans (like Macedonia, which the Greek author of the International Analyst Network piece desperately tries to avoid mentioning) is nothing new and dates back to the arms embargo in the 1990s in Bosnia.  Every few years, a journalist sees a pre-fab concrete mega-mosque and wonders if the often-propagated tale that Osama is using these Muslims to try and get ‘into’ Europe is true.  It’s not.  In the mid-1990s, there was an attempt to radicalize Bosnian Muslims.  They rejected Wahhabism and its severe tenants.  A 40% unemployment rate, or even an 80% one, won’t change that.  To pretend otherwise is to toe a chauvinist line.

3 thoughts on “Serbia, the EU and Muslims in the Balkans”

  1. Then again, I hear stories from our Bosnian friends of more and more veiled women walking the streets of Sarajevo, and of increasing tensions in the formerly beautifully secular city between a fundamentalist current and, you know, normal people.

    Sure, the cause for alarm is probably overstated. But to assume that the influx of money for fundamentalist causes is having no transformative effect on that brutalized society is to engage in some wishful thinking. Why would Bosnians be more resilient than any other people to the siren song of easy religious dogma in times of need?

    1. I’m not saying that Bosnians (or Kosovars, Albanians or Macedonian Albanians) are less tempted by money. I am saying that when jihadist elements were a lot more active in their country, monetarily and militarily, the Bosnians were at a pretty low point. It was during and right after the war. The Bosnians’ open Hanafi school rejected Wahhabism pretty throughly and that’s pretty well-documented.

      From talking to people who lived there pre-war, I do understand that the multi-ethnic character of it has been destroyed forever. And I did do a double-take at seeing a woman in a full burqa walking through Bascarsija. But I’ve seen the same in Baltimore and Rovigo. And I never had the problem of getting a rakija in Bascarsija that I did in Skopje’s Stara Carsija.

      To clear this up I guess I should go Sarajevo, though. It’s been awhile since I was there.

  2. Just to add something: there are far too many Serb and Macedonian nationalists who take great delight in 9-11 after NATO and the US stopped two awful wars in the region, and sat on the Macedonians to prevent a third. I realize that there are women who wear the burqa in Sarajevo, but there are also taxi drivers in Skopje who genuinely think that Osama was behind the 2001 insurgency there. To put it simply: I asked a friend in the region whether people there believed in as many 9-11 conspiracies as they do in Western Europe, and he told me that he thought that people in the Balkans, “except the Muslims, are happy to think Muslims committed such an act. Happy in the sense that we can be in some sort of anti-Muslim bratstvo.” So I do everything I can to not play into that. Are there hideous Wahhabi mosques in Bosnia today? Yes. But let’s hope they stay empty.

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