OVERVIEW OF BOSNIAKOPHOBIA
Bosniakophobia (Bosnian: Bošnjakofobija) is a view of suspicion, resentment, or hostility towards the Bosniak people, history and culture. It can be observed in both individual bigotry as well as organized discrimination and persecution of Bosniaks as an ethnic or cultural group. Although its roots as a social phenomenon can be traced back to the Ottoman period, the matter is particularly notable in modern times due to the ethnic-based conflicts of the Yugoslav wars, the greater international awareness of the region that resulted from them, and a noted increase in the prevalence of Islamophobia and Islamophobic attitudes in much of the Western world.
Early roots (Until 1878)
The earliest examples of Bosniakophobia can perhaps be found during the time of Ottoman rule, where Bosniaks suffered as a result of the religious furvor inspired by the empire's frequent clashes with non-Islamic states and peoples. The first major event examplifying this happened following the Austrian take-over of Ottoman controlled Lika in 1685. Prior to this, the region had been a part of the Bosnian administrative unit (eyalet), and housed a large Muslim population. With the Austrian conquest, 30,000 were forced to flee to Bosnia proper in the next two years alone. Meanwhile, the 1,700 Muslims that remained were forcibly converted to Catholicism. A similar situation simultaneously played out in Slavonia, and violence against and expulsion of Muslims by the Austrians would happen once again in 1718.
The rise of nationalism in the region during the early 19th century led to significant ethno-religious tension within the empire itself. The discord and hatred subjugated peoples developed towards the Ottomans over the course of their struggles for independence in turn led to a sentiment of contempt and resentment against the area's slavic Muslims, who were generally equated with the Turkish overlords. It was under these conditions that in 1847, Montenegrin ruler and famous Serbian language poet, Petar II Petrović Njegoš glorified the 1702 pogrom of Montenegro's Muslim population with the words "The muezzin shrieks in fair Cetinje / The land is filled with the stench of Muhammad."
Although individual Bosniaks historically played a significant role in the Ottoman imperial system (Mehmed-paša Sokolović / Sokollu Mehmed Pasha), such sentiment led to numerous indiscriminate acts of persecution and violence against entire communities. For instance; while Serb revolutionaries in the first Serbian uprising initially indicated that they only intended to expel the occupying Ottoman officials and soldiers, the actual course of the nine year revolt instead amounted to what Serb historian Stojan Novaković described as "a general extermination of Turks from the populace." Most notable was the take-over of Belgrade in 1807 where - alongside Greeks and Jews - many of the city's Bosniaks were killed, expelled, or forcibly converted.
Further cases of Bosniakophobia would occur throughout the area during the remainder of the 19th century. In 1852 some 800 Bosniaks were forcibly converted to Christianity in Montenegro, while the 1860s saw the complete expulsion of the Bosniak population from Užice and Soko. Numerous mosques were destroyed during this period and especially in large cities such as Belgrade, where by 1868, from a prior total of 80, only the Bajrakli mosque remained. From an estimated 1804 population of 20,000, it is believed that only several thousand Bosniaks remained in the Belgrade Pashaluk by 1874.
Examples from recent history
*May, 2001 - On May 5, hundreds of Serbs blocked a ground-breaking ceremony for the reconstruction of a mosque in Trebinje, waving nationalist banners and chanting "Kill the Turks". An international official, Daniel Ruiz, was injured when protestors pinned him against a wall and beat him. Two days later, at a ceremony to mark the beginning of the reconstruction of the Ferhadija mosque in Banja Luka, thousands of Serb nationalists took to the streets and pelted Bosniak attendees with tear gas grenades, stones and eggs. Protestors beat visitors and snatched and set fire to their praying rugs. They also overran the Islamic center, taking down and torching the flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina's Islamic Community before replacing it with the flag of Republika Srpska. One of the Bosniak visitors died in a hospital three weeks later due to injuries sustained in the event.
* A May 2002 report for the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia regarding Islamophobia in the European Union noted that xenophobic expressions against Bosniaks had been recorded in Greece.
*March, 2004 - During massive demonstrations in response to ongoing unrest in Kosovo, Serbian rioters retaliated to the Albanian destruction of Serb churches and monasteries by burning down Islam-aga's Mosque in Niš and the Bajrakli Mosque in Belgrade. However, the Muslim community in these cities is entirely made up of non-Albanians, but of Bosniaks. Some observers, including the Human Rights Watch, have been critical of the way Serbian authorities have handled the legal process that followed.
*June, 2005 - Numerous examples of anti-Semitic and anti-Bosniak grafitti found in Niš. Messages glorified the Srebrenica massacre and requested the expulsion of Bosniaks ("Turks") from the country.
*July, 2005 - 24 out of 28 billboards erected in Belgrade by the Serbian youth initiative to mark the ten year anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre were vandalized. One of the grafitied messages read "There Will Be A Repetition".
*March, 2006 - The first Bosniak returnee to Bratunac and chairman of the municipal council, Refik Begić, received a threatening letter from an organization calling itself the "Serb Liberation Army". Hand-written in cyrillic and signed by an "A. Popović", the letter read in part "How much more do we have to slaughter you so that you finally understand that this country isn't Turkish, but Serb... Death to Islam..."
*April 2006 - Song surfaces on the internet promoting genocide against Bosniaks. It celebrated the Srebrenica massacre and the wide-spread destruction of Islamic religious objects during the Bosnian war, stating that they are something the Serb people should be proud of. Essentially, the song expressed that the destruction of the Bosniak people was a historical duty for Serbs. On June 2, a Serbian non-governmental organization pressed charges against the unknown authors and distributors of the song.
Derogatory and insulting terms
Among the more notable derogatory terms for Bosniaks (in Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian languages) are:
- Balije / Балије - A vulgar term dating to the Ottoman period. Roughly designating a Bosniak peasant, the exact etymology is unknown. Some early sources speculate that it referred to periodically nomadic Bosniaks living in mountainous areas. Today it is the most common derogatory term for Bosniaks.: *Variations: Balijesnice/Балијеснице, Balinčad/Балинчад, Balindure/Балиндуре.
- Muslimani / Муслимани - Literally "Muslims". Although not inherently offensive, the term has become antiquated since the return of the historic name of Bosniaks in 1993, and a deliberate misuse may be considered insulting by secular, and even by some religious, Bosniaks.
- Turci / Турци - Literally "Turks". During the Ottoman era, Bosniaks referred to themselves as "Turci" (more commonly: "Turčini"), but distinguished themselves from ethnic Turks by calling the latter "Turkuše". As the distinction is now archaic, the label today serves to equate the Bosniaks with the Ottoman Turks and imply that they are an alien element.
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