AIM: start

TUE, 02 OCT 2001 17:25:34 GMT

Under the Aegis of Anti-Terrorism: Anti-Islamic Fervor

AIM Zagreb, 25.09.2001.

Enduring Justice - as the Americans chose to name their war against Arab terrorism - has not yet caught up with Moslems living in Croatia. Meaning that not up to now not a single bomb has smashed through a window of a Bosniac nor has a pastry shop owned by an Albanian Moslem been trashed...

The public here probably identify all Moslems with the radicals counterfeiting and abusing Islam for political purposes but, for now, the intolerance towards Moslems is of a purely passive nature, as if dampened by the Croat-Bosniac war of 1993. Even at the time, the energy for outright conflict in Croatia itself did not prevail, which gives an even more grave ring to the generalized denouncements made today. Roughly, the said denouncements run as follows: Islam is to blame for everything, this is what Moslems in general are like... How can one build a multiethnic society with them, how can they be trusted when they crash planes full of passengers onto cities?

The tension surrounding the Zagreb mosque, constantly guarded by the police following the atrocity in USA, is an illustration of the anti-Moslem atmosphere in Croatia. A phony bomb-threat and a few provocative phone calls are still a far cry from actual violence. It has to be said, though, that the anxiety among Moslems in Croatia is on the rise and that they feel stigmatized as a result of the recent events. In fact, a rather sickening incident did take place in the vicinity of the Zagreb mosque: a black "Golf" pulled up in front of the policeman and the driver insolently called out to the officer: "Guard it well, itís going to blow up tonight!".... The car then disappeared, the police are looking for the driver, the mosque is still in place. It is perfectly possible that there were no license plates on the vehicle, a hypothesis yet to be proved since the investigation is under way and the police are withholding details.

While police in Zagreb are guarding the mosque, in some other parts of the country they are harassing citizens of Moslem faith. Around two thousand Bosniacs live in a few Croat villages scattered between the Sisak-Moslavec and Karlovac districts on the Croat-Bosnian border. These people are Croat citizens, of course, but in their case that is simply not enough, of course. Because of their "suspect" nationality and creed, the local police pay them daily visits, monitoring their comings and goings, asking questions about the whereabouts and doings of certain villagers. More than once, the police have made it perfectly clear that this has to do with the events in USA, thus bringing the echoes of the tragedy to the heart of Croat Pounje. "Are we to blame for Arab terrorism? Are we guilty simply because we are of the same faith? Does this nation need further strife?" Atif Nuhanovic, a local Bosniac political activist would like to know. For now, his questions remain unanswered.

Nevertheless, all this is but childís play compared to what some Croat media are engaging in, as far as the mobilizing potential and offensive stands on Moslems are concerned. In fact, most media treat the issue with nonchalance, to say the least. The Zagreb daily Jutarnji List and the state TV blaze the trail. On the second day after the attacks, Jutarnji List ran the first of its deceptions, reporting that "Moslems throughout the world are celebrating the terrorist attacks". A regular columnist of the daily, Catholic priest Zivko Kustic, called upon the local Moslems to repent. Literally, in the best manner of the Inquisition, he demanded that they take a stand, one by one, thus proving that they are not guilty of supporting global terrorism, contrary to what their religion suggests. That was one of the dirtier and more dangerous assaults of the old witch-hunter Kustic.

Still, nothing can be compared to the impact of TV on public opinion. >From the very first day of the special program covering the events in USA, anchor men and commentators of the state TV (HTV) have showered the audience with allegations and assumptions made with little regard for the consequences they might have for their fellow-citizens of Moslem persuasion. Some went much further, slighting Islam in particular and Moslems in general, even appealing for a gap the likes of Atif Nuhanovic fear most. The young HTV anchor woman, Mirjana Hrga, cracks sarcastic jokes about the children of the shehids (fallen defenders) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, identifying both fathers and offspring with Islamic fundamentalism and Osama bin Ladenís notorious terrorists. A colleague of hers, cites an opinion which does not differentiate between religious teachings and their abuse, but does this in a manner which makes it hard to spot the imputation targeted at the unorthodox.

A professor of the Zagreb Law School Uros Dujsin distinguished himself during a TV appearance when he defined Islam as a "religion under the auspices of the sword" and the Koran as "a book propagating violence". In spite of the fact that his judgements are far from true, what really matters at the moment is the infernal impetus they might give to the ongoing struggle for enduring justice. Hundreds of thousands of people have seen this program and, if but one out of ten took his allegations for granted, professor Dujsinís theoretical enterprise might well result in matter-of-fact, practical evil. HTVís correspondent from Sarajevo, Ankica Posavljak, is yet another determined advocate of retaliation against the Islamic faith in general, notorious for ascribing Islamic fundamentalism to all immigrants to Bosnia and Herzegovina. On the whole, the great majority of media in Croatia lightheartedly play around with the number of mujahedeens and Taliban present in B&H, enhancing their numbers and influence to fantastic proportions, bordering on pure science-fiction.

In Croatia, the prosecution of Moslems is being carried out practically with no restraints, with the sole exemption of journalists who seem to be the only ones with the understanding of what is going on. No one seems to feel obliged to check the facts before putting them into circulation, no one is being processed for propagating hate or violating the civil rights of others, a wrongdoing prohibited by the very Constitution. One thing is certain: the motives behind the current crusade against Islam date back to the war between Croatia and B&H, when the majority of journalists here either kept silent or openly supported the Croat aggression against Bosnia. To their minds, the demonizing of Islam and Bosniacs in general is an opportunity for exonerating their own guilty conscience and responsibility in the eyes of the world. The stand shared by Croat journalists and the so-called anti-Islamists has very little to do with global terrorism and almost everything to do with the Bosniac people and their homeland, bordering Croatia. It all boils down to the fact that it is easier to smuggle the Croat variety of enduring justice, if wrapped up in a package with its American counterpart.