The story told here is not one I wish to believe or to tell. My mother's family is Serbian American, and I know personally that Serbs have suffered in the Bosnian war—some of my Serb relatives in Bosnia and Krajina (the Serb-inhabited area of Croatia) have been killed, some are missing, and others are living in refugee camps. However, the evidence in Bosnia leads to conclusions that are as unavoidable as they are unpalatable. Genocide has occurred. It has occurred with the acquiescence of Western governments, in violation of the United Nations Charter and the Convention on Genocide of 1948. It has been motivated and justified in large part by religious nationalism, fueled financially and militarily from Serbia and Croatia, and grounded in religious symbols. And the primary victims have been Bosnian Muslims, selected for destruction because of their religion.
In situations of genocide a disengaged, purely objective stance would be inhuman. Yet precisely to the extent that genocide demands a response, it also demands a continual willingness to examine and reexamine the evidence. For over three years the atrocities were documented by refugee workers, human rights groups, and war crimes investigators (see the Note on Sources). That evidence shows a religious violence far more systematic than the media accounts of the shellings in Sarajevo have suggested.
A particular abuse of history, "Balkanism," has been used to justify the genocide in Bosnia by suggesting that people in the Balkans are fated, by history or genetics, to kill one another. It is true that, like the rest of Europe, Bosnia was caught up in the violence of World War I, World War II, and earlier conflicts. But just as Germans, Dutch, French, and British today live together peacefully, only a few years ago Bosnians had every reason to believe the peace they had enjoyed for fifty years would continue.That their friends and neighbors would one day seek to destroy them, that their family members would be sent to concentration camps, that their cultural heritage would be methodically burned and dynamited—such possibilities seemed remote to most of the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
A resurgence in religious violence has caught the post-cold war world off guard. From the subways of Tokyo to the ruins of a mosque in India, from the World Trade Center and the federal building in Oklahoma City to a Jerusalem rally for the Israeli prime minister, religious militants have transgressed the boundaries of civil society in pursuit of their aims. Bosnians have faced the most brutal religious violence unleashed in the aftermath of the cold war, but the forces that assaulted Bosnia are not due to "age-old antagonisms" peculiar to Balkan peoples, as the cliché would have it. They are forces with us all.
The story told here has clear historical parallels with earlier periods of European history. At the heart of the religious nationalism used to motivate and justify the assault on Bosnia, and
Bosnians are defined in this book as all residents of the internationally recognized sovereign nation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, regardless of their religious affiliation, who consider themselves Bosnian, that is, who remain loyal to a Bosnian state built on the principles of civic society and religious pluralism.
on Bosnian Muslims in particular, is the same myth of the Christ killer that was exploited in the past to instigate attacks on Jews. How Muslims, a people whose religion began six centuries after Jesus, could have been singled out for genocide as Christ killers and race traitors is a tale this book seeks to tell.
The ancient bridge at Mostar, destroyed by Croat religious nationalists on November 9, 1993, has come to symbolize the multireligious character of Bosnia. But it symbolizes something larger as well: the ability of a culturally pluralistic society to flourish for almost five centuries, despite the very real tensions among the different religious groups. For those who choose a pluralistic society where different religions coexist—whether in Banja Luka, London, or Los Angeles—the struggle to rebuild that bridge is not something occurring over there and far away, but something frighteningly close to home.
I wish to thank Mark Auslander, Amila Buturovic, Carin Companick, Deborah Cooper, Vanja and Mirza Filipovic, Bridget Gillich, Laurie Kain Hart, Nader Hashemi, Richard Hecht, Mark Juergensmeyer, Walter Lee, Kathleen MacDougall, Janet Marcus, Aida Premilovac, Emran Qureshi, Andras Riedlmayer, Ellen Schattsneider, and the Haverford College community for support in writing this book, and the Greek Studies Yearbook for permission to reprint the lithograph of Adam Stefanovic's The Feast of the Prince . Special thanks to Douglas Abrams Arava, Reed Malcolm, and Marilyn Schwartz of the
University of California Press for their encouragement, judgment, and care during the preparation of this book.
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