Friday, August 26, 2016


Serbia's Sandzak Becomes Balkans' Latest Hot Spot

Controversy In Serbia's Muslim Regioni
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September 24, 2010
Tensions are rising between separate Muslim communities in Novi Pazar, a Muslim-majority city in Serbia's southern region of Sandzak. The disputes could fuel further tensions between Muslims and ethnic Serbs in the region, where some Muslims stand behind the slogan "Sandzak is not Serbia."
WATCH: Tensions between separate Muslim communities in Novi Pazar could fuel further tensions between Muslims and ethnic Serbs in the region, where some Muslims insist that "Sandzak is not Serbia."

By Milos Teodorovic and Maria Arnautovic

NOVI PAZAR, Serbia -- Sports are everything in the former Yugoslavia. So it came as no surprise when residents in the main city of Serbia's Sandzak region streamed onto the streets earlier this month to noisily celebrate the outcome of the Serbia-Turkey semifinal match in the basketball world championships in Istanbul.

What was more surprising, perhaps, was that they were celebrating a victory for Turkey, not Serbia.

The Sandzak residents, mainly Muslims who call themselves Bosniaks, who crowded the streets that night were almost giddy in their joy over the defeat of their national team, waving Turkish flags and chanting slogans like "Sandzak is not Serbia" instead.

Even in a region accustomed to ethnic irritations and a complex mosaic of loyalties, Sandzak's outright rejection of national pride is seen as unusual -- and a worrying sign that the Western Balkans may be facing the rise of its latest ethnic hot spot.

Sead Biberovic, an activist with Urban IN, a Sandzak civil-society NGO, says he was distressed by the animus evident in the basketball protests. But, he says, Serbia is ultimately to blame.

"Bosniaks in Serbia want to see Serbia as their own country, and they want Serbia to be their country, their motherland," Biberovic says. "But while I can say that's what they want, I can't say it's always the case. First of all, Serbia is also to blame because, unfortunately, it still doesn't act like a mother to its loyal citizens -- Bosniak men and women in Serbia."

Ottoman To EU

Sandzak, a region of 420,000 in Serbia's south, is predominantly Muslim, with Bosniaks outnumbering Serbs by as much as four to one in the main city, Novi Pazar.

A September standoff with police in Novi Pazar
Although the region was spared the worst of the ethnic atrocities during the Balkan wars, a long-standing enmity continues to divides Sandzak's Serb and Muslim communities.

The area's origins as an Ottoman settlement have many of its Bosniak residents -- including Rizo Kucevic, an unemployed father of five -- thinking of Turkey, not Serbia, as their historic home.

"Like a majority of the population here in Novi Pazar, I have the feeling that Turkey is closer to us, for many reasons," Kucevic says. "One reason is the sense of almost paternal ties. Turkey is now a superpower in Europe as well as Asia. Therefore, it will resume playing a role that ended a hundred years ago. Turkey won't occupy the Balkans, but it will continue to have great influence. That's for certain."

In the meantime, it is discord with Belgrade that is dominating life in Sandzak. More than 1,000 angry Bosniaks faced off against police at the start of the month to protest a plan by Serbian officials to build a kindergarten facility on land that many believe is the rightful property of a local Islamic community. (Local Serbian officials in Novi Pazar say the plot is owned by the city.)

A number of protesters were arrested during the demonstrations, prompting protest leaders to say the behavior of the police was symptomatic of a deep culture of racism.

More specifically, some said the repressions were meant to punish Muslims for failing to support Belgrade's preferred candidates in recent elections for the National Bosniak Council, one of several new bodies meant to protect the rights of Serbia's minorities.

The national councils, created last year as part of Serbia's efforts to court EU membership, hand minorities some decision-making powers on issues related to media, education, and language. But an election that should have been cause for celebration among Serbia's Bosniaks has instead ground the initiative to a halt and exposed deep, possibly irreparable, fissures in the Muslim community.

The 'I' Of The Storm

Part of the problem is that the man who led the winning ticket in the June vote, Sandzak Mufti Muamer Zukorlic, is largely loyal to Muslim authorities in neighboring Bosnia, and has made public proposals -- including autonomy for Sandzak -- that have been deeply aggravating to Serbian authorities.

Sandzak Mufti Muamer Zukorlic, one of Serbia's most influential Islamic leaders
Zukorlic soundly beat his two closest rivals, both men with strong ties to Belgrade -- Rasim Ljajic, the Serbian labor minister, and Sulejman Ugljanin, the former mayor of Novi Pazar and currently a minister without portfolio in the Serbian government.

But as squabbles continue over the composition of the 35-seat council, questions have also arisen about the appropriateness of Zukorlic assuming a political post even as he maintains his spiritual one.

Many Bosniaks worry that having a mufti at the head of their minority council will brand Sandzak as a quasi-Islamic republic with no legitimate political goals. The outspoken Zukorlic, however, defends his right to serve in both capacities.

"Why is it that my Muslim robe causes embarrassment, but not the robe of the Dalai Lama?" Zukorlic asks. "If it's not allowed for me, then it shouldn't be allowed for anyone. That would mean writing off Dr. Martin Luther King, Gandhi. All of them were religious authorities."

Further complicating the issue is Zukorlic's rivalry with Grand Mufti Adem Zilkic, whose allegiances lie with Belgrade. The two men have formed groups with confusingly similar names -- Zukorlic leads the Islamic Community in Serbia, while Zilkic heads the Islamic Community of Serbia -- and have clashed on several occasions over Muslim property rights in Sandzak. Zilkic has also called on Zukorlic to abandon his political career, saying the Bosniak Council was "not a job for any religious practitioner."

Fears Of Violence

The spats have split Serbia's Bosniak society sharply down the middle, and prompted some in Sandzak to wonder whether the two men are putting personal ambitions before public good. Many see Zukorlic in particular using run-ins with the police and a recent controversy over a newspaper illustration showing him dressed as an Orthodox priest for his own personal publicity.

Zukorlic has also repeatedly warned that the simmering tensions in Sandzak could easily erupt into violence, a scenario that Serbia -- which has successfully stirred unrest in both Northern Kosovo and Bosnia's Serb Republic -- does not want to see on its own soil.

Analysts say Zukorlic's apparent attempts to turn Sandzak into the next great Balkan dilemma are dangerous and excessively dramatic.

A view of the city of Novi Pazar (file photo)
But Aleksandar Popov, the director of the Center for Regionalism in Novi Sad, the capital of another complex Serbian province, Vojvodina, says Zukorlic's influence is also a result of the state's poorly conceived policy on Sandzak.

"We had a similar situation in 2005 in Vojvodina when there were frequent ethnic incidents where on the one hand the state was not promptly and adequately responsive, and on the other we had a Hungarian leader who dramatized the situation so much that we got two reprimands from Brussels," Popov says. "But when the state started doing its job, then the passions calmed down. So I think the same model should apply in Sandzak."

Ljudmila Cvetkovic and Branka Trivic of RFE/RL's Belgrade bureau contributed to this report
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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: BS Buster
September 28, 2010 18:19
I don't recall any RFE/RL articles noting how in Bosnia, the Muslim community there rooted en masse for Turkey, when it played Croatia in a key football match not so long ago.

Most of Bosnia's Croats and Serbs differ on such sympathy.

Likewise, the Christian majority in Bosnia would favor a partition of that entity.

In Response

by: Abdulmajid
October 01, 2010 14:57
What Christian majority are you talking about BS spewer?
There are 50% Bosniaks in Bosnia; 30% Serbs; 11% Croats; the rest are undecided, of mixed ethnic background or Roma (of whom most are Muslims too); so where is your "Christian majority"
With that poor math you have managed to get past grade school?
And no, the Bosniaks are not going to give up on Bosnia anytime soon.
It is high time you learn to respect Muslims like you do your own; if you don't want that, then LEAVE! And best to Siberia! But leave us balije in peace.
You don't want that, you'll see where it gets you...
And no, I don't think it will do to be nice to a hateful, genocidal individual. After all they are not nice to me or to my brethren.
In Response

by: BS Buster
October 02, 2010 13:17
You're wrong again as usual Abdul M.

In point of fact, Bosnian Muslim nationalist elements haven't been keen in getting an accurate demographic census in Bosnia.

Many concure that the Muslims remain a plurality of Bosnia's population.

This was evident just before the war. Folks like yourself use the G word flippantly. Two possibilities might give some credence to your questionable opinion which you mistake as fact.

- the fatalities against Bosnian Muslims wasn't as great (BTW, something already confirmed)

- the fatalities of Croats and Serbs is greater than what folks like yourself suggest.
In Response

by: momo from: switzerland
October 19, 2010 14:30
30 % serbs is big enough to have the same rights as the others. And the balkan mentality doesn`t give any garantee for equal rights. So it was very wise off the serbs to create the republik serbska.

by: the citizen of Serbia from: Serbia
September 29, 2010 04:40
For all of you writing and talking about Sandzak as "latest hot spot" here's an official statement of the ambassador Terral of France who recently departed Belgrade:

"Some people think that after Kosovo, the next open question with Serbia will be Sandzak. Well, it won't happen, and this is not only the position of France but also of the other EU member states. We see the situation in Sandzak as a local question,"

Where's the hot spot? And why you have to use the phrase "latest hot spot" as the title of this piece? Spare us imaginary "hot spots" and focus on journalism.
In Response

by: BS Buster
September 29, 2010 07:10
On matters dealing with Serbs and Serbia, you're addressing a noticeably biased news organization.

by: Felipe Munoz from: Chile
September 29, 2010 06:05
If bosniaks feels very comfortable with Turkey... What the heck their doing in Serbia??. Remember, those lands are historical home of serbs, more before the turk invation. In other words, bosniaks will always live with tensions with serbs... Why??... Because your presence there is the result of centuries-long brutal muslim domminance over not only serbs, but also the whole christianity in the Balkans. Bosniaks (as the ''sons'' of Turkey) will ever being considered that way: The Sons of Turkey, a brutal muslim power that caused widespread attrocities against christians. Just remember the Armenian, Assyrian and Pontic Greeks genocides. ALWAYS REMEMBER!

by: Sebastian from: Earth
September 29, 2010 23:14
He hehehe, what a journalism. Hej RFE losers, get a life!

by: ali from: london
September 30, 2010 10:33
the two leaders of the Muslims community should work for peace not division it is very bade when such spiritual people who are supposed to be a guide for all people starts dividing people and talk political very bade. Let them find unity with serbia and work along with authority to help each not divide.

by: Bosniak lady from: The Netherlands
October 01, 2010 08:11
The parrallel between Bosniaks and Turkey is going way too far. The Bosniaks are born and raised on the Balkans and have nothing to do with Turkey. That some people from Sandzak call them selves Bosniaks and maybe have the preference to be Turks, shouldn't put all the Bosniaks in that window.
Felipe, I see that you live in Chile... As I remember from history classes, you gain that land through massmurdering the locals there. The catholic church was one of the most important players in those happenings. Should I blame you for that and demand you to go back to Spain?

I is really dangeours to mix de religions, the nationality feelings and the territorries. We can't claim the teritorries because some are there longer or shorter. If we think like that, we could all go back to mother Africa, where we all come from.
In Response

by: Abdulmajid
October 01, 2010 15:14
Dear Bosniak lady, don't you see that when it's about bashing Muslims, especially Bosniaks, anything is good enough for those people? When they are on the receiving end, it's the Serbofascists who fill themselves with sanctimonious rage and cry bloody murder.
Bosniaks have been around for 1000 years or more; if they want to continue being Muslims that's their own choice and nobody else's business: and they should watch out and beware, and focus all their effort and energy on theone thing that matters: that NEVER AGAIN genocide be committed on the Bosniaks. That the Cross NEVER chase the Crescent from Bosnia, from where Bosniaks live or have lived. That Bosniaks do not suffer the same fate as the Spanish Muslims, that Bosnia NEVER become a second Granada. And that danger is very real, the attitude and aggression of Christians towards Muslims have not changed in the last 500 or 1000 years. "Deus lo vult" is still the rallying cry.
Nevertheless I wish all Bosniaks of good faith and who stand together all the best.
In Response

by: shine
October 01, 2010 22:22
Right. Muslims are incapable of genocide. Anatolia was always Muslim/Turkish. The majority Christian population of Constantinople was not driven out by pogroms in the 1950s and again in the 1970s. The Orthodox seminary was not closed by the the authorities, killing off the remaining vestige of a civilization that existed before Islam was a glint in an Arab nomad's eye.

Hint: it was Muslim aggression in the Balkan and Iberian peninsulas that conquered Christian populations first, then relegated them to second class persons or slaves.
In Response

by: momo from: switzerland
October 19, 2010 14:37
i agree with you. But the latest visit off the turkish prime minister to the balkans to claim their historical influence is not innocent. Turks and Russians only talk, but when it comes down to paying anything to rebuild the region they are suddenly all broke. Everybody especially polititians, popes and muftis should stop talking about these complicated manners and get down to work.

by: Teodora from: Germany
October 01, 2010 17:01
Turks need to go back to Turkey and leave Serbia alone. Enough of Islamic violence all over the Europe.
In Response

by: Abdulmajid
October 02, 2010 17:32
Serbs in Bosnia need to go back to Serbia and leave Bosniaks alone. Enough of Serb violence all over Bosnia. Bosnia to those who love and cherish it, and not to its neighbors who would liek to partition it! Let the Karadzic people suffer the fater they intended for us balije. THE CROSS SHALL NEVER CHASE THE CRESCENT OUT OF BOSNIA!
In Response

by: BS Buster
October 03, 2010 11:23
Muslim nationalist rhetoric absurdly makes such proclamtions about Serbs needing to leave Bosnia - in the spirit of Izetbegovic's 1970 Islamic Declaration.

Whereas Izetbegovic wrote religious nationalist propaganda, a Serb like Kostunica translated the Federalist Papers from English to Serbo-Croatian. Yet, some would suggest Izetbegovic as having not been as extreme as Kostunica.

The Muslim Slavs of Bosnia were originally of a different religion. The Serbs of Bosnia have had a centuries long existence there.

For whatever his shortcomings, Kissinger is reasonable in suggesting that a partition of Bosnia is something worth considering.
In Response

by: Anonymous
October 04, 2010 06:38
Serbs did not invade Bosnia in modern times. They are mentioned being there back in Byzantine times, from the 7th century (read De Administrando Imperio by Porphyrogenitus). The Serbs were in Bosnia before the very existence of Islam, before the invasion of Islam into Europe, and many centuries before the Islamization of large parts of Bosnia. There is no mention by the Byzantines of any so-called Bosniaks, but there is plenty of mention of Serbs and Croats.

If Bosnian Muslims are unprepared to look upon Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats as their complete equals, i.e. just as autochthonous to Bosnia as the Bosnian Muslims, and if they feel much stronger feelings toward the vicious invading forced of the Ottoman empire than towards fellow Slav Christians who speak the same language and merely refused to convert to Islam, then it is THEY who can go to "their mother Turkey" (in the words of Ceric), which fabricated them anyway.

by: YU are all the same from: Switzerland
October 01, 2010 23:42
To claim genocide is to equate the Holocaust. Which means you would logically have to equate that Auschwitz is equal to Srebrenica. Or Yerevan is equal to Srebrenica,

Am I reading this correctly - that all individuals in the former YU who happen be of Islamic faith are now called "Bosniaks?" I thought that term was used for Muslims in Bosnia or am I missing something? So it would be Bosnian Bosniaks and now Serbian Bosniaks? or is there such a thing, perhaps I should say Serbian Muslims in Novi Pazar since the folks in Sandzak have been living there in Serbia for centuries? Are there Serbian Kosovars? Or are they Serbian Serbs in Kosovo?

All of these new Collectivst group names are pretty silly. They all speak the same language, have very similar culture, food, attitude, and character. It's funny how the outside world now uses the word "Balkanization" to describe a way to break something up?

Before 1992 didn't the "Bosniaks" speak Serbo-Croatian? If you only knew how Yugoslavia was used as a way of control to conquer and divide by the Illuminati, this whole "justified" hatred would have never happend. The Yugoslavs were just Yugoslavs of Jewish, Muslim, Orthodox, Catholic, and other faiths. They were all "unified" by force but unified never the less.

All the former Yugoslavs should focus on Meditation and focus their energy on peace. Was there a time during the Ottoman Empire where the Turks would take the Serbian family's first born and bring the baby boy back to Turkey to train them in the Turkish army? Then later come back to Serbia and kill Serbian families? I guess from what I understand that the Ottoman Empire was in the Balkans for 500 years...

I know that there are many Croatians and Serbians who converted to Islam during that time of occupation for tax purposes and a better way of life during those 5 centuries. Even now there are converts from Croatia and Serbia who are converting to Islam.

To all former Yugoslavs: YU are ALL the same, don't let the New World Order control your emotions. Remember that prior to this Illuminati plan (European Union) Yugoslavia was the 4th largest Military power in Europe and it's resources are extremely valuable. Look who controls now these "new countries?" Not the Croats. Slovenians, Serbs, Bosniaks, Montenegrins. or whatever new country the Illuminati decide to create. It ALL belongs to the EU . Everyone of you are Suckers, so in essence you are all in the same NWO trap. So YU all share that in common TOO!
In Response

by: momo from: switzerland
October 19, 2010 14:48
It is silly, but it is the way they want to live there. Where i live we also talk that way.
The suisse romands, swiss germans and the tessinoisand don `t forget the ramansch. The problem in the balkan is that they have no fit laws to live together. During the yougoslav era it was very easy to keep law and order everybody was the same.

by: Anonymous
October 04, 2010 06:31
Sandzak is just the Turkish name for the region. The proper name is Raska (Rascia). It is one of the oldest Serbian regions, containing sites that are even older and more foundational in Serbian history than those of Kosovo. The town of Stari Ras, Peter's church, Djurdjevi Stupovi, Sopocani, Mileseva, etc.

Islam's presence there dates to the Ottoman occupation. There is no historical justification for a "Bosniak" political entity there. Serbs are still approximately 40% of the current population of Sandzak. It is not even an overwhelming Muslim majority.

Even the major Muslim city, Novi Pazar, at the turn of the 1900s was majority Orthodox and as late as the 1950s was 50% Serb.

What we are dealing with here is a demographic war: Muslims multiply or immigrate, Christians die out or emigrate. In and of itself, there's nothing wrong with that. But differences in birth rates or in immigration/emigration are no justification for a burgeoning minority to steal territory from another state.

If this precendent continues, as it previously happened in Kosovo, it would appear that Europe is about to become demographically Islamized and that unfortunately the "roadmap" for dealing with the problem in the future will be very radical indeed, i.e. that expulsion becomes the only "solution" towards resolving issues that arise from rapidly expanding Muslim populations, which increasingly turn to belligerence and separatism, because their loyalty is not first to the country in which they live, but to their religion.
In Response

by: Orthodox-Slav from: America
October 10, 2010 20:10
Your right that area is very historically Serbian, and those Muslims there are just Islamized Serbs.

I also think that Europe will be overwhelmed by a Muslim take over in it's near future with it's weak liberal multi-culturalism, heavily declining European birthrate, high Muslim birthrates and immigration into Europe.
In Response

by: you-know-who
October 12, 2010 11:41
ha ha ha ha!

by: Anonymous
October 05, 2010 20:02
The reason Muslims in Serbia cheered for Turkey is:

Because majority of Serbian fans (and coaches) do not want them on their national basketball and soccer teams. Those are the two most popular sports.

The attitude coming from the Serbian Christian fans is that only Serbian Christians should represent them in sports. They do not want to see Muslims breaking their records in sports.

The same attitude was shared by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Germany, when he wanted to showcase the world the power of the Aryan race.

P.S. The Serb Christians who live in Bosnia do not support the Bosnian (majority muslim) team either.
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