7 March 2002, Volume 4, Number 8
WHAT FUTURE FOR MONTENEGRO'S MUSLIMS?
Part I. (Part II will appear on 14 March.)
A recent program of RFE/RL Radio Most (Bridge) by Beba Marusic with Beba Dzakovic of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and Smajo Sabotic, a former member of the DPS and now a member of the Movement for Defense of the Joint State, which is headed by Matija Beckovic.
RFE/RL: My guests tonight used to belong to the same party and they are still colleagues in the Montenegrin parliament, but as far as the legal status of the Montenegrin state is concerned, they are now representatives of two opposing sides.
On 19 September 2000, as a member of the Steering Committee of the DPS, Mr. Sabotic argued that the party's decision to boycott the federal elections on 24 September "led [down the road] toward civil war in Serbia and Montenegro."
Mr. Sabotic, you expected the DPS to understand your stand, but you were expelled from the party instead. In the meantime, you predicted that the DPS would disappear from the political stage....
Sabotic: The DPS has obviously abandoned its [original] program -- which means that the party has actually abandoned itself by adopting the political program of the [pro-independence] Liberal Alliance and the Social Democratic Party (SDP)....
RFE/RL: Mrs. Dzakovic, what do you think about Mr. Sabotic's claim that the DPS abandoned its own program?
Dzakovic: Judging by its previous statute, the DPS did abandon its own program. We used to advocate the preservation of Yugoslavia, but during the past 10 years -- and especially during the past couple of years -- we came to the conclusion that there is no more reason for that. Even I -- a Serb -- have opted for an independent Montenegro....
RFE/RL: Mr. Sabotic, Mrs. Dzakovic declares herself to be a Serb. How do you declare yourself?
Sabotic: As far as my nationality is concerned, I am a Muslim. There has been a lot of speculation concerning my nationality. I was a member of the parliament in 1992, and I have since been re-elected three times when all the candidates were 100 percent Serbs, 100 percent Montenegrins, 100 percent Muslims, 100 percent Albanians, etc....
I am a Muslim of Montenegrin origin, with Serbian roots, and Yugoslav citizenship -- and no one can divide these things inside me. If someone tried to do so, he would have to kill me [to achieve his goal].
That, I think, was my shortest but also my best speech. This is when I defined the difference between a nation and a people. A people is a historical fact, given to us by God.
History teaches us that the Serbs have long lived in this region, while the Montenegrins were mentioned for the first time in the 15th century -- just like the Muslims -- or more precisely, from 1901, which means that we belong to the Serbian people, since we use the same language.
Furthermore, since the Servi and the Hervi are actually two tribes within the same people -- just like Njegos wrote in his epic "The Mountain Wreath" -- I would say that the Serbs, Croats, Montenegrins, Muslims, Bosniacs, Yugoslavs, Macedonians are, historically speaking, one people that underwent differentiation over time....
RFE/RL: Tell me, how do you feel when in northern parts of Montenegro, where the population generally favors the pro-Yugoslav or pro-Serbian option, the crowd chants to you [at rallies]: "Smajo the Serb!"
Sabotic: You know what? I feel so good and proud. That is called acceptance....
Dzakovic: I think that my colleague Smajo is wrong. He should not have defined different parts of his identity, dividing himself up like that....
Living in former Yugoslavia, we did not know other people's nationality or faith. One simply did not think about those things. And even more recently, he had no reason to renounce his Muslim nationality, to declare himself one-quarter Serb, one-quarter Muslim, etc.
This is a civil state. Muslims do have the right to be treated as a nationality here, they can call themselves Muslims, and Smajo should have remained what he actually is. Smajo cannot possibly feel good when somebody calls him a Serb.
RFE/RL: Has anybody ever chanted your nationality at a rally?
Dzakovic: No, but they yelled "Ustasha" at me when I chose to stay in the party of Milo Djukanovic. I do not care at all what those primitive people shout. I actually despise such behavior....
It means nothing to me -- and I am not talking in political terms -- whether Smajo is a declared Mexican, Eskimo, Muslim, or Montenegrin. But it is too much for me that he made a public statement in which he divided himself into four quarters. This is what I am troubled with....
Sabotic: Beba should not bother explaining my personality. I am here to explain myself. Let me just say that at its congress on 31 October 1998, the DPS failed to keep its promises to proclaim the Muslims, Albanians, and Croats [as full-fledged] minorities [under law].
This is what I demanded in the parliament three times.... I demanded that the Serbs and Montenegrins be proclaimed majority peoples, while the Muslims, Albanians, Croats, and Roma become minorities. Therefore, I was the first to raise the issue of the Roma.
There is also the women's issue. In spite of the fact that there are more women than men in Montenegro, they are still a "minority" because of discrimination. There are not enough of them in the parliament or in the government.
The Democratic Party of Socialists and its representatives, such as Beba, deliberately do not want to understand the real meaning of "civil," and that is what I was talking about in the parliament. "Civil" does not mean "nationally indifferent."
Dzakovic: He did not choose to declare himself this way because of his convictions, but in order to gain from it. It never crossed my mind that a civil society must be nationally indifferent.
However, it does not matter what your nationality is. This is what I believe from the bottom of my heart. I am an Orthodox Serb, but basically it does not mean anything, although I do not intend to renounce it in order to curry favor with somebody, to achieve something, etc. It means, Smajo, that you are making an even bigger mistake right now. The most serious one.