14 March 2002, Volume 4, Number 9
NOTE TO READERS:
The next issue of "South Slavic Report" will appear on 4 April.
WHAT FUTURE FOR MONTENEGRO'S MUSLIMS?
Part II. (Part I appeared on 7 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.
Beba Dzakovic: Smajo claims that he has declared himself a Muslim, but why does he add that he is only one-fourth Muslim when no one really cares about Smajo's nationality? Everybody knows that Smajo is a Muslim, and, naturally, that bothers nobody.
Quite the contrary. Believe me, if any [Muslim] friend of mine renounced his Muslim nationality, I would see that he was lying, that something was wrong. Why renounce what you are? If you cannot respect your own nation and religion, how can you respect mine?
...Neither the Serbs, nor the Montenegrins, nor the Muslims believe him [when he now calls himself a Serb]. Once you renounce yourself, no one will ever trust you. If he and Matija Beckovic...refuse to recognize the Montenegrin nation -- when some 64 percent of the population here declares itself Montenegrin -- you can easily imagine what [the Montenegrins] think....
RFE: Are the Muslims in Montenegro being used for political purposes? Let me give you some examples.... An extreme case is the threat by the president of the Serbian People's Party (SNS), Bozidar Bojovic, in an electoral campaign speech in Bijelo Polje. He said that "the Muslims from the northern parts of Montenegro will be held responsible if Montenegro declares independence." Bojovic also accused Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic of being the "staunchest anti-Muslim."
[Anti-independence politician] Dragan Soc would deny the Albanians and the Muslims the right to participate in deciding the legal and political status of Montenegro.
At the other end of the spectrum, the president of the central Muslim cultural society Matica Muslimanska, Avdul Kurpejevic, flatly claims that a sovereign and independent Montenegro best suits the interests of the Muslims. Elsewhere, Mersad Mujevic of the DPS has said that the Muslims should be focused on Montenegro and fight for their civic emancipation, etc.
These examples might reflect the present [complex] overall situation. I would like to hear your comments.
Dzakovic: I do not think the Muslims are being used for political purposes. They are citizens of Montenegro. I cannot accept such national divisions. I consider nation and religion something very intimate, a very personal matter for every individual. And I consider this a civic state where every single person -- regardless of his nationality or religion -- is equal in rights to everybody else. This is what I intend to fight for till the end of my life....
RFE: Mr. Sabotic, when your movement was founded, you said that "the Muslims have come to their senses, so they will no longer vote for the present government." Were they not reasonable before?
Sabotic: This is what Beba keeps quoting, and I said it in 1992. It did not bother her then; she even applauded me. Back then, only the Liberals and the SDP were talking about [identifying oneself as Montenegrin].
[Complex matters in determining one's identity] are a problem for those who do not want to understand them. In the place where I am from, Bihor, 6 percent of the population voted for the DPS, some 60 percent for the [Muslim] Party of Democratic Action (SDA), and the rest for the SDP and the Liberals. This is when I came out with the theory that we, the Muslims, should cherish our Muslim orientation as well as our Montenegrin origin and our Serbian roots, since without them [all] we will lose our identity....
None of us from the movement -- including Matija Beckovic and myself -- is against anybody. We are actually perfectly aware of the deep divisions [in society], as well as the artificial ones encouraged by the present government. Divide et impera....
You have already heard me saying that the Montenegrins and the Serbs are majority peoples in Montenegro, which means that I do not deny the existence of the Montenegrin nation. Everybody is free to declare himself the way he wants; that is an individual right of every person.
As far as the Muslims are concerned, I want to say that we were right to support Milo Djukanovic in 1997, since [Slobodan Milosevic's] Yugoslavia was in conflict with the international community, isolated, and under sanctions. Montenegro was the only shining light, giving hope for the re-integration of Yugoslavia into the international community.
I find the boycott of the [last] election [in 2000] the biggest mistake the DPS has ever made, and this is why I think that the party will disappear after the next two elections, since they are actually following the electoral programs of the SDP and the Liberal Alliance.
President Djukanovic was offered the post of opposition leader [in 2000]. I think that he should have accepted the offer -- he would be president of Yugoslavia today and praised and supported by the world and all the Yugoslavs.
Instead, he is supported by some 100,000 people, and most of them want Montenegro to secede. What they actually want is an illusion called "one state with two seats in the UN," which is impossible even in theory.
Under these circumstances, the secession of Montenegro is the only way for them to maintain their political identity.
That is what I have realized. I urged the DPS to participate in the election in order to save the joint state. If you want, I can give you at least 10 crucial reasons why a joint state with Serbia is better then a separate one. If Beba gives me at least one reason why it is better for Montenegro to secede, I will become a separatist....
RFE: And how would you convert Mr. Sabotic into a separatist?
Dzakovic: I will give him one single reason for secession. Let me use everyday language. I lost my father when I was eight years old, and this is why the family ties among my brothers and sisters are very strong. That is a common situation, and Mr. Sabotic must be familiar with it as a doctor. But believe me, I could never live with any of [my brothers and sisters].
I know that I am absolutely secure only as an independent person, living in my own apartment, disposing of my own property. Still, our [family members'] independence does not prevent us from spending more and more time together. Actually, the more independent we are, the closer we have become....
The Montenegrin nation does exist, which Smajo probably does not deny, since he claims to be a one-fourth Montenegrin. But Matija Beckovic claims that he will outlive the Montenegrin nation, and he is some 60 years old.