December 12, 1994 Vreme News Digest Agency No 168

History's Witness: Adil Zulfikarpasic

The Bosnjaks' Destiny

by Zoran Jelicic

According to Adil Zulfikarpasic, the decision made at the 1878 Berlin Congress to preserve the entirety of Bosnia-Herzegovina is the only possible way to preserve the Bosnjaks (Bosnian Muslims) as a people

This is Zulfikarpasic's stand in his recent book "Adil Zulfikarpasic - Bosnjak", published by the Bosnjak Institute in Zurich. Of course, this idea is not the only reason that VREME is printing an article about the book and excerpts from it. The main question is: does Belgrade and Zagreb's old idea to divide Bosnia now mean the end of the war on that territory or, as many analysts claim, the continuation of long struggles.

Zulfikarpasic comes from one of the most prominent Bosnian Muslim families and is related to the Cengic family, which was considered the most influential. As a young man, he was a leftist and a member of the Communist party. He joined the Partisans at age twenty (during the war he spent almost a year in Ustasha prisons and was saved by the Cengic family's influence), became an assistant trade minister in the Bosnian government at the end of the war, left this position to emigrate in early 1946 and returned to Bosnia for the first time four years ago. In the meantime, he proved to be an exceptionally successful businessman and founded the Bosnjak Institute in Zurich as an expression of his uninterrupted commitment to preserving Bosnjak Bosnia.

In the book, Zulfikarpasic repeats countlessly that being a Bosnjak stands for tolerance and requires living together with neighbors regardless of their religion or nationality. This takes his understanding of western democracy further than some of today's formulas: Zulfikarpasic says that a person should not belong to one party, as in America where one can find tombstones stating that so and so never voted for such and such party, but should instead vote for this or that party depending upon its program and current policies.

After the war he found himself in a prominent but dangerous position - he was to return the possessions taken from innocent families by the Communists. He did his duty well, until the beginning of 1946, when he left Communist Yugoslavia via Trieste by using his functionary's papers and automobile.

Adil Zulfikarpasic still spends most of his time in Zurich, which he claims to have never intended to leave. Meanwhile, since the beginning of this decade he has been very active in Bosnia and for Bosnia. The epilogue is well-known. There is a war in Bosnia and Zulfikarpasic places a large part of the blame for this development on Alija Izetbegovic. The main argument is Izetbegovic's retreat from a joint attempt to make a "historic agreement" with the Serbs, which would have averted the war and division of Bosnia between Croatia and Serbia. Those days and events are alreadly well-known to the public, so it is necessary to only briefly remind readers that Zulfikarpasic held negotiations with the Serbs (first their Bosnian leaders, and then with Slobodan Milosevic) with the approval of Izetbegovic. After a verbal agreement with the Serbs, the latter had promised that he would sign a formal agreement upon his return from the U.S.; in the meantime, he had his police listen to Zulfikarpasic's telephone conversations with other prominent Muslims and began to delay signing the agreement after he returned to Sarajevo. Everything fell apart soon and Zulfikarpasic does not hide that he "entered the lion's cage", only because he thought that the main threats of war and the division of Bosnia were coming from that side.

Zulfikarpasic will now say that this war is a symbiosis of Bolshevism and Balkan nationalism and that what he resents most is that Bolshevism was really a screen for local nationalisms, especially Croat and Serb. He also makes the judgment that this century has been the "century of brutalizing the Balkans", as well as that Izetbegovic was able to win over the masses during elections (after Zulfikarpasic's abandonment of Izetbegovic's party and founding of the Muslim Bosnjak Organization) because "intelligence is rare" in Bosnia.

Instead of a summary, it is worth saying that Zulfikarpasic's confession is worthy of serious attention. A careful and interested reader will certainly uncover that there are many unfinished thoughts, some are intentional but do not have an evil intention. There is a reason to hope that Adil Zulfikarpasic will not be silent, as well as "Bosnjaks" throughout the former Yugoslavia.

"Those people who have entered politics with some special mission forgive themselves everything while condemning others; they themselves judge what is good and what is bad - they simply use divine prerogatives in political showdowns. I saw Mustafa Cengic, president of the League of Reformists, in Rome and he told me that among the Muslims, especially the imams, in Bosnia the story is spreading that Izetbegovic is the thirteenth imam who is in hiding and has the mission of taking Muslims down the right road, that he has been sent by God. He told me that on one occasion he had heard: 'We have saved the Islamic world since we have shown it what enemies it has in the West and have suffered for the salvation of Islam.' Based upon this, one would have to conclude that the 300,000 deaths and 1,500,000 refugees were not in vain, that God chose us as an example to a billion Muslims and that we are to take the entire Islamic world down the right road. You see, those are such monstrous ideas. He didn't have any reason to make them up, but instead told me about them with great concern. I asked him about what the people said about the suffering that they have gone through and what they think about the people who did nothing to prevent this? He answered that it is now exactly those people who are seen as most worthy, that they are the only ones who can save us. This is the ideologization of politics.

I ask myself if it is coincidence that the highest Eastern Orthodox Christian Church decoration has now been given by the Greek clergy to Karadzic for the salvation of Christianity while Alija Izetbegovic received a decoration for the spreading of Islam from Saudi Arabia a year ago. The Bosnjaks in Bosnia are decimated, they have lived through a catastrophe, they have been expelled from their land, their houses have been destroyed... and he receives an award for the spreading and promotion of Islam.

Alija Izetbegovic's and the Party of Democratic Action's (SDA) main paper had an article that sought the creation of a Muslim state and the strict enforcement of the sharia, which is absolutely impossible in a multinational, multicultural and multiconfessional environment such as Bosnia. It is possible to be a good Muslim and that should be urged - to live by the norms of Islam, but to introduce sharia law at a time when every person is allowed to make his own decision about his relationship with religion! The sharia contains a series of punishments for people who do not fulfill their religious duties. You cannot ask someone who is an atheist or a Muslim to be punished because they have not respected the laws of the Orthodox Church. You likewise cannot ask a non-Muslim to be judged according to the sharia law of Islam, which would be completely different in an Islamic country than in Bosnia, which has been multinational and multiconfessional during its entire existence, where tolerance has always been necessary to ensure the possibility of life."