Alija Izetbegobic, Ideological Biography
Professor J Peter Maher of Northeast Illinois University, March, 1999
Alija Izetbegovic: his background and philosophies
This is a briefing paper produced for Members of the 1992/3 Session of Australian Parliament;
Monday, 21 December 1992.
The report downplays the Young Muslim Nazi angle but the movement was also modeled on the Hitler Jugend, and supportered by Baldur von Shirach.
ALIJA IZETBEGOVIC - BRIEF
ALIJA IZETBEGOVIC, leader of the SDA (Muslim Party of Democratic Action), is currently the President of the Presidency of Bosnia-Hercegovina. He was born in Bosanski Samac in 1925, went to school in Sarajevo, and eventually completed law school; he had no schooling in religion within the Islamic school system.
Izetbegovics Early Years.
From his early youth, Izetbegovic dedicated himself to Islamic work. At 16 he ecame part of the group that founded religious-political organisation "Young Muslims" in Sarajevo, in 1940. From the very outset the "YM" was modelled on fundamentalist formations in the Islamic world, such as "As-subban al-muslimun" and "Al-ikwan al-muslimun". One of the five points of the "YM" programme insisted on the unity of the Muslim world through the creation of one large Muslim state. During the Second World War, the "YM" grew and become part of a network of Islamic religious groups headed by the highly conservative theologian of the Mehmed Handzic (1906-1944). The "YM" were not officially pro-fascist in orientation, though they were pursued for this by the Communist regime after 1945. There were, however, many individual examples of active collaboration with the Ustashi government.
Izetbegovic was arrested in 1946, for his significant participation in founding the Muslim journal MUDZAHID. He spent the next three years in jail for promoting hatred. At the same time, his friend Nedzib Sacirbegovic was given a four year prison sentence. Sacirbegovic is now Izetbegovics personal representative in the USA and his son Muhamed, is Bosnia-Hercegovinas ambassador to the UN. Izetbegovic has systematically promoted to top positions in the SDA people who were political "cadres" in the original "YM" movement.
In February 1949, the "Young Muslims" started an open revolt. This was short-lived. During subsequent trials held in Sarajevo in 1949, four members of the "YM" were sentenced to death and many were given prison sentences. After this lesson, Islamic activists stopped creating illegal groups and started working on Islamisation "from underneath". This meant penetrating the very pores of the systems institutions, including the formal Islamic community, because the activists considered their leaders to be traitors to the authentic Islamic cause. From the beginning Izetbegovic preferred Shiite Islamic radicalism in comparison to the Sunni.
Izetbegovics doctrine - "The Islamic Declaration"
Izetbegovic published many articles in Muslim journals (TAKVIM, GVIS, etc.), discussing the sad state of Islam and the necessity for its universal regeneration. In 1970, he wrote and distributed to people of confidence, his specific manifesto or programme for radical pan-Islam - the ISLAMIC DECLARATION.
In this booklet, similar to many of the same type circulating in the Islamic world, but the only one of its sort in Yugoslavia, Izetbegovic advocated:
- general Islamic moral and religious regeneration;
- a return to true Islamic values;
- (re)Islamisation of Muslims;
- creation and strengthening of different types of Islamic unity; struggle, up to and including Political and armed war for the creation of an Islamic order in countries where Muslims represent majority, or near majority of the population.
In line with his pan-Islamic and anti-secular thinking, Izetbegovic stated in the ISLAMIC DECLARATION that:
- there should be the establishment of "a united Islamic community from Morocco to Indonesia";
- with reference to the Turkish model - "Turkey as an Islamic country used to rule the world. Turkey as an imitation of Europe represents a third-rate country, the like of which there is a hundred in the world.";
- "there can be neither peace nor coexistence between the Islamic faith and non-Islamic social and political institutions";
-"the Islamic movement must and can, take over political power as soon as it is morally and numerically so strong that it can not only destroy the existing non-Islamic power, but also to build up a new Islamic one".
The ISLAMIC DECLARATION is imbued with a deep-set intolerance towards "the values of western civilisation", both capitalist and Marxist. It was re-published in 1990 in Sarajevo, testifying to the fact that its author, in the meantime, had in no way gone back on his positions, one of Islamic fundamentalism.
Muslims who gathered around the re-published ISLAMIC DECLARATION, were former members of the "YM" and new activists. They tie their activities to those of Muslim centres abroad - religious, political, propaganda and economic - above all with specific groups in Iran.
In his book ISLAM BETWEEN EAST AND WEST, published first in the USA (1984) and then Turkey, develops his views on the superiority of Islam over all other religions, cultures, ideologies and philosophies. This book was published in Serbo-Croatian, only in Belgrade in 1988; the Sarajevo authorities used all means to prevent it getting published at all.
Izetbegovic - leader of Bosnias Muslims
With a group of Muslim activists, Izetbegovic was arrested in 1983 for activities against the state. As the chief defendant, he was sentenced to fourteen years. In 1988, he was released after less than six years of prison.
After the fall of Communism in Yugoslavia, Izetbegovic became one of the leaders in the creation of the SDA party (1990), as a Muslim political party. He was elected President with the support of his old fellows from the ranks of the "YM" and the support of the young radicals. Izetbegovic gave his new, nominally national and civilian political party, a deeply-set religious connotation. As the first president of the collective Presidency of this young state, and by far the most influential Muslim politician on the soil of former Yugoslavia (having ousted his more popular rival Fikret Abdic), the strength of his position allows him to pursue his youthful (pan)Islamic dreams.
His internal and external policies changed tactfully as per the power struggle both inside and outside of Yugoslavia. But, from a strategic standpoint Izetbegovic has not budget an inch from his early conception that "every good Muslim, through his formal engagement, including the political one, at all times and all places, must above all serve Islam, by force if necessary". Because of Izetbegovics anti-Communism, the fundamentalist radicalism of the political programme contained in the ISLAMIC DECLARATION, went virtually unnoticed in most western countries.
As such, the rise of a native and authentic Islamic fundamentalist movement in Yugoslavia, was for the West, up until recently, an incomprehensible and inconceivable idea. For some, it remains so today.
This fanatical conviction of Izetbegovic - namely that the highest motive justifies every move, every decision, (including that of disposing of his predecessors), has definitely helped plunge Bosnia into the midst of an ethnic and religious war.
Commentary added by Balkan Research Center: Only after one carefully considers the foregoing does it become understandable why, recently, Izetbegovic signed an agreement for the "cantonisation" of Bosnia with representatives of the European Community in Lisbon [in 1992], and cancelled it two days later. Izetbegovic will accept any kind of deal in order to get his way, he is not ashamed if it is proved that he lies, because he says "all is allowed for Islam".
Now it seems logical why Izetbegovic visited only radical Muslim countries during the first nine months of his presidency. Izetbegovic is a man who is willing to sacrifice half of the population to achieve his religious goals, to be the first president of an Islamic state in Europe, however small.
In the light of above facts one can better understand Izetbegovics statements of sympathy for the "Islamic Revolution" in Iran. Only Izetbegovic and Ayatollah Khomeini, out of all presidents who officially visited Turkey, did not pay respect to the grave of Ataturk, for them he was a traitor to fundamentalist Muslim principles.
"After the first multi-parti elections in December 1990, together the three major political parties representing each of Bosnia's national-confessional groups formed a coalition under the leadership of the mild mannered, rational, and statesmanlike Alija Izetbegovic, leader of the Party of Democratic Action, overwhelmingly Muslim in composition. Izetbegovic became a hero of the Bosnian Muslims for his defense of their right to practice their religion without persecution by the state.(14) He had been jailed in the early 1980s on trumped up charges that he intended to create an Islamic Republic modeled on Khomeini's Iran and to convert all Croatians and Serbs to Islam by force. Izetbegovic had merely written works of political philosphy in which he speculated about the ethical basis for democratic government in an Islamic society and the position of Islam in the modern world. His writings contained no proposals to create an Islamic state in Bonsia-Hercegovina. By the time Izetbegovic assumed office as president of a tri-national, tri-religious coalition in late 1990, he was clearly a partisan of a secular democratic Bosnia and a secular and democratic Yugoslavia in which members of all religious groups could live together in harmony, peace, and equality."Link