How religious are Bosnian Muslims

Islam in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Islam and the Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina

The 2013 census for Bosnia-Herzegovina states that the country as a whole has just over 3.5 million people and that more than half of them (50.7%) list Islam as their religion.

The arrival of Islam in what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina


The 2013 census for Bosnia-Herzegovina states that the country as a whole has just over 3.5 million people and that more than half of them (50.7%) list Islam as their religion. This means that this small Balkan country is the westernmost European state with a majority Muslim population.
Islam takes its roots here with the arrival of the Ottomans in the 15th century. It is not known exactly why Islamization was so successful here. The line of the so-called Great Schism ran through Bosnia-Herzegovina as early as the 11th century, which is a kind of synonym for the boundary between the Western and Eastern Churches or between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. The weakness of both churches in the area of ​​the demarcation line is cited as one of the reasons for the successful Islamization of the population in this area.
According to some theories, a third church - the Bosnian Church - also played an important role in this process. Although the members of this medieval Bosnian church community considered themselves Christians and referred to themselves as "Krstjani and Krstjanke", they were considered heretics in Catholic and Orthodox church circles and were persecuted as such. The theory, according to which the members of this Bosnian Church converted en masse to Islam in order to avoid these persecutions, has little evidence, because Catholics and Orthodox also adopted the new religion for very pragmatic reasons: lower taxes and greater privileges in the new empire .

 
The establishment of the Islamic Community of Bosnia-Herzegovina

The religious head of all Muslims in the Ottoman Empire and thus also of the Muslims on the territory of today's Bosnia-Herzegovina during the Ottoman rule was Sheikh al-Islam, who even had a right of veto on the decisions of the Sultan if he was of the opinion that these decisions were not in accordance with the Koran or that the Messenger Mohammed did not approve them. This situation lasted until the Berlin Congress in 1878, when Bosnia-Herzegovina was occupied by Austro-Hungarian rulers. In order to consolidate their government, it was necessary to reduce both the religious and the political influence of the former Istanbul headquarters on a large part of the population in Bosnia-Herzegovina. One means of achieving this goal was the establishment of the Islamic Faith Community of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The idea of ​​the spiritual and religious detachment from Istanbul met with great resistance among the local Muslims and could only be realized four years later when Emperor Franz Joseph I appointed the first Grand Mufti to head the Rijaset, the highest administrative and executive body for questions of faith by Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Since 1909 the Grand Mufti has been appointed by the members of the imam electoral curia, which is elected by Muslims throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina.
In the interwar period and in socialist Yugoslavia, the Grand Mufti was Tito's highest religious authority for all Muslims in the then state, and after the breakup of Yugoslavia and the establishment of new states in the Western Balkans, the Grand Mufti's sphere of influence extends not only to Bosnia- Herzegovina, but also to the Muslim communities in Sanjak, Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia.
 

Bosnian Muslims and the name of the nation

The majority of Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina are Hanafi Sunnis in the religious sense, which is also the case with most Muslims in the Balkans.
In the national sense, most of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Muslims declared themselves as Bosniaks (50.11%) in the last census in 2013, thereby confirming that they stand behind this national designation, which was used by the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Muslim politicians , Religious leaders and the Muslim intellectual elite at the Bosniak Assembly held in Sarajevo on September 27, 1993.
The search for their own national identity began among the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Muslims after the end of Ottoman rule and the establishment of Austro-Hungarian rule in Bosnia-Herzegovina at the end of the 19th century. The Ottoman Empire based its social order system on the so-called millets. All the inhabitants of the Ottoman Empire belonged to one of the millets: the Muslim, the Jewish, the Greek Orthodox or the Armenian, even if they were not expressly part of a particular millet, as e.g. B. was the case with the Bosnian Herzegovinian Catholics assigned to the Greek Orthodox Millet.
Otherwise, the Millet system has significantly contributed to the emergence of so-called ethno-nations in the Balkans. H. helped identify the nation with religious affiliation. Because of such an understanding of the nation, the Catholics on the territory of today's Bosnia-Herzegovina, after the departure of the rulers from the Bosporus, adopted the Croatian national identity, the Orthodox the Serbian, while the Bosnian Muslims remained in a kind of national vacuum.
In order to neutralize the Serbian nationalism and the territorial claims of neighboring Serbia towards Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Austro-Hungarian government set itself the goal of creating a regionally defined nation which, under the name of "Bosniaks", includes members of all religions what was then Bosnia-Herzegovina. It was also suggested that the common language of the new national church should be Bosnian. But the idea of ​​a common nation and a common language found insufficient support on either side and fails.
The struggle for national recognition of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Muslims continues in socialist Yugoslavia. In 1974, following a proposal by the Union of Communists of Yugoslavia, the ruling and only political power in the state at the time, the denominational name Muslims became the national determinant of “Muslims”. In the national sense, the “Muslims” become the third largest people in what was then Yugoslavia after the Serbs and Croats, because they not only include the Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but almost all Slavic Muslims in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
With the disintegration of the Yugoslav Federation and the emergence of the autonomous state of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the term “Muslims” is not only unacceptable for the nation, but also a political burden, because it arouses fear of the establishment of a Muslim state in Europe, so that the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Muslims return to the national designation Bosniaks at the Bosniak Assembly in 1993 and call their language Bosnian. These designations for the nation and for the language also find their way into the Dayton Peace Agreement, which is considered the constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina, so that they also have their legal basis.

On the dossier "Islam in Germany and in Bosnia and Herzegovina"