|Bosnian Muslims (source: Pinterest)|
We know from the last few years, that alredy passed, that Europe was repeately shaken by a wave of terrorists acts that were mastered by several fundamentalist Islamic groups. Most of the media coverage from this period centered its discourse about the connection between Islamic redicalism and migration to Europe from various Muslim-majority states.
There were very few remarkable discussions that put into the spotlight the indigenous Muslims of Europe in the present context. Yes, indigenous Muslims of Europe, this term might give certain people a headache, as the general conception is that all of the continent’s adherence to Islam have Arabic or Turkish ancestry, thus their ancestors came „from somewhere else” at a given time in history. The Balkans host a number of people groups that practice Islam and are neither of Turkish or Arabic descent. We are talking more exactly about the Slavic Muslims, a general term that is applied to describe groups such as the Bosniaks of Bosnia and Sandzak, the Gorani or southern Kosovo, the Tordesh of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and the Pomaks of Rhodopian Bulgarian and Northern Greece.
We can also add to the equation a small number of of Muslim Greeks and Albanians. If we put asibe many of the self-designated identities that are found throughout this region, we could easily come to the conclusion that the Slavic Muslims groups that cultural identities that do not diverge greatly from one another. Later, this represent one of the reasoons that leed to the creation of the Muslim nationality within Tito’s Yugoslavia, thus people could identify as „ethnic Muslim”. There were also a few other factors that we have to take in to consideration, by creating a free-standing Muslim nationality within Yugoslavia the long standing conflict between thr Serbs and Croats, that argued whether the Muslims should identify with one or the other side, was gradually neutralized. Even so, the religious landscape of the Balkans is gradually chamging, in the aftermath of the breakup of Yugoslavia, there is a strong desire to reafirm one’s group identity. Some studies showed that, even though religion played a major role in the crystalization of the Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian identities, there is a slow drop in religiosity that can be seen among Croatians. This can be a sing that the nation of va is trying to put more stress on Croatia’s links to various regional powers, to the West, and to highlight more its role in the regional history that is shares with former powers such as Venice, Italy or Austria-Hungary.
The general trend in the region nowadays is that of a „radicalization of identities”, meaning that certain groups are more and more in favor of cutting, or denying, any historical ties that they have with their Slavic neighbors, accentuating the purely distinctive elements of its own culture. In the case of the Muslims, the material and spiritual heritage that was passed on to them from the Ottoman Empire. Besides the well-known charm of Osmali towns such as Novi Pazar, we must understand that the rise of neo-Ottomanism is become more and more visible through out the Balkans, epscially since Erdogan become the head of the Republic of Turkey, even though this ideology was existant way before his rise to power. Neo-Ottomanism stresses the role that the Republic of Turkey needs to play in those areas that were former part of the Empire, thus the Republic becoming a protector of those cultural values that are regarded as being explicetly Ottoman.
This approach is quite conflicting when it is put side-by-side with Kemalism, the later one is not so much in favor of the crystalization in the Balkans, and not only, of a post-Ottoman realm, and stresses the need of a bigger involvement in internal affairs. Now, more than eve before, neo-Ottomanism has a clear slope that helps with making its message well-known throughout the Balkans. There are a few factors that need to be addressed, that heavily contributed to the emergence of imperialism in the region:
- The creationf of the „Muslim Nation” in Tito’s Yugoslavia, which acted as a unifying framework for the Muslim groups that were scattered through the country;
- Past tessions that were left unsolved between Muslims and non-Muslims;
- A history of genocide which made many Muslims not trust central authority;
- Forced policies of assimilation and systemic discrimination, especially in Bulgaria;
- A disapora of Slavic Muslims, especially Bosniaks, that live in Turkey, making the Turkish state a trust-worthy place for many Slavs of Islamic faith;
- Investments made by Turkey within Muslim-majority areas of the Balkans, like Sandzak and Bosnia, contrasted with the lack of investment that came from the central authorities;
- The common traits shared with Turkey through the Ottoman heritage inherited by the Muslims of the Balkans;
- Radicalization of faith, a transition toward a more faith-based identity in the detriment of an ethnic-based one.