Provoking the Balkans

Islam in the Balkans is not an imported product of this geography, rather it's a fundamental element of the region

Provoking the Balkans

Akif Emre

It was the last suffocating years of the cold war period. The equilibriums were upside down in Yugoslavia after Tito. Compared to other communist countries the proportional freedom atmosphere had disappeared and the regime was starting to move with inner threat paranoia. With the 'There is a religious country being established in Bosnia' propaganda, Aliya being in the first place, a handful of intellectuals were punished with imprisonment. Similar accusations were made in other federate republics and a political cleanup movement had started. For instance, a merciless prosecution aimed at Albanian notables had started after the Albanians were transformed into targets in Kosovo.

The 'Yugoslavian youth' I've met in such a suffocating environment were showing interest in the intellectual developments in Turkey and throughout the globe, and they were reading everything they can find in order to protect their Islamic identity and to expand their horizons. I've personally witnessed that, during the times when it was even forbidden to photocopy, they were carrying religious and philosophical books they've found in Istanbul under their shirts in order to take it back to their country. Books ranging from Ibn al-Arabi to Ali Shariati, Henry Corbin to Naquib al-Attas. They were taking all the books they can find in Turkish or English one by one back to Sarajevo or Skopje. They were reading all these books and discussing them thoroughly and when they find the opportunity they were photocopying them.

When Yugoslavia was shattered and split in small countries, a Macedonia, Bosnia- centered intellectual rebirth showed up along with the political transformation. From the perspective of the Muslims Bosnia, philosophical and intellectual wise, was the capital of the old Yugoslavia. Because of this, the disintegration of Yugoslavia had ruptured all the central communication channels of the Muslims.

I should state that my interest in the Balkans is a concrete interest towards such a vital intellectual vessel rather than just a historical nostalgia. During one of our meetings, Aliya asked me since when I had an interest in Bosnia and the Muslims living in the Balkans. He couldn't hide his astonishment when I told him that, it caught my attention by chance at the beginning of the 80's and at that time I was keeping tabs on the courts in Sarajevo.

After Yugoslavia had vanished, in Macedonia a new structure, which holds a different meaning for me and that is more authentic than any other place, came into existence. The same youngsters, that were hiding the books that we gave them under their shirts in order to avoid the oppression of the communist administration, had done something really important; they've set up a publishing house. They translated hundreds of books they've acquired from the East, the West and the Islamic world into Albanian. With their secretly published books, they've helped widening Albanian's horizons. They've translated and published important texts from Turkish, Arabic and Western languages.

For example, Mehmet Akif's 'Safahat' was translated into Albanian for the first time. All the works of the Ottoman intellectual Semseddin Sami, who was an Albanian originally, were published.

Last weekend, on an Albanian website some news were published, which blackens this magnificent effort and denounces it to the Macedonian circles while making this a political topic. Distorted news that are trying to simulate the relations with Turkey and these cultural efforts as parts of a secret and dangerous political project... These news, which are making incidents and institutions that are unrelated with each other look like a doubtful intelligence report, is so distorted that it even transformed these cultural studies, which were done for the first time in the history of the Balkans, into manifestations of a secret and dark structure.

Both Turkish and Albanian Muslim's civil society works were presented as Turkey's, more correctly, the Rulership's spy institutions. Between these institutions, TIKA, which operates completely with official agreements, and even Balkan University exists. One of the news, which are presented by assigning a reverse meaning to the original context by giving unknown names and places, is the 'Islamic World and International Threats' conference organized by ESAM and gathered under Recai Kutan's presidency. But even this, by being shown as a rulership operation, was agitated. It's charged with disinformation enough to even interpret my critical speech, in a panel I've attended in Skopje, as an 'Erdoganizm effect'.

Islam in the Balkans is not an imported product of this geography, rather it's a fundamental element of the region. By disregarding the Muslims, no steps can be taken for the future of the Balkans. There is a possibility that some attempts will be done in order to provoke the Muslims, who are possibly starting to find their own voices, and to turn their volumes down in this new period. Breaking the relations between Turkey and the Muslims in the Balkans, equals to becoming an obstacle for the future of the Balkans, no matter what religious or ethnical group it belongs to.

No matter from which circle, whoever is involved in this will be betraying the history and the Balkans.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 14 Haziran 2014, 16:48

Muhammed Öylek