A small but growing number of militant Muslims are emerging in Bosnia, fueling “complex and ambivalent feelings toward the West” in this Balkan nation, reports the Los Angeles Times (Nov. 16).
Although grudgingly grateful to Americans for their help in ending the war with Serbians, Bosnians have clearly changed since the 1992-1993 conflict. “The effect of the war . . . in Bosnia was to make more and more people who were Muslim by nationality and tradition Muslim by faith,” says Mark Wheeler, director of the International Crisis Group’s office in Bosnia.
The dire days of war and killing made many Bosnians receptive to Islamic teachings — something eagerly supplied by Saudia Arabia and other nations who sent money and helpers to build new mosques and educate a new generation in the faith. “One legacy of the donations from the Arab world is that Bosnian Muslims are reluctant to probe too deeply into Arab activities in the country,” writes Alissa J. Rubin.
In Muslim majority areas of Bosnia — even more than in the rest of Europe — “the cultural and social environments foster a certain tolerance of Islamic extremism, allowing those who plot violence to move freely.” Since Sept. 11, at least 10 people — several of whom are Egyptians or Algerians — in Bosnia have been detained for possible links to terrorist groups.