Islam in the Muslim areas of the former Yugoslavia is becoming more diverse, with a development of neo-Salafism, but the prospects for any type of Islamic state are not very good, write experts Xavier Bougarel and Bashkim Iseni in the newly published issue of Politorbis (No. 43, 2007), a journal of international affairs published by the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Their analyses include prospects for the next ten years. Following the events of the past 15 years and the recent proclamation of independence of Kosovo, the issues related to Islam in the former Yugoslavia and neighboring countries has been a matter of concern. Bougarel and Iseni rule out any possible emergence of an Islamic state: Islamist groups will continue to be active, but either as small political players (in electoral terms) or as subgroups within mainline political parties.
Current debates vary from one country to another: political Islamism has declined in Bosnia-Herzegovina (after experiencing an impetus in the 1990s), while a discussion on links between Albanian identity and Islam has emerged in Kosovo and Macedonia.
However, the influence of pietist neo-Salafi trends within established Islamic institutions in the area is likely to grow, as a consequence of neo-Salafi propaganda—which has appealed to young people and those returning after training in Arab countries. This should lead to more literal interpretations of Islam within official institutions.
This should be seen in a context where such institutions are feeling competition, both from dynamic neo-Salafi groups and from Sufi or neo-Sufi groups; this has led to compromises allowing the entry of neo-Salafis. Moreover, Bougarel and Iseni observe that the situation in Bosnia is complex, since there are also preachers mixing Sufi and neo-Salafi elements, or former members of Islamic armed units who have subsequently affiliated with Sufi groups and denounced neo-Salafism.
The picture is one of a process of diversification within Bosnian Islam. Moreover, local religious institutions are likely to face difficulties in financing their activities, due to the increasing number of religious scholars trained at home or abroad and looking for jobs.
Institutions will have to look for new sources of income; failure to do so may reinforce dependence upon foreign funding from Muslim countries, but also create internal tensions and frustrations.
(Politorbis, Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Political Secretariate, Bernastrasse 28, 3003 Bern, Switzerland, http://www.eda.admin.ch/ politorbis)