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Modernism: Representations of National Culture

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Ahmet Ersoy
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Maciej Górny
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Vangelis Kechriotis

Chapter V. Regionalism, autonomism and the minority identity-building narratives

Resolution of the Muslims of Banjaluka

Traduction de Nihad Dostović

Texte intégral

1Title: Rezolucija banjalučkih muslimana (Resolution of the Muslims of Banjaluka)

2Originally published: as a petition distributed in Banjaluka on 12 November 1941

3Language: Bosnian

4The excerpts used are from Muhamed Hadžijahić, Muslimanske rezolucije iz 1941. u istoriji naroda Bosne i Hercegovine (Sarajevo: Zbornik radova, 1973), pp.38–39.

Context

5The resolutions issued by Bosnian Muslim political, religious and social elites during the second half of 1941 represent a dramatic peak in the Bosnian Muslim politics of the pre-communist era. These resolutions did not have any substantial impact on what was happening in the Nezavisna Država Hrvatska (Independent State of Croatia, hereafter NDH). However, with the exception of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, they represented the clearest statements against racial politics and ethnic hatred promoted by any part or political party of the dismembered Kingdom of Yugoslavia in the period between 1941 and 1945 (see Josip Broz Tito, National question in Yugoslavia in the light of the Liberation War).

6The NDH was a puppet state of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. It was founded on 10 April 1941 and covered the territories of present-day Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as parts of Serbia. Supported by German and Italian weapons and troops, Ante Pavelić, member of one of the many splinter- groups of the Croatian Party of Rights, introduced a fascist dictatorship. In that, he was bolstered by his party militia called Ustasha, who were notorious for their violent methods He outlawed the leading Croatian Peasant Party (Hrvatska Seljačka Stranka, HSS), and placed the most popular Croatian politician and national leader, Vlatko Maček, under house arrest for the duration of the war. Pavelić developed a special national program defined by a mixture of Nazi-fascist racialism and Catholic proselytism. In addition to his extremely radical antisemitic measures, Pavelić’s politics targeted the Serbian population of Croatia and Bosnia. He believed that the final solution to the Croatian national question would be achieved only when Serbs were confined to areas east of the rivers Sava and Drina. Especially in 1941, pogroms took place on a daily basis. One of the most gruesome of such acts was the notorious crime in the Orthodox church of Glina (in present-day Croatia), where several hundred Serb men, women and children were locked and burnt alive. Pavelić also established concentration camps where Jews, Serbs, Communists and opponents of his regime were jailed and exterminated. On the other hand, both Pavelić’s party and the state considered the Bosnian Muslims a natural part of the Croatian national body, naming them “the flowers of the Croatian people.” This, however, was in direct conflict with the missionary zeal of the Catholic Church which wanted Islam in Croatia heavily subdued, if not totally eradicated. Moreover, the Ustasha pogroms of Serbs had severe consequences for the traditionally multi-religious society of Bosnia. The Serb peasants defended themselves mostly through guerilla warfare, taking their revenge also on Muslim villages. This created a major Muslim refugee problem in 1942.

7The Udruženje Ilmije (Association of Islamic scholars) had been established in Sarajevo on 12 March 1912. The aim was to facilitate the work of Muslim religious leaders and establish communication between them and the public. Later on, its main agenda would be the protection of Muslims and Islam. In 1941, the association released the petition in question, which would reach all the cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

8The Banjaluka resolution of 12 November 1941 is important as a statement whereby the Bosnian Muslim elites directly condemned the violence committed by the Ustashas against the Serbs. Equally, they condemned the destruction of Jewish properties. They were not, however, as direct in their condemnation of these crimes as they were in the case of the crimes against the Serbs; being aware of the degree of German antisemitism, they might have been concerned about the German response. The document condemned those among the Muslim community who took part in the violence, but it also tried to suppress and counter attempts to hold Muslims responsible for Ustasha crimes. It listed various figures regarding the persecution of Muslims and alluded to the insults made against Islam, while also condemning the proselytizing activities of the Catholic Church. It emphatically conveyed the historical paradox of the Ustasha crimes, which created a situation in which the Serbs and Muslims fought against each other. In this, they saw the perfidiousness of the NDH’s national and Catholic proselytizing policies.

9The documents did not have any positive impact on how Pavelić’s regime treated the non-Croats and non-Catholics. To retaliate, the Ustashas resorted to more violence. At the beginning of 1942 they confined the majority of the signatories of the Banjaluka resolution to concentration camps in Jasenovac and Stara Gradiška. At the same time, the gravest pogroms against the Serbs took place in the wider region of Banjaluka. On the night of 6 January 1942, the Orthodox Christmas eve, the densely populated Serb village of Drakulić near Banjaluka was totally razed. Around 1000 people were killed by the Ustashas led by the Franciscan Friar Miroslav Filipović- Majstorović, who later became one of the commanders of the concentration camp in Jasenovac.

10The Banjaluka Resolution remains an exemplary document of solidarity in the midst of mortal ethnic conflicts. On the anniversary of the declaration of the resolution, celebrations take place during which members of the Udruženje Ilmije association deliver talks. Its memory, however, is only nurtured by Bosnian Muslims.

11ND

Resolution of the Muslims of Banjaluka

12Since the inception and establishment of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), we Muslims have been observing with the highest concern how Ustashas and other officials with or without influence in government committed the gravest errors and crimes. The most basic rights of man are scrupulously offended. The security of life and property, the freedom of religion and conscience, ceased to be in effect and to be applied to a large segment of the population in these regions. The killings of priests and other leaders without trial or sentence, the shootings and harrasment of the population, frequently composed of innocent people, women and even children, the mass expulsion of entire families from their houses and even their beds, having only been given one or two hours warning, their deportations to unknown areas, the appropriation and plunder of their properties and possessions, the destruction of places of worship, frequently by the hands of the faithful themselves, the forced conversion to the Roman Catholic faith—all these are the facts which have brought out our disgust, which brings the aversion to any honest man and which have had a very deep impact on us, the Muslims. We never expected nor hoped, let alone desired, such methods of work and administration in our regions. In our difficult and uneasy past, we never, even under the gravest of circumstances, resorted to such an approach. We think that such atrocities should not be committed even against our fiercest enemies, for we doubt that we can find an equal for the things taking place now in our region in the history of any people.

13The results of such politics—if we can give these deeds such a name—are absolutely terrible, and it is expected that any reasonable man would conclude the same. Religious tolerance, which had been sensitively observed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, despite its religious divisions, has been degraded in a frightening manner. The insults and provocations so frequently target us, the Muslims, that it has made us seriously reconsider things. A fraction of the Catholic priests consider that now is an appropriate time, and that they should use this advantage without any constraint or check. The conversion propaganda is so widespread that it resembles the Spanish Inquisition. Under the force of propaganda and without any reaction towards it by various public offices, the mass forcible conversion of the Orthodox Serbs has taken place. In this way, the ones who were denied any value as citizens and who were denied their national character became again citizens with full rights, simply because they converted to Catholicism. The equality of Islam, frequently stressed in writings and public statements, is questioned in life and practice. One frequently hears the Catholic Ustashas singing derogatory songs, insulting Muslim feelings and wishing for them the same destiny as that of the Orthodox Serbs.

14Apart from the Ustasha army, not only the official part of their militia but also illegally organized groups as well, committed great insults and assaults against both the Orthodox Serbs and Muslims, and this caused the highest concern among us. The incident of the terrible murder of an imam, Edhem effendi Hodzić, here in Banjaluka, in the middle of the hospital yard and in the middle of the day, is a terrible example of the thuggishness of the Ustasha member named Josip Babić. What is the most pitiable fact is that it is unknown even today whether this criminal was arrested at all, let alone whether or not he received an exemplary punishment, as was demanded by the Muslims of Banjaluka and elsewhere.

  • 1 Serbian monarchic paramilitary group during the Second World War which in the later years of the w (...)
  • 2 These are some among the most common Muslim proper names in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

15We have many examples of Ustasha wearing fezzes while committing murders or slaughtering Orthodox Serbs. It was in Bosanski Novi where four trucks full of Ustasha crossed the river Sava (in Croatia proper) wearing fezzes. They slaughtered the entire Orthodox Serb population there. The same happened in Bosanska Kostajnica, where in a single day, 862 Serb Orthodox were slaughtered in the same way. Also in Kulen Vakuf, they did the same, and in that action a special role was played by Miroslav Matijević, an Ustasha from Vrtoca. There, 950 Serb Orthodox were slaughtered, leading the Chetniks1 to take revenge on 6 September 1941, when they set Kulen Vakuf on fire, for which 1365 Muslims (men, women and children) paid with their lives. We know that some Catholic Ustashas attacked Serb Orthodox shouting, “Push, Mujo, get them Huso, don’t let them go Meho”2 and the like …

  • 3 On a public demonstration, where they called for the stopping of massacres on all sides, Muslims o (...)

16Now that the Ustasha have caused such a grave conflict between us and the Orthodox Serbs, we are called as soldiers to suppress this uprising, meaning to kill Serbs and vice versa, so that we will eradicate and exterminate one another without ever knowing when the conflict will cease or what kind of consequences it will have. This fight, which we did not provoke, became so widespread that many of our villages were burned and plundered, and their inhabitants—men, women and children—are wandering impoverished, hungry and thirsty, seeking help and protection from those who are able or unable to do so. They escape to our cities, which are already full, and it is very difficult to offer them any help. The protection offered to our people in villages is totally inadequate, especially in those regions which are under Italian occupation. The Italian army is watching without any action while Muslim villages are set on fire, as occurred quite recently in the villages in the counties Ključ, Petrovac and Sana. And even worse, those who are the perpetrators in these disorders are now living in security, wearing their uniforms, concerned predominantly with the plunder of Serb and Jewish properties and possessions. We see this best here in Banjaluka, where the property of expelled Serbs and Jews became the source of plunder and enrichment of individuals, their families and friends. We refuse with indignation the accusation that we want to take the properties of others. Here we support all Muslim actions which have the same aim, especially that of Sarajevo Muslims of 12 October 19413, and in accordance with this we demand that:

  • The genuine security of life and property should be implemented as soon as possible. The same applies to the religious freedom for all citizens of the country.
  • Innocent people should be protected by a strong military force.
  • All those responsible for committing any atrocity or crime should be tried without any regard to their rank or faith. The same applies to those who ordered or helped perpetrate such deeds.
  • All kinds of religious intolerance should be forbidden.
  • Appropriate material support for those who suffered for no reason during these disorders should be delivered as soon as possible.

17In Banjaluka, 12 November 1941.

Notes

1 Serbian monarchic paramilitary group during the Second World War which in the later years of the war collaborated with Nazi Germany.

2 These are some among the most common Muslim proper names in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

3 On a public demonstration, where they called for the stopping of massacres on all sides, Muslims of Sarajevo signed a similar petition that invited Muslims in other cities to do likewise.

© Central European University Press, 2010

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