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Modernism: The Creation of Nation-States

Ahmet Ersoy
Maciej Górny
Vangelis Kechriotis

Chapter III. “National projects” and their regional framework

Program of the Yugoslav Muslim Organization

Traduction de Nihad Dostović

Texte intégral

1Title: Program Jugoslovenske Muslimanske Oragnizacije (Program of the Yugoslav Muslim Organization)

2Originally published: In the newspaper Pravda, number 2, 25 February 1919

3Language: Bosnian
The excerpts used are from Atif Purivatra, Jugoslovenska muslimanska organizacija u politčkom životu Kralejvine Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca (Sarajevo: “Svjetlost,” 1974), pp. 596–599.


4The year 1918 was a turning point in the economic and social life of Bosnian Muslims, as it marked the official end of the old sharecropping land tenure system in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This system was frequently, but erroneously, described as feudalism in an effort to justify the deprivation of Bosnian Muslims of their land property rights during the land reform of 1919. However, the agrarian question in Bosnia and in the Balkans was also a national and a political one. The large estates were not actually the dominant type of property in this system. Muslims around 1918 were typically small landholders with a dozen sharecroppers working the land. There were a number of genuine latifundia (large estates) indeed, but these were the exception. In 1918 around 60,000 families of these small landowners, living off almost insignificant land rents, found themselves deprived of their property rights and income. This became a difficult social question, with the loss of income leading to poverty and social pathologies.

5The Jugoslavenska Muslimanska Organizacija (Yugoslavian Muslim Organization, JMO) emerged in February 1919, out of the merging of local Muslim organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The party had its own political magazine called Vrijeme (Time). The JMO acted as the political representative of these devastated people and raised the question of compensation as an important agenda for the entire Bosnian Muslim population. Many negotiations and agreements concerning the agrarian question were brokered with the Serbian political establishment. The JMO was prepared for concessions with Belgrade in exchange for at least partial compensation to Bosnian Muslim landowners. Their insistence on this question also earned them the reputation of being the true defenders of Bosnian Muslim interest.

6The first leader of the party was the mufti of Tuzla, Ibrahim Maglajlič. In the first parliamentary elections the JMO won the largest number of votes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, gaining 24 seats in the Parliament. The most prominent member of the party was its later leader, Mehmed Spaho, who achieved to pass the article 135 of the Yugoslav constitution, where it was clearly stated that Bosnia and Herzegovina would remain within its existing borders. With the suspicious death of Spaho in 1939, the party was almost dissolved, and the Second World War brought its final demise. The death of Spaho was never investigated, nor was the JMO restored. After the fall of communism and the introduction of the multi-party system, none of the parties representing the Bosnian Muslims claimed the heritage of the JMO.

7The ‘Program of the JMO’ was announced in February 1919 and amended in 1922. This program addressed a whole set of questions and principles, among which were constitutional, economic, educational, judicial and religious issues. The JMO was a party of Bosnian Muslims, with the intention to spread its influence elsewhere in Yugoslavia where Muslims of various ethnic backgrounds lived (Kosovo, Macedonia, Sanjak, Montenegro and Serbia); however, this influence was felt predominantly in Bosnia. The party opted for a democratic constitutional monarchy protected by the Karadorde-vić dynasty ruling in the ‘Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes’ (SHS). The JMO supported parliamentarianism because it it was regarded as the most viable form of control over the centralist intensions of the dynasty and the Serbian political establishment. This was highly significant since Yugoslav political life between the years 1919 and 1921 was dominated by the constitutional question. The constitution was accepted only in 1921. It was a centralist constitution reconfirming Serbian predominance in the state and was considered to be detrimental by a considerable number of Croat and Bosnian Muslim politicians.

8The JMO was not a religious party. Still, it raised specific issues connected to Islam and Islamic institutions as part of its agenda, as a party willing to genuinely represent Bosnian Muslims could not have avoided these issues. On the question of nationality and equality of ethnic groups and communities, the JMO subscribed to the principle of early Yugoslavism, which maintained that there was one people with three so called “tribal” names (Yugoslavs were either Serbs or Croats or Slovenes). It was within this context that they approached the national question of the Bosnian Muslims. For them, the Bosnian Muslims carried all attributes of a national tribe, except national awareness. The JMO considered the Bosnians to be patriots, devoted to their nation and willing to preserve their language. In this context, the JMO denounced an aggressive process for the ‘nationalization’ of Bosnian Muslims. They claimed that a gradual cultural transformation would make Bosnian Muslims conscious of their true national identity. However, they did not specify what that true national identity was. On that matter, Bosnian Muslims and their political leadership remained conspicuously silent. Such concerns also played themselves out in constitutional debates. The JMO mandated constitutional equality for Islam, Islamic manners and customs, and demanded that these guarantees be fulfilled at the same level as constitutional freedom, private property and other constitutionally guaranteed liberties. This was not only a result of ideological scheming, but also an expression of contemporary realities. The triumphant Serbian nationalism treated Muslims and their institutions everywhere in the manner of a reconquista. There were numerous assaults on Muslim institutions and individuals.

9After the question of constitutional rights, the most important item in the political agenda of the JMO was the economic improvement of Bosnian and other Muslims. Being aware of their economical and political weakness, the Bosnian political elite upheld the JMO as their only safeguard against Serbian and Croatian national designs to incorporate Bosnia and Bosnian Muslims into their respective national bodies. The party’s strategies appealed to the Bosnian Muslim masses and they regarded the JMO as a true defender of their interests and traditions.


Program of the Yugoslav Muslim organization (JMO)

1. Fundamental principles

  • 1 The National Council was formed in Zagreb at the end of September 1918, and took temporary control (...)

11The fundamental principles of our politics are: democracy and constitutionalism, justice and liberty, equality and tolerance. We accept the national and state unity of the state of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenians (SHS), and the constitutional monarchic state form under the national dynasty of the house of Karadordević. Until the final agreement on the constitution, we accept the position expressed in the address of the national council in Zagreb1, and in the reply of the Regent to it, and then we ask the government to obey these principles. The state council, which will be the genuine expression of the people’s will, should be convened immediately.

12We accept the position of the full equality of the free people, and we stress the fact that the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina never estranged themselves from their motherland, from their nation, from their language. They keep all signs of pure nationalism, and the only thing they are not aware of is the name of that people. Consequently, as far as the question of our nationalizing is concerned, our position is that it is a field of cultural endeavor, and not at all a matter of daily politics. The work in this regard should be grounded in tolerance and care, peace and evolution. Therefore we are against any rigidity and passionate take and especially against the forced endorsement of any of the national names. We will bring people closer and not divide them. We hold Yugoslavism to be the best model for coming closer and achieving unity.

2. The constitutional question

13We accept the government’s being fully accountable to the national assembly, which is the expression of the people’s sovereignty, as well as being the outcome of elections based on general, equal, direct, secret and proportional voting for all bodies which are elected.

14We ask that the state constitution should be passed expressly by the national assembly elected according to the aforementioned principle with a two-thirds majority of the vote. Equally we ask the constitution to be changed by the Grand National Assembly with a two-thirds majority of the vote. The ruler takes an oath on the constitution promulgated or changed in this way, and he has no right to sanction, change or suspend the constitution.

15We ask the libertarian protection of faith, Islamic customs and conscience, the sanctity of personal freedom and private possession, freedom of work and action, freedom of movement, assembly and organizing, freedom of speech and press, and respect for the privacy of the house and of the mail.

16We ask that in the constitution the unconditional granting of the equality of Islam with Christianity and other faiths should be stressed. We ask a constitutional guarantee for the non-conditional protection of the Muslim community to enjoy its endowments, hereditary and other properties, we ask full autonomy in our religious endowments and educational matters. We ask our connection with the Caliphate to be assured and regulated in a way that we posses equally free connections with it as the Catholics have with the Holy See.

17We ask for the constitutional guarantee that the institution of the sharia courts will stay intact as state offices for adjudicating according to the rules of the sharia in their established sphere of action. That sphere of action should be broadened to give the sharia courts the right to adjudicate in all family matters concerning Muslims. They should be assigned to take care of Muslim orphans and they should keep the birth and death registers as well as marriage and divorce records for Muslims, so that these records will be accepted as public records. Furthermore, we ask the competence of the sharia courts in all endowment matters in which a sharia decision is necessary. We ask that these courts be given executive powers in all their decisions and judgments in order to secure the authority of the judge. The sharia judges should be given the direct punitive authority over the parts involved.

3. Economic policy

18We ask for equal freedom of enterprise and profit for all citizens at the entire territory of the SHS state. The curtailing of the freedom of enterprise and profit is allowed only out of public concern, and therefore free work in crafts and commerce can be restricted by an earlier concession only if it is expressed in the law. The full freedom of competition in the field of enterprise must not be undermined by privileges. Economic and entrepreneurial privileges as well as concessions for the exploitation of resources in our state can be granted only in a constitutional way. Consequently, all existing economic and entrepreneurial privileges and all concessions for the exploitation of state forests and mines which have been granted must be revised in accordance with the constitution. The beneficiaries and holders of such monopolies can only be the state of SHS.

  • 2 Mostly medium size estates rented to peasants.

19As far as agrarian relations in the countryside are concerned, we stress: all agricultural land is either free property or it is under the sharecropping arrangement. Free property is either small peasant property or large begluk2 property. This free small peasant property today is predominantly burdened with debts, and it seems there is no way that this burden will be relieved soon only by the economic means of the owners of these small properties. We consider this burdening of this free peasant property an obstacle to the successful development of agriculture to an extent equal to the sharecropping relations on sharecropper’s lands. Therefore, we ask that in parallel with the abolishment of sharecropping, this small peasant property should be relieved from the burden of agricultural tax.

20Each peasant has to be given as much land as it is necessary for his survival. Where necessary, the amount of land distributed to each individual should be identical. In order for peasant property to be relieved from the burden of agricultural tax so that it can be preserved in the future, a law should be passed establishing the minimum property size which will not be transferable or allowed to be burdened with any fee. The general economic interest necessitates preventing large estates, but where these exist as free property, they should be kept as they are. Then, while the abolishment of sharecropping applied to the previous owners of the land, if economic concern mandates it, the unification of their free property into a large estate should be guaranteed. In cases where the owner of the land does not own enough free property, and he wants to farm by his own hands, he should be granted enough land for survival purposes. Until the sharecropping question is resolved, the earlier legal relation between owner and sharecropper and the legal protection of that relation on both sides should stay in action. We will dedicate special care to supporting and improving our brothers in villages and cities by establishing peasant and craftsman corporations.

21The working class should be protected by a special law from the capitalist exploitation of their employers. We ask especially for the introduction of compulsory security for workers in case of sickness, accident, inability to work or old age, and we also ask the assurance of support money for the widows and orphans of workers.

4. Educational policy

22We ask for the highest possible increase in the budget for public education and the introduction of practical reforms in public education. Elementary education is obligatory for all children of both sexes. The educational curriculum for elementary, secondary and higher state schools should be introduced according to the most current methods. In elementary and secondary schools, the teaching of religion will be mandatory. We ask for the opening of vocational schools and courses teaching practical tasks in order that their students receive training to be able to become economically independent as soon as possible. Society and state should use all their power to fight illiteracy and they should invest the necessary funds for this purpose. The same applies to the establishment of homes and shelters for war and other orphans. State institutions should be opened for neglected, morally corrupt and ill-guided children and youth, and since attending these institutions will be mandatory, acceptance into these institutions can only be a result of a full court decision and the right of attorney.

5. Judiciary

23We ask for the full independence of judges and the jury from all political and press incriminations, for a concerted fight against usury and for the protection of minors.

6. Military

24We ask for the stipulations of Islam to be respected in the military, in particular that Muslim soldiers should not be burdened with heavy duties during the month of Ramadan. Furthermore, we ask prohibition of the involvement of all military personnel in politics and of their holding both civil and military posts at the same time.

7. Public health

25We will pay special attention to public health and hygiene, with the stress being on fighting alcoholism.

8. The religious and educational autonomy

26We will demand that our autonomous statute be revised immediately.

9. The relations with other Muslims of Yugoslavia

27We will invite Muslims from other Yugoslav countries to join our organization.

10. Paying of indemnities

28All indemnities which are owed to Muslims from the war period, in particular from the time of the change in regime, should be soon and fully paid.


1 The National Council was formed in Zagreb at the end of September 1918, and took temporary control of the new state (the state of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes). It was decided that each province would have one representative for every 100,000 citizens. Hence, Bosnia and Herzegovina had 18 representatives. The Muslim populations of Bosnia and Herzegovina held a total of 6 seats.

2 Mostly medium size estates rented to peasants.

© Central European University Press, 2010

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