Bosnian Young Muslims 1939 -1991 A Survey

The history of the Young Muslim organiza-tion and its impact on the (self-)conceptionsof Islam in Bosnia can be examined throughdifferent stages ofdevelopment (1939?1943,1943?1946, 1946?1949, and 1970s?1991).These stages can be defined in terms of several interdependent factors, of which the or-ganizational forms of the movement and itsideological aims can be regarded as themost important ones. The Young Muslim organization emergedin Sarajevo in 1939.

The time offondation,the name, and even some ideological postu-lates suggest that its foundation was relatedto the more or less simultaneous emergence of similar pan-Islamist movements inthe Islamic world particularly in Egypt andIndonesia. There are, however, no indica-tions of a direct influence of such move-ments on the Young Muslims, speciallybearing in mind their education and age(basically pupils and students between 16and 26 years of age), the lack of any travel-ling experience, their non-acquaintancewith Oriental languages, the difficult accessto the works of contemporary Arabic writersin the Bosnianlanguage, and finally, their non-alignment to the Bosnian ulama, a tleast at the erly stage of their develop-ment,which could have compensated forthe above-mentioned limitations.The timeof the movement's foundation,the late 1930s and the early 1940s, was

marked by several factors of particular im-portance for the Yugoslavian uslims: a cri-sis of national identity; the decreasing im-portance of Muslims within the Yugoslavianpolitical landscape;the rinforcement of na-tionalism in Serbia and Croatia; the emer-gence of a secular Bosnian intellectual ?litealong withthe parallel decline of the tradi-tional religious Muslim ?lites; and, finally,

the challenge of communist and fascisticideologies, both of which were oppoed tothe Young Muslims' conceptions of Islam. Early developmentsThe Young Muslim movement developedaround a group of students(Husref B as a g i c y ,Emin Granov, Esad K a r a d j o z o v ic«, and TarikMuf t ic«), who initiated a common forum fordiscussions and debates on Islamic subjects.

The first Young Muslims were mainly stu-dents from universities and high schoolsagedbetween 16 and 26 years. Their activi-ties during the years 1939 and 1941 were es-tablished on the basis of private contactsnd nformal meetings. During the latter,some of the activists presented papers onspecific subjects connectedto Islam, where-upon the group had to discuss the argu-

ments of the presenters. Despite the lack of hierarchical or orgni-zational structures, this period was decisivefor the later development of the YoungMuslim organizatin: it was during this timethat theirnetwork, which was to spreadacross all major Bosnian and evensomeother Yugoslavian cities during the years tofollow, was initiated. Furthermore, their

main ideological and programmatic guide-lines were formulated. Islamic decadence,the relationhip between Islam and scienceas well as that between Islam and other reli-gions and ideologies, the statusof Islam anMuslims in Europe and particularly in Yu-goslavia, the necessity of a social renais-sance of Muslimpeoples and the decisiverole of Islamic education in it: all these top-

ics were already present in the early YoungMuslim agenda and were to run throgh themembers' writings and the group's activitiesuntil the 1990s, in more or less elaboratedways. The foundation as an oganization tookplace in Sarajevo in March 1941. However,the outbreak of the SecondWorldWar obvi-ated an official entry into the Yugoslavian

register of associations. In order to avoidcomplete dissolution the Young Muslimswere compelled to join the ulama associa-tion el-Hidaje, despite their critical attitudetowards te Bosnin religious officials andthe protests of some activists like AlijaI z e t b e g o v ic« and N edyz i bSac« yi r b e g o v ic«a g a i n s tthe linkage to the much-criticized clergy. In

1943, after almost two years of organiza-tional abeyance, theYoung Muslims wereofficially proclaimed the youth section ofthe ulama a s s o c i a t i o n. This status had sig-nificant mpact on both their organiztionalstructures and ideology. Informal networksbecame substituted byofficially stipulatedassociation structures. El-Hidaje officials,especially the association's president

Mehmed H a nd yz ic« and his vice-presidentKasim D o b ra yc a, helped to 'domesticate' theradical, to a ertain extent politically deter-mined demands, such as those postulatedby the founding members Esad K a r a d j o-z o v ic and Tarik M u  t ic«. Now, the religious-ethical dimension of Islam was emphasized;thisnew direction fitted more in the frameof traditional Islamic subjects rather than in

the avant-garde discourse on Islam theyhad originally tried to establish. During thisperiod, i.e. btween 1943 and 1945, thenumber of members significantly increasedand the organization expanded into themajor Bosnian, and evn some oter Yu-goslavian cities.Underground and abroadIn1945, el-Hidaje was officially dissolved,

and the Young Muslim organization wentunderground They established an illegalnetwork that influenced both young urbanintellectuals and much of the young ruralopulaion. Initially tolerated by the newregime, they went for open confrontationwith the communists as early as 1946, espe-cially when they protestedagainst the mili-tant secularization policy of the new Yu-

goslavian government. In 1946, severalmembers were arreste and sentto prison.The final crushing of the organization tookplace during the Sarajevo trial inAugust1949. Four leading members were con-demned to death; may others were arrest-ed and sentenced to long imprisonments. Aprecise number of arrested, persecuted,and/or executed members, though, cannot

be definitely specified. After their release from ison, some ofthe Young Muslims emigrated to West Euro-pean countries. Those who remained inBosnia andconfined themselves to privatecntacts with each other officially retreatedfrom further engagements in the YoungMuslim 'cause'. Nonetheless, it was this kindof private contact that enabled them to

keep in touch under the vigilant eye of theugoslavian Secret Service, and to take ac-tive part in the Islamic revival in Bosnia thatwas made possible due tothe liberalizationof policy with respect to religion in 1970sYugslavia. However, they not only hadbeen participants in this awakening of reli-gion among Yugoslavian, and especiallyBosnian Muslims; to a considerable extent,

they also gave this movement their freshimpetus by launching newspape andmagazines on slamic subjects and by pub-lishing their writings underpseudonyms,ei-ther in the official organs of the IslamskaVjerska Zajednica (Islamic Religious Com-

munity) or as separate, autonomous works. Finally, by initializing discussion and edu-ction circle, theformer Young Muslimmembers succeeded in creating anewnet-work, which consisted of some formerYoung Muslims and a number of Bosnian

Muslim intellectuals of the younger genera-tion. The latter, both secular intelltalsand young ulama from the Faculty of Islam-ic Theology, actively tookpartinthe discus-sion circles. The ideas that circulated among

them followed the pattern established bythe Young Muslims, houg in modifiedway. The new works, like Alija I z e t b e g o v ic«' sIslamic DeclarationandIslambetween theEast and West,1 to name but these two as the

best known ones, reflected the new agestructure, but alo theacqaintance oftheirauthors with various contemporary ideolog-ical thoughts, and theinfluencesthatresult-ed thereof.In August 1983, in a second wave of perse-

cution, some activists of the network weretried for 'separatsm' nd 'Islami fuda-mentalism' and sent to prison with sen-tences of up to nineyears.Amongthosewere the former Young Muslims AlijaI z e t b e g o v ic«, Omer Behmen, Salih Behmen,

Eys r ef C a m p a r a y, and Ismet K a s u m a g ic«, aswell as the younger intellectual Dyz  m a lu-d  n L a t ic«, Edhem Biyc akyc ic«, Hasan C e n g iyc«,Hu-sein Z i v a l j y, and Mustafa S p a h ic«. I z e t b e g o v ic«

was accused of having organized a 'group'whose aims were to conduct 'contrvolu-tionary' actions in Yugoslavia and to estab-lish an Islamic stateinYugoslavia.2The in-dictment, however, was more an ideologi-cally coloured determent of regime critics

rather than an accusation based upon realproof.


The two lines that now constituted thenetwork ? the 'old' Young Muslims and themembers of the younger generation ? be-came the core of the StrankaDemokratskeAkcije (SDA), a political party founded in1991 and since regarded as the only 'true'

political representative of Muslim popula-tion in Bosnia ? a presumptuous self-de-scription, though repeatedly confirmed during the political elections in Bosnia. The ideas that had been developed at theearly stages of the Youg Muslim move-ment continued ? to a certain extent modi-fied ? to exist until the last decade of the2 0t h century, despite the official prohibition of the movement in 1946, its being crushed1949, and the subsequent imprisonment ofthe organization's members. The ideological continuity was guaranteed through the'individual factor', i.e. through the networkof informaland private contacts of some ex-Young Muslims amongst each other andwith the younger generation of Muslim in-tellectuals in Bosnia, especially in the course

of the general liberalization of policy on reli-gion in Yugoslavia during the 1970s.