AP 23 Oct 94 13:29 EDT V0150 The Associated Press.
"drifting toward religious and political rigidity"
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) -- In 1988, long before Bosnia plunged into war, some young TV comedians spoofed a divided Sarajevo. Later, they joked about U.N. peacekeepers breaking into a home to settle a family fight. Now, the popular and prescient Surrealists' Hit Parade group -- the Balkan equivalent of Monty Python or "Saturday Night Live" -- has a new body of work that pokes fun at Islam. But no one may ever see it. Officials of Bosnia's Muslim-led government deemed some sketches offensive and stashed the videotapes of the show in the basement of state-run television, a communist-era censorship tactic.
"This government is trying to create a new culture, and we are not in their plans for the new culture," said Zenit Dzozic, 33, leader of the seven-member comedy troupe that is negotiating to get a re-edited version of the series shown.
That new culture seems intended to bring Sarajevo's mostly non-observant Muslims closer to Islam. Bars are still crowded with Muslims and others swigging alcohol, and short skirts predominate in much of the city. But veiled women frequent the old Muslim quarter, and more people are going to mosque.
After 30 months of war, signs are emerging that Sarajevo, long the symbol of Bosnia's multicultural tolerance among its Muslims, Roman Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs, is drifting toward religious and political rigidity:
--The leader of Bosnia's Muslim community wants to ban what he calls "European garbage: alcohol, drugs and prostitution." His objection to pork sales caused it to disappear from Sarajevo markets.
--An Islamic fundamentalist publication close to Enes Karic, the culture and education minister, advocates banning mixed marriages, which accounted for more than one-third of prewar marriages in Sarajevo.
-Karic, an Islamic scholar, ordered a ban on "aggressor music" - songs from Serbs and Serbia. The edict is vague and independent radio stations have ignored it so far, but until recently such a decree would have been unthinkable from a government whose message to the world has been that it wants a multiethnic state with cultural diversity.
--Almost all state-owned companies are run by ranking members of the ruling party, the Muslim-dominated Party of Democratic Action.
--Government-run television is trying to shut down its rival, independent Hayat television.
--Mujahedeen, Islamic fighters from the Middle East, have appeared in Sarajevo, where once they would have been run out of town. There has not been any organized pressure on Catholics and Orthodox, and Sarajevo's No. 2 Islamic leader, Ismet Spahic, sought in mid-October to reassure other groups that Muslims want all religions to feel at home. But Croat and Serb residents are increasingly uneasy about the spreading campaign to encourage Bosnian Muslims to pay more attention to Islamic beliefs and customs. The rise in religious influence has been aided by the flight of Sarajevo's intellectual and professional elite, who once formed the cornerstone of the capital's liberal secularism. Estimates of the "brain drain" range from 50 percent to 75 percent of elites. At the same time, poor, uneducated and embittered Muslim refugees have poured into the capital, providing fertile ground for Islamic fundamentalists.
"The problem is very few people -- probably only the stubborn people like me -- want to stay," said Zdrako Grebo, a law professor and founder of independent Radio Zid. Intellectuals blame Western neglect of Bosnia for Islam's incursions. "When the principle of ethnic division of Bosnia was accepted, everyone should have known what the consequences would be ... radicalism on all sides, including ours," said Adil Kulenovic, a Muslim who is a philosophy professor and chief editor at Studio 99, another independent radio station.
International peace plans have been based on dividing Bosnia into semi-autonomous regions for Muslims, Serbs and Croats. All three groups are Slavs, but Croats acquired Catholicism from centuries of Austro-Hungarian rule and Muslims adopted the faith of Ottoman Turk masters. If Bosnia is divided along such lines, Kulenovic warns, "this will be a mujahedeen, Islamic, radical state. The war can stop, but we will have terrorists here."
Islamic countries, prominently Iran, have filled the void left by Western inaction with hundreds of millions of dollars in cash and material aid. A glittering new pharmacy, a gift from Kuwait, opened recently in Sarajevo's old Muslim quarter. "Eastern countries are giving money for weapons and culture, and when I say culture I mean changing the cultural habits, all the way to the media," Kulenovic said. Some people view the new focus on religion as just a symptom of war and doubt it will last because it is alien to a country firmly rooted in Europe. Others say U.S. backing for a Muslim-Croat federation has helped stem the tide. But some Bosnian analysts say Islamic fundamentalists have the tacit support of President Alija Izetbegovic. It is a sign of the political climate that they will not say so on the record. Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic opposes Islamic hard-liners like Karic, and that has opened a rift with Izetbegovic. Izetbegovic disputes suggestions that Bosnia is becoming a fundamentalist Islamic state. "I am a Muslim, thank God," he recently declared. "I will fight for Islam and Muslims to survive in this country. (But) I have no intentions of creating an Islamic state or forcing anyone to believe what I believe in."