Islam in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Islam in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The modern Bosniaks, often referred to as Bosnian Muslims, descend from Slavic converts to Islam in the 15th and 16th centuries, that lived in the medieval Bosnian Kingdom (they called themselves Good Bosnians, in old Bosnian: "Добри Бошњани"). Bosniaks are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslims, but many of them are a lot more western and express themselves differently then their fellow Muslims in the Middle East. They often chose to be more lenient on the rules mandated by their religion - both in terms of behavior as well as dress and appearance.

Reliable statistics on the precise membership of different religious groups in Bosnia remain unavailable since 1991 due to the recent war in Bosnia.

According to the UN Development Programme's Human Development Report 2002 and many other sources, Muslims constitute 40 percent of the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina. [ [ International Religious Freedom Report 2007 - Bosnia and Herzegovina] ] [ [ CIA - The World Factbook -- Bosnia and Herzegovina] ]

Other religious groups with which Islam coexists in Bosnia are the Serbian Orthodox Church 31 percent, Roman Catholic Church 15 percent, Protestants 4 percent, and other groups 10 percent. The small Jewish community has approximately 1,000 believers and maintains a special place in society by virtue of its long history of coexistence with other religious communities and its active role in mediating among those communities. []

The Ottoman era

Islam was brought to this region by the Ottomans. Turks gained control of most of Bosnia in 1463, and seized Herzegovina in the 1480s. In the centuries after the invasion, a large number of South Slavs converted to Islam. Bosnia and Herzegovina remained provinces of the Ottoman Empire until the 1878 Congress of Berlin gave temporary control of the region to Austria- Hungary. In 1908, Austria-Hungary formally annexed the region.

Bosnia, along with Albania, were the only parts of Ottoman Europe where large numbers of Christians converted to Islam.

Under Turkish rule, much of what used to be central, eastern, and southern Yugoslavia took on a distinctly Islamic character.


For some Bosniaks that identify themselves as Bosnian Muslims, religion often serves as a community identifier, and religious practice is confined to occasional visits to the mosque or significant rites of passage such as birth, marriage, and death. Due to more modern influences and 45 years of socialism, some Bosniaks have Atheist, Agnostic or Deist beliefs (Pre war estimate of 10% of total population). While there are significant numbers of Bosniaks who practice their faith to varying degrees, for others, this identity tends to be secular and is based primarily on ancestral traditions and ethnic loyalty. Bosniaks also have a reputation for being "liberal" Muslims. Headscarves for women, popular in middle-eastern countries, are worn only by a minority of Bosniak Muslim women, and otherwise mostly for religious obligations.

Bosnian war

The genocide during the 1992-1995 war caused internal migration, which almost completely segregated the population into separate ethno-religious areas. Increased levels of returns in 2001-2002 slowed markedly in 2003-2004, leaving the majority of Serbian Orthodox adherents living in the Republika Srpska and the majority of Muslims and Catholics still living in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Within the Federation, distinct Muslim and Catholic majority areas remain. However, returns of Serbian Orthodox adherents and Muslims in recent years to their prewar homes in Western Bosnia Canton and Muslims to their prewar homes in eastern Bosnia near Srebrenica have shifted notably the ethno-religious composition in both areas.

Throughout Bosnia, mosques were destroyed by the armed forces of the major Christian ethnic groups. Among the most important losses were two mosques in Banja Luka, Arnaudija and Ferhadija mosque, that were on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) register of world cultural monuments. These mosques were leveled by Serb authorities in 1993, with even the stones removed from the sites.

Increased religious identification

Religious leaders from the three major faiths claim that observance is increasing among younger persons as an expression of increased identification with their ethnic heritage, in large part due to the national religious revival that occurred as a result of the Bosnian war.cite web|url=|title=Bosnia and Herzegovina: International Religious Freedom Report 2006|publisher=U.S Department of State—Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor|date=2006-09-15] Many Muslim women have adopted Islamic dress styles that had not been common, especially in cities, before the war. Leaders from the three main religious communities observed that they enjoy greater support from their believers in rural areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina rather than urban centers such as the capital Sarajevo or Banja Luka.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, there are eight Muftis located in major municipalities across the country--Sarajevo, Bihać, Travnik, Tuzla, Goražde, Zenica, Mostar, and Banja Luka. The head of the Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina is Mustafa Ceric.

Missionary activity is limited but growing and includes a small number of representatives from the following organizations, some of which have their central offices for the region in Zagreb or another European city outside of the country: Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Methodist Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and Krishna Consciousness.

Status of Religious Freedom

The State Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and individuals generally enjoyed this right in ethnically mixed areas or in areas where they were adherents of the majority religion.

Religious education in Bosnia and Herzegovina is largely decentralized, as is the education system generally. The canton and entity governments and the Brčko District authorities have responsibility for education; there is no national education ministry or policy. Public schools offer religious education classes, but with the exception of Brcko, schools generally offer religious instruction only in the area's majority religion. In theory, students have the option not to attend, but in practice, students of the majority religion face pressure from teachers and peers to attend the classesFact|date=February 2007. For example, the RS requires Serbs to attend religion classes but does not require attendance for Bosniaks and Croats. If more than 20 Bosniaks or Croats attend a particular school in the RS, the school is required to organize religion classes on their behalf. However, in the rural RS, there is usually no qualified religious representative available to teach religious studies to the handful of Bosniak or Croat students. It is similar in the Federation, where students of the ethnic majority are required to attend religious classesFact|date=February 2007, either Bosniak or Croat, while the minority is not required to attend. In the Federation's five cantons with Bosniak majorities, schools offer Islamic religious instruction as a 2-hour per week elective course.

Acts of anti-Semitism against the small Jewish community in the country are significantly less frequent than in other parts of Europe. However, Jewish leaders state that there is a growing tendency in the country to mix anti-Israeli sentiment with rare acts of anti-Semitism, as the general public and media often fail to distinguish between criticism of Israeli policy and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Following Istanbul Bombings, the Jewish community was quickly granted police security at its synagogues and no incidents were reported.History of Bosnia


ee also

*Islam by country

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