Keep Us Strong WikiLeaks logo

Currently released so far... 2497 / 251,287

Articles

Browse latest releases

Browse by creation date

Browse by origin

A B C D F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W Y Z

Browse by tag

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
QA
YE YM YI

Browse by classification

Community resources

courage is contagious

Viewing cable 09SARAJEVO103, BOSNIA - GOOD BOSNIAKS, BAD BOSNIAKS, GOOD

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Understanding cables
Every cable message consists of three parts:
  • The top box shows each cables unique reference number, when and by whom it originally was sent, and what its initial classification was.
  • The middle box contains the header information that is associated with the cable. It includes information about the receiver(s) as well as a general subject.
  • The bottom box presents the body of the cable. The opening can contain a more specific subject, references to other cables (browse by origin to find them) or additional comment. This is followed by the main contents of the cable: a summary, a collection of specific topics and a comment section.
To understand the justification used for the classification of each cable, please use this WikiSource article as reference.

Discussing cables
If you find meaningful or important information in a cable, please link directly to its unique reference number. Linking to a specific paragraph in the body of a cable is also possible by copying the appropriate link (to be found at theparagraph symbol). Please mark messages for social networking services like Twitter with the hash tags #cablegate and a hash containing the reference ID e.g. #09SARAJEVO103.
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09SARAJEVO103 2009-01-27 09:09 2010-12-09 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Sarajevo
VZCZCXRO2610
RR RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHVJ #0103/01 0270934
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 270934Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY SARAJEVO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9586
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JCS WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 SARAJEVO 000103 

SIPDIS 

EUR/SCE FOR FOOKS, STINCHCOMB, HYLAND; NSC FOR HELGERSON 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/22/2019 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL BK
SUBJECT: BOSNIA - GOOD BOSNIAKS, BAD BOSNIAKS, GOOD 
MUSLIMS, BAD MUSLIMS 

SARAJEVO 00000103 001.2 OF 003 


Classified By: DCM Judith Cefkin, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 

1. (C) SUMMARY: Amid resurgence over the past two years of 
politics dogged by nationalist rhetoric, some Bosniak 
(Muslim) political actors have sought to portray themselves 
as more capable of protecting Bosniak interests than their 
opponents. One aspect of this tussle is an 
increasingly-visible rift in the Bosniak community that 
centers on what it means to be a "good" or "bad" Bosniak. 
"Good Bosniaks," according to this sentiment, are those who 
espouse conservative political and religious ideals. More 
moderate and secular ideals are, by implication, held by "bad 
Bosniaks." Statements from the Islamic Community, 
particularly its leader, Reis Ceric, that label those who 
criticize Islamic Community as "Islamophobic" have sharpened 
this polarization among Bosniaks. Bosnia's 
largest-circulation and most influential pro-Bosniak daily, 
Dnevni Avaz, has also increasingly championed "good Bosniak" 
causes and unscrupulously attacked Bosniaks and Bosniak 
institutions (including a rival, more secular Bosniak daily) 
that disagree with it. This press war, sparked largely by 
Avaz's business interests, has helped the intra-Bosniak 
debate gain traction more quickly and more broadly than it 
might otherwise. Depending on the path the debate takes, it 
has the potential, over the longer-term, to steer Bosniak 
politics in a more conservative direction, which would 
complicate efforts to forge the compromises among Bosniaks, 
Serbs, and Croats necessary to secure Bosnia's future. END 
SUMMARY. 

Protectors of Bosniak 
--------------------- 

2. (C) In a time of international reluctance to engage 
heavily in Bosnia -- coupled with Bosnian Serb and Croat 
attempts to establish maximal autonomy for themselves -- 
Bosniak fears of isolation and abandonment have escalated. 
The perception of the risks to the Bosniak community among 
average Bosniaks is genuine, grounded largely in the fact 
that Bosniaks were the most aggrieved ethnic group during the 
1992-95 war and that their plight was ignored by the 
international community. Reflecting these fears, many 
Bosniak political leaders over the past two years have 
campaigned on the idea that they are better able to protect 
Bosniak interests than their rivals. At the same time, they 
have framed debate on specific policies within their Bosniak 
constituency in existential terms. Bosniak member of the 
Tri-Presidency Haris Silajdzic has been the Bosniak political 
leader most willing to appeal to these fears -- in fact, he 
has often deliberately stoked them -) but others, including 
Party for Democratic Action President Sulejman Tihic and 
Social Democratic Party leader Zlatko Lagumdzija at times 
have also done so. 

Reis Ceric Helps Mold Bosniak Identity 
-------------------------------------- 

3. (C) At the same time, the Head of the Islamic Community, 
Reis Ceric, has sought to promote a Bosniak political 
identity rooted in "victimization." He has regularly 
reminded Bosniaks that they are victims of genocide and that 
they suffered more than any other group in the 1992-95 war. 
In a Hayat TV interview on January 11, the Reis claimed that 
following the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, Bosnian Muslims 
had been variously subjected to "phobias" against Turkey, 
Islam, and Bosnia itself. He also alleged that media 
coverage of the alleged threat of Islamic terrorism in Bosnia 
is, itself, motivated by "Islamophobic" media and "is, in a 
way, a preparation for a new genocide on Bosniaks." The Reis 
has, by all accounts, succumbed to the political fray, 
criticizing or praising Bosniak leaders as he feels 
appropriate. His public comments about Bosniak identity and 
Bosniak suffering have clearly been aimed at shaping Bosniak 
political discourse as well as the positions adopted by the 
country's leading Bosniak political parties. 

4. (C) The Reis has also sought to define Bosniak identity in 
religious terms and has publicly implied that to be a "good 
Bosniak" one must be a "good Muslim." He has supported 
policies that are controversial among more secular Bosniaks, 
such as introducing religious education into kindergarten 
classes. Ceric has also made use of his public profile and 
media access to attack critics of his agenda, often implying 
that his position places him above criticism. In one 

SARAJEVO 00000103 002.3 OF 003 


interview, Ceric claimed that while he personally welcomed 
constructive criticism, criticism of Islam itself was 
impermissible. (Note: Ceric clearly intends to be the sole 
judge of when criticism of him or his administration becomes 
a criticism of Islam. His past responses to other critics 
inside and outside the Islamic Community suggest as much. 
End Note.) 

"Islamophobes" are Everywhere 
----------------------------- 

5. (C) The Islamic Community has increasingly condemned 
attacks against itself as anti-Islamic, and as undermining 
Bosniaks in Bosnia. A November op-ed in the Sarajevo-based 
daily Oslobodjenje touched on some controversial projects 
undertaken by the Islamic Community, particularly the Reis' 
new offices -- now under construction -- which are rumored to 
be extremely costly. The article also criticized the Reis, 
as the head of the Islamic Community. In response, the 
Islamic Community was quick to demonize its critics and imply 
that their opposition made them "bad Bosniaks." An Islamic 
Community statement declared the paper's stance to be, 
"...nothing but a continuation of the genocidal politics 
designed to wipe the BiH Muslim off the face of the Earth... 
the Reis' office is very much surprised by the Islamophobic 
editorial policy of Oslobodjenje." (Note: Ceric and the 
Islamic Community may be using the "heavy artillery" of 
insinuating Islamophobia to defend a weak spot, specifically, 
the widespread perception that his administration has been 
fiscally irresponsible. End Note.) 

Santa Claus Didn't Come to Town 
------------------------------- 

6. (SBU) Even Bosniak children are not immune to political 
efforts to shape the Bosniak identity. There has been a push 
to introduce Islamic religious education in all 
kindergartens, a move that one respected professor (known to 
be an outspoken critic of the Reis) from the Faculty of 
Islamic Sciences defined as a "crime against children." 
Similarly, the director of Sarajevo's state-funded preschools 
attempted to ban Djeda Mraz (Grandfather Frost) in 2007, 
arguing that Sarajevo is predominantly Muslim and that Djeda 
Mraz is not part of the Muslim tradition. (Note: Modeled on 
Santa Claus, Djeda Mraz emerged in Yugoslavia after World War 
II as a secular figure who gave gifts to children of all 
religions. End Note) Secular-minded Sarajevo citizens saw the 
snubbing of Djeda Mraz as an attempt to define for children 
what it means to be "good" Muslims and organized protests and 
petitions against the proposed ban. The outrage of Sarajevo 
citizens was best captured in the editorial comment of FTV's 
news program 60 Minutes. The show's host, Bakir 
Hadziomerovic, characterized the director of the public 
institution "Children of Sarajevo," Razija Mahmutovic, as the 
fiercest opponent of Djeda Mraz. Taking on an ironic tone, 
Hadziomerovic sarcastically proposed that Mahmutovic 
introduce the figure of "Santa Alija," in reference to the 
elder Izetbegovic. In both cases mentioned here (early 
religious education and banning of Djeda Mraz), the secular 
position lost out. 

Popular Paper Religiously Pursues Bosniak Interests 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 

7. (SBU) The definition of a "good Bosniak" as one who is 
politically and religiously conservative has also been 
increasingly propagated by the country's largest-circulation, 
pro-Bosniak daily, Dnevni Avaz. Over the past several 
months, Fahrud Radoncic, owner of Avaz and its associated 
businesses, has engaged in a crusade to "protect Bosniak 
interests," primarily as part of an effort to undercut its 
opponent, the more secular Oslobodjenje. While Avaz and 
Oslobodjenje have had a long-running rivalry centered more on 
business competition than ideology, Radoncic's recent 
statements represent a clear raising of the stakes. In a TV 
interview on November 30, Radoncic accused his opponents -- 
including a number of media outlets -- of "destroying 
Bosniaks" through attacks on, as he put it, the three key 
pillars of Muslim faith in Bosnia: the Islamic Community and 
Reis Ceric; the memory of Alija Izetbegovic, as personified 
by his son Bakir; and Avaz itself. On December 30, Avaz 
labeled Ceric a true representative of the Bosniak people, 
adding "...those who attack Reis Ceric would like to see a 
situation like before, when the state was appointing the Reis 

SARAJEVO 00000103 003.2 OF 003 


so that he would listen to the state, thus destroying the 
institution of Islam and the Islamic Community." 

8. (C) Radoncic has also not shied away from exploiting his 
position as owner to influence how Avaz presents issues. The 
December 29 edition of Avaz carried a front page article that 
slammed those who opposed the construction of a new 
administrative building for the Islamic Community and 
accusing them of seeking to put the Islamic Community under 
their political control, to diminish its power, or to destroy 
it. Avaz plainly misrepresented facts related to the 
project, and made use of extensive purple prose in negatively 
characterizing opposition to the project. The following day, 
Avaz continued its offensive against "the enemies of Islam" 
with a full-page interview with Enver Imamovic, a professor 
of history at the Philosophy Faculty in Sarajevo. Imamovic 
condemned public attacks against the Islamic Community and 
Reis Ceric, declaring, "Let us not forget what the Islamic 
Community meant to our people in the past war. This was the 
institution around which Bosniak people gathered." 

Comment 
------- 

9. (C) In an atmosphere of pessimism, created and fueled by a 
lack of political or economic progress in the country, 
insisting on the importance of being a proper Bosniak is 
gaining momentum as a political tool. Lending credence to, 
and most likely feeding, this discourse is increasingly 
audacious nationalism among Bosnian Serbs and, to a lesser 
extent, Bosnian Croats. A growing fear of isolation appears 
to be providing fodder for political actors, which they can 
exploit to urge Bosniaks to rally around their leadership and 
agenda, which some politicians, the Reis and the opportunist 
Radoncic, have sought to define in conservative and more 
religious terms. Depending on how this debate plays out, 
Bosniaks politics could take an increasingly conservative 
political trajectory. The outcome of this intra-Bosniak 
debate will likely take considerable time to play out, but 
its outcome will almost certainly shape public perceptions of 
who is fit to lead and to speak for Bosniaks, an ethnic group 
whose sense of identity is still in flux. With all three 
sides of the ethnic divide retreating to ethnic-based 
politics, the prospects of compromises necessary for Bosnia's 
future become much dimmer. 
ENGLISH