Sunday, November 30, 2008

Regarding the Comment Moderation policy at "Americans for Bosnia"

As a general rule, I publish all submitted comments with the exception of advertising spam, because I believe it is important to let the "other side" reveal itself, as well as proving that I am confident enough in the justness of this cause to allow contrary voices to have their say on my own blog.

However, today I rejected a comment which was not from an advertiser, but rather from a blogger with a very different agenda than my own. The author, "Bengal Under Attack," wanted me to post a comment directing readers to the following link to his own blog post:

900% Growth of Islamic Population

I admit that it may seem perverse to refuse to publish a comment, and then to turn around and devote one of my own posts to the very same link. However, I want my reasons for refusing to post his comment to be clear. Given the recent events in Mumbai, and the continued threat to world peace posed by Islamic terrorism, the last thing I want to do is to provide ammunition to those who would distort my silence on this issue as either ignorance of the genuine threat we all face from Islamist terror, or even tacit support for their cause. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I could have merely noted that his primary concern is the Indian subcontinent and left it at that, but even a cursory read of his article reveals that he considers Islam--and Muslims--to be a threat in all places at all times in all situations. In the opinion of the author, Muslims are a threat to us not because of a confluence of religious fundamentalism and geopolitical realities, but simply because they are breeding so quickly. I trust I do not need to expend effort and bandwidth explaining what I think of this kind of logic.

One more thing--it is worth noting which of my now more than 400 posts the author chose to comment on. It was not a recent post; rather, it was this one from June 28 of this year:

"The Nationalist Serbian Intellectuals and Islam: Defining and Eliminating a Muslim Community" by Norman Cigar

It is just possible that the author, seeking to post in as many blogs as possible, simply did a quick search for "Islam" or "Muslim" and/or other keywords, and simply pasted the same generic comment into each link he found without regard for the content of the post he was "commenting" on. Although, in that case, I find it odd that he would have only posted in one, six-month old post on my blog--especially when one considers that I have used the label "Islam" 20 times and "Muslim" an additional 21 times prior to this post.

So one has to wonder about the agenda of an author who would search for a six-month old post examining the racist ideology supporting the genocide of a Muslim community only to link to an article decrying the higher birthrate among Muslims compared to non-Muslims. But, I would argue, one needn't wonder for terribly long.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy (Belated) Bosnian Statehood Day

Yesterday I neglected to post about this, so in the belief that a day late is better than not acknowledging the memorial day at all, I would like to remind my readers that yesterday (Tuesday Nov. 25) was Bosnian Statehood Day.

I wonder what Dodik did to celebrate...

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Amila Bosnae" - Blog by Bosnian living in Denmark

Thanks to a comment she just left on my post about Adil Kunalic, I have discovered Amila Jašarević's wonderful blog Amila Bosnae. Amila is a Danish citizen and a Bosniak refugee, and while her blog focuses a great deal on Danish political issues, she also inevitably writes a great deal about her native land. I have added her blog to my links on the side, and I look forward to catching up on the backlog of posts I have yet to read.

Thank you, Amila, for taking the time to discover my blog. I hope I am able to direct a few new people towards yours.

[Personal aside: It's a little ironic that she's a Bosnian living in Denmark--Bosnia is the country I most want to visit right now, but Denmark--where my great-grandfather came from, and where my last name ("Janssen" or something similar before it got Anglicized to "Johnson" at Ellis Island) is on my "short-list" of countries I want to visit in the near future as well.]

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

"The Wars of the Balkan Peninsula: Their Medieval Origins" by Alexandru Madgearu

This book was originally published in Romanian in 2001; the author updated the original text (including information, unavailable in Romanian, he acquired through further research in the years following publication) for this English-language translation, published in 2008.

I did not know exactly what to expect from The Wars of the Balkan Peninsula, although based on the title I was worried that the author would provide an academic foundation for the sort of historic fatalism which is all to often applied to the Balkans. I am happy to report that this is not the case.

To quote the back cover:

"The Balkan Peninsula is often referred to as the "powder keg of Europe," but it is more accurately described as the "melting pot of Europe." In The Wars of the Balkan Peninsula: Their Medieval Origins, Alexandru Madgearu discusses the ethnic heterogeneity in modern-day Bosnia, Kosovo, and Macedonia and traces its history."

Madgearu's thesis is well-developed over five chapters and nearly two hundred pages, but it is essentially this (again from the back cover):

"The Wars of the Balkan Peninsula argues that the current ethnic structure is the basis for the solution of the disputes between the Balkan states and that history should be used to explain, not legitimize, the conflicts."

In the Introduction, Madgearu states that

"The ethnic mosaic is the deepest cause the of the endemic state of conflict in the Balkan Peninsula. It is therefore necessary to clarify the circumstances that led to such an unique ethnic configuration."

It is important to note how he defines the Balkans--he sets the geographic parameters narrower than many--no Slovenia, and he considers his own country, Romania, as being both of and not of the Balkans. His reasons are essentially geographic rather than cultural, which is anything but a random choice, as he notes that:

"The ethnic configuration of the Balkan Peninsula is the result of the interaction of several geographical and historical factors. Although the role of geographical factors in historical processes should not be overestimated, undestanding of geographical determinations is necessary for any historical inquiry into the medieval Balkans."

The geography of the Balkans encourages localism and fragmentation as well as allowing for the survival of displaced cultures by retreat to the highlands, while there are a couple of extremely important routes across the region, the control of which is vital for any attempt at lasting political unification.

Because the book is so dense with information and rich with detail, I will not attempt anything like a thorough synopsis. However, the Table of Contents by itself serves as a useful outline. Below is the complete contents of the TOC, with brief commmentary in brackets after each chapter:

Part I The Past

Chapter 1. The Ethnic Aspects: The Slavization of the Balkan Peninsula - The Expansion of the Albanians - The Vlachs (Aromanians)--A People Without a State - Deportations and Colonizations Made by the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires

[Sketches not only the different ethnic groups inhabiting the region during the medieval period, but also the processes by which different groups moved around within the area, partially but never completely displacing each other, and moving from highland to lowland and from region to region]

Chapter 2. The Political Aspects: The Downfall and Recovery and the Byzantine Domination and the Rise of Bulgaria - The Small Slavic States from the Central and Western Balkans - The Byzantine Offensive (Ninth-Eleventh Centuries) - Pax Byzantina and Centrifugal Trends in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries - The Inheritors of Byzantine Imperialism - The Rise and the Breaking Up of Great Serbia - The Ottoman Conquest - Pax Ottomana

[A political history of the Medieval Balkans as well as periods before and after the Middle Ages proper. Consider the importance of "poles of power" such as the late Roman Empire, the Byzantines, the short-lived Bulgarian and Serbian Empires, and finally the Ottomans. The author stresses that modern nationalist ideologies often base territorial claims on the maximal extent of medieval empires. He also illustrates that medieval societies were built on a variety of ties other than ethnic solidarity, which means that modern nationalist claims for continuity with medieval empires are at the very least flawed, if not misguided.]

Chapter 3. The Religious Aspects: The Confrontation between Rome and Constantinople in the Balkans - The Spreading of Islam in the Balkans: A New Differentiation

[Fairly obvious topic. Recounts in some detail the history of Catholic/Orthodox competition within the region (the lines dividing Rome's sphere of influence from Constantinople's were fluid and far from clear-cut for many centuries--both Bulgaria and Serbia flirted with the Vatican even after conversion). And, of course, the arrival of Islam in the region further stirred the pot.]

Part II The Present. Historical Propaganda and Balkan Nationalist Ideologies

Chapter 4. Theories of Ethnogenesis with Political Implications: The Greeks - The Albanians - The Bulgarians - The Serbs and the Croats - The Vlachs (Aromanians)

[An examination of competing ethnic histories used by different nationalities and ideologies as a way to "prove" the primacy of one's own nationality to a given geographic area.]

Chapter 5. The Legitimation of Expansionism by the Abuse of History: Kosovo--Serbian or Albanian? - The Historical Macedonia--The Apple of Discord among Greece, Bulgaria, and Serbia

[For any student of the Balkans, the general subject of this chapter should be obvious from the title and subtitles alone. This chapter is a very good brief summary of the conflicting arguments for Greater Serbia, Greater Albania, Greater Greece, Greater Bulgaria, and even Greater Macedonia.]

The three chapters in Part I are relatively straightforward and recount in as much detail as the author's knowledge and recent research will allow the facts of the respective matter in some detail. The author has looked into a very fundamental issue in the Balkans--who are the peoples of the Balkans, and where and when did they come from?

Part II is more analytic and critical, as the author admirably takes the penchant among Balkan peoples to abuse the historic past as a way to legitimize contemporary geopolitical ambitions without taking into consideration the very different circumstances of the different eras.

The Conclusion contains some good final insights, none better than the opening sentences:

"The great obsession of Balkan policy and propaganda was and continues to be ethnic purity (of the Serbs, Croats, Bulgarians, Albanians, and Greeks). This ethnic purity is an illusion in this most mingled European region,the scene of a long series of ethnic and cultural changes, where there are no pure ehtnies and races."

Some of the other points are also interesting. He argues that the intense centralization of Balkan medieval states had a centrifugal effect, where areas on the periphery were pushed away. In Western Europe on the other, fragmented medieval polities slowly evolved towards centralization in a process that favored the development of national identities and ultimately relatively uniform nation-states. It is generally understood that nationalism came late to the Balkans, but often the focus is on the Napoleonic period and later, when Balkans peoples were subsumed in multinational empires. Madgearu's contention that the root cause of stunted Balkan nationalism can be located further back, in the medieval period, is worth considering.

I do have some reservations about this book. The most serious concern is that I am not quite sure what the author believs the solution to Balkan is exactly; his later statement that

"Only the present ethnic configuration could be the starting point for the resolution of the international disputes."

invites more questions than it answers, and some of those questions are troubling.

Still, this book contains the sort of sober, demythologized academic study of the Balkans that we need more of. Finding the explanation for the region's history and ethnic mosaic in specific historical and geographic peculiarities rather than in romantic notions of an impossibly "complex" and romantized region populated by savage, indecipherable others is a step in the right direction.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Must-Read Post at "Srebrenica Genocide Blog"

If you are not yet a reader of Daniel's excellent Srebrenica Genocide Blog, right now would be a good time to change that habit.

His latest post details the documented torture and forcible displacement of Bosniaks in the Sanjak (Sandzak) region. It is not pleasant reading, and the photographs are not pretty. But this is an under-reported story which demands wider notice.

I must confess that I am guilty of remaining somewhat ignorant of what was clearly a concerted campaign of state terror against the Bosniaks in Sanjak, to the point where I believe I may have even noted the absence of a genocidal campaign against the Muslim population of Serbia proper as proof that the war in Bosnia was fought for geopolitical ends rather than being an outbreak of spontaneous ethnic hatred. In fact, while I cannot remember which past post(s) made this claim, I am all but certain that I have done so.

In a sense, I still stand by those sentiments--it seems to me that the campaign against Serbia's Slavic Muslims was intended to deprive Bosniaks from Bosnia proper of any logistical support just across the river, as well as demonizing Bosniaks among ethnic Serbs in Serbia by creating violence and instability in the region.

But that does not excuse my lazy, unthinking acceptance that not much happened (as I essentially implied) in the Sanjak during the 1990s. Clearly, the campaign of terror the Belgrade regime waged in Bosnia was supported and furthered by a parallel campaign within its own borders, against its own citizens. This is a story which needs to be told. I strongly urge my readers to read the above-linked story.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bosniak-American Fan Favorite at Nebraska

Adi Kunalic and his coworkers show up for another day at the office.*

I apologize for my infrequent posting as of late--we hosted family for the past week or so, and life is just now getting back to normal. I promise to return to substantive posting in the very near future.

In the meantime, a young Bosniak who came to America as a young boy in 1992 has found success in one of the most veritible and thoroughly American institutions our great land has to offer--college football. What's more, he has done so at my alma mater, home of the only football team I really care about (longtime readers of this blog might be aware that I'm something of soccer fanatic as well).

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present Adi Kunalic, placekicker for the once-mighty/now-rebuilding University of Nebraska Cornhuskers. Young Adi has been quite successful at this important, highly specialized position, and the Husker faithful have taken notice. Here's a blog post including a typical reaction from early in the season.

Early plaudits like that quickly became the norm as the season progressed; young Adi now has his own fan group on Facebook, and a new tradition has developed at Memorial Stadium--thousands of Nebraska fans now hold up a shoe whenever Adi is lining up to kick.

Not bad for a sophomore kicker. We Husker fans are glad to have him, and while this may not be the most profound or informative post I've ever put up on this website, a little feel-good news now and then can't hurt. The circumstances that drove the Kunalic family to flee Bosnia for America could not have been more grim; at least their new home seems to have welcomed them.

*That's Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska--where the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers hold the NCAA record for most consecutive sellouts. I can't get the picture centered properly--the original picture is quite impressive, but the template cuts off part of the right side, making it seem crowded and off-centered.