After the recent arrest of the third Serb mass-killer of Basniak Muslims in the 1990s, Gen. Ratko Mladic, I thought appropriate to pen my thoughts on the great piety, scholarship and political vision of the ‘Father of Bosnia-Herzegovina’ state, Alija Ali Izetbegovic (1925-2003). He fought all his life for the survival of Muslim Bosniak (Serb) people and to have the freedom to practice their religion like the other Native religious groups.
Alija Ali Izetbegovic along with Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Pakistan) and Imam Khomeini (Iran) were those rare Muslims who inspired and lead their nations in their pursuit of freedom from the foreign and local anti-Muslim powers during the 20th century.
Alija Ali Izetbegovic, born into a practicing Muslim family, chose a career in law. He was imprisoned twice by the Christian Serb-dominated Marshal Tito’s communist regime (in 1946-48 and 1983-88). First for being a member of anti-communist Young Muslim movement – and second time being one of the authors of an anti-Fascism and anti-Communism draft-document (Islamic Declaration) – two idealogies personified by Hitler and Stalin (both with Jewish ancestry).
During his second trial, Alija Izetbegovic told the presiding judge: “I love Yugoslavia, but not its government. I bestow all my love on freedom, and there is nothing left over for the authorities…. I am a Muslim and so shall I remain. I consider mysel to be a fighter for the cause of Islam in the world, and shall so feel to the end of my days. For Islam for me has been another name for all that is fine and noble, a name for the promise or hope of a better future for the Muslim people of the world, for their life in dignity and freedom, in a word for everything that in my belief its worth living for”.
Muhmmad Ali Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan was a one-person-one-vote democracy based on Islamic Shria’h governance with equal rights for the non-Muslim communities. Imam Khomeini’s vision was atheocratic ‘Islamic State’. However, Alija Izetbegovic’s visioned a multi-religious democratic state with equal rights for all religious and ethnic communities.
In 1990, as his political party (SDA) came into power with the fall of communist regime in Belgrade, Alija Izetbegovic was elected as the first President of Bosnia-Herzegovina. His 20-member cabinet was a Unity Government representing Muslims, Serb Orthodox and Croat Catholics.
He stood by his people throughout the war of agression against his country in the 1990s, leading his people with nerves of steel, living by his principles both as a European and as a Muslim. He signed the Dayton Peace Accord in November 1995 and was re-elected to the three-member collective Presidency forced upon Muslim Bosniaks majority by the West-Serb-Croat alliance in 1996. It was Islamic moral principles, however, for which he eventually resigned from the post in 2000, citing that the international community was pushing things forward in a manner with which he could not live.
The 43-month war for the establishment of Bosnia-Herzegovina as an independent state ended without a victors and vanquished. The so-called ‘Dayton Peace Accord’ was a reflection on this ‘drawn match’ – western inborn fear of a Muslim-state inside Judeo-Christian Europe.
Alija Izetbegovic visited Austria, Islamic Republic of Iran, Turkey, the US, Italy and met with the Pope, Serbian Orthodox Patriarch and Iranian political and religious leadership.
“No Islamic state is being created here. Naturally, we want Islam to be present here and we want Muslims to be free, but we have absolutely no intention of creating an Islamic republic. Tudman is taking the Milosevic line, except that he is doing so a few years later,” Alija Izetbegivic said in an iterview with RTVBiH, November 18, 1993.
Alija Izetbegovic’s literary work includes Islam Between East and West and his autobiography, Inescapable Questions. Alija Izetbegovic left behind two daughters (Lejla and Sabina) and one son named Bakir, an architect who enlisted in Bosnian Army.