Bosnia, Mladic and the Impact on UK Muslims

While much of the media covers the extradition of former Bosnian Serb General, Ratko Mladic, to The Hague, on war crimes charges, it is worth spending a few moments to reflect on how the tragedy in Bosnia impacted UK Muslims.

Back in 1992, I used to run a little Muslim study circle in Ilford and remember being asked by one of my students whether European countries would allow Muslims in the newly declared Bosnian state to be massacred by the Serbs. ‘No, not in Europe,’ I replied, naively and stupidly.

Over the next three years, we watched aghast and horrified as tragedy after tragedy unfurled in Bosnia. It is difficult to overstate the huge impact those events had on UK Muslims on so many different levels. As we all wondered how best to help Bosnian Muslims in the face of so much blatant injustice, we were treated to the sickening sight of the world imposing an arms embargo on all sides in the Bosnian conflict. This had the effect of strengthening the position of the Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Serbs who could look upon the neighboring republics of Croatia and Serbia to arm and support them, while leaving the Bosnian Muslims defenceless. I particularly remember that Tory bastard, Lord Hurd, arguing repeatedly why it was right not to intervene in Bosnia.

A number of UK Muslim organisations sprung up to help raise money (and implicitly help provide arms) for the Bosnians. I remember meeting one man during a demonstration outside the Yugoslav Embassy (or Serbian – I can’t remember anymore) who went on several trips to Bosnia to deliver aid. I next saw him in a short news item in the Muslim News. The man had been martyred in Bosnia.

For many young Muslims, fundraising was not enough. The daily scenes of slaughter in Bosnia meant that coming to the aid of the Bosnians was a jihad. A number of times I heard the argument made: what was the point of fattening up the Bosnians if they were going to be killed by the Serbs? No, it was necessary to fight back. There was no alternative. This was a jihad. A jihad, here in Europe itself. It was the highest level of faith – to be willing to give up your own life to try and save others from such injustice. The disgraceful failure of the politicians to halt the Serbian war machine meant that such cogent arguments would win over many young Muslims.

I recall Dr Kalim Siddiqui publicly setting up a register during a meeting of the ‘Muslim Parliament’ for volunteers to go and fight in Bosnia. It was, in retrospect, a media stunt, but nevertheless, quite a few UK Muslims did go through other channels. And who is to say that they were wrong to do so?

Added note: I had to go and play squash and so ended the above a bit prematurely. I just wanted to add an additional bit about how the Bosnia tragedy also led to a marked disillusionment with many established Islamic organisations. A number of young Muslims I knew were appalled at what they saw as the lack of moral leadership from these organisations. I recall one very well-known Deobandi scholar from Leicester making a speech in our local mosque in Ilford at the time. Do you want to know what he talked about? Was it how young Muslims should respond to the inhumanity they were witnessing? No, it was about what one should do if a tiny bit of urine dropped onto one’s trousers while going to the bathroom. And also what to do in the cataclysmic event of the urine drop spreading to the size of a 50 pence piece. Just unbelievable – but all too true.

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5 Responses to Bosnia, Mladic and the Impact on UK Muslims

  1. Rizwan says:

    Dear Inayat, Drones are killing thousands in South East Asia and you have time to play squash, fraternise with Rabbis, visit museums, hug your guitar, listen to Pink Floyd and yet you feel you have the right to criticise a scholar for speaking about an important fiqh issue that has the potential to could corrupt your prayers, cause you punishment in the grave and ruin your life in the Hereafter? The question is what did you Inayat personally do for the Bosnian people? Did you sign up to fight? Did you go to Bosnia? I know many Deobandis, who after hearing their Imam speak about Bosnia in the khutbah, launched funding raising campaigns and many went to Bosnia? Why are you always picking on the Deobandis? I think you should see a shrink about it!!

  2. YH says:

    Let me guess! Your squash partner was a non-Muslim who likes to talk about the backward antics of outdated Rabbis? You see Inayat your mind is not as impervious to manipulation as you might like to think.

  3. @ Rizwan:

    ‘…you have time to play squash…’

    Yes, I try and go once a week. I need the exercise.

    ‘…fraternise with Rabbis…’

    Yes, I have a friend who is a Rabbi. He is a very decent and humble man. And his kids are just so intelligent. One graduated from Cambridge. The other is at Oxford. And a third is at Sussex Uni. A lovely man with a lovely family.

    ‘…visit museums…’

    Yes, I really enjoy visiting museums, especially natural history museums. I enjoy learning about the world around me, including about animals and plant-life.

    ‘…hug your guitar, listen to Pink Floyd…’

    Yes on both counts. Goodness, someone actually does read my articles, eh?

    ‘yet you feel you have the right to criticise a scholar for speaking about an important fiqh issue that has the potential to could corrupt your prayers, cause you punishment in the grave and ruin your life in the Hereafter?’

    Yes, I feel I do. Because the scholar was not infallible or a God. He was, quite frankly, a huge disappointment.

    ‘The question is what did you Inayat personally do for the Bosnian people?’

    Oh, this and that.

    ‘Why are you always picking on the Deobandis?’

    I can recall criticising in writing individuals who happen to be Deobandis, Barelvis, Salafis, Sufis and Shi’i.

    • Rizwan says:

      I guess if you had gone to Oxford or Cambridge yourself you would not be so starry-eyed over the Rabbis’ children. Anyway thank you for confirming on all counts my suspicions of hypocrisy in what you wrote about the Muslim scholar.

  4. Brendan says:

    Some good points. The deobandi imam strory could be stright out of the NT, cf the Pharisees. Sadly these awful events go back much further than recent years, no doubt the Ottoman treatment of the area and the perpetuation of denial on all sides play its part in Balkan bad blood. The Turks will still not admit to their genocide of 1 million Armenians describing it as ‘political’

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