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The Churches and the Bosnian War

Abdal Hakim Murad

One of the most disturbing features of the war which devastated Bosnia between 1992 and 1995 was the widespread refusal of Western politicians, churchmen and newsmen, to acknowledge the role which religion was playing in the conflict. It was only mentioned, indeed, during periodic denunciations of the risks of Islamic extremism - a phenomenon that, when pressed, journalists working in Bosnia conceded was rather elusive. The reality, which was frequently one of militant Christian extremism, was never, to my knowledge, frankly discussed. The war was, we were told, a contest between ‘ethnic factions’; and the fact that its protagonists were divided primarily by religion, and shared a race and a language, was deemed insignificant. Anti-Muslim prejudice was no doubt at work here: one may assume that if the Serbs and Catholics had been Muslims, and their victims Christians, then the Western mind would immediately have characterised the war as a case of violent Muslims murdering secular, integrated, democratic Christians. Since in Bosnia the favoured stereotypes were reversed, the memory has largely been dismissed, censored and forgotten as an annoying anomaly.

That official characterisation, by and large, persists. Generally it is the case that the European and American popular consciousness has forgotten about Bosnia although only ten years have elapsed since almost eight thousand Muslims were pushed into mass graves at Srebrenica, while the local UN commander accepted a glass of champagne from the victorious Serbian general, who then went off to church. [1] And where Bosnia is still remembered, there is a dogged resistance to defining it as what it was: a war which, at least for its Christian participants, was an intensely religious experience.

However among Balkan cognoscenti, and a small but significant public around the world that uneasily recognises that the crime of Srebrenica was far worse than that of 9/11, this comforting amnesia is rejected as the unacceptable whitewashing of crimes whose religious foundations must never be ignored. War crimes investigators have consistently found that the Serbian forces placed religion at the very centre of their hardline national vision, and that many of the most characteristic atrocities bore a strongly religious aspect.

In Bratunac, Imam Mustafa Mujkanovic was tortured before thousands of Muslim women, children and old people at the town’s soccer stadium. Serb guards also ordered the cleric to cross himself. When he refused, ‘they beat him. They stuffed his mouth with sawdust, poured beer in his mouth, and then slit his throat.’ [2]

Routinely, Muslims held in concentration camps also told of being forced by their captors to sing Chetnik songs or to make the sign of the cross. Suggestions to Muslims that they convert to Serbian Orthodoxy could be viewed as yet another means to eliminate the Muslim presence. [3]

Almost from the first, the Serb-led war was accompanied by an assault against the Muslim religious and cultural tradition, an assault whose impact has become clear as scholars examine the pattern of destruction. Muslim clergymen have been dispersed, imprisoned or killed, according to a variety of Muslim sources. National libraries and religious seminaries have been destroyed. And Bosnian scholars estimate that well over half of the mosques, historical monuments and libraries that comprise a six-century old religious and cultural heritage have been wiped out.[4]

… the film was shown in which the notorious Scorpions were seen killing children, after having first been blessed by Father Gavrilo.[5]

A Serbian Orthodox bishop, blacklisted by the EU for allegedly supporting war criminals, denied Thursday that he had sheltered top UN court fugitives Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic although he claimed the men were heroes. […] Bishop Filaret appeared in front of TV cameras with a skull in one hand and a machine-gun in the other during the 1992-95 war.[6]

[Hague War Crimes Tribunal Chief Prosecutor] Carla del Ponte accused the Church of ‘involvement in politics and hiding those indicted of war crimes’. [7]

The old Balkan pattern of clerically-inspired political violence has once again emerged in recent years: first come the priests [popovi] and then the cannons [topovi]. [8]

The symbols appeared in the three-fingered hand gestures representing the Christian trinity, in the images of sacred figures of Serbian religious mythology on their uniform insignia, in the songs they memorized and forced their victims to sing, on the priest’s ring they kissed before and after their acts of persecution, and in the formal religious ceremonies that marked the purification of a town of its Muslim population. The term ‘ethnic’ in the expression ‘ethnic cleansing’, then, is a euphemism for ‘religious’.[9]

A succession of academic studies has meticulously documented the wartime activities of the Christian clergy, and particularly the bishops who proudly sat in the front row of the rebel Serbian ‘parliament’ whenever it assembled in its pirate capital of Pale. In the West, these studies have not usually been the work of Muslim scholars. [10] One pioneering example has been the book of Michael Sells: The Bridge Betrayed: religion and genocide in Bosnia . Sells is a Quaker, who is currently professor of religion at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. [11] Here is a paragraph from the conclusion of his book: 

The violence in Bosnia was a religious genocide in several senses: the people destroyed were chosen on the basis of their religious identity; those carrying out the killings acted with the blessing and support of Christian church leaders; the violence was grounded in a religious mythology that characterized the targeted people as race traitors and the extermination of them as a sacred act. [12]

Strong words; but not unrepresentative of the way in which the war is now beginning to be understood.

Another invaluable breaking of the silence has come from G. Scott Davis, a professor of religion and ethics at the University of Richmond . Scott Davis’ study is entitled Religion and Justice in the War over Bosnia . [13] It documents the attitude of local churches to what happened; and also includes some sustained reflections on the capability of Europe , given its traditional religious formation, to protect religious minorities.

Many have been heartened by these and other studies. For some time it seemed that the religious dimension of the Bosnian war would be buried forever; but now, rather like the victim of an atrocity, it is being disinterred and reluctantly examined. My own experience during the war corresponds closely to the picture now emerging at the hands of such scholars, and which has been reconstructed by the International Criminal Court investigations at the Hague [14]

The individual most regularly cited in connection with the ethnic cleansing process, and with religiously-based atrocities, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, has been widely feted as a hero in Orthodox church circles. ‘Not a single important decision was made without the Church,’ as he boasted during the war. [15] At the height of the ethnic cleansing process, the Greek Orthodox synod chose to award him its highest honour, the Order of St Denys of Xante. The Greek bishops who conferred the honour upon him called him ‘one of the most prominent sons of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ [16]

The day the award was announced I discussed it with a group of senior British churchmen; but their response was only a kind of grimace. The solution, clearly, was to pass over this indiscretion in shocked silence. The only genuinely outraged individual I was able to find was Roger Sainsbury, the evangelical Anglican Bishop of Barking, who was able to condemn the award, and told me that widespread condemnation was unlikely, given the need to retain good relations with the Orthodox members of the World Council of Churches. It is not clear that this was the only reason for what he regarded as a disturbing Anglican silence, but such was his interpretation.

I next tried to telephone Lambeth Palace . I had not had much joy from them since I had attempted to arrange a meeting between Dr Carey and the head of the Muslim religious hierarchy in Bosnia : Dr Carey simply declined to meet his counterpart. This time I spoke to a secretary for ecumenical affairs, to find out whether there might be any Anglican criticism of this accolade for Karadzic. Again, I drew a blank. Karadzic was regarded by human rights agencies as the architect of the largest crimes against humanity in Europe since 1945; but the ecumenical secretary - I was calling him as a journalist - simply would not give me a clear condemnation of the Greek decision.

A few voices were raised against what Michael Sells was calling ‘the silence of the self-identified Christian leaders in many parts of the world’. [17] Perhaps the most outspoken was Professor Adrian Hastings, a Catholic theologian from Leeds , who asked:

What have the churches done to speak out in defence of Bosnia , of its peace-loving Muslim community and against a revival of the most virulent racism? There appears to have been a most striking silence from all the principal church leaders in Britain . It will go down in history. We pour out our tears at the Holocaust but close our eyes to the Holocaust happening now. ‘Only he who shouts for the Jews may sing the Gregorian chant’, declared Bonhoeffer fifty years ago. Only he who shouts for the Bosnian Muslims is entitled to do so today. [18]

In a later article in the Guardian, Hastings continued his critique:

Why are Christian leaders behaving like this? There is a misguided ecumenism at work here. Anglicans in particular are anxious to remain on good terms with the Orthodox, and the Serbian Orthodox Church has had closer relations with the Church of England than any other. It is also doing a very great deal to fuel Serb nationalism. To take a strong line against Serb aggression could be to displease one’s Orthodox friends. Better to stress instead that this is a complex matter and that there must be wrongs on every side. [19]

In an article published in Theology in 1994, Hastings commented on international Protestant reaction to the Bosnian war, which he again finds wanting. He discusses the main World Council of Church’s resolution on the war in former Yugoslavia, pointing out that ‘for ecumenical reasons’ Bosnia is not mentioned once in 27 pages, and that its discussion of civilian suffering mentions only Croats and Serbs, with no discussion whatsoever of Muslims. He goes on:

Reflecting on the response of the churches in Britain and within the Ecumenical Movement to Bosnia once more, I remain appalled by how little they have done at the level of their leadership to recognise without ambiguity what has been happening, to condemn what is evil and above all to offer any significant support to a European nation oppressed in a way unprecedented since 1945. Again and again, church leaders in this country have been urged to visit Sarajevo , to show some really significant degree of human and religious solidarity with the Muslim community of Bosnia in its ordeal. They have entirely failed to do so. [20]

Hastings was probably one of the heroes of the war: appearing at countless rallies and on television, to denounce the apathy of the West and of its political and spiritual leaders. To make sure of his facts he visited Sarajevo in the darkest days of the siege. Not many retired professors would consent to be pulled on a trolley through the makeshift tunnel which was Sarajevo ’s lifeline, and then face the lurching drive along Sniper’s Alley in a car with only polythene sheets for windows, to a city where three thousand people and even the animals in the city zoo had already been killed by snipers. However he did it. He was the most honourable of exceptions.

Hastings found, as subsequent research has uncovered, a religious war. In Sarajevo itself, it is true, this was not immediately apparent. The Serb cathedral, despite four years of siege by Serbs, was never vandalised by the population. The Muslim president and religious hierarchy continued to sit at the front row of the Catholic cathedral every Christmas Eve. The commandant in charge of Sarajevo ’s defenders, Jovan Divjak, was himself an ethnic Serb; [21] another Serb, Miro Lazovic, was the speaker of Bosnia ’s parliament. Although the defence of the city had first been mounted by the heroic young Sufis of the Sinanova Qadiri Tekke, for many of the defenders this was never a religious war; except for those who saw the defence of the city’s history of tolerance as a sacred task.

In Serb-controlled territory, however, religion was rampant. West of Sarajevo, just over the front-line, stood a Serb church where one could hear a list of captured Muslim settlements being read out in triumph by a priest, who then blessed the congregation - made up of followers of the religious warlord Vojislav Seselj, now an indicted war criminal, and who once fought an election in Serbia with a promise to remove the eyes of his prisoners with a rusty spoon.

In Trebinje, ‘an Orthodox priest led the way in expelling a Muslim family and seizing their home.’ [22] In the formerly Muslim-majority town of Foca , a religious ceremony was held to celebrate the city’s capture. Senior churchmen at the ceremony heard a Serb professor explain that ‘the [Serb] fighters from Foca and the region are worthy defenders of Serbianness and of Orthodoxy.’ [23] The city’s exquisite Aladza Mosque, built in 1550 by Mimar Sinan, was then pulled down, as the complete ethnic cleansing of the town proceeded. [24]   When this event was criticised in a liberal Montenegrin newspaper, the highest Herzegovinan bishop, Atanasije, defended it strongly. [25]

Several other militias were no less explicitly religious. The leader of the White Eagles militia, Mirko Jovic, called for, as he put it, ‘a Christian, Orthodox Serbia with no Muslims and no unbelievers.’ [26] His ideological mentor, the Belgrade far-right politician Vuk Draskovic, who promised to ‘cut off the hands of those Muslims who carried flags other than Serb ones’, published his ferociously anti-Muslim writings with the official publishing house of the Serbian church. [27] The Church itself regularly thundered against ‘enemies of God’ who would not join the struggle for a Greater Serbia, and official Church journals were a leading forum for Draskovic and other radical ideologues advocating the dream of a ‘Greater Serbia,’ and the destruction of the ‘disease’ of Islam. [28]

A further tell-tale sign of the involvement of the church was apparent when, in 1994, the Geneva Contact Group tabled its new partition plan for the country. Under this plan, the 32 percent of Bosnians who were Orthodox were awarded 49 percent of the land, including many formerly Muslim areas which had suffered ethnic cleansing. But the church was unsatisfied even with this: Metropolitan Nikolaj of Sarajevo demanded that Sarajevo itself should be incorporated into the Serb-held areas. [29] The argument he gave, which was supported by Karadzic himself, was that since the city’s majority Muslim population was supposedly descended from Serb converts to Islam, the city naturally belonged to Orthodoxy. This idea of the Bosniaks as ‘bad Serbs’ who should be guided by Karadzic’s ‘warriors for Christ’ back to the Orthodox fold (or face expulsion, or worse), lay at the rhetorical core of the debates in the priest-filled Republika Srpska parliament in Pale.

Rather different was the view of the Patriarch in Belgrade , Pavle. Like his admirer the militia leader Zeljko Raznatovic [30] he argued throughout that the Serb nationalist claim to Bosnia was based on the fact - as he believed - that the Muslims were interlopers from the East, and were not indigenous to the region. Hence ‘I believe that Serbs must fight, now as never before.’ [31] This is akin to the widespread argument, advanced by the religious nationalist Dragos Kalajic, which holds that Bosnian Muslim culture was alien as what he called a ‘semi-Arabic subculture’, caused by a ‘genetic predetermination’ which the Bosniaks inherited from the Ottomans and which in fact originated in North Africa. [32] Another ‘Orthodox intellectual’, former Sarajevo University dean Biljana Plavsic, who became Karadzic’s successor as premier of the rebel Bosnian Serb parastate, insisted that ‘it was genetically damaged Serb material which passed over to Islam’, [33] giving pseudo-scientific support for a thesis deeply rooted in Serb religio-political mythology.

Although the Patriarch’s rancorous dislike of Islam played a major role in guiding the national spirit during the war, he was outspoken in his denial of the war crimes which were increasingly being attributed to Orthodox militias. After Maggie O’Kane and other journalists had flashed around the world pictures of the detention camps in which thousands of Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Gypsies were being tortured and executed, the Episcopal Synod in Belgrade issued the following statement:

In the name of God’s truth, and on the testimony from our brother bishops from Bosnia-Herzegovina and from other trustworthy witnesses, we declare, taking full moral responsibility, that such camps neither have existed nor exist in the Serbian Republic of Bosnia - Herzegovina . [34]

In the eyes of the Church, the pictures on the West’s TV screens, and the testimonies collected by Helsinki Watch, the US State Department, the Red Cross, EU observers, and others, were simply falsified. The ‘Semi-Arabs’ had deceived the world.

Again, when a new peace plan was on the table, the Church showed itself more radical even than Milosevic. Pavle, Amfilohije and others insisted that the Belgrade strongman was scandalously weak in upholding the Serbian right to territory. Bishop Atanasije of Herzegovina ‘urged Serbs, as he said, ‘not to capitulate to the world as Milosevic has. The vultures from the West will not get our signature.’ [35]

Overall, as Norman Cigar recalls:

The Serbian Orthodox Church, both in Serbia and in Bosnia-Herzegovina, continued to provide its legitimacy to the Bosnian Serb authorities’ ethnic policies. It backed the most uncompromising options formulated in Bosnia , which had as their goal to create a Greater Serbia, and did not envisage the continued presence of the Muslims. […] The Church continued to lend its mantle of respectability to even the most extreme nationalist elements. [36]

Examples of this could be multiplied; but the general picture is, I hope, clear. In due course I will try to unpack the reasons for the Orthodox Church’s support for the far right. Before doing so, however, I should mention the rather more complex relationship of nationalism to the Catholic hierarchy in Bosnia .

Croat nationalism has its immediate roots in the widespread support in Croatia for the Axis powers during the Second World War. Ante Pavelic, the Croat president, had pleaded with Eichmann to allow Croatia to jump the queue for the ethnic cleansing of its Jewish population. As the Irish human rights investigator Hubert Butler, who worked in the Croat archives after the Second World War, recalls:

When I was in Zagreb I spent several days in the public library looking up the old  files of the newspapers that were issued in the occupation period,  particularly the Church papers. I wanted to see what resistance, if any, was  made by organized Christianity to the ruthless militarism of Pavelitch, the  Croat national leader, and his German and Italian patrons; I am afraid the  results were disheartening. […] I was wholly unprepared for the gush of hysterical adulation which was poured forth by almost all of the leading clergy upon Pavelitch, who was probably the vilest of all war criminals. He was their saviour against Bolshevism, their champion against the Eastern barbarian and heretic, the Serb; he was restorer of their nation and the Christian faith, a veritable hero of olden time. [37]

Franjo Tudjman, the Croat president throughout the 1992-5 war, made his own ethnic preoccupations quite clear in his book Wastelands of Historical Reality, published in 1990. In this book he suggests that ‘Jews are genocidal by nature’, and that their problems are of their own making. Had they heeded what he calls the ‘traffic signs’, the Holocaust would never have occurred. [38]

Tudjman’s main concern, however, as an unreconstructed ethnic nationalist, was with the Muslim presence in Bosnia , which he spoke of in terms of ‘contamination by the Orient.’ Claiming to be acting at the behest of Western powers, he asserted, ‘ Croatia accepts the task of Europeanising the Bosnian Muslims.’ On the ground this tended to involve rape, the demolition of mosques, forced baptism, and strategies indistinguishable from the radical Serb methods of conquest. Particularly recurrent was the Croat policy of constructing ‘blood shrines’, which took the form of Christian shrines or crucifixes constructed on the site of demolished mosques. [39] The justification was the creation of a Catholic cordon sanitaire against Islam. His defence minister, Gojko Susak, fantasised to an Israeli audience about ‘110,000 Bosnian Muslims studying in Cairo’, in order to create ‘a fundamentalist state in the heart of Europe.’ [40]

In Croatia proper, and in Bosnia proper, the Catholic hierarchy was often able to condemn Croat policies. [41] Archbishop Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo , in particular, emerged as a man of considerable stature, consistently opposing the logic of ethnic partition. The main exception was in Herzegovina . Here the Franciscan clergy included a large number of ultra-nationalists. The city of Mostar , capital of Herzegovina , was partitioned between Muslims and Catholics. The European Union, which has appointed a mayor for the city, has been struggling to reunite the two halves. However a major opponent of reintegration is the provincial superior of the Franciscan order, Tomislav Pervan. [42] Bishop Ratko Peric is also a known opponent of mosque reconstruction and the right to return of Muslim refugees; [43] in 2004 he conspicuously refused to attend the ceremony of the reopening of Mostar’s famous bridge, destroyed in 1993 by Croat extremists. [44]

Church sympathy for Croat nationalist aims was highlighted in the world media when, in 2005, Carla del Ponte, the chief war crimes prosecutor in the Hague, insisted that the leading Croat war crimes suspect, General Ante Gotovina, was being sheltered in a Catholic monastery. ‘The Catholic Church is protecting him,’ she concluded, adding that ‘I have taken this up with the Vatican and the Vatican totally refuses to cooperate with us.’ [45] More generally, she complains that ‘the Church, on all sides, is adding legitimacy to visions of history which are twisted in accordance with nationalist biases’. [46]

Serbian nationalism, however, is a less familiar phenomenon, and we should try to account for what has been, on the face of it, the most striking alliance of men of religion with extreme xenophobic agendas seen in Europe since the collapse of Franco’s ‘National Catholicism’ in 1975. As it happens, ‘theo-democratic’ Serbia resembles Franco’s Spain in certain respects, most notably through idolising a Christian past. It is to be authoritarian, and traditionalist, but not Nazi. In many ways, its vision stands very close to that of Franco’s favourite theorist, José Maria Pemán:

The new state must be founded on all the principles of traditionalism to be genuinely national […] Our fascism, our juridic-Hegelian absolutism, must necessarily sustain itself, as form, in the substance of historic-Catholic tradition. Spanish fascism will be the religion of Religion. […] German and Italian fascism have invented nothing as far as we are concerned; Spain was fascist four centuries before them. It was one, great and free, and truly Spain , in the sixteenth century when state and nation were identified with the eternal Catholic idea, when Spain was the model nation and alma mater of Western Christian civilisation. [47]

German and Italian Fascism had defied the medieval legacy of their homelands by leapfrogging back to pagan times. Spain , however, would solve her identity crisis by remaining in organic continuity with the Christian past. And Christianity recognised the church-state marriage as divinely-willed and indissoluble. No doubt the verbal and practical resemblance between Serb ‘ethnic cleansing’ strategies, and the Inquisition’s ‘blood purity’ measures, has been more than coincidental, forming in fact a key method in what, in Joseph Pérez’s words, became ‘the eradication of Semitism’, a parallel destruction of ancient Jewish and Muslim populations in which Church and State worked hand-in-hand. [48]

Although there is, therefore, more than a whiff of Francoismo about Serb nationalism, the role of this Eastern and very obscurantist church has nonetheless been subtly distinct. Even more than Franco’s bishops, the bishops in Pale, Knin, Belgrade and Podgorica were heirs to a traditional of radical affirmation of the political status quo, an attitude whose roots lay ultimately in Byzantium . As one human rights expert sees it:

Orthodoxy, by negating the importance of ‘life on earth’, can and does sanction and legitimate whatever political regime holds the reins of power. This subordination in turn insures that the Orthodox Church will survive and retain power. Throughout history the Church has uncritically acquiesced in authoritarian and dictatorial regimes; it has no history of opposition to repression. And in modern times the merger of religion with nationality has reinforced further the Church’s defence of the status quo in the name of the ethnos and religion. [49]

It is easily forgotten, by Muslims as well as by Orthodox, that the Church has no natural affinity with rebellion. The Orthodox bishops had opposed the Greek revolt which, in 1821, produced an independent Greek state, and triggered a wave of violent insurrections throughout the Balkans. The Ecumenical Patriarch of the day, horrified by the violence, insisted that the Ottoman Caliphate was the proper instrument of God’s order on earth. The Church leaders, led by the Patriarch, formally excommunicated the rebels, and called for the return of independent Greece to the Ottoman fold. [50] It is not the case, then, that Orthodox believers can never be loyal citizens of a non-Orthodox state. Why, then, did the Bosnian bishops support the insurrection in 1992, and reject the results of the election? Presumably because their loyalties lay not locally, but with the hierarchy in Belgrade , and therefore with the map and ideology of ‘Greater Serbia’. One might speculate that had the Orthodox in Bosnia been granted autocephalous status during the Ottoman period, with the creation of a Bosnian patriarchate in Sarajevo , the consequent abolition of Belgrade ’s spiritual influence might have allowed Bosnian Orthodox believers to remain loyal to their elected government in 1992. But that was not to be.

In Serbia itself, the Church not only backed the nationalists, but was their major inspiration. To find the reasons for Pavle’s passionate support for Serb nationalism, it is helpful to delve into Serbian theology, and in particular into the ancient Christian idea of a dichotomy between Semitic Letter and Christian Spirit. [51] That this principle is still very much alive is is shown by the Church’s recent record of fierce anti-Semitism. In 2003, the Serbian bishops appointed as their 77th saint one of the 20th century’s most outspoken anti-Semites: Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic (1880-1956). Velimirovic had been famous for his anti-Muslim outbursts, but his anti-Jewish feeling seems to have been even more heartfelt:

All modern European principles have been made by the Jews, who nailed Christ to the cross: democracy, strikes, socialism, atheism, religious tolerance, pacifism, and universal revolution. These are the inventions of the Jews, or their father, the Devil. All this with the sole aim of humiliating Christ and placing on Christ’s throne their Jewish messiah, unaware to this day that he is Satan himself, who is their father and who has bridled them with his bridle and whips them with his whip […] It is surprising that the Europeans, who are a Christian people, have surrendered themselves completely to the Jews, and now think with a Jewish head, accept Jewish programmes, adopt Jewish hatred of Christ, take Jewish lies as truth, endorse Jewish principles as their own … [52]

Pursuit of cleanliness has turned into a mania for cleanliness. Unfortunately, here too the Yid (Civutin) is involved … Plumbing, plumbing, plumbing! Baths, baths, baths! Cleanliness, cleanliness, cleanliness! And everyone tired out with washing and cleaning themselves externally. [53]

The Jews, and their father the Devil, have succeeded, with their gradual poisoning of the spirit and heart of European humanity, in deflecting the latter from true faith and persuading it to worship the idol of culture … smoke, dust, mud, sludge … an imbecile nothing. [54]

The bishops’ choice of Velimirovic was no doubt informed by his central role in the development of Serbian religious nationalism. As an official report from the International Contact Group has concluded: ‘Much of the Church’s current thinking derives from the writings of two right-wing anti-Semitic clerics active during the Second World War: Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic, who received a civil decoration from Adolf Hitler, and Archimandrite Justin Popovic’. [55] ‘The Church, together with the VJ’s counter-intelligence service KOS , has been closely linked to the anti-Semitic ultra-right wing nationalist youth group Obraz.’ [56] Since the 1995 Dayton Peace Accord, denounced by the bishops for not giving Serbs enough territory in Bosnia , ‘the Serbian Orthodox Church has strengthened its position in society significantly’. As the ICG report adds: ‘The Church seems to be increasingly and openly tied to ultra-conservative and nationalist groups.’ As a direct result of this enhanced role of the Church, non-Christian minorities are suffering from intensifying repression and even a kind of enforced invisibility:

On the evening television news, one sees exactly how far the government goes to marginalize Serbia ’s minority populations. The Muslim majority city of Novi Pazar , the largest urban centre in the Sandzak region, with a population of over 100,000, is absent from the national map during the weather report. Rather, the map and announcers refer to ‘Ras’, a Serbian medieval settlement that once existed in the vicinity of Novi Pazar. [57]

In this emerging ‘theodemocracy’, [58] where the old Byzantine ideal of a symphonia between religion and state is a nationalist axiom, [59]   Jews and Muslims, even if they have survived ethnic cleansing, will be truly invisible. Even non-Orthodox Christians are to be treated with derision. Western Church leaders on well-meaning visits to the Balkans are usually unaware, as they kiss Orthodox cheeks, that the leading Serbian theologian on ecumenism, Justin Popovic, regards them as absurd heretics:

Ecumenism is the common name for pseudo-Christianities, for Western Europe ’s pseudochurches. All European humanism, headed by papism, are in it with all their heart. All these pseudo-Christianities, all these pseudo-churches are nothing but one heresy after another. […] There is no essential difference here between papism, Protestantism, ecumenism, and other sects, whose name is legion. [60]

Today, the ubiquitous presence of the Church suffocates Serb society. In the words of the Montenegrin dissident Mirko Djordjevic:

For the last ten years Serbia has been living in the black shadow of the Srebrenica crime, the most monstrous since the end of World War II. A great proportion of lay opinion and probably of believers too has been asking the Church to speak up. Then again, the SPC [Serbian Orthodox Church] was not actually silent: no one can say that bishops such as Filaret, Amfilohije and Atanasije have kept their own council. For these bishops, Mladic, Karadzic and Milosevic are great heroes and worthy Christian warriors. Their declarations have been riding roughshod over the human and religious rights of millions of citizens who do not think like them. In the current alliance of church and state, few have dared to challenge them. [61]

Again, in seeking to understand the force and spirit of Serbian religious Islamophobia it is helpful to see it as an analogue to anti-Semitism. [62] Anti-Semitism in Europe traditionally claimed at least some of its roots in the gospel account of Jews claiming responsibility for the death of Jesus (Matthew 27:25). [63] Islam, however, is not mentioned in the Bible, and did not figure as a hostile Other in the early formation of Christian identity and theology. It is hence not immediately clear how Islamophobia could be more than a general attitude of rejection of a post-Christian and therefore false claim to prophecy.

Despite this, in Serbia - but not, as far as I am aware, in other Orthodox regions - a mythology emerged which portrayed Muslims as ‘Christ-killers’, and hence as authentic analogues to Jews.

To understand this odd transposition we need to be aware of the great, resonant event in Serbian history, which was the defeat of the Serbian King Lazar by the Ottoman Empire in 1389: the battle of Kosovo. According to the Serb chroniclers, an Ottoman sympathizer in the Serbian army, Vuk Brankovic, betrays his king’s battle plans to the Ottomans, and Serbia is defeated in an apocalyptic battle in the course of which Lazar, and also the Ottoman sultan, both die. Thus are ushered in five centuries of Ottoman ascendency in Serbia .

This mythology ignores the actual record of frequent Serbian alliances with the Ottomans against the Byzantines. [64] Even the Serbian revolt of 1802, characterised by modern nationalists as anti-Ottoman, was in fact ‘not against the Sultan, but against the janissaries who were themselves defying the Porte.’ [65] Overwhelmingly, the Serb people and clergy were loyal to their Ottoman rulers, who allowed them extensive rights and privileges, and the church played a vital role in securing this. It was only in the mid-19th century that the Lazar legend, which survived in primitive folk-tales, was mobilised by nationalist ideologues as the basis for a furiously xenophobic national myth.

In this metaphor, King Lazar becomes a kind of reincarnation of Jesus, who is betrayed by the Serbian Judas (Brankovic), and is killed by the Muslims, who thus resemble the Jews. Just as Christ will only return again on earth as a vengeful judge when the Jews have been made to suffer sufficiently for their treachery, so also the punishment of Muslims will atone mysteriously for the death of Lazar, ushering in a Serb millennium. Hence the recurrent popularity of paintings of Lazar’s ‘last supper’, surrounded by his entourage, including the scheming traitor Brankovic, whose face already seems as Muslim as the face of Judas was, in traditional Christian painting, Jewish. The nose is hooked, the skin brown, the eyes glint with a scheming avariciousness.

In this mythic version of Serbia ’s past, the Balkan Muslims become essential symbols of treachery. Like Brankovic, they betrayed Christ; they are hence the devil’s seed, whose only just fate must be humiliation or death. They converted to Islam, thus being treasonable to God Incarnate, only out of cowardice and greed. They were a pollutant of the Serbian nation, which is perceived as inherently, irreducibly Christian. [66]

This poisonous 19th-century mythmaking was not, as is sometimes thought, a simple evolution of older Serbian epic tradition. During most of the Ottoman centuries, Serbs had lived peacefully and loyally under Ottoman caliphal rule, conscious, no doubt, that the Ottomans were an effective guard against the crusading warriors of Western Catholicism. (In fact, the Serbian people’s survival as a religious community would have been unlikely but for the Ottoman protective umbrella.)  Instead, the authors of this mythology, many of whom were the agents of Russian imperial designs on the Ottoman lands, borrowed from German Romanticism, in particular from mischief-makers such as Herder, who were seeking to create a unifying national myth out of carefully selected folk songs and epics. But if Serbian nationalism is, historically speaking, not very Serbian, the anti-Muslim core, the sublimating anti-Semitism, was nothing new. The poem which is generally recognised as the national epic of Serbdom, and which stands at the beginning of the romantic creation of ‘Serb identity’, draws on ancient, violently Islamophobic sentiments. This poem is the Mountain-Wreath by Bishop Njegos of Montenegro , who died in 1851. It is a chanson de geste, which celebrates another bishop, Danilo, who in the early 18th century eliminated Islam from Montenegro - the so-called Christmas Eve Massacre. [67]

The Mountain Wreath is interesting in several ways. Not least is the way in which the bishop portrays the Muslims, who plead for coexistence. One of them, for instance, says:

Small enough is this our land,
Yet two faiths there still may be
As in one bowl soups may agree
Let us still as brothers live.

Repeatedly the Muslims are shown as advocates of coexistence; but in the poem, this is simply a satanic temptation, the smile of Judas, which the bishop finally overcomes.

So he replies: ‘Our land is foul; it reeks of this false religion’. And, following his command:

No single seeing eye, no Muslim tongue,
escaped to tell his tale another day.
We put them all unto the sword
All those who would not be baptised.
But who paid homage to the Holy Child,
were all baptised with sign of Christian cross.
And as brother each was hail’d and greeted.
We put to fire the Muslim houses,
That there might be no stick nor trace
Of these true servants of the devil!

When news of the massacre reaches the Serbian leaders, one of the abbots starts weeping. Shocked by the idea that he might be expressing sorrow for the victims, he is reproached, but he replies, of course, that he is weeping for joy. The poem ends with a joyful recital by the Serb warriors returning from the massacre, and observes that they have no need to go to confession before taking communion. [68]

Njegos is the Serbian Shakespeare; his poem was required reading in all schools in prewar Yugoslavia . Even the reformist maverick Milovan Djilas praised this ‘poet of massacres.’ One of his most committed readers has been Radovan Karadzic himself, who although not a priest, loves to wear crosses, and strongly identifies himself with the heroic bishop of the story. His favourite self-image is that of itinerant bard, fiddling at a gusle - a traditional Bosnian instrument - and singing with his soldiers. These sessions, as regularly broadcast on Republika Srpska TV during the war, begin with the passing round of an alcoholic drink, and all the soldiers make the sign of the cross before beginning with the words:

Serb brothers, wherever you are,
with the help of Almighty God,
For the sake of the Cross and the Christian faith,
I call you to join the battle of Kosovo. [69]

Karadzic’s favourite folk song, he tells us, is called ‘The Last Supper’, which as he says: ‘has something to do with Jesus Christ, symbolising Serbian faith after that lost battle.’ [70] Karadzic, is, after all, the descendent of the same Vuk Karadzic who collected the Mountain Wreath and other poems and fashioned them into the matter of Serb romantic nationalism.

Karadzic, and the religious nationalism he represents, can be seen as a product of local Balkan particularities. His ‘christoslavism’, with its concomitant idea that Muslims are Christ-killers and betrayers of Orthodoxy who are thereby expelled from the category of normal humanity, differs substantially from Greek, Romanian, or Russian images of Muslims (although these are not usually more sympathetic). In fact, a characteristic feature of Serbian Orthodox nationalism is a paradoxical portrayal of Muslims as hospitable and eirenic, as we saw in the Mountain Wreath. But this is no more than the devil’s subterfuge, and the true Orthodox warrior must not be tempted by it to show mercy. Velimirovic, the recently-sainted theologian, is quite clear: ‘they are evil, and the evil has to be crushed until it is eradicated. In a row of dried-up heads, Njegos did not see human heads but only the heads of the enemies of justice. These rows of heads served as trophies of avenged justice.’ [71]

Where local Orthodox reflections on Islam do connect with a much wider Christian discourse is in the way they criticise Islam as a religion of the Letter, which contrasts unfavourably with Christian ‘freedom’ in the Spirit. This is perhaps the most fundamental theme of all. Vuk Draskovic, Nikola Koljevic, Justin Popovic and others have advanced this dialectic as evidence of the radical unworthiness of Muslim believers, but here the Serb theologians are broadly in line with wider Christian reflection. Even in the UK, Kenneth Cragg, the former Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, has made this contrast – ‘nomocentric’ versus ‘pneumocentric’ - the foundation of his critique of Islam, which he endlessly, and one must say, tediously repeats. There are other examples too; in fact, the theme is widespread among Christian theorists. [72]

Take Hans Küng, for instance, the German Catholic theologian and advocate of the celebrated Global Ethic. No doubt he is unaware of the use of the theme of ‘degrading legalism’ and ‘ritual cleanliness’ by Serbian religious nationalists. But he writes: ‘By contrast with Muhammad, the decisive thing that interested Jesus was quite different from, say, the rules for ritual purity or the prohibition of wine’. [73] Not many Muslims would recognise such a portrayal of their religion; after all, such matters occupy less than a tenth of the Koranic text, most of which is about God, the judgement, and sacred history. But Küng is serenely confident that this characterisation is valid.

Even stranger is his praise for the judgement of Dürrenmatt that ‘Muhammad, of course, has nothing in common with Jesus [...] but Muhammad can well be compared to Paul and Karl Marx’. [74] And on the Protestant side, shared with Cragg, there is the judgement of Paul Tillich that ‘The question is whether the manifestation of the divine in the juristic realm is its ultimate manifestation’ [75] - an interrogation which Tillich is framing against Islam.

Such characterisations of Islam as fixated on ‘Law’ and resistant to the ‘Spirit’ are simply unrecognisable to Muslims, who typically point to the rich mystical literature of the religion as a sufficient refutation. [76] But what is more worrying is the way in which this argument seems to regard Islam as a relapse into ‘Judaic’, or what is sometimes euphemistically called ‘Pharisaic’ formalism. Writers such as Küng and Tillich denounce anti-Semitism, but their treatment of Islam suggests that its underlying assumptions remain present in their minds. The ‘letter versus spirit’ dialectic which they regard as discredited in Christian discourse on Judaism, and indeed morally repugnant in view of what they recognise as its historic entailments, remains alive and well in the way they treat Islam.

The covertly anti-Semitic image of Islam, and the ‘Orient’, as stagnant and rulebound, accounts, I believe, for much of the virulence of traditional European dismissals of Muslims. Perhaps one example of its wide currency may be found in Hitler’s major Nuremberg speech in 1937, where he compared the historic struggle between Nazism and Bolshevism to the struggle between Christianity and Islam. [77] I take it that what he meant, and what he knew his hearers would understand, was that Nazism was ‘free in the spirit’, a triumph of human individuality and will; while Bolshevism was Oriental, ‘Jewish’, stagnant, and imprisoned by forms.

European Islamophobia, as a cadet branch of anti-Semitism, could thus form an ingredient, perversely enough, in Nazism. But more generally still, it contributed to various forms of Muslim suffering in the Second World War which, because they have still not found their novelists or poets, and do not form part of our general perception of the conflict, deserve to be mentioned here.

Nazi Germany captured almost three million Soviet prisoners of war, and two-thirds of these died, mainly of starvation and exposure. And of these, of course, very many were Muslims. The officer corps in the Red Army was overwhelmingly Russian; but the rank and file, particularly those units regarded as the most disposable - mortuary squads and the like - were recruited from throughout the Soviet empire. German propaganda photographs of ‘Oriental types’ among prisoners remind us that many were villagers from traditionally very religious regions such as Kazakhstan, Tatarstan, and the Caucasus, thrown into a European conflict which must have bewildered them.

The first nine hundred people to be gassed at Auschwitz were Soviet prisoners of war. [78] Some of them, presumably, were Muslims. Indeed, the final-point of the Semitic tragedy at Auschwitz was the truly passive, fatalistic prisoner, who although usually Jewish was known in camp jargon as the Muselmann. The pathetic state of such a Semite was the absolute antithesis of the ‘Triumph of the Will’. [79] Forty years later, the world again saw the Muselmänner looking out of the camp wire. Blond-headed, yet still the ultimate Semite, the Muselmann, dehumanised, caged and beaten by the priests of Paul’s God, indeed appears as Europe’s total antithesis, an impurity crying out to be ‘cleansed’.

Traditional European disregard for Muslims, which, as I have suggested, is metabolically related to anti-Semitism, is to a greater or lesser extent endemic on this continent whose only prophet (Paul the Hellene; this is Pope Benedict’s assurance) is the deadly enemy of ‘Law’. The apocalyptic struggle against Semitism was so strong that it could pass underground and take on secular forms, as with Hitler and his epigones. It also informed the Soviet authorities themselves as they dealt with their stubbornly religious Muslim populations. Bohdan Nahalyo and Victor Swoboda, in their book Soviet Disunion, describe in harrowing and unmistakeably Shoah-like detail the mass executions and deportations of Muslim communities. The Chechens were deported to Siberia , losing a quarter of their population en route. And in the case of the Crimean Tatars:

the almost a quarter-of-a-million-strong population was awoken in the early hours by armed Security Police units and within hours all of them, including women, children and old people, were herded into goods wagons or dropped into railway oil tankers. The murderous rail journey to Central Asia and the punitive regime imposed on the deportees in the places of exile took an enormous toll. Crimean Tatar estimates place total losses as high as 46 percent of their number. [80]

As Nahalyo and Swoboda, point out, ‘relative to the size of their population, the Kazakh holocaust exceeded that of any other nation in the Soviet Union at the time’. [81] Almost half of the Kazakh Muslim population died under Stalin alone; and subsequently thousands more died as a result of the hundreds of nuclear tests carried out in Kazakhstan , far from ‘white’ populations, by the Soviet authorities. It is shocking, though hardly surprising, that Western Europe has yet to institute a Kazakh Holocaust Memorial Day. The Ultimate Semite is still despised, misrepresented, theologically excluded.

Under Communism the religious dimension of Islamophobia could only be indirect, a secularised relic translated from a Christian past; but with Communism’s collapse it is breaking surface again, and the growing nationalist chauvinism of modern Russia has Muslims in its sights.

All these comments may seem to have taken us a long way from Bosnia ; but I hope the connection is apparent. Many Muslims, like many Jews, do not share the idealised but standard European view and experience of their continent. Europe has been fundamentally flawed. In the 1940s, Jewish communities were systematically extirpated; in the 1990s the continent’s largest indigenous Muslim populations suffered what - writ small, to be sure - resembled a broadly analogous fate. [82] This fact has been noted by Jewish commentators in particular, perhaps because the relationship between Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, while uncomfortable, is so clear. Here, for instance, are the words of the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, framed at the height of the Bosnian war:

In 1993 we are faced with a question that demands an answer for the sake of humanity itself. Does nothing change? Have the millions of pages written on bias and prejudice since the second world war proved powerless to prevent their recurrence? Can we stand a bare half century after the Holocaust in a Europe that has replaced the word Judenrein with the equally repellant phrase “ethnic cleansing”, and not ask the question: “Were we wrong to say ‘Never again’?” History is not a film endlessly repeating itself. The ending has not been written. The Bible says: “Behold I set before you today the blessing and the curse, life and death. Therefore choose life.” History is made by our choices. And nothing that has happened in the past forces us to let it happen again. There are too many parallels between the mood of Europe now and the mood 100 years ago; and we have too much knowledge to ignore the line that leads from hatred to holocaust. [83]

Sacks is clearly implying that European Muslims stand in the position once occupied by Jews. The lawbound Semite is the eternal Other, against whom Europe must forever defend itself, by inoculation or, where necessary, cauterisation. In the same year, Jean Baudrillard characterised the European mood, apparently new and but also as old as ‘ Europe ’ itself, in the following terms:

The miraculous end will be at hand only when the exterminations come to an end, and when the borders of ‘white’ Europe have been drawn. It is as if all European nationalities and policies had acted in concert to take out a contract for murder with the Serbs, who have become the agents of the West’s dirty jobs – just as the West had taken out a contract with Saddam Hussein against Iran … Modern Europe will rise from the eradication of Muslims and Arabs – unless they survive as immigrant slaves. [84]

The prophecies of Baudrillard and Sacks need not come true, but Muslims should be paying close attention. For as long as the Letter-Spirit dichotomy endures in European minds, the commandment of yezkor, Remembrance, will stand. Today it is not only Serbian believers who condemn ‘the madmen infected with the Asiatic plague, who hold a knife at our backs.’ [85] Hardline religious nationalism is on the rise throughout the Orthodox world, is politically empowered in the United States , and is gaining ground even in the apparently secular societies of the European Union. Today, Muslims are endlessly instructed to integrate into ‘European values’. How can this be, however, when Europe, the ‘ Dark Continent ’ of Mark Mazower’s grim account, [86] clings to its shadow side, populated by ghosts of its violent religious past? How can it be if, as the Pope insisted at Regensburg , Christianity, and hence the apocalyptic contest with ‘Semitic legalism’, is Europe ’s true faith? Perhaps, instead of surrendering to demands for ‘assimilation’, Muslims on this troubled continent should take on the role of exorcists, seeking to cast out the continent’s myriad unclean spirits. That would be, presumably, the more religious response.


[1] For an excellent, if chilling, account of the massacre see Sylvie Matton, Srebrenica: un genocide annoncé ( Paris : Flammarion, 2005). Thanks to the intensifying anti-Muslim atmosphere in Holland, in 2006 it was possible for the Dutch government, massively applauded by neo-Nazi elements, to award medals to the battalion which had failed to protect the Srebrenica ‘safe area’ (www.guardian.co.uk/yugo/article/0,,1964964,00.html). For more on the deep background of Dutch Fascism, and in particular on Dutch willingness to collaborate with Nazi ethnic cleansing during the 1940s, see Geert Mak, In Europe (London: HarvillSecker, 2007).

[2] Roy Gutman, A Witness to Genocide: the first inside account of the horrors of ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Bosnia (Shaftesbury: Element, 1993), 78.

[3] Norman Cigar, Genocide in Bosnia : the policy of ‘ethnic cleansing’ (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1995), 59.

[4] Gutman, 78.

[5] Mirko Djordjevic, ‘Scorpions dressed as priests’, Bosnia Report ( London ) 49-50 (December 2005-March 2006), 36.

[6] Agence France-Press, July 3, 2003. During the war Filaret, appointed Bishop of Milesevo by Pavle, was a close associate of the extremist warlord Vojislav Seselj, and an unwavering supporter of Slobodan Milosevic.

[7] www.bosnia.org.uk/news/news_body.cfm?newsid=2067

[8] Branislav Radulovic, spokesman of the Social Democratic Party of Montenegro (www.rferl.org/reports/southslavic/2005/09/26-080905.asp).

[9] Michael Sells, The Bridge Betrayed: Religion and genocide in Bosnia (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 15.

[10] One distinguished exception has been the British Muslim legal expert Saba Risaluddin; see Nermin Mulalic and Saba Risaluddin, From Daytonland to Bosnia Rediviva (London: Bosnian Institute, 2000); Saba Risaluddin, Case of the Zvornik Seven: ethnic cleansing of the legal system in Bosnia-Herzegovina (London: Bosnian Institute, ca. 1998).

[11] Quakers are often sympathetic to Muslims, partly because in their quest to follow the historical Jesus they typically reject the Trinity and the sacraments.

[12] Sells, 144.

[13] London : Routledge, 1996.

[14] One example from my own reminiscences: in 1995 at the Saraj refugee camp in Macedonia , which held ethnic cleansing survivors from the Drina Valley region, one woman told me that her small children had been killed by being pushed down onto bayonets held by Serb soldiers. The soldiers, pulling down the trousers of the last of her children, a boy, saw that he was uncircumcised. Telling him that he would be a good Serb, they let him live.

[15] Mitja Velikonja, Religious Separation and Political Intolerance in Bosnia-Herzegovina ( College Station : Texas A&M Press, 2003), 268.

[16] Cited in Sells, 85; Velikonja, 265. Perhaps in divine retribution, several of the bishops who signed this decree have been humiliated in spectactular fashion; see www.guardian.co.uk/religion/Story/0,2763,1418094,00.html .

[17] Sells, 91.

[18] Adrian Hastings, The Shaping of Prophecy: Passion, Perception and Practicality (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1995).

[19] Reprinted in Hastings , 149.

[20] Hastings , 151.

[21] See his Sarajevo , mon amour: entretiens avec Florence La Bruyere ( Paris : Buchet Chastel,  2004).

[22] Sells, 80.

[23] Sells, 80.

[24] For the possible reconstruction of this mosque, and the ongoing obstructiveness of the Serbian authorities, see www.aneks8komisija.com.ba/main.php?mod=vijesti&extra=1075460574&id_vijesti=254&lang=4&&&action=getExternal&id=253; see also www.aneks8komisija.com.ba/main.php?mod=vijesti&extra=1075460534&action=view&id_vijesti=307&lang=4 .

[25] Cited in Sells, 80.

[26] Cited in Velikonja, 267.

[27] For Draskovic, see Mirko Kovac, ‘Vuk Draskovic: another hero of our time’, Bosnia Report 51-52 (April-July 2006),  44: ‘He describes himself as a very devout man. Former Communists are fond of stressing their religious feelings, which the ideology to which they once belonged had denied to them; and it is precisely they who have increasingly imposed the Church and the clergy as new authorities.’

[28] Cigar, 31. For more on the common image of Islam as an ‘Asiatic plague’ see Cigar, 185.

[29] Sells, 83.

[30] This is the indicted war criminal known as Arkan. For the connection see Velikonja, 265.

[31] Cigar, 68.

[32] Cigar, 26.

[33] Cited in Velikonja, 248.

[34] Sells, 84

[35] Sells, 85.

[36] Cigar, 66.

[37] Hubert Butler, In the Land of Nod (Dublin: Lilliput, 1996), 106-7.

[38] Sells, 95.

[39] www.haverford.edu/relg/sells/stolac/bloodshrines.htm

[40] Cigar, 124; Sells, 119. For a detailed account of Israeli popular support for Serbia during the genocide, see Daniel Kofman, ‘ Israel and the War in Bosnia ’, in Thomas Cushman and Stjepan G. Mestrovic (eds.), This Time We Knew: Western responses to the genocide in Bosnia (New York and London: New York University Press, 1996), 90-127. Quoting the Ma’ariv editor and columnist Yosef Lapid, who wrote ‘We must support the Serbs no matter what they do,’ he adds: ‘His views have not been at all unrepresentative of the rest of the Israeli political spectrum’ (p.102). ‘The Jerusalem Post actually distinguished itself throughout the war by running what could only be called straight Belgrade propaganda repeatedly in its op-ed pages, while disallowing responses’ (p. 108).

[41] This may change with the growing influence of the Church on public life: see Vjekoslow Perica, ‘The Most Catholic Country in Europe ? Church, State and Society in Contemporary Croatia ’, Religion, State and Society 34/iv (Dec 2006), 311-46.

[42] Sells, 106.

[43] See Ivo Banac, ‘Games beneath Stolac’, available at www.haverford.edu/relg/sells/stolac/Stolacgames.pdf

[44] www.haverford.edu/relg/sells/reports.html

[45] news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4263426.stm

[46] www.un.org/icty/pressreal/2005/p1001-e.htm

[47] Cited in Raymond Carr, The Spanish Tragedy: the civil war in perspective (London: Weidenfeld, 1977), 209-10.

[48] Joseph Pérez, The Spanish Inquisition: a history ( London : Profile Books, 2004); see chapter on ‘The Eradication of Semitism,’ pp.26-57 for the Church’s policy towards Muslims and Jews; for ‘blood purity’ see pp. 55-7.

[49] Adamantia Pollis, ‘Eastern Orthodoxy and Human Rights,’ Human Rights Quarterly 15/ii (May 1993), p.351.

[50] Charles A. Frazee, The Orthodox Church and Independent Greece 1821-1852 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 28; cf. Pollis, 347n.

[51] Developed first by Paul in Galatians and Romans; see E.P. Sanders, Paul (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 84-100.

[52] Cited by Slobodan Kostic in Vreme ( Belgrade ), 29 May 2003, translated in Bosnia Report 32-4 (December 2002-July 2003), p.43.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Ibid.

[55] ‘Serbia After Djindjic’, ICG Balkans Report No.141, 18 March 2003, cited in Bosnia Report, loc. cit. For the Church’s collaboration with the Germans during the Second World War, see Sabrina P. Ramet, Balkan Babel : The Disintegration of Yugoslavia from the death of Tito to the War for Kosovo (Boulder: Westview Press, 1999), 253-4.

[56] ibid.

[57] Ibid., p.44.

[58] For modern Serbian theories of ‘theodemocracy’, see Anzulovic, 125.

[59] For the strength of this symphonia in present-day Serbia , see Mirko Djordjevic, ‘Shadow of the “Third Rome”’, Bosnia Report 51-2 (April-July 2006), 55: ‘In contemporary Serbia we are exposed to daily political tirades that actually use the anachronistic term ‘symphonia’.

[60] Cited in Anzulovic, 126. As Anzulovic reminds us, Popovic ‘is, besides Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic, the most important twentieth-century Serbian Orthodox theologian. He was the teacher of the aggressively nationalist bishops who are presently playing the dominant role in the Serbian Orthodox Church, and his book on ecumenism is the only major Serbian work on the subject.’ Metropolitan Amfilohije, the senior churchman in Montenegro, is an ardent disciple; see Eulogy in Memory of the Blessed Fr. Justin.

A certain naiveté shapes Western Christian views of this church: see John Binns, An Introduction to the Christian Orthodox Churches (Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2002), 198-9, where the crimes of the Church leadership are passed over in silence, presumably in the interests of ‘fellowship in Christ’.

[61] Mirko Djordjevic, ‘Scorpions dressed as priests’, p.36.

[62] See www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/ahm/right.htm .

[63] Matthew, 27:25. See Luke T. Johnson, ‘The New Testament’s Anti-Jewish Slander and the Conventions of Ancient Polemic’, Journal of Biblical Literature, 108, 3 (1989), 419-41; William Nichols, Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate (Northvale: Jason Aronson, 1993).

[64] One of the most notable was the support offered by the Serbian ruler Stefan Lazarevic to Bayezid I, who in 1396 was in danger of defeat by the Hungarians. (Colin Imber, The Ottoman Empire 1300-1481 [Istanbul: Isis, 1990], p.46.)

[65] Barbara Jelavic, History of the Balkans: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983),  p. 197.

[66] Anzulovic, 11-32.

[67] Sells, 41. Some sources estimate the number of casualties at over a hundred thousand.

[68] Anzulovic, 52-3; Sells, 43.

[69] Sells, 50.

[70] Sells, 50.

[71] Anzulovic, 64-5.

[72] For the genetic relationship between Christian anti-Semitism and Islamophobia see Achim Rohde, ‘Der Innere Orient. Orientalismus, Antisemitismus und Geschlecht im Deutschland dem 18. bis 20. Jahrhunderts,’ Welt des Islams 45/iii (2005), 344-70.

[73] Hans Küng, Christianity and World Religions (New York: Doubleday, 1986), p.92.

[74] Hans Küng, p.93. The reality, of course, is that Jesus, upon him be peace, was faithful to the Law, while Paul allowed its violation for the sake of ‘gospel freedom’, thus inaugurating the lethal ‘Semitic legalism’ theme.

[75] Paul Tillich, Writings on Religion/Religiöse Schriften, ed. Robert D. Scharlemann (Berlin and New York: De Gruyter, 1988), p.262.

[76] Louis Massignon, that scholar-visionary, used this argument as part of his own dismissal of the deadly charge of ‘Semitic legalism’; but not every Christian has read Massignon.

[77] Alan Bullock, Hitler, a Study in Tyranny (revised issue Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990), 365.

[78] Robert Jan van Pelt and Debórah Dwork, Auschwitz , 1270 to the present (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), 292, 293.

[79] Those who deny the existence of a Semitic convergence, such as Primo Levi, have desperately tried to deny the identity of the Muselman as the ‘ultimate’ Semite; see the interview with Gil Anidjar at www.asiasource.org/news/special_reports/anidjar4.cfm .

[80] Bohdan Nahaylo and Victor Swoboda, Soviet Disunion: A History of the Nationalities Problem in the USSR (New York: Free Press, 1990), 96.

[81] Nahaylo and Swoboda, 68.

[82] A major dissimilarity is that while the Nazi death camps were apparently not known in the West in the early years of their operation, the function of the Serb camps of Omarska, Trnopolje, Keraterm and others was identified very early; this fact did not, however, result in action, any more than did the palpable vulnerability of the Serb militias when compared to the legions of the Wehrmacht. See Hastings : ‘ Bosnia has exposed the moral and ideological bankruptcy of Western society more devastatingly than anything this century, even Nazism. The evils are comparable. Yet, while we know far more about what is going on, we have done far less.’ ( Hastings , 148). Consider also the disturbing title of the Cushman and Mestrovic collection: This Time We Knew: Western responses to the genocide in Bosnia .

[83] The Guardian, 30 April 1993.

[84] Jean Baudrillard, ‘No Pity for Sarajevo ’, in Cushman and Mestrovic, 83.

[85] Gojko Djogo, president of the Union of Bosnia-Herzegovina Serbs in Serbia , quoted in Cigar, 185.

[86] Mark Mazower, Dark Continent: Europe ’s twentieth century (London: Penguin Books, 1998).

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