Ambassador Heads Panel On Extremism in the Balkans
by Amr Leheta
The ambassador to the United States from Bosnia and Herzegovina joined an American journalist Tuesday night in a panel to discuss extremism in southeast Europe, focusing on the legacy of the Bosnian War and the political roots behind extremist threats.
Ambassador Mitar Kujundzic and Stephen Schwartz, a Muslim American journalist and executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, spoke in the Intercultural Center about the recent history of Islamic extremism in southeast Europe, focusing on its role in the Bosnian War against the Yugoslavian federation and its presence in the region today.
"Extremism is not inherent [in the Balkans]," Kujundzic said.
He said the threat of terrorism comes from some Muslim "mujahedeen" — an Arabic word referring to one who struggles for freedom — remaining in the region who arrived from Middle Eastern nations during the Bosnian War.
"The government is in control," Kujundzic said. While the threat of domestic terrorism remains real, it is not yet acute, he said.
Schwartz said the "mujahedeen" had no real impact in the Bosnian War, noting their lack of involvement in the massacres that took place.
During the panel, which was sponsored by the European Club, Schwartz explained that the problem of Islamic extremism is a political one rather than a religious one, and provided examples from Albania and Macedonia.
"The defense of Bosnia was not a defense of Islam. The problem is with the elites," Schwartz said. "Their vulnerability to corruption and extremist infiltration is causing societal damage."
Ana Cenaj (COL '12), co-director of academic events for the European Club and a student of Albanian origin, helped organize the event. After visiting Albania last summer, she decided to bring the issue to the Hilltop.
"The Balkans has always been viewed as a crossroad between the West and the East," she said. "Because of the current instability, I wondered if Islamic terrorism posed a threat to the region, considering its relations to the Ottoman Empire and Islam throughout its history."
Tomi Maxted (SFS '11), president of the European Club, said he was pleased with the event.
"We thought it went very well," Maxted said. "We have been trying to establish a stronger presence on campus this year, and I think events such as this that could be of interest to a variety of people go a long way to achieving that goal."
Note: The content of external articles does not necessarily reflect the views of Center for Islamic Pluralism.