The State of Soul of the Bosnian Intellectuals
by Esad Duraković
Today I do not write about Wahhabism, but rather about some important incidents it has exposed here, thanks to print and electronic media exhibiting great interest in this complex issue, although the response of public opinion and intellectuals is in vast disproportion to the attraction of media to this topic or its relevance. It is this public passivity that effectively helps us understand how Wahhabism found such fertile soil in our society. By the same token, considering the general state of the soul here, it is certain that Wahhabism will get stronger, with an outcome already feared by a great many people. The Wahhabis have reason to be optimistic. Their activist movement efficiently uncovers the utter decay of this community, which lacks an immune system.
Our state of the soul is very discouraging, and this is visible to the naked eye – the condition became pernicious a long time ago. I thereby want to underscore some aspects of the illness revealed by the discussion on Wahhabism.
First, under the existing circumstances, the harsh face of autocracy in the Rijaset [religious administration headed by reis-ul-ulema Mustafa ef. Cerić – CIP] of the Islamic Community of Bosnia-Hercegovina surfaced, a face never before seen in such a light. There is no doubt of the Rijaset's affectionate embrace of Wahhabism, on one side, and the public ideological punishment of Professor Rešid Hafizović from the Faculty of Islamic Studies, a scholar who personifies a scientist destroyed by an institution. This relationship is terribly wrong, both anticipating and rapidly producing extremely adverse effects. When all of us start suffering severe consequences in the near future, the fact of the Rijaset's historic responsibility will not be comforting. Honestly, what is being done to call to conscience those who may have to respond adequately?! We see public circulation of the thesis of a number of local intellectuals, who, acting through media, want to undermine both the reis-ul-ulema and the Rijaset. We saw on Bosnian Federal Television (FTV) a few days ago Bosnian Wahhabism being meritoriously and proudly presented as the guardian of the Rijaset, and vice versa, which profoundly reinforced the long-gestating negative development – such an important institution has succumbed to an individual, or, it has totally become the embodiment of an individual. A miracle witnessed by everyone occurred, but miracles also happen at extremely difficult times – Wahhabis, with good reason, cordially defend their Rijaset on television, the same Rijaset that attacks its own best professors. History has a lot of work to do. However, the essence is exactly the opposite – a few intellectuals try to indicate to the public how important it is to salvage the Rijaset, and not to destroy it, since it has been greatly weakened.
Complete responsibility should never be placed on individuals who act harmfully from powerful positions in an institution – that is how they are, but the lion's share of responsibility lies with those who directly surround harmful leaders, but who do nothing to counter their bad effects. That is the root of the problem.
In addition to that, in the given context, the media-fed Wahhabi frenzy reveals a striking indifference among local intellectuals and academia, the latter which has actually lost the right to be called by that name. Following my article ["Readers May Choose a Title for This Text" on this topic, no local broadcasting station or print medium failed to ask me for an interview, debate, etc. I consistently told them that this problem has to be discussed not only by a few individuals, but that many others should be involved – tens of them, and they have also recently been called on to participate in the debate. Local Bosniak national institutions are quiet beyond reason or limit, and I already mentioned their names in the aforementioned text. Intellectuals also observe all of it passively, making it difficult for journalists, for they do not know how to overcome a huge gap between the relevance of the topic and the indifference of intellectuals. That deprives them of their intellectual function, since one of the chief characteristics of intellectuals is social participation and responsibility in actual events. This arduous search for participants adequately indicates the unfavorable state of the soul of local intellectuals and of the Islamic Community as a whole. Most of the responsible and competent people do not get involved – they either have no will or time, since many of them run around mediocre schools in Bosnia diligently producing academic filler. Naturally, as an effect of lowering academic standards, the scope of research and development is precipitously declining, academic degrees are acquired unchecked, or professors get requalified in a new teaching field, without adequate time or any academic contribution, etc. This opportunism and self-indulgence creates an ideal space for conquest by an aggressive and harmful ideology.
Finally, according to everything I have laid out, when the Rijaset published its Declaration on Prof. Hafizović, the worst occurred. In this attack by an institution on an individual, the individual was isolated, left alone, since the academic community was bogged down in depression and a humiliated tranquility. In this case, the names of the individual or the institution, or the Wahhabis who so wrongly attack him do not matter, but the principle is important, the reality featuring two unequal actors in an arena before a callous and unethical academic audience. The institution has assaulted the professor because of a public statement. Even more shocking is the fact that the individuals from the professor's own institution keep quiet, and even the Academic Council does not defend him. If they keep quiet at a moment when it should be critically important for them to break silence, because of their own actions, and not just for the attacked professor, they will have a hard time being taken seriously, or, even worse, they will lose their platform for self-respect. But the institution that Prof. Hafizović comes from, where he produced several brilliant books of unparalleled quality in the history of local Islamic Community, has for some decades been a member of a broader academic community, the University of Sarajevo. However, there is no sign there of any growing awareness of the importance of this development – the academic community dishonestly agrees to the ideological liquidation of Academic Freedom as personified by its member, leaving him to a media trial by Mr. Rijaset and his Wahhabis.
Consequently, with such a state of the soul, with an open mind and heart, I have nothing left but to make this last statement: "Greatly embittered, I hereby say that I hate the time in which I am destined to live. "
* * *
[Translated by Faruk Bogučanin and Center for Islamic Pluralism]
[Note: Professor Rešid Hafizović is the outstanding living expert on Sufism in the Balkans and the Bosnian cotranslator of Stephen Schwartz's Two Faces of Islam (Dva Lica Islama).]