Publishing of Islamophobic books flourishing in Croatia

This summer the book publishing industry and the political bibliography in Croatia became richer by three new volumes, all offering expertise in so-called theory of Islam, and Islamism, with special focus on the Yugoslav wars. Authors share something in common as they all belong to the older generation of prominent politicians whose careers came to an early end. The first one is Miroslav Tuđman, the son and eldest child of Franjo Tuđman, the first President of Croatia, with his geopolitical fantasy-thriller book "The other side of the Rubicon: Political strategy of Alija Izetbegović" (Druga strana Rubikona: Politička strategija Alije Izetbegovića), the second one is Mato Arlović with the daily politics melodrama "Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosnia and (re)structuring of Bosnia and Herzegovina" (Hrvatska zajednica Herceg-Bosna i (pre)ustroj Bosne i Hercegovine), and the third one is Vladimir Šeks with the constitutional law epic "The Overthrow: How Manolić and Mesić demolished Tuđman and Croatian politics toward Bosnia and Herzegovina" (Državni udar: Kako su Manolić i Mesić rušili Tuđmana i hrvatska politika prema BiH). The emphasis has been put on the "problem" of Bosnia and Herzegovina, although last book deal indirectly with it.

The publishing of these books come in a very interesting time, only a few months before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is supposed to give a final appeal judgement in the case of Jadranko Prlić and five other former Bosnian Croat leaders, scheduled for late November. Their Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia was an unrecognised entity in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, financially and militarily supported by the Republic of Croatia, and lasted from 1991 to 1996. In May 2013, in a first instance verdict, the ICTY sentenced Herzeg-Bosna's Prime Minister Prlić to 25 years in prison. The tribunal also convicted defence minister Bruno Stojić (20 years), military officers Slobodan Praljak (20 years) and Milivoj Petković (20 years), military police commander Valentin Ćorić (20 years), and head of prisoner exchanges and detention facilities Berislav Pušić (16 years). The majority of Trial Chamber's, with the presiding judge Jean-Claude Antonetti dissenting, ruled that they took part in a joint criminal enterprise (JCE) against the non-Croat population of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ethnic cleansing included the murder, rape and expulsion of Muslims from Bosnia, and the six were also held responsible for the destruction of the Ottoman-era Old Bridge at Mostar, whose shelling became a symbol of the ravages of the Bosnian conflict.

Recently published books are the product of longstanding attempts to legitimize Herzeg-Bosnia and their leaders, to whitewash the criminal past and distort the historical record. Thus, they contain archaic nationalist myths, wartime propaganda, political concepts taken from American neoconservatives, misinterpretations of early works by former Bosnian president, basically all that we've seen over the past thirty years. However, one significant addition differs it from older nationalist propaganda – the inclusion of bizarre parallels between the Bosnian war and recent geopolitical developments in the Middle East, extremist movements, attacks in Europe and the accompanying media hysteria. In late August, Miroslav Tuđman summarized his book content in an interview for the Croatian weekly Globus, which published the bombastic headline on the front page that says "Islamic terrorism was developed by Bosnian mujahedins in the 1990s". Tuđman blamed Bosnia's former president Alija Izetbegović for encouraging the birth of terrorism in the 1990s. He further equalized Takfiri terrorists with Bosnian brigades, stressing they both decapitate enemies, wear Arabic insignia and chant takbir. In other words, he claims Izetbegović does not differ much from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, members of the Bosnian army from Daesh, while Croatian joint criminal enterprise would be similar to the Bush's "humanitarian" interventions.

This dehumanization is largely based on works and claims by his father, the first Croatian President Franjo, who aggressively embraced both old Antemurale myth and Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilizations" theory. In Franjo Tuđman's view, Catholic Croatia was at the forefront of a clash of civilizations with Islam (and to a much lesser extent Orthodox Christianity), and battle for dominance in the Balkans between Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Turks had never really ended. In January 1992, he predicted that the Bosnian Muslims would flood Bosnia with half a million Turks disguised as Bosnians to become majority, seek common cause with Muslims in Serbia and Kosovo, and then establish a "fundamentalist" state which would eradicate Croats and threaten the rest of Europe. But did the Balkans really experience some Daesh-like group? Actually, it did, and prophecy was quite correct. It is hard to find any difference between unrecognized states of Herzeg-Bosnia and ISIL, both foreign-backed, separatist and irredentist. They both invoked archaic ideologies from the 18th/19th century, and both committed ethnic cleansing and genocide – Bosnian Muslims suffered 15 times more civilian casualties then Croats. They both razed UNESCO World Heritage sites, Palmyra temples and Old Bridge of Mostar, and leaders of both are internationally recognized criminals. The only difference is that Croats of Herzeg-Bosnia, an alleged bulwark of Christianity, do not use Arabic script and do not chant "Allahu Akbar" like, let's say, Palestinian Christians.

Marko Knežević

Marko Knežević is a historian and freelance journalist from Bar, Montenegro. He is a frequent traveller to the Middle East and East Asia.