Learning lessons from the anniversary of Bosnian genocide


JUL 16, 2014, 4:40 PM

Learning lessons from the anniversary of Bosnian genocide

Bosnian Americans, in recent days, have commemorated the 19th anniversary of the Bosnian genocide in which thousands were slaughtered and tens of thousands were expelled from their land by Serbian forces. Some of those Bosnian refugees were granted asylum in America and now reside in Metro Detroit.

I have a special connection to these naturalized Americans from Bosnia and their children, who were born here because I served in the U.S. military and was deployed in the region in 1995, shortly after the Srebrenica massacre. Almost a decade later, I served temporarily as the imam of the Bosnian American Islamic Center in Hamtramck in which I heard families recap stories of rape and killing that took place.

What I’ve learned from experiencing and hearing the stories of those subjected to wanton violence based upon ethnic and religious affiliations is that entities that stir up such divisions must be immediately confronted with alternative and unifying messages before bloodshed and refugee crisis come as a result of inaction.

Case in point is the recent ethnic cleansing in the Central African Republic (CAR) when 800,000 Muslims were driven out by Christian militias in reaction to a coup d’etat led by rebel groups that were predominately, but not exclusively, compromising of Muslims.

The crisis, which brewed for awhile, perhaps could have been averted if dealt with proactively. Since the crisis, human rights groups have accused France and Chad of harboring persons who have committed killings and other human rights abuses relating to ethnic cleansing and retaliation associated to it.

America cannot be the police force of the world via exertions of military force, nor should we ever see ourselves as having this role. We do, however, have the moral obligation to make sure that our government and our allies do not support repressive regimes that sow seeds of division to remain in power.

Unfortunately, we do not have such influence over nations such as Russia that have also supported repressive regimes that have exploited ethnic differences as a means of shoring up power.

There will always be political and religious leaders that foment ethnic and sectarian strife. As we look at ethnic and religiously-based violence that stretches across the globe, from Nigeria to Myanmar, it’s clear that the citizens of the world have not learned the lessons from Bosnia and other genocides which came before.

Thankfully, such is not the case in today in America.

As America may be forced to intervene militarily in some cases as in Bosnia, we have the duty to be opposed to tyranny wherever we see it and promote peaceful solutions to counter those who promote division that may result in mass violence. Perhaps we need to have a Department of Peace as part of our government, outside of the State Department, for such work. It may be cheaper for us in the long term if we had such and probably would avert future situations like Bosnia from taking place.


My post Veterans Day thoughts

Yesterday being Veterans Day, I received a few requests from fellow American Muslims who wanted to know about my experiences in the U.S. Navy.  I’ll briefly touch on my first deployment to Adriatic Sea aka “The Box” during the time of NATO intervention on behalf of Bosnian Muslims who were victims of Serbian ethnic cleansing.

I was part of a carrier group with sailors and marines who were participated in Operation Deliberate Force, which was a military action taken against Serbian aggression, that aggression included the massacre of some 8,000 Muslims in the village of Srebrenica.  On my my first day in “The Box,” we were summoned to General Quarters (GQ), meaning battle stations, due to a submarine that had come in close proximity of our ship.  I never received firm confirmation, but the word was it was an Iranian sub.  Iran was one of the few nations that actually assisted Bosnian militias.

As an American Muslim, I felt good serving, especially seeing that my country was doing something constructive, not destructive, in the Muslim world.  I felt the same way in terms of our involvement in the conflict in Kosova in which we also assisted ethnic Albanian Muslims, who were victims of Serbs.  I received the NATO medal, Sea Service medal and Combat Action medal for that deployment as the first of other decorations, which I received while on active duty.

I was not as politically astute then as now to know that our response was a delayed one, but it was done nonetheless.  Because of my service, I have mixed feelings about U.S. military intervention anywhere including in the Muslim world.  I know that we intervene militarily based upon geo-political interests, not just to save lives.  During my time in the Navy, the genocide in Rwanda and Burundi took place in which hundreds of thousands more people were massacred than in Bosnia; however, intervention in Rwanda and Burundi was not seen to fit into U.S. interests.

I believe that the U.S. military should be primarily for home defense and to assist others in very limited circumstances, not to project U.S. strategic and economic power as it functions today.  I’m for a stronger Coast Guard to protect against piracy, sea-launched terrorism and for intercepting drug traffickers.  I’m not in favor of keeping military basis that were opened post WWII like in Germany, Japan and other places.  I also believe that our military should immediately leave Afghanistan.

In future, perhaps I will write more about my experiences and thoughts pertaining to the U.S. military.  My salute to all fellow veterans.

New mass grave found in Bosnia

As a new mass grave was found of Bosnian Muslims who were murdered at the hands of Serbs, I’m struck as to how differently the media covers this and other atrocities committed by Europeans without attaching their religion to their acts of savagery and genocide, unless they are European Muslims.

Everytime Muslims commit such acts, Islam is attached to the heinous acts, even when the majority of Islamic scholars and mainstream Muslims state that their actions have nothing to do with religion.  The acts are crimes.

So for instance, Serb fighters were actually blessed by Orthodox clergy before committing rape and ethnic cleansing of Muslims.  However, the Serbian criminals were not called Christian terrorists in the media, nor do government officials refer to them as such today.  Some of the Serbian fighters saw themselves as post-modern crusaders.  Of course, this will be “white-washed” out of the history books.

I’m not saying that I wish to see terrorists dubbed as “Christo-fascists”, “Jewish terrorists”, or “Hindu extremists”.  I don’t.  Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism have nothing to do with terrorism.

My point is that if we aren’t going to label all extremists by their religions then extremists who are Muslims shouldn’t be labeled as such either.


New mass grave found in Bosnia

A new mass grave believed to contain dozens of victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre has been discovered in eastern Bosnia, an official said.

The new grave measuring at least 10 by three metres was discovered at Kamenica village, near the town of Zvornik, said Murat Hurtic of Bosnia’s Missing Persons Commission.

“The remains of around 10 people appeared on the surface as we removed the first layer of soil [and] at least several dozen remains” were expected to be uncovered in total, he said.

The exhumation work was expected to continue for two weeks.

Serb forces overran the then UN-protected Muslim enclave Srebrenica in the final phase of Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war, summarily killing some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Europe’s single worst atrocity since World War II.

The victims were initially buried in a dozen mass graves. But after the release of satellite pictures showing large portions of freshly disturbed ground, Serbs moved them to other locations in order to cover up the crimes.

The body parts were separated during reburial using bulldozers, and forensic experts sometimes found parts of a single person buried in three different so-called secondary graves.

“It is the 10th so-called secondary grave found in Kamenica”, said Amor Masovic, the head of the commission.

Soil probes showed there were at least three other graves in the village, he said, adding that they would probably be exhumed later this year.

The remains of thousands of the victims have been exhumed from about 70 mass graves around the ill-fated town, with more than 5,600 people identified by DNA analysis.

Wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, indicted by a UN war crimes court for genocide and crimes against humanity for atrocities including the Srebrenica massacre, was arrested in the Serbian capital Belgrade last month after being on the run for more than decade.(MORE)

Bosnian Serbs today attack US Consulate in Bosnia

Today, police in Bosnia clashed with Serbian extremists, who attempted to lay siege on the US Consulate in Bosnia.

Bosnian Serbs are now claiming that they want an independent region just as Kosovars have achieved by breaking from Serbia.

This attack on the US Consulate in Bosnia by Serbs follows an attack which Serbs launched upon the US Embassy in Serbia last week.  Technically, US embassies are considered US property.  In other words, the attacks constitute an attack on the US.

We’ll have to see what the State Department’s position will be regarding the actions of Serbs as well as the political jockeying that the Russians are participating in regarding the Balkans.

SEE AP article – http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/7338046