Bosnian presidential candidate: Muslim prayers sound like howling 

If you run for a country’s highest office, it should, at the very least, be considered common sense to not insult the religious beliefs of half of its population. Unless that country is Bosnia.

Tijana Cvjeticanin
Tijana Cvjeticanin Istinomjer, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Source: Istinomjer
Bosnian presidential candidate: Muslim prayers sound like howling  - NewsMavens
Milorad Dodik. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

Bosnian politicians are known to nourish ethnic divisions in the country as they fail in all areas of governance, with no real results to present to their voters. Fanning the flames of distrust between the country's three largest ethnic groups -- Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs -- is their main political strategy to attract votes and this is how most of them have been consolidating their respective constituencies for the past 20 years.  But some are worse than others and those are the ones who resort to open hate speech. That’s what we’ve recently heard from Milorad Dodik, current President of Republika Srpska (one of the two entities that make up Bosnia).

In a rant on live TV, he started by inflating the number of mosques in Bosnia; labeled Muslim prayers as a “howling” which “traumatizes” Serbs; and finished with the claim that mosques depress property values for the Serbs who live nearby.

“Don’t put that howling on loudspeakers, that’s not for me. (...) At five o’clock, he cranks up the volume of that thing he’s got up there and sings. So, of course, everyone is traumatized and they get up at five. (...) That’s become impossible to bear and people don’t want any part in it anymore. The people can’t stand it.”

The message is clear -- “we” (Serbs/Orthodox Christians) don’t want “you” (Bosniaks/Muslims) in Republika Srpska. This is not your land. And it’s the message he is sending as he runs for a seat in the Presidency of BiH -- a country where more than 50% people identify as Muslim. But his votes for the Presidency will only come from Republika Srpska, to which he presents himself as a “defender against Islam”. 

Scarier than the statement itself, is that he may not be wrong in his assessment of the electorate. Playing the nationalism card has worked great for Dodik and his party so far -- in fact, that’s what got them in power in the first place. It’s also the only thing that he’s still able to utilize to unite “his people”in the face of growing unrest, as government attempts to curb public protests continue to fail.

It wasn't just an insult -- it was also meant to injure

  • One of the dog whistle issues Dodik used in this statement is the number of mosques “built after the war” -- a code for a supposed threat of radical Islam, to which he is the supposed deterrent.
  • He claimed that 800 new mosques have been built in the Federation of BiH after the war. The real number of new mosques in the whole country -- not just FBiH -- is 554.
  • Missing from this picture is the fact that over 600 mosques in Bosnia were completely destroyed and 307 damaged during the war. Additionally, 218 masjids (a mosque without a minaret) were destroyed and 41 damaged.
  • By the latest record, about 800 has been rebuilt so far. These are not "new mosques".  
  • In Banja Luka, the administrative center of Republika Srpska, all the mosques were purposely destroyed during wartime, although the city itself was never a combat ground.
  • The city’s main mosque, Ferhadija, was under UNESCO protection when it was blown up in 1993.
  • The first attempt to rebuild it was met with violent protests in 2001. It was finally rebuilt in 2016.
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