Alija IzetbegoviÄ‡ (8 August 1925 â€“ 19 October 2003) was a Bosnian activist, lawyer, author, philosopher and politician, who, in 1990, became the first President of Bosnia. He served as the Bosnian President until 1996, when he became a member of the Bosnian State Presidency, serving until 2000. He was also the author of several books, most notably “Islam Between East and West” and “The Islamic Declaration”.
International Alija Izetbegovic Symposium was held on October, 11-12th 2008 in Istanbul, Turkey. Alija Izetbegovic, the first president of Bosnia, was one of the most important state ministers and thinkers. President Izetbegovic lived as an great example to both the Bosnian nation and the rest of the world.
There was symposium, exhibition and movies. Alija’s son, BakÄ±r Izzetbegovic also attended the symposium along with many academicians and scientests from Bosnia, Turkey and the rest of the world.
Participants talked about President Izetbegovic as both a politician and a thinker during two day – symposium. The last session, called “testimonies”,included explanations of friends of the first Bosnian President and journalists which had witnessed the 1992-1995 Serbian, montenegrin and Croatian aggressions against Bosnia.
Lokman Cagrici, mayor of Bagcilar, said that “we do our historical duty to Alija and Bosnia. Alija is also from Istanbul as much as from Bosnia.”
Here are the paper abstracts of some panelists at the symposium:
Adamir Jerkovic, Director of Bosnia Public Records
Led by Alija IzetbegoviÄ‡ in the recent past, the Bosniaks knew how to tell which path out of many is the right one. Unfortunately, the Bosniak leaders of today, blinded by their own egos and in absence of a Bosniak national program, fail to respond properly to the new challenges, among which separatism stands as the most dangerous one. Today, more than ever, the Bosniaks lack IzetbegoviÄ‡’s wise advice, his political wisdom and a long-term vision. His fight for the survival of Bosnian Muslims is in fact an unambiguous call for the reasonable part of the human kind to oppose the tyranny and Machiavellian logics, which gives excuses for the state terrorism, concurring of someone else’s territories, changing of borders, destruction of small peoples, destruction of cultural and any other, even genetic heritageâ€¦ There can be no doubt about the fact that Alija IzetbegoviÄ‡ marked one epoch. He was an articulate voice of a multiethnic Bosnia. He has been the most significant person for Bosniaks and Bosnians in the dramatic century that is now behind usâ€¦ IzetbegoviÄ‡ is also the most significant person in the entire Bosniak history. The World recognizes him as a honorable leader, who managed to preserve almost forgotten virtue of humanity in the mud of the international politics.
Muharrem Sevil, Dr, Author
On occasion, Alija Izetbegovic would exclaim, “Our enemies are here, but where are our friends?” On other occasions, he would calmly declare that “as a politician, he could forgive his enemies, but, as a human being, never!” On yet other occasions, while we all might conform to his concept of an Islam torn between East and West, he taught us what is Islam. He never considered concealing his identity by resorting to the adoption of a mentality that was remote from the heart. His identity as a Muslim, which he regarded as vital, was always kept in the foreground: at one summit meeting of the Organization for the Security and Cooperation of Europe, attended by the heads of governments or states of 52 countries, when everyone present raised his glass, he was the only leader to break with tradition by not only failing to reach for his glass, but also declining to lift it in a toast. Alija Izetbegovic was not merely a leader. In his own words, “he was a Muslim intermediary who had lived for centuries along the great frontier between the East and the West as well as someone who felt he belonged to both worlds.
KasÄ±m Trnka, Prof. Dr., Bosnia Herzegovina Constitutional Court Chairman
Bosnia and Herzegovina, which bases the continuity of its statehood in the early Middle Ages, had survived a dramatic period of its history at the end of the twentieth century. It was a global breakdown of a communist system and dissolution of the joint state. There was a threat of disappearance of Bosniak people and the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the beginning of the aggression in 1992. A successful defense of the country was organized under the most difficult circumstances. In parallel, a diplomatic fight was ongoing under extremely unfavorable relations of international forces. After the establishment of the unjust peace, the fight for democratic and sustainable Bosnia and Herzegovina has followed. Under all those dramatic circumstances, Alija Izetbegovic was in a position of a state and national leader. Thanks to his strategic way of thinking, his philosophical and ethical standpoints, his strong determination for the democratic and multiethnic society, he had enormously contributed to the preservation of the continuity of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to the affirmation of national identity of Bosniaks. With the pragmatic concessions towards real policy, he had never put in question the strategic goals to which he dedicated his whole life.
SadÄ±k YalsÄ±zuÃ§anlar, Author
Alija Izetbegovic, who departed this world on 19 October 2003, formulates at one point in his significant work titled Islam between East and West, the definition of a poet: “The poet is someone who sees the invisible world and who reveals the keys to the primordial ceremonials.” This definition simultaneously portrays himself. The philosopher king was the embodiment of universal principles. In the political sphere, he was the epitome of the Perfect Man. The late Alija Izetbegovic was the culmination of the line of such sovereigns. Islam between East and West informs us that poetry, in particular, and art, in general, “express the ineffable nature of that which is inexpressible.” This beautiful description firmly establishes the degeneration and deterioration undergone by art in modern times. Izetbegovic is a philosopher who knowledgebly explains to us the nature of artâ€”particularly, traditional artâ€”and the detrimental alteration it has manifested in modern times. The traditional artist who dissolves the barriers between us and reality fulfills the duty, just as Izetbegovic affirmed, of issuing a warning and cautionary: the essential proposition of the existence of all religions and art is a completely different world (an entirely different system of things) from the natural world.
Mahmut H. AkÄ±n, Research Assistant., SelÃ§uk University Sociology Department
The majority of the people living in Turkey became acquainted with and came to love the late Alija Izetbegovic in the course of the war waged between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia in the early 1990s. He was admired not only by his own society and those who shared his ideas, but also by the people against whom he fought and whose ideas differed from his own. What distinguished Izetbegovic was his conceptualization of freedom and ethics and his upright and honorable stance that was enhanced by this understanding. Due to his endowed temperament, throughout his life he neither defended or acted in the name of anything he did not believe in nor did he hesitate to pay the price exacted for those beliefs he championed. The late Alija Izetbegovic was one of the greatest intellectuals produced by the modern Islamic world. Those who loved him thus called him the “Philosopher King.” When the views he expounded in his works and what he experienced in his lifetime are taken into consideration, it becomes strikingly apparent that his intellectual stance and his lifelong battle were not exclusive. Today, any estimation of the stature of Alija Izetbegovic as an intellectual must be placed in the framework of his treatment of philosophical and social issues. The initiatives he advanced in relation to these issues and the whole of his struggle constitute an accumulation of wisdom bequeathed to humanity as a legacy to those from every segment who assigned importance to him.
Hasan Cengic, Former Deputy Defense Minister of Bosnia Herzegovina
Aliya was a freedom lover in both philosophical and political meaning. When we read his note taken at prison parallel with his life and struggle we see that he is seeing freedom as the first condition of being human. But since he has lived in a time and space that freedom has been restricted his life from beginning to the end was a struggle for freedom. He has gained freedom for himself and his people with his struggle.
Recep ÅžentÃ¼rk, Prof. Dr., Fatih University, Public Administration Department
With regard to whether or not a civilization has recognized the right to life, it is possible to divide civilizations into two classes. In this paper, those civilizations that have awarded the right to life to other civilizations represent an open civilization and those that have failed to do so are closed civilizations. Islamic civilization is an example of an open civilization, because, throughout history, it has granted the right to life to the numerous civilizations subject to its administration, such as Christian, Judaic, Hindu, and Buddhist civilizations. Moreover, Islamic civilization, rather than extirpate or deny the heritage of the pre-Islamic God-seekers (the religion of Abraham), Judaism, Christianity, the Ancient Greek pantheon, and the Ancient Persian and Indian religions, kept them alive by virtue of its own critical apparatus. In fact, Greek philosophy was preserved by Muslims until it was rediscovered by the West in the Renaissance. Like many other civilizations during the Middle Ages, Western civilization represents an example of a closed civilization that wished to dominate the world by itself and destroy other civilizations. At present, modern western civilization, the dominant civilization, fluctuates between the closed and open models of civilization: on the one hand, there are those who wish to eliminate other world civilizations in order to make it the sole civilization and, on the other hand, there are those who defend the right of all world civilizations to exist. In this context, we should recall the importance of the experience of Islam as an open civilization.
Ismail Bardhi, Prof. Dr., Southern California University, Islamic Works Department
Alija Izetbegovic considered his Islamic identity as his way of life, as his way of life was not an abstract belief in God. The object of his belief first of all was the Word of God, which is the Qur’an, as exemplified by His last Prophet, who was a permanent model of a believer and a statesman. Main features of his belief were his intensive relation with the supranatural, his strength, his universality as well as well experiencing of religion in daily life. He didn’t consider religion as his own property, but as a universal field which enables a permanent development in improving its meaning and experiencing. Even in the field of existentialism he found the excellence of religion. This is what made him a faith educator.
Stjepan Gabriel Mestrovic, Prof Dr., Texas A&M University, Sociology Department
Alija Izetbegovic’s book, Islam Between East and West, as well his legacy as President of Bosnia-Herzegovina, are re-evaluated in the context of David Riesman’s social theory in The Lonely Crowd and Mestrovic’s theory in Postemotional Society. In this context, it is argued that Izetbegovic’s book and legacy were intended for and make sense in an “inner-directed” social context which assumes that most people are sincere in their commitment to a set of goals and values that are intended to last for at least a lifetime. But, since the 1950s, the so-called “West,” consisting primarily of the USA and Western Europe, has shifted dramatically through an “other-directed” phase, in which goals and values shift rapidly to fit the approval of peer groups and media, and is currently in a “postemotional” phase, in which his ideas and Bosnia-Herzegovina’s existence were subjected to “spin” and emotional manipulation by governments as well as media. Thus, the Belgrade regime convinced a willing Western audience that its genocidal campaign against Bosnia and Izetbegovic was justified on the postemotional basis of fighting “Turks” in Bosnia in response to the more than 600-year-old loss to the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Kosovo in the year 1389. Izetbegovic’s theme of tolerance was twisted into acceptance of terrorism. Izetbegovic’s cultural depiction of Islam in Bosnia as promoting patience and charity was manipulated into the notion that all three sides (including the Croats) were “equally guilty.” Other examples drawn from the reception of Izetbegovic’s book and policies will be examined. It is concluded that Izetbegovic’s authentic message, aims, and objectives need to be evaluated and appreciated in the inner-directed context which he assumed, but which is becoming extinct in the West.