By Imam Dr. Zijad Delic — Bosnia and Herzegovina! Remember? This was once a wonderful place where people of all religious backgrounds enjoyed immeasurable blessings. Without hesitation I could describe this corner of the world as an earthly “paradise” — until psychopaths like Radovan Karadzic emerged from their dark caves.
They came among us with their bizarre fascist ideas, using aggressive rhetoric to manipulate the minds and hearts of their fellow Serbs, whipping them up into a frenzy of violence and hatred against Muslims and all non-Serbs in Bosnia. Paradise soon became Hell-on-earth.
Bosnia and Herzegovina! For most of the outside world, the name immediately calls to mind the terrible period between 1992 and 1995, when tens of thousands of innocent Bosnian Muslims were killed — ethnically “cleansed” — for the sole “crime” of being Muslims.
Men and boys had their lives wiped away and their potential lost forever; hunted down, murdered, buried without a shred of ceremony by bulldozers, and this in the heart of “civilized” Europe. Concentration camps, brutal murders, the pre-meditated rape of thousands of Bosnian Muslim girls and women (each one of them somebody’s daughter, wife, mother, fiancée); thousands of children traumatized; people wounded beyond healing.
Serbs from both Bosnia and Serbia — supported by the Serbian government — killed approximately 250,000 Muslims; raped more than 50,000 Muslim girls and women; imprisoned thousands in concentration camps; maimed and wounded tens of thousands more. The full list of atrocities and their morbid statistics is too long to recount here. In the now-infamous Bosnian town of Srebrenica — which was supposed to be an internationally recognized safe-zone — Serbs slaughtered an estimated 8,000 men and boys for the sole “crime” of being Muslim. All of this unspeakable brutality, this horrendous and obscene waste of humanity, took place right before the eyes of the so-called “civilized” world.
What was done to innocent Bosnians by Serb forces meets the definition of genocide as stated in Article 2 of the Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was established in Paris on December 9, 1948 and came into force on January 12, 1951. Traumatic memories of intentionally committed atrocities on Bosniaks are still very much alive in the minds and hearts of those who survived.
Even though these massacres happened more than a decade ago, it is not too late for the world to collectively denounce the evil inflicted on innocent people in Bosnia. Both the House and Senate of the U.S. Congress have passed resolutions and the European Parliament did so earlier this year. But the Canadian House of Commons has yet to act.
MP Brian Masse plans to put forward a motion this fall, as soon as possible after the House of Commons resumes sitting in October. He hopes to launch a campaign for a long-overdue Srebrenica Remembrance Day, thus giving Canada the opportunity to stand up and join other countries in solidarity against the heinous crime of genocide and regain our national reputation a true peace-broker in the world.
By passing Mr. Masse’s resolution, Canada will benefit in many ways:
a) Canada’s international image will be respected as it was in the past;
b) Canada will send a clear message to all abusers of power that we will always stand for peace through justice;
c) Canada will serve as the model and mentor to other countries to follow its path in acknowledging the genocide of innocent Bosnians; and
d) Canada will give hope to those whose hope was taken from them.
The above are just some of the reasons why CIC and Canadian Muslims support MP Brian Masse in sponsoring a resolution on the Bosnia and Herzegovina genocides. Furthermore, we believe all Canadians should support it, so that this genocide is not forgotten; so that people can live peacefully together and no one need fear that what happened to Bosnian Muslims will ever happen again to any human being.
CIC and Canadian Muslims thank Mr. Masse for recognizing that Bosnia and Herzegovina underwent the worst case of atrocities and genocide committed against civilians since the Second World War and that innocent Bosnian men, women, children, the sick and the elderly, took the brunt of intentional aggression by Serb forces.
We call upon all Canadian representatives on the Hill as well as all Canadians of conscience to support this courageous initiative to sponsor a parliamentary resolution on the Bosnia-Herzegovina genocide so that justice can be brought to bear on behalf of all who were so brutally massacred.
All Canadians should be thankful that MP Brian Masse cares enough about justice and truth to stand up for their sake in these troubled times! Many Canadians — but especially those whose roots of origin are in Bosnia and Herzegovina — are proud of Canadian politicians like himself, who value honesty, integrity and justice for every human being.
For me, as an Imam and a human being, the philosophy of “caring and respect” springs from three sources:
a) My religious background, which is based on strong principles of justice, equality and care for all human beings. The intellectual tradition of Islam has left a deep mark on my personal choices in regards to human relations. Muhammad (pbuh) once said; “The best amongst the people are those who benefit (all) people.”
b) My family and cultural Bosnian roots, through which I was exposed to great diversity and learned at a very young age to care about all people; and
c) My new homeland of Canada, where everyone is free and encouraged to live his or her faith unhindered and unashamed; where people can openly affirm God’s love for all humanity; where religion is an agent of healing, reconciliation, and peace; where religious people and institutions encourage understanding, cooperation, and respect; where religion promotes the safety, dignity, freedom and potential of every person as a whole human being.
In short, Canada is a place where all are given opportunities to help themselves and in turn extend help to others near and far, including those they have never seen or met. For most Canadians, Bosnians are those unknown people in need, people of goodness forgotten by their neighbors in the heart of Europe – forgotten only because they belong to a different religion.
Our plea to Canada: Do not forget people in need!