How much is Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) a secular state? This question was brought up again after the decision of the Assembly of Canton Sarajevo (CS) to shorten the teaching hours in schools due to Iftar, which students and teachers go to.
Freedom/lack of freedom of religion?
While the Sarajevo Cantonal Assembly makes a decision that adapts to religious customs, master Fatmir Alispahic, BiH writer and journalist, who is also a practical believer, disagrees with it.
“I am a Hajj. My three children attend classes and fast, and it would never occur to us to restrict or determine the rights and freedoms of those who do not fast with our fasting,” Alispahic wrote in his complaint to the Ombudsman.
Ivana Maric, a political analyst from Sarajevo, believes that religion and education in BiH are very sensitive topics. She is of the opinion that, in the last case, the goal is to collect political points on matters of religion.
“It is unusual that this initiative did not come from the SDA, a political party that presents itself as the leading national party of Bosniaks, but from the Party for BiH, which claims to be an alternative. It is interesting that it is supported by parties that claim to be fighting for civil BiH. It is obvious that this is an attempt to prove who is the ‘greater believer’, and given that it is a sensitive issue, the other parties did not have the courage to oppose it,” Maric explains.
“Religion should be separated from regular education and politics. It should be a private and personal matter of the individual and not the subject of political propaganda,” she concludes.
“Possible only in the environment of weak political literacy of the population”
When talking about the secularity of BiH and the permeation of religion in social and political discourse, Professor Dr. Enes Osmancevic uses the term ‘proclaimed secular character’.
“This speaks of disrespect for the Constitution of BiH, in which our country is defined as secular, but this proclaimed secular character of the government is seriously undermined by the ever-present clericalism. This shows the low level of political culture and democratic standards in our society, which enables political parties to misrepresent themselves, hide behind ideologies and libertarian ideas, and practice clericalism in political life and even in the exercise of power,” says the professor of the Faculty of Philosophy in Tuzla and a member of the political science committee of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of BiH.
He especially points out that “this is possible only in the environment of weak political literacy of the population that falls for manipulations”.
“Instead of being the subject of political processes, they become an object. Political parties in power have money, and religious communities have a mass membership that votes in elections. In this type of exchange, both the government and religious communities gain, while civic-oriented voters lose,” Osmancevic believes, DW reports.