Autumn-winter 2004
 

 

  Autumn-winter 2004

  ETHNIC COMMUNITIES, ETHNO-POLITICS AND DIVINE GOOD
  Ugo Vlaisavljevic
 
 
The pronounced appearance of religion in the public sphere not only reflects the political reality of the small nation-states that emerged after the downfall of socialist Yugoslavia, nor merely that of post-communist countries in the region, but also of countries which have never been under communist rule (Turkey, Greece). The prominence of religion may serve as a clear indication of the type of political reality we find in south-east Europe today. Analysts need to be sensitive, however, to the specific context of political life intertwined with religious content. There are a large number of social and historical realities which are liable to provide completely different meanings and indications to what is apparently the same phenomenon.

What makes the return of religion in post-communist countries particularly interesting is that the fall of totalitarian regimes seems to have put religion in the centre of political life. Has the democratising of the society not actually spurred this process on? What is the sense of post-communist liberation of a society if not to have religion play an important role in the future? The question of religion has become very sensitive in the new era: it is easy to imagine that any attempt to sideline it would immediately be seen as a sign of the return of communist-type repression.

What role for religion?
Of course, the strong influence of religion on politics – the influence of its norms and values, its discourse, worldview, institutions and authorities – could testify to the fact that the democratisation process is still in its early phase. Many believe that religion should not play such an important role in politics, even though they now expect religion could make use of its power and have a positive effect on current politics which are marked by strong ethnic conflicts.

One of the most important political tasks of post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina is the task of inter-ethnic reconciliation. The basic values and norms of all three monotheistic religions could be a reliable support to efforts aimed at helping local ethnic communities reach a consensus on the basic principles of their coexistence in a multiethnic and multi-confessional society. Who could seriously claim that religion should be pulled out of the public forum at a moment when such an important role has been ascribed to it? The entire society could now profit from this powerful presence of religion and its newly acquired political influence. Even if its privileged position is the result of political abuse, and if it was brought to the limelight against its will, and even if religious authorities achieved their status by violating the principles and norms of their own religion, the moment religion enters the arena of ethnic conflict it can contribute to pacifying the public sphere and establishing a common good for all communities involved – thanks, above all, to its influence on ordinary people. In effect, new ethno-politics profited from the growing influence of religion over the past years of the communist regime. It is a wave of enthusiasm for religious freedoms that has paved the way for the new regime. Yet, the moment religious institutions secure the right to a public voice, the abuse of religion for political purposes is doomed. Such at any rate is the great hope of those who believe that religion has an important political role to play, and that ultimately it is a positive one. In their opinion, religion can help politics by giving it a sound normative foundation for its behaviour and examination, and more importantly, secure it a source of legitimisation. In this light, religion appears as a comprehensive world-view which can give politics what it lacks most: a concrete ground and substantial good.

But should religion remain politicised in order to play such an important political role? It has become far too politicised in the recent Balkan conflicts – or at least that is how it seems when we compare it to the former regime, in which it was totally de-politicised. When we speak about the important political role religion plays are we sure where its locus should be? The secular framework of modern politics does not assume that religion should be deprived of any meaningful influence on society. The extension of the political does not end at the borders of the religious. Religion does not escape the framework of politics in any of its social or institutional aspects. We can therefore speak only about a very blurred limit between religion and politics in any remotely modern context, and only about levels of de-politicisation and re-politicisation of religion.

Religion can fulfil its positive political task in the given local context – in the Bosnia and Herzegovina of today – only if it allows itself a certain level of de-politicisation. The political abuse of religion has become noticeable and it seems that it should leave the political arena for the good of both religion and politics. Such an “ostensible withdrawal” could be seen as one of the main axes along which the democratisation of post-totalitarian societies should unfold. The problem is how to define the scope of this withdrawal. Even those who advocate democratic changes in a society disagree on the locus of religion inside a new constellation of democratic institutions. And even this not very large camp is divided into traditionalists and modernists.

The traditionalists are democrats since they are the ones who denounce the abuse of religion by the ethno-politics in power and advocate a partial shifting of the religious institution from its present position. They are responsive to the democratic and peacemaking influence religion has on social and political reality. They are traditionalists in the sense that they are opposed to the divorce of politics and religion that has taken place in modern times.1 They insist on the singularity of the local context that has pronounced pre-modern traits. I believe the advantages of this stand2 have to do with what it can teach us about the positive role3 religion could play in the specific constellation of three monotheistic religions which already play an important role in public life. The supremacy of religion-inspired politics over any other form of secular politics emerges in the context of a large ethnic conflict after the collapse of a policy, which always portrayed itself as a model of modernism by imposing radical forms of secularisation.

In the currently prevailing understanding of recent history, the Communist regime embodies modern politics, above all through its model of aggressive secularisation. Religion was introduced into politics precisely in order to fight against this type of politics. And now it is religion which is gaining the authority to pass judgement on politics. We now have a dramatic reversal, making the post-Communist political environment no less radical than its Communist predecessor.

Religious worldviews and ethnic self-understanding
The politics inspired by religion appears in public forums as a Realpolitik, which respects the principle of social reality in contrast to earlier politics of real socialism – which have proved to be fabricated. It clearly presents itself as ethno-politics (in local political jargon as national politics) since it takes the existing ethnic reality as an authentic social reality. According to such politics, various local ethnic identities demonstrate how religious collective identities appear in social and political life. The fact that these two types of identities fully converge supports this concept.4 Today, ethnicity seems to be derived from religious social forms. The collapse of Communist ideology – which was also the end of the Yugoslav concept of brotherhood and unity – created the popular belief that there is no significant ethnic context outside religious identity.

If ethnic identity is based on religious identity then the leading political role of religion is determined by the understanding that ethno-politics is the ruling politics and that ethnic communities are the main protagonists of politics. Furthermore, if it is true that the constitution of a collective subjectivity is based on a collective good,5 then a religious doctrine is what forms the basis of an ethnic identity (Catholicism for Croats, Islam for Bosnians, Orthodoxy for Serbs). An ethnic group’s constituent self-understanding is identical with the corresponding religious worldview. Its ethnic interpretation, in ordinary people’s minds – full of platitudes, clichés and stereotypes – is far from a serious theological interpretation. Today, flourishing religious doctrines have been given a chance to strongly influence ethnic self-understanding.

If a religious doctrine, its norms and values, way of understanding and behaviour is the soil in which the ethnic Self is imbedded, then religion appears as the main source of legitimisation in politics. Religion, in which all the capital of ethnic symbols and meanings has been invested, plays an important role in politics in the period of ethnic renewal, regardless of whether ecclesiastic authorities have agreed to it or not. In any case, these authorities are obliged to assume their responsibility for the current ethno-politics in view of the described position of a religious institution in a local cultural and political context. And, even though they may not bear any direct responsibility – for war crimes committed during the latest ethnic conflict, for instance – they would still have to assume responsibility, since it had been ascribed to them either implicitly or explicitly by the very fact that it was all about ethno-politics: the most important political decisions were made if not in the name of a certain religious institution, then in the name of a certain religion. Not to mention that in many cases, the local clergy was directly and wholeheartedly involved in ethno-political undertakings. This type of involvement of religious institutions, regardless of their will, obliges their representatives to de-legitimise politics that were based on their authority. That could be the most positive role that religious institutions could have in the period of ethno-nationalism.

In fact, this obligation should not be avoided by invoking neutrality and non-interference, above all because local religious institutions had already several centuries earlier assumed responsibility for ethnic awareness and ethnic tradition. The Ottoman millet-system, which has deeply affected collective self-understandings and permanently formed ethnic self-awareness, comprised state recognition and a rich administrative content of this responsibility.6 A typical public discourse of religious authorities shows that the shepherd’s care for a religious community had long come to include care for its ethnic survival; two discourses have merged into one.7 By listening to the priests, we often notice that their public speech almost imperceptibly oscillates between religious and ethnic issues. Since ethnic issues have become ethno-political, the religious discourse has become completely open to, or better said, exposed to the ruling ethno-politics, if indeed it is not its source. This way ethno-politicians can switch to religious discourse, which they constantly do, without even changing the register of their speech. But how can responsible religious authorities de-legitimise a certain ethno-politics whose common good is perceived as a divine good? How can they do this after already having yielded to the temptation and embraced ethno-politics (which has given them the chance to see their doctrines embodied in social and political institutions)? Of course they can do so for the common good itself. Supposing that an authentic ethnic good is determined by a religious doctrine, then that very doctrine provides the requisite authority of judgement and critical re-examination. Therefore, the strongest criticism of a given ethno-politics could be inspired by the authentic motives and values of the religion it refers to, which would be fed from sources that are not ethnically connoted. That would be the imminent criticism of ethno-politics – most demanding for religious authorities and even more so for politicians. But if they want to be capable of delivering such a criticism, at least in the most flagrant cases, these authorities would have to be instructed in affairs far beyond their competence. They cannot preserve their strictly theological knowledge in regard to the issue of ethno-politics – since ethno-politics alone ultimately establishes and interprets the ethnic good.

Religious institutions have proved to be in an unenviable position in relation to ethno-politics at a time when a comprehensive religious doctrine has ensured a public good for the community. On the one hand, any act of de-legitimising politics could only be political: the priest who practices it appears as a politician. On the other hand, in a public sphere as highly politicised as the one in Bosnia-Herzegovina today, religious discourse and practice themselves legitimize the ethno-politics in power. As a result, a de-politicised religion will find itself in the iron grip of politics, while a politicised religion will be in danger of losing its authentic form. A politically silent church cannot secure a religious inside against a political outside. It is the public ethnic good which ensures that religious authorities venture into the political arena whenever they are called upon to do something for the good of the people – their people, their ethno-religious community.

The paradox of de-politicisation
It seems that today, the only way for religion to be de-politicised is to get involved in politics. But this intention seems condemned to failure, for however much religious practice shied away from politics and its institutional practice, it cannot find a place outside the unlimited domain of the political.8 De-politicisation in the name of an authentic message of salvation and loyalty to the original teaching will always have strong and visible political implications.9 Modern times deprive religion of the chance to find a place from which it could have the right to its apolitical state;10 just as the pre-modern age brought with it the additional and irresistible re-ethnicising of originally trans-ethnic and universal messages of the major world religions. The pre-modern transfiguration of salvation religions into ethnic myth-symbol complexes, into a symbolic body and a distinctive/constitutive view on the world of ethnic groups, has paved the way for a certain political involvement of religious institutions in modern political life. This politicisation of religion through its local ethnic traits and attributes is particularly pronounced in areas where the political is unable to transcend the ethnic, where the modern building of a nation does not follow the Western model of a territorial and political community. In these areas – and the Balkans are definitely one of them – in which politics unfold mainly as ethno-politics, religion primarily appears as a political factor.

If the ethnic content of religions necessarily turns them into political actors, if it politicises them unremittingly, then this content, still, should in no way be exterior to them. The ethnic appears in the very heart of religion, always as a localised religion: of a nation, a country, a state. Yet the ethnic reality of religion can be hidden even to those who live it on the “inside,” for instance to the priests themselves, because it is in discrepancy with its original word and message, at least for some believers. However, the historic reality of religious institutions does not escape an ethnologist, and through the centuries of pre-modern history, this reality primarily appears as their ethnic reality. If, today, the Balkans are an exemplary place of ethno-political reality, to which the popular but no less expert term of “Balkanisation” refers,11 then an answer should be given as to how religions can contribute to ethnic survival. Anthony D. Smith separates religious factors from the crucial factors that contribute to preserving ethnic tradition and ethnic identity. One of the main theses of his extensive historic and systematic research on ethnic origins of nations is that, in comparison with various factors which increase the chances of survival of a community (its geopolitical position, the level and durability of its autonomy, the specificity of its lifestyles, the extent of hostilities surrounding it, and so forth), religious traditions and customs come first. “While not denying the importance of both location and autonomy,” concludes Smith, “it is clear that priesthoods are more important than polities and homelands in safeguarding ethnic identity and securing ethnic survival over centuries.” It could be responded that this thesis may be acceptable in the case of some ethnic religions, but that here we have monotheistic salvation religions, which transcend all ethnic borders and divisions /erased/. Smith’s answer would be that these very religions proved to be the most ethnic: as the most suitable symbolic forms and social practices of ethnic survival.12 The Balkan context proves him right: despite the denial of ethnicity in their doctrines all salvation religions in this area gained an obvious “ethnic profile”: the level of “convergence of religious traditions and ethnic feelings and identity” is more than noticeable here.

Religious salvation and ethnic survival
There is no doubt that the adoption of monotheistic religions led to the type of normative-symbolic and practical institutionalisation of the ethnic that A.D. Smith describes in detail. It is also true that with their “rites, liturgies, customs, sacred language and sacred texts, and its organised priesthoods,” these religions were the main factor in forming and preserving an ethnic identity. It is certain that their implacable demands for exclusivity and domination (“the monopoly of religious control over certain territory or in a certain state;” their rejection of “any form of syncretism at least in theory,” and their seeking to “fully control the lives of all their members”) lastingly determined the boundaries of the local ethno-religious configurations. The practice of religious socialisation inside a community, especially its intensification and passing from a public area, in which rituals are practiced, to domestic customs and symbolism, coupled with a strategy of delimitation, such as bans on marriages with members of other religions, have turned endogamy into a “court virtue” (both ethnic and religious) and have from generation to generation cemented the feeling of belonging to a community.

For a monotheistic salvation religion to start acting as a powerful symbolic and institutional mechanism for securing and helping ethnic survival, a certain distinctive community is needed that will, as Smith writes, “agree to live out their daily lives in accordance with its detailed precepts and rituals.” On the other hand, this community has to adapt religion to its needs – Smith speaks about its ethnicisation or provincialisation – so that its later practice could have ethnicising results. It is no wonder that in the mosaic of monotheistic religions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the pre-religious ethnic distinction had long disappeared from view of contemporaries. Since the adoption of salvation religions leads not only to the strengthening but also to the creation of “communities of history and fate,” as Smith points out, “the question is whether the corresponding pre-religious ethnic distinctions should even be assumed.” Contrary to the naïve and ideological reconstruction of the ethnic, ethnogenesis that today’s ethno-politics passionately throws itself into, one should, in this context – in a totally deconstructivist gesture – insist on how impossible it is to reliably distinguish between the original ethnicisation of religion and religious re-ethnicisation.13

The great importance of salvation religions for ethnic survival underscores the social aspects of these religions to the detriment of doctrinal and ethical aspects. As Smith remarks, ordinary people in religious communities, especially in pre-modern times, find rituals and instructions on how to conduct day-to-day living much more important than the content of the salvation message itself. Thanks to religion, ethnic links and closeness are established in the affective being of the believer, in his household rituals and family customs. This affective “institutionalisation” of the ethnic group happens where religious institutions are entrenched in the social fabric. This place in which every individual lives his belief does and does not belong to the institution of religion: it is at the same time outside it and inside it. The salvation religions become ethnic “from the inside,” not necessarily by the abuse of their institution, or by an ethno-political manipulation, but nevertheless ethnic reality is not necessarily the internal dimension of these religions (even though it could be supposed that their normative-symbolic basis always has some ethnic effects on the population, also noticeable among ethnic groups which practice several religions).

The basic structure of each ethnic group, as it is proposed by Smith, does not require anything more than the layers that any religious community has (hence religious communities have to become ethnic groups in principle): a myth-symbol complex, ritual practice and affective acceptance of the members of the community. In places where religious and ethnic identity overlap in their constituent difference from neighbouring ethnic groups, as is the case in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we recognise the place of the religious in the basic structure of the ethnic being of a community, mostly on the level of the symbolic, and that of the ethnic in the layer of feelings and characteristic stands. If the ethnic universe is coded at its highest layer, which it borrows from religion, then religion in its lowest layer is embedded in social reality. The constituent function of religions of salvation for local ethnic groups, corresponds to the constituent function of the latter for the former. We encounter, on this soil, Bosnian Islam, Croatian Catholicism and Serb Orthodoxy (to which an ethnologist has to add specific Bosnian-Herzegovinian and sub-regional aspects).14

In view of its extremely modern involvement in the ethnic being of a community, religion could not have appeared at the centre of the political scene without ethno-politics gaining access to power. That is why the return to religion took place through the ethno-political sabotage of the political, and even through the ethno-politics of the religious institutions themselves. The politics of renewing social influence of religious institutions could be marked as ethno-politics. The return of religion in an already secularised society entailed a mass affective “re-institutionalisation” or revival of religion’s ethnic basis. However, the revival of ethnic being in modern times entails political action which shifts religion and pushes it out of its inherited place: that of a central institution of all ethnic life. It does so even when its main aim is ethnic renewal of a community, and when it finds all the main points of support in an ethnic religion (the instance of identification, the worldview, the common moral, characteristic idioms and symbolism and so on). Religion has irrevocably lost its traditional role as a source of symbols and a reliable transmitter of symbolic riches, with the three-fold revolution which has marked the start of modernity in the West. Besides being shaken by the social economic and military-administrative revolution, it was particularly shaken by the cultural and educational revolution whereby ecclesiastical authority and tradition were replaced by a whole new conceptual apparatus in which the sovereign state itself took the place of the deity with the promise of practical salvation. This is the period of nation-states, the transformation of ethnic groups into nations, the rational and scientific organisation of state order and social ties, political ideologies or secular worldviews, mass education and so forth. Smith follows Benedict Anderson here in his understanding of the determining influence that introduction of compulsory education – based on the secular interpretation of the world15 – had on the modern society. It is this revolution that forced organised religion and its clergy to radically change the main direction of their activity, if they did not wish to be excluded from the vital bloodstream of the new reality.

The “new priesthood”
In view of the comprehensive horizon of modern politics and historic processes of the transformation of ethnic groups into nations, it can be concluded that religion has irrevocably lost its traditional place which we have determined in relation to the ethnic group – even when it seems to us that it has finally regained it. This place has been taken up by a rational, critical discourse of humanistic intelligence, the discourse of the social sciences and the humanities located in the modern institution of knowledge: the university. Smith calls this new social layer of mythically poetic and “scientific” creators, the “new priesthood,” to show that religion was deprived of its privileged place in the constitution of ethnicity, but also to show to all those who are working on the redefinition of the ethnic group into a nation inspired by romantic visions – today’s loud social layer which groups writers, poets and painters, scientists dealing in history, archaeology, philology, anthropology and sociology – what role they have taken on. It seems that without the ersatzt deity, the national state and the ersatzt priesthood, the humanist intelligentsia, religion in modern times could no longer appear as a significant political institution. In order to gain this status, the religious institution must radically change the manner of its public address (it must deck its speech out in rational and critical discourse) and adapt the goals of its action to the highest political goal (the defence of the national interests of the religious group). But the real return – a return that the church is still dreaming of, one in which priests would not only appear in public as a “mouthpieces and adjuncts” of poets and historians – particularly under the auspices of the “belated modernity” of the Balkans – is thwarted by the fact that the new reality is not just the replacement of pre-modern reality, and that enormous revolutionary upheavals separate them.

The social sciences’ invoking of historical processes which divide religion and politics, the far-reaching consequences of the French Revolution, the event of the “passage from heaven to earth” (Michelet), invoking the new configuration of divided instances and factors of social reality (politics, economy, culture, morale, religion and so on), their invoking of historic and social reality itself, has been put into question by Claude Lefort, who stressed the permanency of theologico-politics, empirical evidence notwithstanding. This permanency escapes political science (or ethnology, cultural and social anthropology and so on) because it appears in a register which precedes the constitution of scientific areas and topics of research. A student of Merleau-Ponty, Lefort echoes the fundamental phenomenological distinction of the horizon and the phenomenon: science – the very method to which it owes the accessibility of each of its objects – is barred from the area of its own constitution as objective knowledge in which the pure subject of perception meets real objects involved in functional relations. Political science cannot examine the historical conditions of the possibility of its creation because the division of religion and politics is the assumption it is constituted on. Lefort believes that only political philosophy can think through the historic consequences of Revolution with regard to inherited theology-politics; but this advantage can be noted only after the distinction is made between the political and politics, on the one hand, and the religious and religion, on the other. Every politics owes its existence to the political, which, if the thought is consistently pursued, does not differ from the social within which politics, religion, the economy can appear… The political does not appear in a society, but represents the way in which sociability is constituted – that is, each time a certain form of the society. That is why Lefort can say that “the very notion of society already points to its political definition,”16 because a society is not an existing reality in itself, but represents a certain giving of shape (mise-en-forme), meaning (mise-en-sens), and direction (mise-en-scène) to human co-existence.

The empty place of power
While inquiring into the political, political philosophy can unveil the religious foundations of every political order. When the question about the political is posed as a constitutive question, on the level of condition of the possibility of all sociability, it converges with the religious.17 These are issues which deal with the riddle of our approach to the world, “the principles of generating a society.” Philosophy and religion have always tried to answer these questions. However the philosophy of politics or indeed philosophy itself can no longer claim its supremacy over religion, because it now poses the question of the last foundations of reality as a question of the political. Post-revolutionary transformation of the political, the outcome of the “mutation of power,” again brought philosophy closer to religion and drew it away from science. Philosophy can still say something about power – about the mysterious place of the political – as long as it is no longer in the register of knowledge. The discovery of the symbolic dimension of power, as its sole ontological dimension, brings into question the advantage of knowledge over the imagination, invention, dramatisation (which were attributed to the religious approach to the world); the advantage of the “practice of thought,” over the “practice of the imagination,” of concept over image. In its constituent symbolic dimension, the political “cannot be reduced to the sole result of human activity.”18 Lefort follows Lacan here: if the political appears in the register of the symbolic, then it necessarily points toward irreducible otherness, the unattainable Other. Philosophy cannot maintain its advantage in that register because that would mean nourishing the illusion that the society “lives in pure immanence with itself,” which would mean that “at the same time, the place of philosophy would be erased.” Thus political philosophy is in a position to reaffirm theologico-politics and to “refuse to accept the historic fact of the separation of the religious from the political, all evidence to the contrary.”

What rehabilitates theology once again, the otherness or the empty place of power that belongs to no one and to which no power-holder can lay claim – this symbolic pole which is not real, and is in fact an aberration of the symbolic and the real – at the same time prevents it from fulfilling its aims, and seems to finally untangle the religious and the political. No longer can any certainty about the Other be brought in here, no original law established, no perception or image introduced. If a certain principle of building opposites (inside/outside, upper/lower, good/evil, terrestrial/celestial, material/spiritual, and so on) indicated the stability of theologico-politics, in other words, a form of organising perceptions and beliefs which pointed to the continuity of the religious even after the revolution and the alleged end of Christianity (in political religion, in revolutionary belief, in ideas of reason, justice, equality and so forth), then the indication of the final untangling of the religious and the political shows that any kind of corporeal figuring of power is impossible. But as Lefort points out, “the reactivation of the religious happens in the sites of its disappearance,” and its “efficiency is no longer symbolic but imaginary.”

The appearance of a referent point of power outside a political system announces an end to a totalitarian order because its ambition, whether it is fascist or communist, is a human order without the Other. But the ability to present this place of power, in the first place with God’s face, reveals that it is not empty and that ethno-politics as a politics of being-together due to some essence still blocks modern democracies in which no one actually rules (power without a face, without an original law, without absolute knowledge). It is therefore not surprising to see that in the public discussions in present-day Bosnia the most favourite solution offered to the burning question of how to build a unified political community is an ethno-political one, of course supposed to be produced by religion, preferably by Religion beyond all religions, since such a solution implies a convergence of all absolute points of reference.20

Translated by Beti Bilandžiæ

Notes

1. In new debates in political science and philosophy, Communitarians are recognised for re-examining and relativising the modernist separation in the social sphere whereby the “public” is attributed to politics and the “private” to religion. The assumption that in an ideally organised order of deliberative democracy “everyone would have to speak qua those citizens who do not have a religious identity” has recently been brought into question. See arguments on the issue by Eamonn Callan on the dilemma of state subsidies for compulsory education and the unresolved status of religious schools in Ontario. See his “Discrimination and Religious Schooling,” in Will Kymlicka and Wayne Norman (eds.), Citizenship in Diverse Societies (New York: Oxford University Press), p. 65.

2. It has in fact only been elaborated on in an exemplary way in the work of Rusmir Mahmutcehajic. Thanks to his numerous works, the idea of a Bosnian paradigm has gained many supporters but also many critics. One of the first strong criticisms came from Rada Ivekovic, who in her paper, “The Bosnian Paradigm” (Dialogue, international edition, 9/10, 1998, pp. 61-86), focused primarily on Mahmutcehajic’s text collected in two books: Ziva Bosna, politicki eseji i intervjui (Ljubljana: Oslobodjenje International, 1994), and Dobra Bosna (Zagreb: Durieux, 1977).

3. After its negative contributions, religion is, in a way, called upon to give its positive contribution to the resolution of ethnic conflicts. See on this Paul Mojzes, “The Camouflaged Role of Religion in the War in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Dialogue, international edition, No. 9/10, 1998, pp. 205 ff.

4. Ivo Banac has named the coincidence from which the rule of establishment of identity can be drawn as the “religious rule.” See “the religious rule” and the Dubrovnik exemption: genesis of the Dubrovnik circle of ‘Catholic Serbs’,” in Raspad Jugoslavije (Zagreb: Durieux), pp. 67-115.

5. Charles Taylor, Sources of the Modern Self. The Making of the Modern Identity (Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 498.

6. Will Kymlicka, Multicultural Citizenship (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), pp. 156-58 and passim.

7. The historic assumption for this is the intermingling and merging of the “Big Tradition” and the “Little Tradition,” the religion of the ecclesiastic institution and religious customs. See, on this subject, John B. Allock, Explaining Yugoslavia (London: Hurst & Company, 2000), p. 374. See also on Bosnian national culture in which there are “extreme cultural differences.” Ivan Lovrenovic, Bosnia, A Cultural History (London: Saqi Books / Bosnian Institute, 2001), p. 224.

8. Claude Lefort has insisted at once on the confinement and non-confinement of the political. It is important for a modern democratic politics to be limited, so that politicians cannot prescribe norms of the functioning of the economy, so that they have to respect an independent judiciary, that they dare not suggest to social and human scientists conclusions about the society they are running. On the other hand, the political appears in a dimension which precedes the forming of various fields of social activity, including political activity. See Claude Lefort, Ecrire à l’épreuve du politique (Paris: Calmann-Levy, 1992), p. 377.

9. “In modern times, not just ethnic origin and religion, but nearly every cultural difference and historical continuity has political implications.” Anthony D. Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Nations (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), p. 156. Further references to Smith are from this work.

10. Hence, in the case of the religious teaching, as soon as it separates itself from the ecclesiastic teachings and practice, the problem of its determination and boundaries appears. See Richard van Dulmen, Religion und Gesellschaft. Beitrage zu einer Religionsgeshichte der Neuzeit, (Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag), pp. 216 ff.

11. Daniel Baggioni, Langues et nations en Europe (Paris: Payot et Rivages, 1997), pp. 24-25.

12. Nevertheless, only dynamic salvation religions proved their staying power as repositories of ethnic symbolism and mythology and bulwarks of ethnic sentiments, values and memories. The ancient and medieval history of surviving ethnic groups and nations today is invariably a religious history, because a salvation religion has furnished the inspiration and forms of their communal experience, as well as the modes of their self-understanding and self-renewal. It was the peculiar power of the major world religions for self-renewal, through schisms, new movements, changed policies and new interpretations to suit the local needs of particular communities under changing circumstances that ensured both the persistence of the religious traditions themselves, and of the ethnic group which they helped to sustain and renew through all vicissitudes.

13. It seems that pagan ethnic pluralism, even when reduced to the largest possible kindred groups, by far exceeds the small number of later construed monotheistic religious communities. The division and breaking up into sects, of which some historic traces have been saved, could however, be the expression of adoption of religion through its ethnicisation. Ivo Banac has at the beginning of his article on “religious rule” put a necessary reservations: “Without going into the distinction of whether religion really divided the South Slavs into different nationalities or religious affiliation simply reflected the diversity of south Slav settlements – this type of distinction would be difficult to make on the basis of present ethnogenetic knowledge…” (op. cit. p. 67). It is a pity that this heuristic stand, which had resulted in interesting historic-genealogical examinations, and even in undermining ideologically coloured differences, was ultimately “appeased” and subjected to a pseudo-anthropological difference of mentality.

14. Pagan and non-religious contents of religious doctrines and symbolism could have the special function of ethnic differentiation here.

15. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London & New York: Verso, 1991).

16. Claude Lefort, “Permanence du théologico-politique,” Essais sur le politique. XIX-XX siècles (Paris: Seuil, 1986), p. 256. All further references to Lefort are from this text.

17. If we see a certain type of discourse in religion we shall notice it is a discourse which refers to the “entire human perception of nature whose effects in that respect is constituent for everything that can appear to a man as a given; the visible and the invisible, the material and the immaterial, the immanent and the transcendental, etc. It is a discourse which releases taxonomic intent: it differentiates, classes and puts in order. It values and distributes according to hierarchy: the religious discourse is normative (A. J. Greimas would say “axiological”)… Religious discourse intentionally establishes meaning which brings it closer to historical and philosophical than to the scientific discourse….” O. Herrenschmidt, “Religion,” in Pierre Bonte, Michel Izard et al., Dictionnaire de l’ethnologie et de l’anthropologie (Paris: Quadrige/PUF, 2000), p. 622.

18. Claude Lefort, op. cit. page 262. Philosophy is able to show, proving thus to be in collusion with theologico-politics, that “whatever bears the mark of their /human/ initiative also bears the mark of temptation. When one realises that a man’s humanity opens itself only by already being pulled into the openness it has not made itself, one should accept that a change of religion does not only give us signs of a certain human invention of the divine, but also signs of solving the divine or through the very appearance of the divine of solving a certain excess of being over phenomena.”

19. “Every religion is a sufficiently reliable guide to the absolute principle.” R. Mahmutcehajic, Bosnia the Good. Tolerance and Tradition (CEU Press, 2000), p. 61.

20. That is the principle of all principles that Mahmutcehajic formulated this way: “our God and your God are one and the same God.” See The Denial of Bosnia (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000), p. 91.