International Conference of Parliamentarians on Bosnia-Herzegovina
 

Putra World Trade Centre

Kuala Lumpur

January 22-23, 1994

 

THE CONFLICT IN BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA AND ITS CONSEQUENCES FOR A NEW WORLD ORDER

 

by

 

DR HANS KOECHLER

 

 

Jointly organized by
 

Malaysian Parliamentarians Committee
 

and

Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia

 

 

As an organization in consultative status with the United Nations and Unesco we are watching with grave concern the policy of double standards followed by the United Nations and leading Western nations vis--vis the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina. While the acquisition of territory by force is inadmissible according to the UN Charter, collective enforcement measures to protect the Muslim people of Bosnia and Herzegovina to stop the massacres and the policy of ethnic cleansing and to check the aggression against Bosnian territory have never been seriously considered by the veto powers in the Security Council. The Western powers are engaging in lip service to the "just cause" of the Bosnian people and in humanitarian relief action only. Unfortunately, old-fashioned power politics is being revived in Europe: The "New World Order" for the Balkan region means the renaissance of the geopolitical constellation and rivalries from before World War I. No lesson has been learned from history, neither by the European "geo-politicians" of the type of Lord Owen nor by the internationalists in the UN headquarters. Not only is the pre-World War I constellation being "reinstated" and the imperialist maxim of "divide and rule" (divide et impera) revived - no lesson has been learned either from the atrocities of the holocaust in World War II. The world is again watching and merely shedding tears when crimes against humanity are being committed in horrifying proportions ‑ unseen since World War II.

 

Since its foundation more than two decades ago, the I.P.O. has propagated a better understanding and peaceful co-existence between the Muslim world and Europe, based on mutual respect among equal partners. As early as 1981 the I.P.O. has organized an international symposion in Rome about the "Concept of Monotheism in Islam and Christianity" which brought together leading scholars of theology and philosophy from both religions. It is sad to see that all the intellectual efforts exerted by open-minded scholars on both sides are doomed to fail in front of an increasing alienation between the Muslim world and the West due to the latter's neo-colonialist attitude and hegemonial strategy in the regions that had to be evacuated by Western colonial powers earlier this century.

 

The quest to regain zones of influence is overshadowing any serious effort to understand the meaning of Islamic revival and religious awareness in many countries from Indonesia to Morocco. The term "fundamentalism" is used in a negative sense in order to avoid any serious effort to analyze the meaning of Islamic revival in many countries. As a result of this - in the words of the Egyptian scholar Olfat Agha recently published in Al‑Ahram - "throughout the West, Islam has rarely been discussed outside a framework of political interests, prejudice or passion at any time since the Middle Ages."

 

In this context the Muslim community in Bosnia-Herzegovina is left to its fate vis-- vis a powerful neighbor who has the advantage of having inherited the military infrastructure of the former unified state of Yugoslavia. No credible action is taken in the defense of the Bosnian Muslims because no vital economic interests of the West are at stake. The only real, serious political support is coming from the member states of the Islamic Conference who, however, have no permanent seat in the Security Council and therefore cannot take effective measures to stop the genocide. It is no wonder that this "geopolitical constellation" making the Bosnian Muslims the victims of hegemonial rivalries of Western powers is an important factor in the ever increasing alienation between the Muslim world and the West. The peaceful multi-cultural community in Bosnia-Herzegovina has abruptly been disbanded not the least because of the passive Western attitude of "letting the conflict burn out" as a British official has put it earlier.

 

The I.P.O. has warned of the destabilizing effects and of the dangerous consequences not only for the Balkan region but for the whole of Europe on numerous occasions. We have presented the facts time and again to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights only to get vague statements of condemnation and regret.

 

We welcome, however, the courageous stand of Austria and in particular of Foreign Minister Dr. Alois Mock on the issue of Bosnia and European‑Islamic dialogue. We sincerely hope that efforts such as his will have an impact on those who impose their old fashioned realpolitik of World War I on the European continent.

 

It is regrettable that under the slogan of the "New World Order" the United Nations ‑ after the end of the East-West conflict ‑ is gradually becoming an instrument in the confrontation between traditional Western interests and a "restive" non-Western world that for many is being represented by Islam. It is unfortunate that the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina is contributing to reinforcing old stereotypes on both sides. For many in the West an "Islamic threat" is a convenient surrogate for the earlier "communist threat" in the global strife for power and hegemony in the 21st Century.

 

Only if the international community as represented by the United Nations will effectively abandon its policy of double standards vis--vis the Muslim world and in particular vis--vis the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, will a major confrontation in the future be avoided. If present geopolitical trends are not quickly corrected and if no lasting basis for co‑operation with the Muslim World is being established, the tragedies we are witnessing now will only be the beginning of a much bigger confrontation threatening peace and security not only in Europe and the Middle East, but on a global scale.