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Learning from Bosnia

Approaching Tradition

Rusmir Mahmutcehajic

Publication Year: 2005

This book, at the intersections of political sociology,political philosophy, and theology, reads the legacyof Bosnia as both a paradigm and an antiparadigm forthe human condition. The adjective Bosnian sums up anacceptance of the diversity of human attitudes towardthe world and toward God. Yet the Bosnian tradition ofaccepting the inevitability of, and thus the right to, differingChristologies among people who speak the samelanguage and share the same history has been reduced tothe antiparadigms of confessionalism, ethnicism, andultimately nationalism, which seeks either to expel or tosubordinate to the majority everything that is other.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii

Author’s Note

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xxii

To a great extent, the twentieth century can be said to both begin and end in Sarajevo. The murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, and the outbreak of the First World War brought an end to the complacent belief in material progress and ameliatory politics that had characterized nineteenth-century European civilization. Heir to Cartesian ...

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pp. xxiii-xxviii

Available in the original Bosnian, and soon in French and Italian as well, the entire text of Bosanski odgovor: O modernosti i tradiciji appears here in English for the first time. An earlier version of the present translation (see ‘‘Author’s Note’’) has inspired a variety of comments from readers and translators. A question frequently asked of that version ...

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pp. 1-3

Every ideology offers the promise of an end to killing. And yet the killing continues to this day—and it is unreasonable to hope that there will be none in the future. Both the promise that it will end and the likelihood that the promise will not be honored accompany the ritualization of violence and killings. After the Holocaust, every understanding of ...

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Introduction: The Achievement of Bosnia

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pp. 5-15

It is difficult to find any book on contemporary issues published in the last decade of the second Christian millennium that does not also deal with Bosnia and Herzegovina.1 Unfortunately, this is not the result of any interest in the distinctive nature of Bosnia and its history, although there has long existed sufficient justification for that. Addressing Bosnia ...

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Chapter 1. The Forms of Expression of a Single Truth

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pp. 17-26

Two contrary social tendencies have characterized Bosnia throughout its history. In one of them, religious differences are reconciled through coexistence based on confidence within the framework of different sacred paths. In the other, those differences are in confrontation with one another. These two essential tendencies were in earlier centuries interwoven ...

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Chapter 2. Submissiveness, Emotion, and Knowledge

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pp. 27-36

If the perennial orientation toward Beauty and Sanctity, as the expression of the human aspiration to survival and happiness, is translated into modern terms, it is inseparable from the idea of nation as the consciousness of social affiliation. With this consciousness, individual aspiration, expressed in a specific language, simply means that the Divine Unicity ...

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Chapter 3. The Apprenticeship of Submission and Freedom

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pp. 37-47

Human potential derives from the existence or absence of interdiction in the openness of the self to Eternity and Infinity. But there are also two possible ways in which the self may be closed off—again, with or without interdiction. Each of these possibilities of the self is counter to the society that directs it or that it illumines, and in neither of them ...

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Chapter 4. The Lower Horizons of Freedom

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pp. 48-57

The relationship between modernism and tradition parallels the relationship between trust and confidence. Traditional doctrine tells us that humankind is infinitely far from God, but that God is as close to humankind as can be: ‘‘and We are nearer to [it] than the jugular vein.’’1 This is perfect proximity, with the unicity that confirms the mystery ...

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Chapter 5. Pride and Humility

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pp. 58-66

The issue of tolerance is becoming more and more salient wherever there is serious discussion about the tensions of contemporary society. There are three prevailing interpretations of the issue. The first is that those who are other and different continue to survive in a majority environment because, in the given circumstances, the means of excluding ...

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Chapter 6. The Dispute over Names

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pp. 67-75

Muslims, Christians, and Jews have all contributed to the formation of Bosnia’s complex identity in its historical entirety. It is from these religious affiliations that her diverse political and national identities have been drawn during the modern era. Thus today’s Bosniacs are linked historically with Islam, Bosnian Serbs with Eastern Orthodoxy, and ...

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Chapter 7. The Word Held in Common

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pp. 76-84

Ten years after the Hegira from Mecca, Muslims and Christians held a debate in Medina, in the presence of the Jews, on the tradition and its different forms.1 During the course of the debate, more than eighty verses of the third sura of the Qur’an were revealed, addressing the relations between different phenomena in the tradition. Here it was stressed ...

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Chapter 8. Wealth in Poverty

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pp. 85-93

The only way toward Reality lies in humility and generosity. The greater the humility and generosity are, the greater the remembrance of God or the openness of the self to God. This does not mean that suffering and death can be avoided or disregarded, but that their role is different, and the attitude toward them more direct and active. They are ...

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Chapter 9. Other Gods but Him

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pp. 94-103

Whenever the presence of wisdom is displaced by oblivion, the self embraces poverty as wealth and ignorance as knowledge—and passion then imposes itself as a god. We see the world as subordinate to us, rather than ourselves as subordinate to anyone else. The weakness of the other is something to be desired, for it seems to prove the power of ...

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Chapter 10. Two Histories

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pp. 104-113

The testimony that there is no god but God leads to the question: who utters those crucial words? Every response is arrayed between the I of the human individual and the I of God. The testimony is thus the mysterious relationship of the human I and the Divine I; and it proclaims that there is no I other than the Divine I. Because all praise belongs to the ...

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Chapter 11. The Ideology of Nation

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pp. 114-124

The tragic experience of Bosnia as a country that has for centuries been defined as unity in diversity prompts two opposing interpretations. In the first, the killings and ravages of war are an anomaly in modern evolution, and are explicable and resolvable from that perspective. In the second, these horrors are the inevitable consequence of the modern ...

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Chapter 12. The Chasm of the Future

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pp. 125-134

Every form engendered by modernity denies the possibility that a single truth may be handed down throughout time, in every historical imprint. In the traditional outlook, however, there is no period of history, no sign in the outer and the inner worlds that is not suffused with the truth. Each of them praises the truth, albeit in its own specific way: for, as ...


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pp. 135-139


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pp. 141-161


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pp. 165-171

E-ISBN-13: 9780823248087
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823224531
Print-ISBN-10: 0823224538

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2005

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Bosnia and Hercegovina -- Ethnic relations.
  • Bosnia and Hercegovina -- Religion.
  • Cultural pluralism -- Bosnia and Hercegovina.
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