- Situating the Bosnian Paradigm: The Bosnian Experience of Multicultural Relations
Situating the Bosnian Paradigm: The Bosnian Experience of Multicultural Relations, by Nevad Kahteran and introduced by Enes Karic, prefaced by Adnan Aslan, and with afterword by Oliver Leaman, consists of several collections of essays written on different occasions. Its central theme is the relevance of perennial philosophy to the Bosnian problem. Late twentieth-century Bosnia witnessed the failure of modern [End Page 125] humanistic philosophy as it appeared in the arena of international relations and has been practiced by the countries of the West, in which sense it could be said that Bosnia has been a minor testing ground for the global world system. In this book, Nevad Kahteran offers a plausible solution to the problem of ethnic-religious violence through the multicultural and multireligious vision of traditional thinkers such as René Guenon, Frithjof Schuon, and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Such a brave attempt in itself deserves our appreciation. But the success of this attempt based on its acceptance by the adherents of other parties or religions is another issue.
Since in essence modernity is something alien to the religious worldview, I agree with the author that issues like pluralism, tolerance, and multi-ethnic and multi-religious coexistence cannot be fully resolved within the framework of modern concepts. As the author realizes, this problem can only be overcome through a metaphysical perspective that is able to transform ethnic and religious diversity into meaningful coexistence. Historically, Islam was able to achieve this, and the Ottoman millet system was one example of the application of such metaphysical principles. In today’s modern world, perennial philosophy no doubt offers a metaphysical perspective of this kind. But can this philosophy actually be given serious consideration? There are certainly many reasons it cannot.
To begin with, the traditional perspective appears awkward to modern humanity, to the extent that perennial philosophy, in essence, presupposes the negation of modernity. Second, such a metaphysics is deeply rooted in Islamic metaphysics, something neither the modern world nor the ethnic and religious communities involved in such problems are as yet ready to appreciate. Third, speaking and writing about philosophical principles is one thing, while applying these principles to the circumstances of a particular community is another. Solving a social problem through the implementation of metaphysical principles assumes power. Lamentably, however, the current Western powerhouses are far from attaining a sufficient understanding of the significance of applying such metaphysical principles, let alone capable of applying them. Thus, hypothetically, only Islam as an international power is able to make use of such metaphysical principles for the solution of social problems; however, this does not appear to be on the horizon for the foreseeable future. As for the Bosnian situation, one might say that since it was the Western powers that allowed the country to be dismembered along religious and ethnic lines in the first place, only another outside global power could unite Bosnia and integrate her ethnic and religious communities. Another possibility would be that if the traditional approach were to become state policy—if, for instance, the Bosnian state were to be reestablished with all her institutions formed according to the main paradigm of perennial philosophy—then one might be able to speak of meaningful ethnic and religious coexistence. But this could only be achieved provided that other ethnic and religious communities also give their approval to the perennial approach.
Another important point emphasized in this book is that this particular traditional perspective is ample enough to embrace the Western, Eastern, and Islamic philosophical traditions—though convincing everyone of this capability, as far as I can see, is easier said than done. Kahteran believes that through the traditional perspective [End Page 126] one can easily put Descartes, Mullah Sadra, the Buddha, and Confucius in the same box. In principle, I do not want to deny such a possibility. Yet one cannot help but think that if it were possible to integrate all these worldviews into one perspective, this would also have to be agreed upon by...