Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Sushi problem

This is not a criticism of the ITV film about the Pavarotti Music Centre which is a sympathetic summary of its history over the last 20 years. I am proud to have helped with this film. But, as with all media explanation of the war in the former Yugoslavia it explains the conflict as a division separating 'Serbs', 'Croats' and 'Muslims'. The first two are defined as nationalities and the third as a religion.
In Sarajevo, besieged by Serb forces in the 1990s war, an ethnic Serb, Jovan Divljak, was deputy commander of 'Muslim' Sarajevo, defending the city against besieging Serb forces. One of the leading cultural figures in 'Muslim' Sarajevo was the poet and ethnic Serb, Goran Simic. He remained there throughout the war and declared, "When they shelled Sarajevo, they were not trying to destroy the Muslim nation. They were working to destroy the possibility that a people here of every nation could live together."
In Mostar the situation was similar and I count among my friends those who were victims of the siege of the 'Muslim' part of that city, but who were of all national / religious identities or of none at all. Many of them will remember the many beers we drank together.
I would argue that the Bosnians are the least religious of the three erroneously divided peoples. Those who, like me travelled in and out of the region in the war will remember that the Virgin Mary was prominently displayed above the X-ray security booths at Croatia's Zagreb and Split airports!
The misuse of religion as a definer of a people's identity in contemporary wars was taken into the Middle East. I have Iraqi friends who are secular and left-wing and who found that, after the 2003 occupation, they were now either 'Sunni' or 'Shia'. They laugh and tell me they consider themselves to be Sushi.
More about the Pavarotti Music Centre and the conflict in the former Yugoslavia can be found in 'Left Field'.

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