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Why Macron's remarks on Bosnia are dangerous

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16.11.2019

Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron made yet another statement that caused outrage in the Balkans. This time, he put Bosnia and Herzegovina in the cross-hairs, saying in an interview with British magazine The Economist: "If you're concerned about this region, the first question is neither Macedonia, nor Albania, it's Bosnia-Herzegovina. The time-bomb that's ticking right next to Croatia, and which faces the problem of returning jihadists, is Bosnia-Herzegovina."

Numerous Bosnian politicians, local and foreign analysts and scholars of the region condemned Macron's statement. It is not only wildly incorrect and unfair, but also politically irresponsible and dangerous.

First, let us look at the facts. After the civil war broke out in Syria and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) emerged, about 200 Bosnian citizens (0.017 percent of the Bosnian Muslim population) went to fight in the conflict.

About 50 are known to have returned - 23 people have been sentenced to a total of 42 years and eight months in prison in 14 different cases for travelling to Syria, attempting to go there or recruiting others to fight. Others are still being tried.

About 50 remain in Syria and Iraq, along with around 50 women and more than 100 children. Last month, it was announced that the country will repatriate nine other fighters to try them for their crimes. The government is currently preparing to bring back the women and children.

Since 2011, there has been no terrorist attack on Bosnian territory and outside of the context of Syria and Iraq, there has been no proven direct participation of Bosnian nationals in any such incidents abroad - i.e. Macron's concerns about a "jihadist" threat emanating from Bosnia are wildly exaggerated.

Nevertheless, since 2015, Bosnia has been working on developing a solution to the problem of radicalisation, including passing relevant legislation, building institutional capacity, working on education, prevention, and deradicalisation programmes, etc.

It is also important to point out that Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) have always practised an inclusive, localised form of Islam........

© Al Jazeera