Viktor Orbán, the PM of Hungary, is getting controversial again, this time for his comments on Bosniaks, in the context of Bosnia’s integration into the European Union.
The Independent quotes him :
I am doing my best to convince Europe’s great leaders that the Balkans may be further away from them than from Hungary, but how we manage the security of a state in which 2 million Muslims live is a key issue for their security too.
Implying Muslims are a threat to European security. This undoubtedly generated anger, as he openly implies that Europe is unwilling or perhaps even unable of “assimilating” its Muslims, even the indigenous ones.
RELATED: The Danger of Fighting Islamophobia
But isn’t Orbán just being honest… unlike the EU?
The EU As a “Christianist Club”
A long-standing complaint in Turkey, which has tried to join the EU, is that the entity is a sort of “Christian club.”
Likewise, Rusmir Mahmutćehajić, a Bosniak politician and academic who featured in The Muslim 500, a report about the most “influential” contemporary Muslims, writes:
The unification of Europe is for the most part perceived today as based on the following three elements: (1) the unity of the geopolitical area, (2) Christian history, and (3) the power and potential of liberal democracy. These postulates of European unity exclude numerous elements of the European totality, assigning to them the position of the Other and rendering them incapable of finding their place in the region through the relationship with its supposed center.
It is because of this identification with “Christian history” that Europe was so slow to act against the Bosniak genocide, as one analyst puts it:
So, when we look at this sort of evidence and we take a look back we can almost see that with their inaction and with their attitudes, they were very much ready for the Bosnian Muslims to be massacred. They let it happen. As I said in their words, ‘Bosnia did not belong. A Muslim majority country in Europe was just foreign’ and they didn’t want to really have it happen in a Christian Europe.
But what about the reference to “liberal democracy”?
Can you promote both liberal democracy and Christianity at the same time ?
Apparently, yes, they can.
Roger Brubaker, an American sociologist mainly specialized in the question of nationalism, talks of “Christianist secularism” to describe this odd (some would say contradictory) mixture of Christianity and liberalism the EU promotes and which, obviously, mainly targets Islam:
The preoccupation with Islam calls forth, implicitly and sometimes explicitly, a concern with Christianity. If “they” are Muslim, then in some sense “we” must be Christian (or Judeo-Christian).
In Northern and Western Europe today, this reactive Christianity (or “Christianism,” to use a term coined by Andrew Sullivan to designate a counterpart to Islamism) presents itself as closely linked with secularity and liberalism. Once understood as antithetical to liberalism, secularism, and modernity, Christianity is increasingly seen as their civilizational matrix, and as the matrix of a whole series of more specific ideas, attitudes, and practices, including human rights, tolerance, gender equality, and support for gay rights.
So, it’s a sort of identity politics, where Christianity loses all its religious significance and becomes a civilizational marker in order to see itself opposing Islam on issues related to secularism, liberalism, LGBTQ+ rights, etc.
While Turks talk of the “Christian club,” we can now call this more of a “Christianist club,” an entity which defines itself totally in reaction to Islam.
Belgian historian Henri Pirenne, many decades before the formation of the EU, already wrote that the idea of Europe was not something built of its own, one could say positively, but negatively or as a conscious contradiction to Islam and its civilization.
In sum, Europe as a civilizational project, which the EU wants to concretize as a political entity, has no coherent definition apart from being anti-Islam.
Did “Assimilation” Help the Bosniaks?
Michael Sells, an American Orientalist, wrote a book, The Bridge Betrayed, where he theorized the idea of “Christoslavism,” or how, during the Bosniak genocide, both the Serb-Orthodox and the Croat-Catholic clergymen used Christianity to annihilate the Bosniak-Muslims.
But let us consider the “assimilated” Bosniaks.
Bosniaks have long been praised by non-Muslim Europeans as some sort of model Muslims, as they’re apparently “moderate,” which is to say to a large extent liberal and secular… but did this save them?
Did the Christoslavists distinguish between the practicing and the assimilated Bosniaks?
After explaining how Bosniaks don’t differ ethnically from their neighbors, Sells writes the following about how it is religion which shaped the fate of the Bosniak victims, even those who were not particularly religious:
Muslim religious identity was determined by strictly extrinsic criteria. A Bosnian Muslim in a Serb or Croat camp was there not because of any particular act, expression, or thought. Some in the targeted population defined themselves as Muslims according to the Islamic testimony of belief in one deity and in Muhammad as the messenger of the one deity. Some were observant, for example, keeping the required fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan or the prohibition against pork and alcohol. Some were unobservant. Many Bosnian Muslims were atheists. Many were observant of some of the Islamic practices such as the Ramadan fast but considered themselves religious skeptics and their observances cultural. Some supported the political leaders of the Bosnian government; some did not. Some were indifferent to politics.
Thus, the historical experience in liberal Europe of Bosniaks, who are natives and not immigrants, who were considered moderates and not radicals, should definitely be a lesson for those Muslims seeking assimilation today.
 Rusmir Mahmutćehajić, Sarajevo Essays: Politics, Ideology, and Tradition, SUNY Press, 2003, p. 53.
 Michael A. Sells, The Bridge Betrayed: Religion and Genocide in Bosnia, University of California Press, 1998, p. 14.