President Tito of Yugoslavia has given his personal backing to a campaign to prevent the spread of "pan-Islamic revolutionary ideas" among Europe's most important Moslem community.
The campaign has focused attention on the sensitive position of Yugoslavia's estimated 3.5 million Moslems -- descendants of Islamic converts during five centuries of Turkish rule. Moslems make up nearly onesixth of Yugoslavia's population.
Traditionally, Yugoslay communist officials have tended to treat the Moslem community with kid gloves, at least in comparison with the two other major religious institutions here -- the Roman Catholic and Serbian Orthodox churches.
Like the Christians, the Moslems were sharply put in their place after the last war when many of them cooperated wth forces opposed to Tito's pratisans. But sonce then they have been relatively pampered, receiving state subsidies for education and for the upkeep of mosques.
This now seems to have changed, as the authorities have awakened to the implications of the worldwide Islamic revival. Several Moslem leaders, including the mufti of Belgrade, have been given severe warnings for allegedly seeking to disrupt the atmosphere of "brotherhood and unity" of Yugoslavia's multinalional population.
One prominent communist theorist, Fuad Muhic, accused certain unnamed Yugoslay Moslem leaders of being influenced by the ideas of Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In an nterview with the weekly magazine Start, he added that -- whatever its relevance for Iran -- such "revolutionary Islamic socialism" had no place in Yugoslavia,
These warnings were underlined by President Tito during a recent visit to the central republic of Bosnia, where most Yugoslay Moslems live. Clearly referring to the Moslems, he praised republican leaders for having taken tough action agaist "the subversive activies of certain clerical circles."
He went on: "Such attempts [to undermine brotherhood and unity] should be stopped at their root, even if severe measures are necessary. No one can criticize you for that."
Given the fragmentary and one-sided reporting of the officially inspired Yugoslav press, it is difficult for the outsider to establish exactly what happened to justify such attacks. According to press accounts, the mufti of Belgrade was accused of referring at the opening of a mosque to "brother Moslems" and stating that people who eat pork become like the animals they eat.
The adviser to Yugoslavia's top Moslem leader was alleged to have stated that "Moslems in Yugoslavia and the world are today at a historical juncture -- the beginning of the 15th century of Islam."
the controversy must be seen against a background of deep-rooted animosities among Yugoslavia's many different nationalities. As recently as World War ii, there were wholesale massacres of rival national minorities,
This helps explain the acute sensitivity of Yugoslav officials to anything smacking of sectarianism. Thus the use of an apparently innocuous phrase like "brother Moslems" was interpreted by the official Yugoslav news agency to set apart Moslems from other nationalities and religious groups and to sow the seeds of dissent between them."