Q&A – Bosnia A Painful Peace

Dil Nawaz

Aki Nawaz (born Haq Nawaz Qureshi) also known as Aki-Stani, Righteous Preacher and Propa-Gandhi, is a British-Pakistani producer and musician. He is the front man of Fun-da-mental, a group that fuses left-wing politics, Sufi Islam, anti-racism and hip hop. His works can bepurchased here.

 

PTH : Thank you for taking time out for the interview. Painful Peace is a timely reminder of a nearly forgotten conflict.

PTH:  Where are you based at the moment Bradistan (Bradford), London-istan (UK), Pakistan (proper) or Bosnia?

AN: I should really get a frequent flyer card, I am wherever I need to be for work and this has been the case for many years.

PTH: Briefly, how did you manage Pakistan Floods charity work at the same time as the film?

AN: It was something instinctive that I needed to do and managed to fit it in when the time allowed also it was important knowing that some of the ground realities in flood are far worse than sometimes portrayed in European media.

PTH:  Gaza in 2008 and Bosnia in 2010, are you a documentary filmmaker now? What about your work as producer, DJ and music festival appearances?

AN: my work involves my passion of music and film and also my interest in injustice so it is all of me. All the areas above I work in and keep free providing I do not compromise.

PTH: Could you tell us what was the inspiration behind “Bosnia: A Painful Peace”?
AN: Since my first visit to Bosnia I was interested in the many layers that played out there during the aggression of the 90’s. I really wanted to address the issues.It was a opportunity that came after many years however those visits gave me a lot of insights that needed highlighting.
PTH:  What do you think, why is Bosnia a forgotten story in the world media today?
AN:I do not think it’s a forgotten story but more a “untold” story especially how the victims have been manipulated to accept conditions which are unjust and unacceptable.
You can watch it here:
http://vimeo.com/16379612
Bosnia- A Painful Peace Part 1- uncensored version
http://vimeo.com/16379612
“The Muslims in The Balkans suffered barbarity at the hands of Serbs and Croats.
This film was made in 2010 and goes from the past to the present and future, interviewing rape victims, mothers who still do not know where their loved ones are, the injustice of criminal system, even male rape victims.
Very disturbing images and the dialogue is very powerful.
It is essentially a film about those whose identity was Muslim and how they feel almost two decades on.
Many other issues are brought to the front.”
Involves Aki Nawaz.
PTH: In the interview, President Haris Silajdzic called Bosnian Muslims ‘Wild Flowers’, reflecting their Sufi/Hanafi Mazhab (tradition) and the diversity of Balkans, so different from the image of ‘orthodox’ Muslim in the Western media. What can we learn from Bosnia in 2010?
AN: Bosnian Muslims are far more progressive than the image portrayed of them, People forget the context of Bosniaks, their history and the political turmoil in the Balkans. They have a great understanding of Islam and their approach is far more “non-imposing” but attracting people to their faith through wisdom and liberty .
PTH: Secular ‘socialist’ dictatorships like Yugoslavia and Iraq keep different ethnicities and religions together in an uneasy co-existence, why cannot they resolve the cultural differences over many decades?
AN: The problem is when political theories are hijacked for power and greed. Nationalism in the wrong hands breeds ignorance and division, sometimes outside influences create chaos and paranoia for leaders eventually leading to conflict. Far too much divisive politics has been played among different cultures or religions.
PTH: Why did nationalism and religious identity lead to such a barbarity in Bosnia?
AN: These aspects have roots in history and unfortunately we do not learn from them rather replay them with dire consequences. Politics and religion have been continuously abused. We all need to reflect on history and put injustice in its correct place and even more so acknowledge it.
PTH: The religious establishments especially the Serb Orthodox Church promoted religious nationalism, can they work for reconciliation and harmony?
AN: They have had every opportunity to do so but in general have not done so. They played their part in whipping up hysteria and in justifying the atrocities that were committed. I have not seen any evidence of efforts to reconcile and move on but rather the opposite.
PTH: Did you meet any Serb officials or community leader, if so what was their view for the future peace and harmony in Bosnia?
AN: Natasha Kandic was the one of a handful of people who were dealing with the complexities. The rape aspect was the one of the most horrifying atrocities and when I interviewed many Serbs they would somehow play it down. I was warned that recently other journalists have been attacked by organised gangs. As soon as you begin to ask uncomfortable questions the alarm bells start ringing for personal safety.
PTH: Did Nato and America feel guilty for not helping Bosnia in 1994, is that the reason they helped Kosovo Muslims in 1999?
AN: This could be one reason and is the most common one put forward but I think it was an internal issue of whether the Serbs would become subservient to the West and obviously they were not interested on getting on their knees so the West wanted to teach them a lesson rather than some honourable vision of saving people.
PTH: In your honest assessment, will Bosnia survive as an independent state in next 10-15 years?
AN: Bosnians are very resourceful and have the potential to become  successful in every manner providing there is some confidence in the political structures. At the moment it is a touch and go situation but I will say that a country that defended itself without any arms can achieve great things. They can move forward and re-build, without this they are been victimised for been the victims. And as a multi-cultural society it can blossom because the majority of Muslims want to live side by side with Christians in harmony.
You can watch it here:
http://vimeo.com/16380675
Bosnia -A Painful Peace Pt 2-uncensored version
http://vimeo.com/16380675
“This part deals with The Jihadists arriving from abroad, The fightback against all the odds,why Europe still does not accept Bosnia-the arrests of the Jihadists -the local people that fought back and the circumstances-How the West still does not deal with injustice-the rise of other versions of Islam.
Please note that many non-muslims also fought for the defense of B&H but those stories have been told many times-respect to those people -but I wanted to look into the Muslims who bore the tragedy of this conflict more than all the others.”
Involves Aki Nawaz.

 

PTH:  How do the people of Mostar, former enemies, live as part of a Bosnian (Muslim)-Croat (Catholic) Federation?

AN:Once again the division is there and the Croats need to acknowledge their role in the conflict. The historical Mostar Bridge essentially keeps people apart instead of uniting them. The problem is self-interest and mafia like politics, one side seems to be getting all the investments and support and the Muslims’ attempts at a holistic approach are not gathering any momentum.

PTH: Is Bosnia looking East or West for economic partnerships? How are the restrictions hurting common people’s lives?

AN: Unfortunately it is looking West, but I personally believe they will loose in the long term because the aspirations of the Bosnians are far higher than what the West is willing to give or engage constructively. As a joke people in Bosnia say they will give a “Bosnian passport” as a gift to their enemy because it is not worth anything, they feel the Croats and Serbs are been given all the incentives whilst they are been left behind and ignored.

PTH: In the film we saw Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif visit Bosnia. A lot of Bosnian families came to Pakistan during the War. What is the level of relations between governments and people-to-people contacts?

AN: Wherever I go in Bosnia and say that I am from Pakistan, people are extremely respectful and really happy. They appreciate the fact that Pakistan helped them and there are volunteers who have settled in Bosnia and have families, whom I have met.

PTH: How do people of Bosnia see the Visa Free EU travel, would that improve their economic situation?

AN: They have been some changes recently which were long over due, but it remains to be seen what advantages they will get from this travel document? if it is just for tourism then only people with money will be able to travel. They want to work and re-invest into their country not go on holidays to spend money (which they do not have).

PTH: Human Rights Declaration, International War Crimes Tribunal, European Court of Human Rights and EU membership, can these ensure future stability of Bosnia?

AN: In my view all the above have let the Bosnians down in many ways and continue to do so.The general view is that they are trying to close the book of the atrocities without serving justice for the Bosniaks. It seems that aggression is rewarded without any penalties. Raped women are  in turmoil awaiting justice and rapists are still walking free.

PTH: Would the people of Republika Srpska (RS) sacrifice their ‘racial pride’ to be part of Bosnia and get a chance to be part of European Union.

AN: The Serbs in RS are confident that they will get into Europe without sacrificing anything and this is the great injustice of the issue. They would be happy to attach themselves to Serbia and there is a unspoken support for that, making them stronger in whatever path they choose, Russia or Europe.

PTH: How will the Bosnians, Croats and Serbs of 2020 feel about their country and their own cultural & religious identities?

AN:

Until the truth emerges all parties will live out their own truths and that is what is happening as the division is there in all fields from education to economics etc.  So far it seems that each leader is playing on support from his own religious or cultural community.

PTH: “Please don’t preach us, how to pray and behave”, I have heard this expression before, and why do you think the Muslim leaders are worried about extremism within the Muslim communities?

AN: The complaint on this issue is simply do not “patronise us” and unfortunately some different schools of Islam take that approach by being aggressive in their tone or misunderstand the context for these people who have lived with different political systems for many years and have a very sophisticated approach to Islam and outsiders need to understand this.

Others need to understand that the Muslims in Bosnia know their own strengths and weaknesses. The expression of “extremism”, I think a mismanaged word as some people simply want to direct people back to some fundamental practises of Islam. Muslims are been sidelined and injustice is rampant and I think it is natural for people to want to align themselves with an ideology, which explains their position clearly and this comforts them and gives them strength.

PTH: Can the Muslim, Catholic and the Orthodox communities co-exist peacefully only in a multicultural secular ‘western’ society?

AN: Yes they can because they have done so  before and can providing there is a concerted effort from all parties to genuinely build bridges and get back to the root of the message of religion.

PTH: You made another documentary titled “The People are Strong”, do you think the title applies more aptly to the people of Bosnia?

AN: The title applies to many people all over the world irrespective of religion –wherever oppression exists. Contrary to perception ,the oppressed are always strong it’s the oppressor who is weak.


PTH: Would you classify yourself as a ‘Storyteller’ and Activist rather than a musician, do you only work on one project  in one year like the Actor/Director Amir Khan ?

AN:

My uncompromising approach to music and filmmaking is my biggest asset. I am naïve in my approach but passionate about “going beyond” and refusing to play within the “traditional” rules, always looking for a ground that is refreshing.

PTH: What Message would you like to give to our readers?

Love all soon there maybe none


Advertisements

10 Comments

Filed under Pakistan

10 responses to “Q&A – Bosnia A Painful Peace

  1. YLH

    Will the Propa-Gandhi tell us if he has rethought his views on the fatwa against Salman Rushdie that he supported in his appearance on Bill Maher’s Religilous?

  2. Aki Nawaz

    Bill Mahers film was a simple “stitch up”– if you cannot see after watching the film, with the desperate editing then its not worth answering your question.
    I always supported the Ayatollah calling Salman a “FAT TWAT”- did I miss something?
    For me “the artist” has the same rules as the common man – if I play with fire I expect to be burnt and sometimes I have been but not crying about it or intellectually bullying everyone to come to my thought process.

  3. if I play with fire I expect to be burnt

    So much for artistic freedom and freedom of speech. Being on the side of the leading theocrat in a regime that hangs women for being personally offensive to mullahs speaks for itself and for the profile and background of the person siding that way.

  4. Aki Nawaz

    Interesting! no comments on my film, the murder, torture, rape, genocide but more interested in debates that have had their sell by date long ago for some.Maybe it also says a lot about people that omit a lot of atrocities that are committed by the West but those are acceptable to them, its those “third world” countries issues that are “uncivilised”. So bloody boring – yawn yawn.You both obviously do not know my work . There is no such thing as Artistic Freedom or Freedom of Speech -even in the West my friends- wikileaks is your current example.Do not bother debating with me -I cannot be bothered -thanks for the time

  5. Obviously there is no problem with shaking hands with blood-stained regime of ayatollah rohullah shiatan-e-bazurg, as long as the funding is available for artistic jihad.

  6. Would you make a film on sakineh mohammadi ashtiani -stoning to death case??? Innocent question!

  7. Aki Nawaz

    From 25 to 40,000 women were raped in Bosnia and 150,000 muslim men and boys/women were slaughtered and not one of you can comment on that episode.

    Why are you assuming that other injustices are not important to me – there is a mass of work I have done in relation to many issues outside of Muslim issues.

    If you do not want to talk about the Topic i.e Bosnia please do not post.

  8. Mr Nawaz
    We the ex-Muslims support your work on human rights of Bosnian Muslims.What happened in Bosnia cannot be excused in any argument.Islamic Republic of Iran and its Press TV whos interest you represent in UK are worst abusers of human rights in Iran,hanging people on street squares on “crimes” of apostasy,homosexuality and women on adultry.
    You are free to say NO COMMENT in free speech UK, as we fully understand your concern for next pay check!!!

  9. Aki Nawaz

    For the record I do not represent anyone,s interests and its cheap of you to throw such accusations – I only work for myself through various channels which include my work with the BBC,Channel 4 and endless amounts of broadcasters- so your accusation would not stand. I worked on the first breaking of the Seige of Gaza in 2008 via Press TV -its on my vimeo site- does that create a problem for you as X-Muslims? I support Hamas? is that a problem for you? I support resistance against imperial and colonial arrogance- is that a problem for you?
    I support people who fight against contradictions and political bullying-is that a problem for you? I support people against racist attitudes and sub-servient politics? I support many things including some of the things you mention.
    So you really need to know more about me instead of making silly immature statements – you do a disservice to knowledge about a person by making some stupid statements.
    I have heard about your organization but do not know enough to say anything and neither do I wish too.
    I am confident that my work against injustice sees me on the frontline of issues whether its in Bradford or Afghanistan, South Africa or Australia.

    Anyway ask me anything about Bosnia and will be happy to address issues and you might just find my views overlap with issues that go on in Iran but I will not be a political tool for some third party .

    Please seek some knowledge before posting banal or untrue statements because then your doing what many propagandists do , wherever they maybe. A humble request.

  10. Aki Nawaz

    I notice on some of your activities that you do a lot of anti-islamic activities under the banner of human rights/atheist agenda, which is fine you have the right BUT just as a suggestion:
    you do absolutely nothing in terms of the women who were raped in Bosnia (maybe because they are Muslims?) in any form or shape -They have been left high and dry by the so called “upholders” of liberty and justice in the West that you rub shoulders with so closely – you should consider these atrocities and bring them to the foreground.
    There is nothing in your activity on the women who suffer the brutality of the “nazi” state of IZNOTREAL. Yes the Palestinians or the masses of rape that go on in Pakistan and many other places.
    You support particularly anti-islamic issues which help the “haters” of Muslims in the West for which you get a great amount of platforms .
    Now that,s not very smart or enlightening is it?

    On reflection I think its better you stay in your hole as you just do not like Muslims!