Active Islamic Youth

Active Islamic Youth

Active Islamic Youth (Aktivna Islamska Omladina or AIO) is a Bosnian based Islamic youth organization widely reported to have close ties to Saudi Wahabi groups. In 2003, the Sarajevo weekly magazine Slobodna Bosna described the AIO as a front for the Saudi High Commission for Relief and the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation. [ [ US hunts Islamic militants in Bosnia] by Harry de Quetteville in Sarajevo, Telegraph, 26 July 2004] The Bosnian branch of al-Haramain was shut down after it was designated an al-Qaeda affiliate by the U.S. Treasury and the Saudi government. [ Wahabism and Al-Qaeda in Bosnia and Herzegovina] , by Stephen Schwartz, The Jamestown Foundation, Volume 2, Issue 20 (October 21, 2004)]

AIO is the publisher of the fortnightly magazine "Staff", the second most widely read Islamic magazine in Bosnia with an estimated publication of about 9,000 issues. [ [ Bosnia and Herzegovina—Islamic Revival] , International Advocacy Networks and Islamic Terrorism, by CPT Velko Attanassoff, Bulgarian Armed Forces, for Strategic Insights, Volume IV, Issue 5 (May 2005)]


The AIO was launched after the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, when a group of young Bosnian Muslims decided to form the organization to promote the fundamentalist Islamic teachings they learned while fighting together with Arab volunteers in a Bosnian government unit called El Mujahid. The volunteers were also Islamic missionaries. Their unit published Islamic literature, the best-known of whichwas called "Beliefs That We Have to Correct", listing dozens of habits of Bosnian Muslims that, it declared, had nothing to do with the followers of Allah. These Arab fighters and missionaries strongly impressed young Bosnians who joined the El Mujahid unit. After the war, these young Bosnian Muslims went on to form AIO. [ Suspicious Islamic Missionaries: Active Islamic Youth] by Ena Latin, Southeast European Times in Sarajevo, 30 June 2003]

AIO's mission is to awaken the religious feelings of Bosnian Muslims - who, the organization believes, have been deprived of "traditional" Islam for too long, first by the Communist regime of the former Yugoslavia, and later by moderate Muslims. The AIO emphasises that it aspires to original Islamic teachings as preached by Mohammed, and that it does not accept any "novelties" in Islam. Members of the AIO are known for their atypical way of praying, and for their short trousers and long beards. The men do not shake hands with women and the women wear headscarves in public.

People associated with AIO are reported to have behaved violently, including during demonstrations. Leaders of AIO were known for their inflammatory statements, in which they criticized Bosnian Muslims for accepting too many habits of their Christian neighbours. On 24 December 2002 a young Muslim fanatic, Muamer Topalovic, shot three members of a Croat returnee family in Konjic, 80 km south of Sarajevo. Topalovic, who confessed to the killing, said that he wanted to do something against Croats. He was subsequently arrested and sentenced to 35 years in prison. Police said that Topalovic told them during the investigation that he was a member of AIO. That was later proven false. AIO leaders, however, acknowledged the possibility that Topalovic might have attended some of the courses the group organised.

Current situation

After 11 September 2001, Bosnian police have taken a keener interest in the AIO's activities. It became clear that some of the Arab teachers who had impressed AIO's founders were in fact connected with the Al Qaeda network and had later participated in major terrorist attacks on Western targets. AIO premises were raided several times, and its finances were thoroughly audited. It has been established that AIO received donations in the past from large Saudi charities, such as the Al Haramain Foundation. In the fall of 2002, US authorities declared Al Haramain a sponsor of terrorist networks and froze its assets in the United States and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Today, the number of people associated with AIO is shrinking. The organisation is experiencing financial troubles, as many of its former donors have stopped sending money because of the bad reputation that AIO has acquired. It covers its expenses through Internet clubs and from selling Islamic magazines and literature, but its future is uncertain.

See also

*Bosnia and Herzegovina
*Bosnian War
*Bosnian mujahideen


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