Subscribe to Secularism is a Womens Issue

Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Home > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > Europe > Fundamentalism and the Gender Order

Fundamentalism and the Gender Order

Ethnic fundamentalism in Serbia

Monday 15 October 2007, by Stasa Zajovic


After Tito’s death in 1980, and especially at the end of the 1980s, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) faced a serious political and social-economic crisis. The ruling elite (Communists’ League) began to lose the sources of legitimacy of its authority. One ideology was falling apart – the communist ideology which supposedly represented the interests of the working class – and their representatives found a new source of legitimacy in so-called endangered national interests. This exclusively served as an excuse for the maintenance of power, particularly held by Serbia – the state most responsible for the break-up of Yugoslavia, the state that carried out multiple aggressions (against Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo), not only because Serbs were the most numerous ethnicity in the former Yugoslavia, but also because Serbia had the largest military force – The Yugoslav National Army (JNA) – which formerly was the “peoples’ army” of all the nations and ethnic groups in the former Yugoslavia, but during the wars (1991 – 1999) became the main means for achieving the expansionist aims of the Serbian regime and the so -called “Greater Serbia” project. Slobodan Milosevic, who came to power in Serbia in 1987, used nationalism as a tool to stay in power. The interests of the “nation and fatherland” were not only a tool but also excused the criminal politics of the Serbian regime marked by robbery, killing, and death squads.

The consequences of war in the former Yugoslavia have been catastrophic. Several figures illustrate this well:
- More than 200,000 people were killed, mostly in Bosnia-Herzegovina;
- The total number of refugees and internally displaced persons in Croatia is around 513,000. In Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995 there were around 1,280,000 displaced persons and 1,200,000 refugees. In Serbia, there were around 800,000 refugees, while a great number of ethnic minorities left the country usually under pressure (around 60,000 Croats, 50,000 Hungarians, and 300,000 Kosovar Albanians). Almost half a million Serbian citizens, mostly young people, left the country because of fears of constant violence and forced military conscription, as well as economic reasons; most of the Albanian population – around 800,000 – later returned, but were then deported during the NATO military intervention;
- In the former Yugoslavia, more than 4.4 million people have changed their place of residence, which is around 20% of the total population;
- There are 23,000 missing persons in the former Yugoslavia, mostly in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo.
- The indirect economic damage caused by war is estimated to be around 125 billion dollars for the whole region.

The experience of war in the former Yugoslavia has demonstrated numerous things, including:
- Ethnic cleansing is not a consequence, but one of the main aims of war;
- Nationalist-militarist oligarchies, primarily Serb, then Croat and other, waged war against the civilian population, particularly against those who are ethnically “mixed” or “impure”;
- Robbery and pillaging in order to confiscate national wealth was one of the main war strategies. The whole region was criminalized, becoming one of main global centers for human trafficking, drug dealing, and the arms trade. Wealth gained by robbery is being legalized so that the war profiteers, through the process of wild privatization, are becoming owners of the national treasure and main partners of in neoliberal economic globalization;
- The international community recognized the results of ethnic cleansing and awarded the perpetrators of this monstrous project state recognition – the Republika Srpska and the division of Bosnia-Herzegovina into two entities;
- De facto ethnically clean states have been created. The Yugoslav successor states were “emptied” of “ethnically impure” people by military operations and criminal undertakings and filled by various methods of “ethnic engineering” by members of the ethnic group. For example, today in Croatia 91% of the population is Croat; before the war, that percentage was around 77%. In Serbia, the number of ethnic minorities, who comprised one-third of the population before the war, has also been drastically reduced;
- The ideology of “blood and ground” is dominant in all the newly-established states. Nationalist forces regularly win elections. The distance between ethnic groups has increased after the wars. Yesterday’s victims are adopting the methods of executioners and conducting ethnic cleansing (i.e. the case of Kosovo and the non-Albanian population);
- In the newly-established states, the process of losing the secular character of the state and the process of clericalization of the entire social life are in effect;
- The forces that instigated war and justified war crimes in almost all former Yugoslav states (especially in Serbia) have been rehabilitated and returned to power. The Hague Tribunal is nearly the only form of transitional justice. States extradite war crimes suspects only for pragmatic reasons. The political, cultural and emotional climate that produced war survives because of a lack of political will for a radical break with the politics of war and war crimes;
- A so-called negative peace prevails, peace exclusively as the absence of war, as an armed peace (Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo are under international protectorate). The current state of “peace” includes an increase in poverty, ethnic hatred, and the strengthening of clero-nationalist and clero-fascist trends.

What are the Characteristics of Ethnic Fundamentalism in Serbia?

In creating a state of ethnic fundamentalism in Serbia (the misuse of religion, ethnicity, and cultural tradition to maintain power and establish social control), almost all state and social institutions participated and still participate. They have, through permanent and systematic propaganda, contaminated and continue to contaminate the political, cultural and spiritual space by creating cultural models and modes of thinking with disastrous consequences, in the past, present, and looking towards the future.

What kinds of cultural models are these?

- Hatred of the Other/different: primarily of women, especially against those who step out of prescribed patriarchal roles; cultural racism and chauvinism – hatred of all minorities – ethnic, religious, sexual;
- The demonization and dehumanization of the Other and different: there are plenty of examples but I will mention just one. “There are people with unpleasant sweat. These are poor Muslims – it’s because they eat tallow. We Serbs have a wonderful, fine smell…” (Serbian Orthodox Church [SPC] Bishop Atanasije Jeftic);
- Hatred of ‘one’s own’ people who think differently: experience shows that nationalists often hate members of their own ethnicity who think differently more than members of another nation. According to them, they are “inner enemies” for whom there is a very wide spectrum of names, including “Serbian residue”, “domestic aliens”, “inner anti-Serbs”, and “cosmopolitans of a non-rooted being.” Disloyalty and disobedience to the nation, tradition, fatherland, and army merits punishment. Breaking the national consensus is a betrayal and the elimination of such traitors is a legitimate patriotic act. “All of you should be chased away.” “All of you should be slaughtered, skinned.” “Bitches in black bark again… they are pests whose life needs to be constantly embittered.” These are messages from patriotic clero-fascist youth groups;
- Worldwide conspiracy against the Serb nation: the conspirators and the objects of conspiracy change. The enemies change, but the matrix stays the same. Sometimes it is entire nations (Croatia and Albania on the regional level). Sometimes it is ideological systems. “We are attacked by communists, neo-communists, globalists… they are all against the Serbian people” (Atanasije Jeftic, Serbian Orthodox Church bishop). Sometimes it is religious institutions, such as the Vatican and the Jewish Lobby;
- An anti-Western attitude: resistance to the “West” formerly meant resistance exclusively to Europe. Today the idea is extended to all of western civilization with a particular emphasis on the USA and is common in the theoretic claims of Serbian theologians (Olivera Milosavljevic). This concept is expressed in phrases like “Europe is death,” “Europe is heresy, a lascivious outlaw”, "renegade and rake.” Serbian bishops repeat that “Westerners are ill-natured and criminals…” while Americans are “cowards, inhuman, impious…” in order to emphasize the superiority of their own nation. “The Serbs were a civilization before ‘their’ civilization. Spirituality above all!” Such claims only increase nationalist narcissism and strengthen the omnipresent climate of xenophobia, isolationism, and cultural homogenization;
- Blaming of others and seeing oneself as the victim: that is, the continuous condemnation of others and experiencing oneself as victim. This perpetuates the myth about eternal Serb suffering. (“We Serbs were just defending ourselves…”, “Serbs are waging a just war,” or “Only Serbs are tried in The Hague”).

What processes brought about such cultural patterns?

The processes that brought about the increase in retrograde tendencies (besides the abovementioned factors) are:

- *Retraditionalization: The strict division of gender roles. Women are mothers and wives. Men are soldiers and warriors. Women are reproducers of the nation, and guardians of morality, chastity and the nation’s honor. Men are protectors of the home, protectors of the war traditions “of our people.” This is promoted by retrograde conservative secular forces (so-called shadow fundamentalists) as well as religious fundamentalist leaders (open fundamentalists).

- *Clericalization of social life – desecularization and mass return to religion: Due to the strengthened populist movement in the 1980s, and the later wars, crisis, and poverty, there was open desecularization and renewal of religious identification in the 1990s. In 1982, 23.8% of the Serbian population claimed to be religious; in 1993, that number increased to 71.3%. In 1999, 96.7% of the population identified themselves as Orthodox. This process is illustrated by claims that “to be Serb necessarily means to be Orthodox” or, as the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Pavle, preaches, “A Serb cannot be atheist.” He is inciting the majority of the religious population against atheists, who have become an more frequent object of attacks in Serbia, not only verbal attacks, but physical as well.
- *Theocratization of the state – loss of the secular character of the state: The Serbian Orthodox Church becomes is a political actor and arbiter. This violates the fundamental constitutional principle of separation of the church and state.

It is also worthwhile to mention that a more serious strengthening of clericalization and theocratization is related to the leadership of Prime Minister of Serbia, Vojislav Kostunica, who, since coming to power in December 2003, has widely opened space for the transformation of Serbia into a theocratic state. Milosevic instrumentalized both the nation and church, while Kostunica as an “authentic nationalist” gives the Church the role of the main supporter of the “Greater Serbia” hegemony project.

Which Institutions and Leaders Support Ethnic Fundamentalism? What are the Implications of Such Propaganda?

Although the united retrograde forces – open or shadow fundamentalists - is intersected and can be hard decipher, the pillars of this policy in Serbia today can nevertheless be distinguished.

Serbian Orthodox Church – SPC

The main church in Serbia today, the SPC “gathers together almost all institutions, groups, and politicians who were involved in the “Greater Serbia” project since its beginning” (Olga Popovic-Obradovic). The dominant strain within the SPC openly advocates the desecularization of society and theocratization of the state. The model they follow is the Byzantine principle of symphony (a state religion and a theocratic state: there is one God above, one ruler of the state and one head of the family. The authority of the ruler and father are by divine right). Critical theologians warn that the heresy of ethnophilia (the idea that God is on the Serbian side, even if he is not a Serb – a claim that combines piety and ethnic patriotism) is the ruling ideology in the SPC.

The results of this are the following:
- The SPC represented a main tool in the expansionist wars during the break-up of Yugoslavia: “Where Serb blood has spilled and Serb bones have fallen must be Serb land. He who thinks otherwise is on the enemies’ side” (Bishop Nikanor). Therefore, after the wars, SPC is continuing the “Greater Serbia” project and receives great support from the ruling party. “A unique Serbian state has to encompass Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, to begin the restoration of Serb people.” (Rados Ljusic, DSS representative, director of the Serbian Publishing Institute for Schoolbooks).

- The SPC promotes criminals as saints and heroes: not only does the SPC fail to condemn war crimes, but before almost every war crimes suspect has lefts for The Hague, the SPC has arranged a ceremonial departure, in which the Serbian Prime Minister participates. The SPC also blesses killers and warriors. In the recently shown video of the execution of Muslim civilians from Srebrenica in July 1995, the monk Gavrilo blesses members of the notorious Scorpions military unit. The recent canonization of two World War II war criminals in Pljevlja, justifies the thesis that the SPC not only sanctifies ideological sympathizers with Hitler’s anti-Semitism (i.e. Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic), but also direct slaughterers (the two new saints from Pljevlja).
The only SPC dignitary who has clearly and unambiguously condemned the crimes committed “in our name” is Father Sava Janjic, a representative of the SPC in Kosovo. He publicly apologized to Kosovar Albanians for the crimes committed and for their suffering. He is the only true advocate of reconciliation in the SPC.

- The SPC provokes civil war and rehabilitated the “Greater Serbia” project: as is well-known, that program is at the root of the wars in the former Yugoslavia during the nineties. In June of this year, Amfilohije Radovic, an SPC archbishop, with assistance of an Army helicopter, placed a sheet metal church at a site of objects sacred to all faiths in Montenegro since the pre-Christian age; it is a “criminal enterprise which aims to plant a seed of division among members of the Montenegrin population of various religions” (Milenko Markovic).

- The SPC directs state politics according to its own wishes as well as the demands of the current government: SPC Bishop Jovan, a Macedonian citizen, tried to deny that the Macedonian Orthodox Church is autocephalous, for which he was sentenced to prison according to Macedonian law. Instead of allowing the churches to solve this problem, the Serbian government took the side of the SPC. For example, the Minister for Capital Investment (Ilic), in revenge, decided to ground all Macedonian Airlines Company flights in Serbia until Bishop Jovan is released from prison by the Macedonian authorities. It is more than common that in official visits abroad, Patriarch Pavle or some of his representatives goes along as a member of the “state delegation” with the president of the state. That Serbia increasing theocratic trends and that its civil representatives violate the state’s Constitution is shown in the following statement by the abovementioned Minister Ilic, “I am Orthodox. For me, the word of the SPC’s Holy Synod and the patriarchs is sacred. One should not speak after the patriarch. His decisions should not be commented on.”

- The SPC is establishing an ideological, moral and spiritual monopoly in society: Patriarch Pavle portrays himself as modest in the eyes of people, while he is actually shown to be a real fundamentalist. (“I never vote. I do not have a television or radio, nor do I read the newspapers.”). He uses his position and faith very well in the service of certain ideologies. Before elections, he regularly calls on voters to choose rightwing parties, believing that they can help him in establishing a monopoly. For the purpose of establishing that monopoly, the SPC uses the popularity of prominent athletes – highest church honors are granted exclusively to athletes “who publicly profess their Orthodox faith because they are living in accordance with the church’s teachings and help the church.”

- The SPC is an important creator of educational policies in Serbia: The introduction of religion in state schools (since 2001) violates the Constitution. From the spiritual-cultural perspective, it is disastrous because Orthodoxy prescribes the total submission of women. Religious instruction deepens ethnic division and distance, favoring the majority church (SPC). Religion classes are a means to convert new believers and for dogmatic indoctrination of the youth. In addition, religion is the only subject in schools that is not subject to any professional evaluation. Introduction of religion in state schools is profitable for the SPC from an economic standpoint as well. The state supports its personnel. All religious teachers receive a salary which well exceeds the average month income. This is another cynical fact in a country where 25% of schools do not have toilets, 50% do not have a telephone, and 40% do not have water!

- SPC disciplines wayward believers and opposes ecumenism: the case of the traditional Sausage Festival in a village in Vojvodina is comic only at first glance. In February 2004, this event (a cooking competition and tasting festival for traditional meat products) coincided with the first week of Lent. After the local SPC did not succeed in banning the event, the bishop, Irinej, ordered the closing of the local church during the Sausage Festival with the order that the church bells would be rung every 15 minutes. All participants in the Sausage Festival and members of their families were punished with a one-year ban from participation in church activities. According to the SPC, dialogue with other churches should only occur if it is in accordance with the canonic truth stating that only the Orthodox Church is true, and according to which all others are “renegades.” For them, common praying with others who are not members of the Church or who are ‘heretics,’ even in private homes is impermissible, as Bishop Artemije has warned.

- SPC protects pedophiles and thieves in their own ranks, while organizing street violence against gay and lesbian associations: for the SPC, homosexuality is a deadly sin such that the more militant believers organize physical violence against gays and lesbians, as occurred in Belgrade during the Pride Parade in June 2001. However, the SPC’s attitude toward homosexual priests showcases their schizophrenia and hypocrisy. The SPC negates the concrete homosexuality and pedophilic molesting committed by certain priests (such as the cases of Pahomije and Ilarion), by excommunicating from the church those who denounce this behavior.
Additionally, although SPC priests receive their salary from the state (250 euros, where the average income is around 200 euros), they do not pay taxes. They collect enormous amounts of money from charges for religious services. The average price of one service is twice the average salary in Serbia. Many of them (i.e. Bishop Filaret) are known for their corruptive affairs.

The Army of Serbia and Montenegro

The alliance between the SPC and the Army dates back to the beginning of the wars; they jointly justified the wars by the “genetic code of warrior’s people” in the line of thinking that “a nationally distinguished, nationally conscious and sensitive Serb must be Orthodox, a soldier and a warrior.” In every issue of the Army’s journal, there are articles about the SPC, even about how priests opt for military service because “according to God, it is good to defend the homeland.” They organize joint visits to medieval monasteries. Men in army uniforms unfailingly participate in all the church’s events. However, it is not only the “folkloric” element that is significant, but the existence of very concrete cooperation. Recently, for example, the army served the SPC in achieving its expansionist aims in Montenegro by providing a helicopter for setting a church on Rumija Mountain.

Parties and youth movements

In contrast to the oppositional Serbian Radical Party (SRS), whose president Seselj is a Hague indictee, that advocates a secular version of ethnic fundamentalism (the gathering “of all Serbs, Orthodox Serbs, Catholic Serbs, Muslim Serbs, Serbs atheists” in an ethnically clean state), a group of ruling parties under the leadership of the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), whose president Vojislav Kostunica is the current Prime Minister of Serbia, directly supports the ethnic-religious homogenization of the SPC. The DSS appears to be a normal conservative democratic party, at least that is the way it presents itself to the world. However, the reality of the situation is quite different. For example, in an article published in the journal of the extreme rightwing youth movement Obraz (Cheek) in 1996, DSS president Kostunica advocated the rehabilitation of Dimitrije Ljotic, a 1930s Serbian Nazi and prominent quisling during World War II. Kostunica proclaimed Ljotic a Serb patriot. Kostunica’s model is Carl Schmidt, from whom he learned, among other things, that the state’s interests have absolute primacy over all other interests in society, including the maintenance of democracy.

Therefore, it is not strange that the DSS and similar parties who participate in the ruling coalition (for example New Serbia, president Ilic) tolerate (and through means of the Security agencies directly support) extremist youth movements and groups including those who call themselves followers of Adolph Hitler. Thanks to the Church, which gives them logistical support, and to the state authorities who instigate and direct them, small and insignificant groups have grown to be an important factor on the public scene and have become the medium of street terror against “traitors” of all kinds.

SANU: Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences

As one of the pillars of the “Greater Serbia” project hegemony, SANU still actively works in that direction. It lends ideological support to ethnic and theocratic fundamentalism. Most of today’s nationalist leaders in Serbia (from Seselj to Kostunica) are the direct intellectual-political products of The Academy. SANU’s character is shown in the racist population politics projects whose main authors were members of Academy joined by the SPC, conservative doctors, and the media.

How does Ethnic Fundamentalism Affects Women’s Right to Self-Determination and the Gender Order in General?

These processes have disastrous implications for women, particularly younger generations. Women in Black has been conducting abortion polls for years in Serbia, where abortion was legalized in 1952. It has been noted that, under the influence of clero-nationalist propaganda, the number of women who view abortion as “murder” and feel guilt about it has increased. Also, the generation gap on this issue is growing between older women who, no matter their ideological orientation, have considered abortion a women’s basic human right since the “socialist” period, and younger women who, as a result of Church propaganda, are increasingly against abortion. Additionally, the SPC treats family planning, sexual education, and reproductive rights as “blasphemy, heretical, anti-national, and anti-Serbian” (Jelka Imsirovic -Kljajic). For the SPC, abortion is “a deadly sin, a sin greater than murder. Women who have abortions are infant-killers” (Jelka Imsirovic Kljajic).

It is worth mentioning that this propaganda fits into the global growth of all forms of fundamentalism. This illustrates the interdependence and intersection of fundamentalist trends. It is known that different types of fundamentalists hate each other, but when there is a need to establish strategic alliances against women, especially against abortion and reproductive rights, this is not the case. The most hard-line currents against women’s sexual and reproductive rights in the Islamic community and the SPC work in harmony in Serbia.

Some international non-governmental organizations support and legitimize fundamentalist projects. Globally, USAID must enforce the “global gag rule” which the Bush administration passed immediately after coming to power (according to which USAID must not finance any organization or program which “promotes abortion”, or even mentions the word). They act in the same manner regionally; one of the USAID programs on reproductive rights strictly forbade speaking about abortion. The Women in Black Network—Serbia opposes this policy because:
- Such fundamentalist policies create favorable conditions for the increasing fundamentalist trends;
- This is political blackmail, since these projects are applied in the poorest regions of Serbia – in East and South Serbia;
- These projects produce division. Women’s groups accept such projects’ conditions in order to sustain their group because they do not have any other sources of funds;
- After autonomous women’s groups reject these projects (those who reject them), the projects are taken on by conservative medical workers who accept the conditions, which in the long-term leads to women’s conservatism, especially that of young women (Svetlana Saric).

The consequences of fundamentalism on the gender order are clear in population politics, characterized by the following elements:

Maternal mobilization

In the mid-eighties, demographers were still led by the territorial principle – the decreasing birthrate in some regions of Serbia (central, eastern, and Vojvodina) and the increasing birthrate in others (Kosovo) and the misbalance of demographic growth were interpreted through economic factors as well as by cultural change in values systems. At the end of the eighties the ethnic principle— a demographic approach that takes an administrative, repressive, and racist character—was introduced. Since then, almost all legal proposals have included the ethnic principle.

Resolution on the Restoration of the Population

The Serbian Assembly passed this Resolution in January 1990. Since May 1990, the Resolution and its amendments have imposed double standards in population politics—pro-natality in Serbia and Vojvodina and anti-natality in Kosovo. In 1992, the SPS adopted this Resolution as a congressional document; this was later supported by nine national institutions including the SANU and SPC. It says that “Albanians, Muslims and Roma, with higher birthrates, deviate from rational, human reproduction, which affects other people’s rights” and “it is part of the general conspiracy against the Serbian nation” because women of the mentioned nationalities allegedly give birth for separatist, fundamentalist reasons, so that “Serbian women should give birth out of patriotic and moral reasons, and that is the reason for mobilization of the will to give birth.”
The abovementioned propaganda did not bring about the desired results (a decrease or growth in birthrates).

What are the aims of such propaganda?

- degradation of women, reduction of their identity to the role of mother and wife;
- condemnation of women. Whether they give birth or not, they are characterized as self-centered, selfish, emancipated;
- division of women on an ethnic basis: divide, and then rule!
- amortization of social discontent: mass dismissal of workers, among whom the first are women;
- prevention of women’s participation in the public sphere and democratic processes. Women’s organizations are encouraged to serve the state, and “not to engage in politics,” and to calm social tensions. (Those who oppose this – feminists - are traitors…)
- diversion the attention of the public from key issues, such as budget spending for the purpose of war, difficult social situations, and criminal privatization.

Patriotic mobilization

This coincided with the period of wars in the 1990s. Its basic claims were:
- Giving birth has the purpose of not only preserving the nation, but also serves national security and defense: “The last Serbs will defend themselves in 2091 at Kalemegdan fortress. This last encounter could happen before that day…” (Marko Mladenovic);
- Gynecological clinics should become “recruitment centers”: “For every Serb young man who is killed, Serb mothers must give birth to one hundred soldiers” (Rada Trajkovic);
- The Cult of heroic mothers and the militarist colonization of women: they should give birth for the salvation of the fatherland;
- Giving birth defends national territory: “We have to preserve our territories and holy lands (Kosovo and Sandzak). If we continue this way, the emptied space will be filled with Albanians and Muslims;"
Measures that the SPC resorts to ease the “reproductive tragedy and reproductive Holocaust” include:
- “Medals for fertile mothers” – for women who give birth to four or more children;
- Reproductive tourism: to increase the birthrate, importing Orthodox Ukrainian women has been suggested.

The misuse of the right to conscientious objection

After October 5th 2000, the SPC has called for the introduction of “conscientious objection for Christians in the workplace,” a call for doctors and medical staff to not perform abortions. The Holy Synod particularly after 2000 has demanded that “Communion be forbidden to doctors and midwives who perform abortions until they repent.”

New maternal-patriotic mobilization:

An academic from SANU (Mladenovic) with a great deal of support from the SPC, Ministry of Religion, and Ministry of the Diaspora of the Republic of Serbia, a good part of the media, nationalistic demographists, and scientists, suggested:

  • limiting the right to abortion (which he calls “womb infant killing”), banning women’s right to decide – a doctors’ commission and the women’s husband should decide instead; it is interesting that private clinics can perform abortion with “respect to law regulations!”;
  • introducing a special tax for single men and married couples without children. The tax rate would depend on incomes; the tax could also be imposed on married couples with one child if their income is high.

It is completely irrelevant to the authors of these projects if their suggestions are implemented or not. The most important thing is that they are given space to promote cultural models and opinions that degrade and accuse women and turn the whole population into hostages of medieval thinking.


Activism against Fundamentalist Trends and Practices

Since the beginning of their work in 1991, Women in Black have campaigned against all forms of fundamentalism, especially forms dominant in Serbia. We have done this in the following ways:

- Through street actions: by organizing street protests, sometimes even in front of the SPC government;
- By initiating actions against racist population politics proposals;
- By lobbying other non-governmental organizations against the introduction of religion in state schools. This did not succeed; the responsibility for this mostly lies with civil society which, for reasons such as not wishing to offend the SPC, did not show enough resoluteness. In the case of the Minister of Education of Serbia’s proposal in September 2004 that Darwin’s theory of evolution be banned from schoolbooks, Women in Black initiated a huge campaign which was joined, in just one day, by around one-hundred nongovernmental organizations. Due in large part to this pressure, the Minister had to resign;
- By continuous educational work with women across the whole country, especially on the issues of reproductive and sexual rights, a feminist approach to demographic politics, and fundamentalism. This also includes the publication of feminist educational materials;
- By widening the Network of women’s solidarity against all forms of fundamentalism, both regionally and internationally.

What are other responses and alternatives?

- We should permanently oppose theocratization of the state and demand its secular character – the separation of church and state. This means that religious communities should not interfere in state affairs and religious community representatives cannot comment on state affairs as church officials, but solely as private citizens. For example, Bishop Amfilohije has the right to speak out about public and state affairs exclusively as a citizen and not as a church official, although he constantly does this, violating the secular character of the state. In addition, religious communities must not influence the formation of educational programs, state schools and public services; they must be protected from infiltration by religious groups. Religion should be organized exclusively in religious institutions;
- Permanent insistence on the secular character of society: state affairs must not be arranged in concordance with religious principles. Religion is a private matter of every person; it is inappropriate to emphasize one’s own religiosity in the public sphere or consider it an advantage, as is the case today in Serbia concerning believers of the majority nation.
- Strengthen global women’s networks against fundamentalism, mutually supportive and solidarity coalitions beyond all state, ethnic, religious divisions and borders. Women in Black has been active since its beginning in these networks, primarily the global anti-fundamentalist networks Women Living Under Muslim Laws and Women against Fundamentalism. The idea and practice of feminist solidarity means joint work against all forms of oppression, and exclusion, in short – fascism.

- Clear identification of fundamentalist strategies: there are various responses to the politics of exclusion and repression. These responses can come from the extreme rightwing, or the leftwing. We must not confuse diversity (as choice) with diversity (as supposedly authentic cultural traditions) as something imposed and homogenous. For example, female genital mutilation, and other oppressive practices against women, cannot be justified in the name of the false right to choose. It is necessary to demystify this approach to the issue of cultural differences and particularities. As our sisters from WLUML would say, “We must never forget that ‘difference’ can also be misused by the forces of the extreme right, from Nazism to apartheid, from the protestant southern fundamentalists in the USA to Islamic fundamentalists, because they are exclusively about anti-women practices and ideologies. If we do not name this properly, we are walking the thin line above an abyss that fundamentalists are opening under our feet;” therefore, it is necessary to unmask the misuse of the human rights discourse that fundamentalists employ, hoping to gain international support;
- To unmask fundamentalist mechanisms as well: In addition to falsely representing themselves as keepers of faith and tradition, Marie-Aimée Hélie-Lucas warns us that fundamentalists now want to “represent themselves as protectors of the poor against the rich, as the Third World against the West, and as people’s movements against capitalism. Their only target is the internal democratic opposition and those who oppose their theocratic projects to control of all aspects of society in the name of religion, including the educational system, and legislation. When fundamentalists come to power they silence and physically eliminate opponents – just as fascists do. As fascists, fundamentalists psychologically and physically eliminate the ‘inferior’— people who are ethnically and religiously different, homosexual, and lesbian. Women are closed-up ‘where they belong’ – in straightjackets. It is not about the clash of civilizations, as Bush and bin Laden are trying to persuade us. In today’s world it is about the clash between fascists and antifascists – across all state, ethnic and religious borders.”