It started in the summer of 1992 in Chicago. Muslims do not have a national federation representing Muslims, like the Muslim Council of Britain. Nonetheless, Imams and leaders of Chicago’s Muslim community gathered and decided to work towards ensuring that this became a top national issue. The way they could help was by ensuring that the American government’s policies led to saving lives in Bosnia. On their request, I had the honor of calling a conference call to organize the Bosnia Task Force, USA (BTF).
BTF was an alliance of ten organizations which included the following groups: the Ministry of Imam W Deen Mohammed, the Islamic Society of North America, the Islamic Circle of North America, the Bosnia Action Committee-Chicago, the Majlis Shura of New York, the Islamic Shura Council of Greater Los Angeles, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, the National Community and the Balkan Muslim Association.
BTF had four organizational components to it: the national leadership, the network of Masjids, its secretariat and its Chicago team. The national leadership established the legitimacy of the task force. It made basic decisions through conference calls without ever meeting face to face. However, these were 1,600 Masjids that provided the main point of communication and mobilization for BTF. There developed a small band of volunteers in Chicago who developed strategies and action plans.
In the first six months of the Task Force’s existence, its offices were located at ISNA’s headquarters in Indiana. Later, with their consent and on the insistence of the Muslim leadership in Chicago, which originally helped formed the coalition, the secretariat was set up. It consisted of a small desk, a computer, a fax machine and two phones in the basement office of Sound Vision in downtown Chicago. It was essentially the sprit of Muslim unity for the cause of Bosnia, which brought all Muslims to work together.
We developed a system of quickly informing the community throughout the US when action was needed. These were the days when emails were still limited in usage and the web was not yet available to the average person. Fax and phone networks therefore were the primary means of communication. Volunteers throughout the country would use them to send out copies of the weekly action alerts entitled, “Bosnia Update,” which would be distributed in their Masjids.
It would be wrong to claim much credit for Bosnia Task Force, USA since the work to stop genocide in Bosnia became a true grassroots movement in the Muslim community. Many people sacrificed their time and jobs to work tirelessly to stop genocide in Bosnia.
The work of the Bosnia Task Forces, USA came to a halt as the Dayton Accord was signed. Most Muslims and people of other faiths, like the Bosnians, believed that it was not just. However, the agreement did stop genocide at that time which was the main goal of BTF.