Study says Kosova Islamic community funded by group linked to terrorism
by Artan M. Haraqija and Visar Duriqi
The cable of the US Embassy to Shkup [Skopje], reference number 09Skopje95, which was sent to Washington by Ambassador Philip Reeker, in the part entitled, "International Terrorism, reads:
"In Macedonia and the region, there are NGOs that offer support to individuals who belong or support terrorist groups. Among these NGOs are Al Waqf Al Islami, Al Haramein, Charity [Bamiresia in Albanian], and so on."
The head of this organization in Kosova is the Arab doctor, Abdur Rozzaq, whereas a simple search on the internet shows that one of its main leaders, Ahmad al Hussain, from Eindhoven, Netherlands, where this organization was created, was one of the 20 biggest Arab businessmen who funded the largest terrorist organization in the world, Al-Qa'idah. This is stated in the report of the US company, JCB Consulting, which was hired by the victims of the 11 September attacks in the United States to find those who financed this organization, which was led until recently by Usamah Bin-Ladin. This is stated in the blog of "freerepublic," which quotes the JCB Consulting report, adding that the list of the names of the backers of Al-Qa'idah was drawn up by Usamah Bin-Ladin's organization. This list was found during the raid of the charity organization, Benevolence International Foundation, which is based in Sarajevo. These raids were carried out by the police of Bosnia-Hercegovina in 2002 in cooperation with the FBI.
On the other hand, the leader of Al Waqf Al Islami for Bulgaria was arrested in the village of Sarnitsa near the southern town of Pazardzhik in th[at] country two years ago on suspicion that the activities of this organization were "a serious threat to the security of Bulgaria."
What Mosques Al Waqf Al Islami Is Funding
This Arab organization has supported Salafi mosques across the world, which is not compatible with the teaching of Islam that is practiced in Kosova. According to the cable of the US Embassy in The Hague, reference number 05THEHAGUE2705, which was sent to the Department of State by Ambassador Blakeman, there are six Salafi mosques that are under monitoring by the Dutch security services. According to the cable, these mosques are monitored because of their role in the radicalization and recruitment of Muslims, whereas three of these mosques, al Fourqan, al Mouhadine, and the Foundation for Islamic Youth, are linked to the Saudi organization, Al Waqf Al Islami.
This organization's branch in Kosova receives regular requests from the BIK President to build new mosques and to refurbish the damaged ones. One of them is the mosque in the village of Bajcine near Podujeve, for which purpose Al Waqf Al Islami has transferred 20,000 euros into the BIK accounts in Prishtina.
The transfer of this amount has been officially confirmed by BIK representatives, but they do not believe that this organization is what the Kosova state bodies suspect it to be.
But, the story does not end here because the imam who will be heading the mosque in Bajcine is considered by some other BIK imams as a person who does not promote the Hanefi school of Islam or the traditional Islam in Kosova. His name is Fadil Sogojeva and he is currently the imam of the mosque in Bregu i Diellit [Prishtina neighbourhood].
The head of the BIK in Podujeve, Idriz Bilalli, has suspended the work on the construction of the mosque in Bajcine primarily because of suspicions that the mosque will be used to promote a radical religious agenda.
"In my view, he (Fadil Sogojeva) practices and preaches Islam, but not in accordance with the Hanafi school of Islam. This causes confusion and divisions. He also holds regular meetings in Podujeve with believers who are known for their views different from the ordinary believers. These people often promote destructive view in mosques," Bilalli said.
But, the BIK head has eliminated the obstacle to receiving money from Al Waqf Al Islami by suspending the person who has stopped the work on the mosque in Bajcine without any authority to take such a decision. The reason for his suspension was that Imam Idriz Bilalli was one of the initiators of the creation of the BIK workers union.
Our efforts to interview anyone from Al Waqf Al Islami have failed. After the first visit to its offices, a member of staff took the telephone number of the QKGH and promised to phone back to arrange a meeting. Our efforts over the phone to arrange an interview were without success. When we phoned the number given to us to arrange an interview, we were told several times that "this is not the telephone number of Al Waqf Al Islami."
Al Waqf Al Islami's suspicious links around the world could be the reason that it is not registered as an organization in Kosova. The QKGH has obtained from the Public Administration Ministry the list of all nongovernmental organizations that operate legally in Kosova and it does not include this Arab organization. In fact, the name Al Waqf Al Islami is hidden as "physical person" in the registration certificate of the Meka policlinic in Prishtina, which has been licensed by the Public Administration Ministry to conduct medical and construction business activity.
Sogojeva: I Am Not a Radical, but Follower of True Islam
After the lunchtime prayer in his mosque in Bregu i Diellit, Sogojeva usually continues conversation for a while longer with the congregation as he remains in a praying position on his knees. He interrupted the conversation when the QKGH entered the mosque without announcement and stood up to speak to us.
Sitting on his armchair in the prayer room, Sogojeva started to talk, which immediately reminded us of the AKI's description of him as "excellent orator."
"Are you, too, afraid of my beard?" he asked sarcastically, implying that he knew the reason that we had chosen him to conduct this conversation.
"When I used to study in Riyadh, Arabs used to say, 'look at that Hanafi' (Islamic school that is practiced in Kosova), whereas here, they say, 'watch out for this Salafi (school of Islam that is practiced in Saudi Arabia),' but I am neither a radical nor a moderate, but one who has studied shariah or the Islamic jurisprudence," Sogojeva said, claiming that he knows Islam accurately. He said that, in Kosova, he practiced the Hanafi school.
He said that, before, Albanian women would not enter the room to speak to strangers without permission from their husbands, adding, "I never shake hands with a woman, but I do not force others not to do that."
"This is the official page of Imam Fadil Sogojeva and you can ask different questions that interest you and you will receive an answer from him," reads at the top of the official group page on the social network, Facebook. Answers are broadcast on the imam's official channel on YouTube, whereas one of the questions is whether "Muslim sisters can wear sandals without socks."
The imam's reply is that feet, which also trigger emotions, should not be revealed, that is, women should not wear sandals without socks.
The imam, whom his BIK colleagues accuse of harbouring radical religious views, rejects the idea that Albanians should practice religions as he knows and studied it.
"I know the tradition of my people and I do not want to change it by force," he said, adding however that time is needed to change people.
"I am not in favour of any changes now, but, in time, after having worked with the congregation to explain the religion to them. Albanian Muslims in Kosova are in the first grade now and any attempt to change them by force would be counterproductive," Sogojeva said. "The Islamic religion is embodied in the human life, otherwise it is not worth living."
"I have never been at the Al Waqf Al Islami offices to ask for money for the construction of the mosque in Bajcine. The BIK Presidency did it." Sogojeva said this not because he thinks that it is wrong to accept money from an organization that is suspected of links with Al-Qa'idah.
"To build a mosque, I would accept donations even from Jews and Christians, as I do not see any problem there," he said.
BIK - Regular Cooperation With Al Waqf Al Islami
"Do not tell us about those things, tell the state," is the official reaction of the BIK when asked about this bank transfer and the Al Waqf Al Islami organization. Ahmet Sadriu, head of the media and publishing department at the BIK, admits that they have cooperation with this organization and that the transfer has taken place, but is surprised by other information.
"We have cooperation with Al Waqf Al Islami. Its director Abdurezak has paid the funds, which were later transferred to the BIK Council in Podujeve. I do not know about terrorist links. That is a matter for the state. You know that there are hundreds of organizations here - both from the East and from the West," Sadriu said, "Many construction and refurbishment projects have been carried out with the help of this organization."
There have been many allegations of cooperation between the BIK and especially its leader, Naim Ternava, with extremist religious organizations. The most recent direct accusation against Ternava of tolerating radical factions has come from the US journalist, Stephen Schwartz, who said in a message to the QKGH that, even though the BIK head denies to have anything to do with radical factions, his behaviour does not allow for a different explanation other than he is under the influence of radicals.
Schwartz believes that there are three arguments that support his theory about Ternava's links with radical factions, among which he lists the tolerance of provocations by radicals.
In Kosova, there have been cases of physical attacks on imams known for their liberal views. Among them was the imam of the mosque in Zabel, Osman Musliu, who has spoken many times about the danger of Wahhabism in Kosova, which he believes was the reason for him being severely beaten. Musliu said that those who attacked him several years ago were Islamic radicals, against whom the BIK Presidency has not taken any measures.
"I strongly suspect that Wahhabism and extremism, which some imams hesitate to qualify as such, include some psychopaths who want to destroy the BIK. It is not just the BIK, as these people want to cause problems at the national level, the imam of Zabel told Kosova Sot in 2009.
Since then, this imam, who says that he also took part in the burial of the Jashari family, which was killed by Serbian forces, has not changed his view.
The BIK says that the criticism by Stephen Schwartz, whom it considers a scholar and a friend, is unfounded and untrue, whereas as for the imams who have been making accusations, the BIK leaders call them "individuals who do not represent anyone but their exaggerated ambitions and selfish careerist goals."
In fact, the BIK imams who have been opposing religious factions that they consider to be against the traditional Islam in Kosova also remember with nostalgia the time when Rexhep Boja was Mufti [head of BIK]. Some of them recall that, when Boja headed the BIK, Imam Mazllam Mazllami, one of the imams known for his radical views, was expelled from the BIK for insubordination, but he has been reinstated since Naim Ternava became the BIK head.
Ahmet Sadriu from the BIK media office said that Ternava, too, took part in taking the decision to expel Mazllami.
Note: The content of external articles does not necessarily reflect the views of Center for Islamic Pluralism.