Kosova Still the Balkan Front Line Against Radical Islam
by Stephen Schwartz
Ramadani observed the Wahhabi invasion of Kosova in 2011, when Muslim extremists commenced public demonstrations in the capital, Prishtina. Of the believers summoned to march, many were reported to have been bused in from neighboring Macedonia. They demanded erection of a "mega-mosque" in Prishtina as a counter to a new Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to Mother Teresa.
He noted "the intentional misuse by certain people of the feelings and religious needs in Kosova." AAK considered the mass events "unacceptable," Ramadani declared. "Kosova long ago chose its own path and its orientation," he continued. "We are inclined toward NATO, Europe, and Western values, and this policy direction cannot be changed or deflected by [Islamists] or their aims. . . . Kosova and the Albanians are immovable in this respect and especially our commitment to Western values, in which the main emphasis is on development and reform, based in the promotion of equality and human rights. . . . We must not allow and will not allow anyone, for the sake of fraudulent interests and manipulating hateful rhetoric against all of us, to undermine the state of Kosova or the welfare and happiness of its citizens."
Ramadani concluded, "The Muslim believers demanding a new mosque cannot be allowed to monopolize our attention, since they held an event displaying the black terrorist flag in the middle of Prishtina. The waving of black flags is not part of the landscape of Kosova and does not reflect the attitudes of Kosovars. We must show that this is not the image of Kosova, and if we do not show that it is absent from the identity of Kosova, we will have failed in our patriotic mission. AAK calls on all Kosova citizens, and all who petition sincerely for a mosque, to distance themselves from those who try to exploit the religious sentiments of the people of Kosova for destructive ends, and not to allow themselves to become complicit in these abuses."
Ramadani argued boldly, "There is a need for revival of social pressure against those who seek to undermine the traditional nature of Kosova society," that is, those who would impose Islamist norms of behavior or doctrines.
The leading enabler of radical Islamists in Kosova, unfortunately, has been its chief Sunni cleric since 2003, Naim Tërnava, who has been sympathetic to Saudi Wahhabism and other Arab forms of Islamist ideology.
"I thought for about three seconds and said 'no'," Vishi told me. "I told them I was not concerned to become a 'big man' in the annals of the Kosova Islamic Community." So Vishi and his mentor, Musli Verbani, another dissenter from the commands of the man Kosova Islamic figures call "Sultan Naim Tërnava," were dropped from community ballots in the 2012 vote for the local Muslim apparatus. Two Wahhabis, Florim Neziraj and Sadullah Bajrami, who had never attended Islamic assemblies in the Kaçanik district, suddenly appeared and were designated as supreme religious officials for the region.
Konjufca said he now realized that attacking the Sufis was a first chapter in a long strategy to delegitimize the Albanian minority in Macedonia, and, by extension, Albanians thoughout the Balkans. "The Bektashis were outstanding among the creators of Albanian national identity in the 19th century," Konjufca said, referring to the Bektashi introduction of the first Albanian-language schools, in opposition to Ottoman authority. He concluded, "To undermine the unity of Albanians it makes sense to first attack the Bektashis." As elsewhere in the Balkans, ethnic rivals of established Muslim-majority communities are believed to be allied with Islamist radicals in sowing conflict within the moderate populace. For Serbs, there are too many Albanians. For Wahhabis, there are too many who are "not Muslim enough."
For ordinary Kosovar Albanians, the most obvious evidence of Arab-based intrigues in their community came in early December with explanation of a scheme for a "Central Mosque of Prishtina." Demanded by Islamists in the streets last year and endorsed by clerical "ruler" Tërnava, a Prishtina "mega-mosque" would accommodate commercial no less than spiritual needs. As sketched out by Tërnava's crew in offering the project for competitive bids by architects worldwide, the "Central Mosque" would include 80 shops and 900 parking spaces.
Related Topics: Albanian Muslims, Balkan Muslims, Bektashi Sufis, Bosnian Muslims, European Muslims, Muslim-Christian Relations, Sufism, Wahhabism, WahhabiWatch receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free center for islamic pluralism mailing list
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