The shadow of scandal at the top of the Islamic Community of Kosova
by Illyria Staff
Did Kosova "mufti" Naim Tërnava plagiarize his academic degree at the American Open University of Cairo in Egypt? Serious charges by the Center for Islamic Pluralism (CIP) against the man who allegedly changed the constitution of the Islamic Community of Kosova (BIK) to help him remain chairman for life.
The Center for Islamic Pluralism (CIP) has accused the "grand mufti" of Kosova, Naim Tërnava, of plagiarizing his thesis for which he received a master's degree.
According to a statement from CIP, an international network that includes in its ranks a number of prominent Muslims, among them scholars, clerics, authors, journalists, Sufi sheikhs, etc., the submission of a fraudulent thesis makes Naim Tërnava unfit to lead the Islamic Community of Kosova.
This serious accusation comes at a sensitive time for the BIK. The organization has just amended its constitution to allow re-election for a third term as "grand mufti." Critics suspect that this act is preparing the way for Naim Tërnava to become a kind of eternal BIK leader.
Sources at the newspaper Illyria say CIP has long been aware of the allegations regarding "chief mufti" Tërnava's scholarly credentials, but, however, has not had the time or the opportunity to verify them and preferred not to create instability in the religious life of Kosovar society. Trying to make a kind of "mufti for life" out of Tërnava seems to have changed the position of CIP.
An assessment of the value of Tërnava's master's degree seems to have been done by a number of scholars educated in Arabic. The study was written for the American Open University of Cairo in 2003. The thesis title was "Muslim Aqida [Creed] and Its Effect on the Individual and the Nation." The thesis supervisor was Rashad Muhammad Abd Al-Aziz Dehemesh, from the Al-Azhar School of Arabic and Islamic Studies.
It seems that the text presented by Tërnava took many parts from a dissertation by another Islamic scholar, Dr. Zija Abdullah, entitled "The Effect of Muslim Aqida in Guiding Behavior," presented at Zaytuna University in Tunisia in 1997-1998.
When researchers' works incorporate previously-existing academic efforts they should be cited properly and not be sold as the product of a new author. For such serious lapses schools around the world can remove titles and scientific degrees. Usually, when this happens to them prominent figures resign from their employment to avoid problems or representation of the governing institution.
If the charges are fundamentally true, the "mufti" of Kosova should probably do the same, though resignations are rare in the Albanian lands in the Balkans.
To further aggravate the situation, it seems that Dr. Zija Abdullah appealed to the Kosova authorities regarding theft of his intellectual property.
The Center for Islamic Pluralism concluded that Naim Tërnava has led the BIK through false manipulation of values.
It is not known how this might affect the BIK electoral process. The only official and known opponent of Tërnava, Dr. Xhabir Hamiti, was expelled from the organization after he defied the "grand mufti" at the beginning of the election process.
In recent years Tërnava has been denounced from many directions. Among the most radicalized Muslims, he has lacked leadership capacity on subjects such as headscarves for girls in public schools and the proposed new mosque in the capital. However, on the other hand, he is chastised for having allowed radical currents, during his administration, to sit comfortably and securely in Kosova, poisoning the Albanian tradition of religious coexistence.
Tërnava has been criticized severely for tolerating clerics who preached radicalism and disruption while he spared no effort against imams that dared to question the management of BIK.
Another charge involves Tërnava's political character. He is seen as very close to Kosova prime minister Hashim Thaçi and his Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK).
The "mufti" himself has denied all previous charges but has not yet offered any response to the allegation of plagiarism.
Note: The content of external articles does not necessarily reflect the views of Center for Islamic Pluralism.