The Kosovar Self-Determination Movement [Lëvizja Vetëvendosje!] Shuns Me For Opposing Radical Islam
The flag of the Albanian nation.
The American journalist Stephen Sylejman Schwartz, who is among the most pro-Albanian Americans, points out that he assisted Lëvizja Vetëvendosje! [LVV – the Self-Determination movement] founded as a party by the Albanian intellectual, Albin Kurti, from its beginning, but "comrades" from the party now have turned their backs on him.
Stephen Sylejman Schwartz with an image from the classic Albanian "Marubi" archive -- Photograph by Visar Duriqi, 2014.
"Perhaps they are concerned to cease being associated with the campaign I and my colleagues wage against radical Islam," Schwartz says in an interview with Express.
Express: How did you support the Self-Determination movement in its infancy?
S. Schwartz: Since I and my colleagues encountered Lëvizja Vetëvendosje! in 2006, I have supported the movement, Albin Kurti, their program, and their outlook by publishing numerous articles in mainstream American as well as Albanian-American media. I have participated in and reported on their demonstrations and other events. I have criticized UNMIK and EULEX along the lines they proposed. I have even given a presentation to their members on Islam. I know of nobody else from or in the U.S., outside the Albanian-American community, who assisted them similarly.
Express: Why did you decide to support this group?
S. Schwartz: We were enthusiastic about Lëvizja Vetëvendosje! because we agreed with its criticism of what we call the "international humanitarian mafia" and their role in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Kosova. We saw a parallel between the powerlessness imposed on local citizens in the two countries by foreign meddlers and hoped to see such a movement against outside interference emerge in Bosnia as in Kosova.
Express: Did the leaders of Self-Determination contact you when they came to America [in 2013]?
S. Schwartz: LVV representatives came to America without consulting us.
Express: If not, what do you think was their motivation?
S. Schwartz: I believe LVV has become intoxicated with a sense of its supposed ideological comprehension of every topic and does not believe it is necessary to ask advice from those who could have provided them with serious assistance in the U.S.
Express: If they had contacted you, what would you have done to help them and who would you have arranged for them to meet?
S. Schwartz: LVV could have met in America with representatives of the White House, the Republican opposition that supports Kosova, exemplified by Senator John McCain, and leading media. They had no impact with any of these factors. Instead they indulged in chit-chat with Daniel Serwer, whose influence in the U.S. is marginal and negative, and participated in events of a kind that are held constantly in America, and are ignored just as consistently.
Express: What is your current relationship with LVV, which you embraced openly?
S. Schwartz: They do not reply to my e-mails. That is a situation that contrasts strongly with our past relations, and which I consider, and any person in my situation would consider, expressive of distance or alienation.
Express: Why do you think they decline to meet with you now?
S. Schwartz: Since they seem to consider it unimportant to contact me I have no idea. Perhaps they are all occupied with their political duties. Perhaps they are concerned to cease being associated with the campaign I and my colleagues wage against radical Islam. Perhaps they are disaffected with our policy of openness toward all the mainstream political forces in Kosova, including the PDK, AAK, and LDK, as well as LVV, that oppose radical Islam.
Express: What do you think is the future of this movement and do you think that in time it can lead the Kosova government?
S. Schwartz: LVV continues to enjoy great credibility, and Albin Kurti maintains considerable personal prestige, among ordinary Kosovars. If they remain stable and do not succumb to egoism, they may gain greater support and even exercise greater political responsibilities. But they should learn to rationalize their work and cease to depend on day-to-day improvisation.
Express: How do you analyze the situation of radical Islam in Kosova?
S. Schwartz: I do not perceive radical Islam making considerable gains among ordinary Kosovar Muslims. Radicalism has its "hostages," such as Naim ef. Tërnava [chief Islamic cleric in the republic]. But it is clear that the wearers of "beards and veils" are not expanding their area of influence.
Express: Who do you think supports radical Islam in Kosova?
S. Schwartz: I believe there is disillusionment with the established parties that influences some young people, for whom Islamist radicalism is a fad. But I think that like other fads it is doomed to disappear.
Express: Are there Wahhabis in Kosova, how many are there and what positions do they occupy in the Islamic Community of Kosova [BIK]?
S. Schwartz: I consider Wahhabism and the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood to represent a serious problem in Kosova, above all because of the predilection of their adherents toward violence against moderate, traditional, spiritual, and even conservative (but not radical) Muslims. Yet I do not believe anybody is intimidated by this violence, even those who have been its victims. Unfortunately, the radicals have seized command of the BIK, but a valiant resistance to these intrigues has emerged and is gaining strength.
Express: Who supports Wahhabis in Kosova and how is it done?
S. Schwartz: We believe the main support for Wahhabism throughout the world originates with certain institutions and individuals in the Saudi kingdom, but we do not believe the Wahhabi global da'wa is now financed by the Saudi state or even the official Saudi ulema. We also perceive, however, assistance to Wahhabi infiltration by Belgrade, supporting a Russian-style strategy to divide the Albanian and other Muslims who resist Orthodox imperialism, as we have seen in Macedonia, the Sandžak [of Novipazar, in western Serbia], and the Caucasus.
Express: Kosova has arrested six young Kosovar Albanians as terrorist suspects? What would you say about this?
S. Schwartz: Radical Islam represents a major threat to the future of the Albanian nation, in Kosova, Macedonia, south Serbia, and the Sandžak, comparable to chetnik [Serbian irregular] terrorism. The chetniks wish to kill Albanians physically, but the Islamists wish to destroy them spiritually.
Express: Do you expect more instances of this kind?
S. Schwartz: No, we believe that radical Islam is in decline, in Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Islamist regime in Turkey is in crisis. The failed "Arab Spring" has discredited Islamist ideology. Radical Islam remains strong in failed states like Pakistan and Afghanistan, in Iraq, in marginal countries in Africa, and in the South Asian diaspora in Britain. Elsewhere it is weakening. While Sunni Muslims around the world are alarmed by the gross and extensive brutalities inflicted on the innocent Muslims of Syria by the non-Muslim Bashariyya, the cause of Syria has not excited the global will to fight that was seen during the anti-Russian war in Afghanistan or the anti-chetnik combat in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Express: How may the problem of radicalization of Islam in Kosova be resolved and Wahhabism kept under control?
S. Schwartz: The only solution to the problem of radical Islam is the triumph or restoration of moderate leadership of Muslim communities, whether in Muslim-majority countries or in Muslim-minority communities. Islam survived for 14 centuries without the interference of these mercenaries, vagabonds, and bandits. Islam will survive as long as Allah subhanawata'la wills its survival, based in mercy and compassion, but in its moderate, traditional, and even conservative (but not radical) forms.
[Shënim: Teksti në gjuhën shqipe i këtij neni është i arritshëm në http://www.islamicpluralism.org/2348/vetevendosje-po-me-injoron-per-shkak-se-jam.
Note: An Albanian-language text of this article is accessible at http://www.islamicpluralism.org/2348/vetevendosje-po-me-injoron-per-shkak-se-jam.]
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