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Edita Kuçi-Ukaj: Kosovo and the Threat of Terrorism

E diele, 09.11.2008, 02:14 PM

Kosovo and the Threat of Terrorism

By Edita Kuçi-Ukaj

The Albanians traditionally and even spiritually have resisted in a large measure the continuing foreign attempts to jeopardize the harmony of Albanian inter-religious relations. That is why they never joined religious extremist groups of any kind. However, after the liberation of Kosovo, some negative phenomena appeared that had never before been seen in the spiritual and psychological worlds of Albanian life (geographically, culturally and in its mentality Kosovo always felt it belonged to the West).

Some extreme phenomena are related to the influence of foreign organizations that flooded Kosovo with who-knows-what underlying missions and goals. Operating under a religious cover they caused spiritual deformations, which flourished because of our indifference and tolerance. We seem to accept everything among us now, be it bad or good.

Social degeneration hidden in religious garb and brought in by some of the numerous foreign organizations is best exemplified by the phenomena of Wahhabism – a radical Islamic sect embodying an extreme ideology of exterminating all those who think differently from their way.  This new segment in the Albanian culture introduces negative values into our national identity. Therefore it is regrettable that we remain silent about it.   Rational minds that really want to see development and wholesome progress in a Kosovo integrated into Western institutions should not stay quiet; they should use every possible means to fight these phenomena, which have nothing in common with the Albanian tradition.

The political, economic, and civilized future that we are looking forward to building for our country is a totally different reality. Therefore, we must act today, because tomorrow may be too late. Instead of keeping silent, we must talk and act to stop this growing phenomenon and denounce it as foreign to our world.

Albanian society, using its strongest mechanisms, should look for the best forms necessary to interrupt this propaganda which has nothing in common with traditional Albanian Islam.  Lost in the daily routine of their lives many Kosovar citizens fail to notice what is becoming part of their new reality, while someone looking from the outside immediately wonders if the main trend of our culture is changing course. How can something like this happen? Where are we headed? These questions call for urgent answers before the new phenomena escalate with negative effects in a wide dimension of the general social-cultural situation.

To an Albanian citizen who returns after a period of time to the motherland these phenomena look disturbing, complicated, and potentially dangerous.

I re-emphasize that these unfortunate phenomena appeared only after the war. I am talking about young males with longer beards and shorter pants, girls with their faces covered that identify themselves today as sympathizers of extremist groups involved in 'jihad.' They are usually simply influenced by propaganda or social-economic interests, but more often are naively unaware of what they are doing.

By no means would I want to insult anyone's religious feelings. However, we were always known for our dedication to the old motto "the religion of Albanians is the Albanian nation."  The problem emerges from this derivative sect of Islam known as Wahhabism.   

Several scholars have written about the ideology and behavior of this extremist stream, identifying the permanent potential dangers it represents to human society in general. For example, the publicist and author Stephen Schwartz (The Two Faces of Islam: Saudi Fundamentalism and Its Role on Terrorism) analyzes many problems related to this sect. From his viewpoint this is clearly an extremist movement founded under the pretext of 'reforming' Islam in the 18th century, in remote central Arabia.    Wahhabism continues to produce a dangerous movement on the global level, using a strategy based on suicidal terror to realize their interests.  Wahhabism considers the Shias to be non-Muslims and unworthy to live with only two choices in front of them, reform or expect to be fought.   This sect has always attacked the traditional and spiritual Islam prevailing in Turkey, Central Asia, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and in some parts of the Balkans.

Wahhabism and Neo-Wahhabism (coming from Egypt and Pakistan) inspire the biggest number of violent Muslim extremists in the world today. They represent an ultra-radical form of Islam whose promotion is sponsored reportedly by the regime of Saudi Arabia. Its influence is spread to Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. They violently attack nearly everyone: Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, non-Wahhabi Sunnis and Shia Muslims. This sect is present in the countries with terrorism problems, as the author I mentioned above emphasizes. For example the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas is representative of Wahhabism.

In his earlier book Kosovo: Background to a War**, Stephen Schwartz offered data showing how dangerous this sect was becoming in the Albanian lands and especially to Kosovo.

According to the 'Saudi Joint Relief Committee:' 

4,087,353 Saudi riyals were spent for Kosovo, half to sponsor religious propaganda;
388 Saudi missionaries traveled to Kosovo with the goal of converting Albanians to Wahhabism. 
From the rest of the money: 

581,250 riyals was spent to build 37 mosques
and 222,150 riyals were invested in two schools.
The strange fact that much more was spent for propaganda and mosques than for humanitarian goals should alarm us.

We know how Serbia has always endeavored to portray the Albanian struggle for liberty: as an Islamic holy war against Western Christianity.

Even the war waged by the Kosovo Liberation Army is portrayed by the Serbs as a religious war.

Hence their tendency to present their war in Kosovo as a war against terrorism, claiming that Albanians are a danger to every country where they live.

Some say that Serbia has even sponsored the Wahhabi missionaries in Kosovo to help them strengthen Islamic radicalism and destroy the Albanian inter-religious tolerance.

No one says outright that Albanian boys and girls who come under Wahhabi influence are subsidized in some way by Serbia. I do not believe this and many Albanians also do not. However, we must analyze the facts free from emotions and euphemisms. At least vigilance must never be absent when faced with this phenomenon. Recently, even [the writer Ismail] Kadare raised his voice about this danger threatening our nation.  If we do not fight this phenomenon we risk bringing on a future including terrorist attacks against cultural and economic centers, harming Western interests in Kosovo. These things are already happening in Turkey and some predict that soon the Balkans will see similar terrorist acts.

This threat may be real, considering that Wahhabism has brought suicide attacks to many

countries in the world.  Wherever this sect is present there is terrorism. Or a potential for the kind of terrorism that does not spare any means or method. 

Many political figures have already declared: if necessary preventive measures are not taken, destabilization is very likely in Kosovo and Albania.

We have been a very tolerant, civilized, and European people for a long time and therefore the West is popular among us. However, it seems we are trying to do the contrary now, distorting our identity, jeopardizing our future, and sabotaging our national

aspirations… We must hone our vigilance against people who work against our national interests.  All institutions beginning with the Islamic Community of Kosovo, the political parties, and public institutions, the entire social opinion should denounce decisively this phenomenon. We must react because it has not been part of our culture in the past and should not be part of it in the future.

We have an historical chance, maybe the last one, to integrate into the civilized western world. This is the aspiration that we have cherished for centuries.

It is the ideal for which we have sacrificed so much, even the lives of some of the best among our sons and daughters, and we must not allow that the blood that they shed go to waste. We have been very strong and we have outlived many of our enemies but we still need to fight, now with maturity, knowledge and standards to define a new future for the young generations and to make our old dreams come true.

* The author of this article has completed academic work in Peace and Conflict Studies and is now studying International Affairs in Malmo, Sweden.

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