Albania, 05.15.2017: Europe’s only Muslim majority country has become Jihadi Islam’s safehouse and springboard into the EU. Hence, it comes as no surprise that Albanian athletes participated this year for the first time in Islamic Solidarity Games (organized under the auspices of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation [OIC]), which took place in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, last month. It is the first time that athletes from Albania competed in the games, which involve athletes from member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) following a decision by the National Olympic Committee of Albania, KOKSH. Furthermore, the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Sports of Albania approved this year’s participation by Albanian athletes, which highlights the power of Islamic agenda on the Albanian government. This information was reported on the relatively reputable Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) website, seen in the article below.
This story is one rare outward sign of the deep Third World penetration of Albania, a land of hundreds of radical mosques erected in the last 26 years, in an ongoing radicalization process at work since 1991, from the time of the fall of the hardline Albanian Communist government. Already in 1992, the then secular Albanian president Sali Berisha took Albania into the OIC by a presidential decree. Let us keep in mind that OIC was founded in 1969 in response to the Al-Aqsa Mosque fire in Jerusalem, which the Muslim world blamed on the Israeli authorities. So, OIC was founded at the peak of an anti-Western and antisemitic fervor outburst worldwide. It is not the kind of organization that one would expect a fresh NATO member state aspiring for EU membership to join and maintain a membership in. Taking a closer look at the evolving conditions in Albania is warranted in the light of this.
Once upon a time in the centuries before the onset of modernity, Albania was a rough rural land of brigands and mostly tribal warriors with no clear political loyalties, even as far as the imperial Turkish government in charge of the Balkans was concerned. Still, 90% of the population of the rugged mountainous country of Albania was praying towards Mecca. The tradition of warlike behavior subsided after the Communist ideology inspired partisan movement of Albania brought very crude modernization to hilly Albania using the initial Yugoslav know-how and other help (a task which the Soviet Union inherited after Albania and Yugoslavia became enemies in 1948). Fast forward 45 years, and you get the dissolution of Albanian state-run economy and the collapse of a dumbed-down atheist society, which was immediately exploited by Islamists (for whom money is never a problem) and their financiers, just as has happened in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.
According to recent research by institutes of political science, some hundreds of Albanian citizens have joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The Albanian state has consistently failed to address the need for a greater level of state intervention to impede Islamist causes. Moreover, it is difficult to empirically assess and demonstrate the effect of such an intervention in particular policy areas because of the pervasiveness of the influence of Islamic attitudes in Albanian society and across social sectors. The problem of violent extremism in Albania did not begin with the emergence of ISIS and its recruitment of Albanian citizens as fighters because radicalization was already taking place in Albania for years, long before ISIS. However, the adoption of radical views by a large number of Albanian Muslims within a relatively short period of time cannot be attributed to the officially secular Albanian government policy failures.
The type of government in Albania is not based on any driving core democratic concept, but instead on the green and black banners of Islam. The state of Albania has evolved over the last 25 years to the point of becoming a corrupt structure of opportunity for the advancement of the ideology of a Muslim Cosa Nostra with the attendant extremist solutions for obstacles facing the expansion of Islam. How can NATO progress as an organization in charge of the defense of the old heartland of the Western Civilization when it admits new members who neither originate in the world of Western values nor hold its history dear?
In the Albanian constitution adopted in 1998, a notable conceptual development was the removal of the explicit reference to ‘secularism’ made in the Provisional Constitution of 1993, in favor of the concept of an alleged religious neutrality. The drafting of the 1998 Constitution involved religious actors, and their role played a part in the shift from secularism to neutrality (a thin cover for a government policy move in favor of Islam). The unconstrained involvement of powerful Middle East actors in the Albanian religious market led to the development of opportunity for radical Islam that put traditional ethnic Albanian village Islam under pressure to adapt. This led, among other things, to the establishment of local Salafi and Wahabi groups. The two outcomes of this period that have gone unnoticed are the Arabization of Albanian Islam as well as shifting away from the Albanian Islamic tradition, which used to merge national and religious aspects in favor of ethnic national identity, toward an Islam preoccupied with politics of religious identity in the service of the vaunted rallying cry of “Ummah” (denotes a transnational Islamic unity idea).
The keys to this open door policy for the politics of green and black banners of Islam have been the agreements between the Albanian government and the Muslim Community of Albania (MCA) over the years, which shows an evolution of ever closer cooperation and creeping islamization. According to the statute of the Muslim Community of Albania: “MCA has a duty to instill a love for the Islamic religion, the fatherland, and the whole Albanian nation.” Then, in 2005, the same clause was amended and expanded to: “MCA has a religious and charitable purpose.
An object of its activity is to propagate, awaken and strengthen the Islamic faith among Muslim believers, to protect the dignity, rights, and interests of Muslims, and to enhance and develop a sense of love and loyalty for the homeland and the people of Albania.” Also in 2005, the introduction of Arabic as the only liturgical language to be used during MCA religious services was stipulated. To mishandle even more all of this, the Albanian government created a feeble ministry for religious affairs, called “State Committee on Cults” (SCC) which has no practical power in the country. It is a token gesture to placate the West and make the Albanian state seem secular in orientation. The dangerous MCA is organized at both the central and the local governmental levels, while the SCC has no local presence. MCA is allowed to hold a privileged status by virtue of the volume and content of agreements it has made with the Albanian state over the years, agreements which impose no consequences on MCA for non-compliance, such as failing to report extremist activity in the country’s mosques. MCA has failed to prevent the radicalization of Albanian Muslims, including also the Muslim clerics. In 2016, the MCA admitted that some 200 mosques in Albania were outside its control! There is also almost no way to know whether these reclusive mosques dotting the rugged landscape (referred to as “jamaats” or assemblies) are truly outside MCA’s control. Recent research on foreign fighters has revealed that some have been radicalized by courses they took in mosques in Tirana.
Let it also be known that in 1997 there was a large scale breakdown of law and order in Albania following the collapse of state-supported pyramid investment schemes that robbed Albanians of their last savings triggering massive public protests across Albania, forcing down a government. This was exploited by the infamous worldwide Albanian mafia with its links to the neighboring Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a partnership that grew out of this Albanian economic downfall. Back in 1997, violent protests led to the ransacking of hundreds of Albanian military and police storage facilities across the country, and, according to US intelligence, well over 100,000 weapons are believed to have been stolen over the course of a few months.
These weapons were used to stir up trouble in the Serbian province of Kosovo in 1998, leading to NATO intervention there, and some weapons even found their way into the hands of terrorist organizations, including Western European sleeper cells (this according to the research by Western journalists Christian Oliver and Duncan Robinson). Furthermore, (according to research conducted by Natasha Srdoc, lead analyst for Croatia’s reputable Adriatic Institute for Public Policy) regional networks have been developing for years out of these criminal and political nexuses, especially in the tri-border area of Albania, Kosovo, and Macedonia, that are directly tied to operational developments of militant Islamist cells in the UK, where they dominate in heroin smuggling and other types of drug and human trafficking. There is a major drug trafficking boom going on in Albania and Kosovo, which furthers social volatility and helps not only finance jihadi causes but also supplies losers who become a fresh crop of radicals for radical Muslim causes.
In the 1990’s, after Albanians woke up from decades of oppressive Stalinist state atheism policies, the Arab world’s extremists saw an opportunity in Albania where a shared but suppressed Muslim religious identity was seized upon as an opportunity to sow the seeds for future operations and to maintain their newfound position in a country that can be a gateway to Western Europe, itself the target of a new global Hijra movement (the movement of conquest by emigration). Again, the key event of this early period was Albania’s membership in the Organization of the Islamic Conference that facilitated cross-pollination with Muslim factions. In 1994, the Arab-Albanian Islamic Bank was established to oversee the construction of new mosques and to grant scholarships to Albanian students to study in the Middle East.
And on top of the significant amount of external investment and aid that was focused on religious structures, the then-newly elected government of Sali Berisha also sought to take advantage of this shared Islamic identity to acquire much-needed resources and economic investments in the country at large. Within a year of his administration taking office in 1992, Berisha signed a military agreement with Turkey, enabling a strategic line stretching from Istanbul to Sarajevo to be formed – that many extremists later used to pass into the Balkans during the wars of the 1990s, growing in number both in Kosovo and in Bosnia where local wars against Christians were fought. After the wars on the territory of former Yugoslavia ceased, Albania received an influx of battlefield jihadis in transit seeking safe heavens to establish themselves in the Albanian country for the long haul, away from all attention by NATO troops on the ground in Bosnia. According to several accounts, even Osama Bin Laden was the majority stockholder of the Arab-Albanian Islamic Bank as one of its founders. He reportedly visited Albania twice between 1994 and 1998, ostensibly as a wealthy businessman seeking to help a fellow Muslim nation through “humanitarian support” (the favorite cover under which Moslem activism is conducted).
Moreover, Bin Laden founded in Saudi Arabia “Al Haramain,” a “humanitarian organization” that was later exposed as a front for money laundering and a host for mujahideen/Arab extremists on the run from various governments. This organization maintains a major branch in Albania to this day. To illustrate how dangerous it is, let it be known that Al-Haramain funded and supported a well-documented Bosnian mujahideen battalion in Zenica, Bosnia, which used to sponsor public soccer games in which severed Christian heads were used instead of soccer balls. And yet, there is always the unpredictable element of Albanian immigrants abroad flipping suddenly, converting at the drop of a hat from being secular in outward appearance to becoming radicalized jihadi activists – with many such cases reported in Albania by the criminal police that arrested some of them, including those on the team that planned to slaughter the Israeli athletes and their fans last year in Skadar, Albania.
Albania’s Participation in Islamic Games Causes Dissent
Albanian athletes will be competing in May for the first time in the games organised under the auspices of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation – but some Albanians say a secular European country has no place in such an event.
Albanian athletes will be participating for the first time in this year’s Islamic Solidarity Games, which take place Baku in Azerbaijan in May.
It is the first time that athletes from the country will be competing in the games, which involve athletes from member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, OIC, following a decision by the National Olympic Committee of Albania, KOKSH.
While most people in Albania are Muslim, many Albanians also believe that as a secular European state that aims to join the EU, membership of such an organisation is not appropriate.
Paskal Milo [who is not Albanian by heritage], a historian, politician and former foreign minister, told BIRN that he also disagreed with Albania’s involvement in the activities of the OIC.
He believes that while Albania should respect Islamic countries and collaborate bilaterally on certain issues, it should not be done under the umbrella of an overtly Islamic organisation.
“I have always believed that the decision to participate in the OIC is one of the worst ones that Albania took since the fall of communism,” he said.
“Every action that includes Albania further in the organisation sends a wrong message to our European and American allies and partners, putting in doubt our affiliation and European orientation,” he concluded.
Albanian athletes will be competing in seven of the 22 sporting categories of the games in Baku – the fourth such event to take place following the first one held in 2005 in Saudi Arabia.
“We have the approval of the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Sports,” Stavri Bello, general secretary of KOKSH, told Top Channel TV on Monday.
“We are going to send our athletes there to contribute to collaboration between nations,” he added.
Albanian President Sali Berisha took Albania into the OIC by presidential decree in 1992 but the issue remains controversial among politicians and most of the country’s intellectuals.
The organisation founded in 1969, which calls itself the “collective voice of Muslim world”, comprises some 57 countries with an overwhelmingly Muslim population.
Piro Misha, a prominent researcher on nationalism and culture, told BIRN that Albania’s membership of the organisation went against the country’s constitution, its secular values and the idea of religious coexistence [Albania has large Catholic and Orthodox Christian minorities].
“I see the participation of Albanian athletes in these games as completely inappropriate; I don’t understand why this invitation was accepted,” he said.
He also believes that Albania’s membership of the OIC is not wholly valid, as MPs never voted on the issue.
“We never voted on this [presidential] decree in parliament and a country cannot be a member of an organisation of this kind and assume responsibilities if parliament didn’t vote on accession,” he said.
“I see Albania acting as a schizophrenic state since some of the decisions that this organisation takes are against our Western aspirations,” he concluded.
Albanian demonstrators in favor of Nazism in 1940.
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