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Jihadis At The Door: The Change of Identity In Kosovo


Kosovo 06.20.2017: The situation in the former Yugoslav and Serbian province of Kosovo is increasingly disconcerting to observers who detect a brewing toxic cocktail of local poverty, unemployment, dissatisfaction with the social and political conditions and radical Islamic activism. Arab Islamists are freely moving in from Albania and the Middle East, working from behind the scenes, banking on the fact of majority Muslim religious tradition of the Albanian population, a demographic which straddles five volatile Balkan countries (Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro) in two of which it is the absolute majority (while it is fast becoming the majority in two others). The 2015 and 2016 massive Muslim refugee inflow into Europe, which Germany and Turkey facilitated, has left its mark on Kosovo where the infamous local mafia has played its part in kidnappings and in the smuggling of some of the Muslim refugees in order to exploit cheaply their labor and recruit them for nefarious activities. Furthermore, some of these refugees were terrorists or terrorist sympathizers on a mission of Jihad in Europe. In addition, former members of the once-outlawed “Kosovo Liberation Army” (KLA) are now prominent refugee smugglers who traffic in people from their safe houses in Kosovo. A few years back, the crime networks in Kosovo smuggled organs for transplantation surgeries. A massive political scandal about human organ trafficking rocked Kosovo in the past. And some organs were forcibly taken from kidnapped and tortured Serbs (in the wake of pogroms against minority Christians of Kosovo). These trafficking networks also bring in Wahabis and soft types open to radicalism who stay low but plan high. The rural side of the Kosovo-Albanian (Kosovar) population is largely accepting of the Islamist agenda. On the other hand, the urban Kosovars offer some sources of resistance to the trends of increasing islamization but there is no pushing back against the semi-underground criminal networks that effectively operate throughout Kosovo thanks to the Albanian tribal allegiances, which have always been strong in this region. To wit, the hidden tribal connections enable backdoor pressure channels to a person in the position of authority to open in order to make that person do the bidding of the shady character(s) operating from behind the scenes. Matters came to a head this month between the westernized urban bureaucratic elite and the mob-steering Islamists in Pristina when thousands of rural style Kosovo Albanian Muslim women demonstrated against the burqa and hijab ban by the government. It is a war between the European identity of secularized former Yugoslav Albanians and the ever louder noises of change in favor of Pan-Islamism as the new identity for Albanians.

Are Kosovo-Albanians Muslims Or Albanians?

On a Friday in June of this year there was an all-female Muslim protest in the streets of the Kosovar capital of Pristina aimed against the decision by the government of Kosovo to ban the recently acquired habit of dressing up in religious garbs for public schools and public places. There were around 3,000 Kosovo Albanian Muslim women protesting on the public square in the Kosovar capital of Pristina. It all began a few months ago when one school girl was told not to wear a head scarf or hijab. The reporter writes that this case surprised even him and not just the people in the region because [Muslim] religion used to be confined to the villages and to playing no serious part in the cities. In Pristina today it is rare to see a woman dressed in a burqa although the hijab is somewhat more popular, and even more so in certain parts, like the suburb of Vranjevac, although such occurrences are considered to be private decisions and do not excite anyone.

The rise in the influence of religion in [former Communist] countries where religion was “forbidden” is obvious. However, in this process now there is a place for extremists who are busy filling the vacuum. Kosovo is not immune to this process either, where after the successful battle for independence from Serbia a religious dimension of life is being discovered. Albanians are fast becoming Muslims, the national secular identity yielding to the religious one.

Last week, even the US ambassadfor in Pristina warned about the ever greater presence of Islamic ideological extremists. Colleagues from the Radio Free Europe told this reporter that even as far back as 2007 the Kosovar ministry of internal affairs expressed “concern” about the appearance of Islamic extremism and the Wahabi movement in Kosovo. Ten years ago, the Wahabis in Kosovo began to set up their own infrastructure. As in many other cases out there, as is their habit, they most frequently did this under the cover of humanitarian aid [from Arab countries].

A month ago, there was a case of imam Xhemajl (Jemal) Duka. He even changed his name to look more acceptable, for he was a foreigner to Kosovo. He used to distribute money to the poor locals (20 euros a pop) to make them join the Wahabi movement [founded in Saudi Arabia]. He operated from a local mosque in the region of Drenica, and he refused to accept the rules of the [more moderate] Islamic Society of Kosovo. The locals signed a petition with 6,000 signatures demanding that he be prevented from doing his work. The organizer of petition was Ajnishahe Halimi who said the following for our radio: “It is true that I am a Muslim woman and belong to the Islamic faith in its traditional form as it used to be, but not to that Iranian or Iraqi form. The situation is dramatic, not only in Drenica but throughout Kosovo with regards to this Wahabi sect. Following the war [with Serbia] Kosovo became engulfed with extremism and radicalization, which can lead to Muslim fundamentalism.” In response to the petition, the Kosovar authorities expelled the radical imam and sent him back to Albania.

In Pristina today there is a running street gossip to the effect that this radical protest of 3,000 Kosovar women was instigated by clandestine payments to protesters. Although there is no proof yet for that, this reporter said that he can recall a conversation he had with a Roman Catholoic priest in Bosnia who was from the Bosnian branch of the Catholic Order of St. Francis. He told me that Bosnian women seen wearing burqas in Sarajevo were paid to do so, and to them this was just a supplemental day income because they would spend nights in discos and in night clubs. He would not be surprised to think that something like that is happening in Pristina! The question is: who is paying these people? Someone is bringing in money, using that money with a definite aim in mind.

Protests in Pristina drew in a few thousand people this time, but who is to say that next time they won’t bring out 10,000 people? That’s another example of how easy it is to manipulate people who deal with poverty and survival issues. In Kosovo today the overwhelming majority of young people are unemployed, borders are not guarded [customs officials are bribed easily] and it is an ideal opportunity to re-direct the zeal for independence – now that it is satisfied with the independent state of Kosovo – into a zeal for extremism.
Radical Wahabi Imam Xhemajl (Kastriot) Duka In Pristina

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