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On February 17, 2008, Kosovo declared independence from Serbia. Some are concerned about what NATO, the United Nations, and the European Union have nurtured there since the military and humanitarian intervention in 1999. James Jatras, a U.S.-based advocate for the Serbian Orthodox Community, put it bluntly last year when he said Kosovo was a “a beachhead into the rest of Europe” for “radical Muslims” and “terrorist elements.” It’s an assertion without evidence. “We’ve been here for so long,” said United States Army Sergeant Zachary Gore in Eastern Kosovo, “and not seen any evidence of it, that we’ve reached the assumption that it is not a viable threat.”

Nine in 10 of Kosovo’s citizens are ethnic Albanians, and more than 90 per cent of them are at least nominal Muslims. Most are so thoroughly modern and secularised that moderate doesn’t quite say it. The only word that can fairly describe Islam as practiced by the majority of Albanian Muslims is liberal. No nation can be entirely free of extremists, but Kosovo is one of the least religiously extreme Muslim-majority countries on Earth. Radical Islamists aren’t there in significant numbers now, and they aren’t likely to be in the future. Some places may be fertile ground for radicalism in the future, but Kosovo isn’t one of them for many of the same reasons that Christian theocracy isn’t coming to Western Europe.

I arrived here shortly after the declaration of independence, and the first thing I looked for – as always when I visit a Muslim-majority country – was the treatment and status of women.

Women who dress with their hair, ankles, and sometimes even faces showing in places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Taliban-controlled parts of Afghanistan are often beaten or worse.

In Kosovo, by contrast, almost all women, even in small villages, dress like women in the rest of Europe. Streets, cafés, restaurants, and bars are not all-male affairs as they are in much of the Islamic world, where women spend almost all their lives behind walls. If it weren’t for the occasional mosque minaret on the skyline, there is little visible evidence that Kosovo is a Muslim-majority country at all. Kosovo looks, feels, and is European.

A small number of well-heeled Islamic extremists from the Gulf states have moved into Kosovo to rebuild damaged mosques and transform liberal Balkan Islam into the more severe version found in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. They’ve had a small amount of success with a similar project in nearby Bosnia, but they’re meeting stiffer resistance from Kosovo’s religious community as well as from secular citizens.

“We are working very hard to stop these kinds of movements,” said Professor Xhabir Hamiti, of the Islamic studies department at the University of Pristina. “These kinds of movements are dangerous for all nations, for all faiths, for all religions. We are Muslims, but we think the European way. I am a Muslim, I am a scholar, I know how to deal with Islam in my country. There is no need for Arabs to come here. I have no need for their suggestions, no need for their explanations. We created our Islam ourselves here, and we can continue our Islam with our own minds.”

It would be wrong to suggest Kosovo has no Islamists at all, but in the last election in late 2007, the country’s single Islamic party gained only 1.7 per cent of the vote. Kosovo is not the Middle East, and Albanians are not Arabs. The majority converted to Islam relatively recently under Turkish Ottoman rule, and Albanian culture was first solidly Christian. “We Albanians,” Dom Lush Gjergji recently wrote, “descendants of the Illyrians, are Christians from the time of the Apostles… Without Christianity there would be no Albanian people, language, culture, or traditions… Albanians consider Christianity their patrimony, their spiritual and cultural inheritance.” Gjergji is a Catholic priest, but I heard similar comments from many who self-identify as Muslims. “Albanian people are not very religious,” said Agron Rezniqi, of the Friendship Association between Kosovo and Israel “We come from Catholicism, and for that, we are not such strong Muslims.”

Perhaps the best evidence available that Albanian Muslims, in both Kosovo and Albania proper, differ radically from their Arab world counterparts is their relationship with Jews and with Israel. Jews in Albania had an almost 100 per cent survival rate during the Nazi occupation. The country was known as a safe haven where Jews could find protection under the noses of the German authorities. According to Dan Michman, chief historian at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, there were three times as many Jews in Albania at the end of the Second World War as there were at the beginning.

Both Albania and Kosovo have excellent relations with Israel, and Israelis are more than welcome to travel and even live among Albanians. An Israeli from Tel Aviv named Shachar Caspi opened a bakery and a bistro bar in Pristina. “Nobody has given me any problems or been against Israel,” he told me. “[Kosovars] had good relations with Jewish people even back in the old days. And nobody here is radical. On the contrary, people are very warm, they are very nice, they have taken Islam to a beautiful place, not to a violent place. When they hear I am Israeli, the way they react, they react very warmly.”

Much of the angst about Kosovo’s alleged radicalism centres on the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), an organisation that no longer even exists.

It was a short-lived guerrilla movement that rose up against Slobodan Milosevic’s régime, first to fight for independence from an apartheid-like system, and later as a defence against mass murder and ethnic-cleansing. The KLA was always thoroughly secular and in no way resembled a Balkan Hamas or Hezbollah.

Its leaders also distinguished themselves from their Bosnian counterparts when they flatly refused assistance from Arabic mujahideen who wanted to fight a holy war there against Serbs. Albanians don’t fight religious wars, not against themselves, and not against others.

There has been no fighting or even tension between Muslim and Christian Albanians, only between Serbs and Albanians.

The danger in Kosovo isn’t that international peace keepers are nurturing a jihad state. Rather, a premature withdrawal may lead to a resumption of the fighting between Serbs and Albanians that they moved in to stop in the first place.

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M.A
September 2nd, 2008
6:09 AM
"You're a liar in almost everything you say in this article." Unfortunately, you failed to point out any "lies" in his article. Only once again showing that you, like most Albanophobes, are not being objective when it comes to the issue of Kosovo. "Not sure what is driving you to write such drivel or if you are seriously this misguided." Does the fact that unlike you, Totten refuses to see this as an issue of those "Brave-Civilized-Western-Godly-Christian-Serbs" vs. "Bloodthirsty-Genocidal-Islamofascist-Nazi-Albanians"(The way most Albanophobes want to see it) makes him "misguided"? Apparently, if we are to believe the Albanophobes, the answer is "yes". "I was in Kosovo only last summer and saw it from a very different light." So according to the logic of the Albanophobes, if someone visits Kosovo/Albania, and does not return with the impression that Albanians are a race of Islamofascist barbarians whose very existence is a mortal threat not only to Serbia, but to ALL of Western Civilization, one must be "misguided". *sigh* "The only reason they act like such liberal Muslims is because the generation living in Kosovo grew up under a communist regime that didn't allow any form of religious fundamentalism, they didn't allow them to even practice Islam openly so they forgot about their religious past" True. Not to mention the fact that Albanians for the most part put their national identity first before any religious identity. As 19th century Albanian poet once wrote in his poem: "Awaken, Albania, wake from your slumber, Let us all, as brothers, swear a common oath And not look to church or mosque, The faith of the Albanian is Albanianism!" "now that the door is open once again and the Wahabis have far more influence in the society than you give them credit for, in a single generation or two they will be just as radical as any other Muslim country." One can hardly predict how things will be next year, nevermind in a "generation or two". Unfortunately, the Wahhabis are trying to gain influence EVERYWHERE, but fortunately, as I pointed out in my previous post here a point made by fellow anti-Jihadist Patrick Poole, ""radical Islamists have no more taken over Kosova than they have Kansas City." "What happened after only a few generations in Iran under the Shaw," The Wahhabis had NOTHING to do with the radicalization of the Iranian population that brought the 1979 Revolution. You of course, neglect to mention that now after a generation under Islamic rule more and more people become hostile to the Islamic regime of Iran, as well as that the vast majority of Iranian exiles hate it with passion. "what happened in only a few generations in Turkey after Ataturk...." Turkey, last time I checked, despite a creeping worrisome Islamization, is still an electoral SECULAR democracy. For anyone interested, should read the following blog, which debunks much of the misinformation about Albanians perpetrated by Serbian propagandists and their sympathizers: http://albanianrealitycheck.blogspot.com/

Jesse Petrilla
August 31st, 2008
1:08 AM
You're a liar in almost everything you say in this article. Not sure what is driving you to write such drivel or if you are seriously this misguided. I was in Kosovo only last summer and saw it from a very different light. The only reason they act like such liberal Muslims is because the generation living in Kosovo grew up under a communist regime that didn't allow any form of religious fundamentalism, they didn't allow them to even practice Islam openly so they forgot about their religious past, now that the door is open once again and the Wahabis have far more influence in the society than you give them credit for, in a single generation or two they will be just as radical as any other Muslim country. What happened after only a few generations in Iran under the Shaw, what happened in only a few generations in Turkey after Ataturk.... See my experiences here: http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID=9A68C6F6-8A08-453E-B...

M.A
August 28th, 2008
9:08 PM
"Why don't you mention that the Saudis are opening up Mosques across the country" Yes, they are, but they are also opening Mosques in London, New York, and pretty much everywhere they can afford. As fellow anti-Jihadist Patrick Poole pointed out, "radical Islamists have no more taken over Kosova than they have Kansas City.". So what is your point, ultimately? Are you implying that because Saudis are building Mosques in Kosovo, Albanians are therefore a race of Islamofascist Barbarians? "4 of the Dix Hills military terror plotters came from Kosovo?" Once again, this says NOTHING about Albanians as a group. As another fellow anti-Jihadist Ray Robison pointed out, "The reasons why three Albanian men from Jersey became jihadists have nothing to do with Kosovo or Albania and everything to do with Islamic extremism". Yes, it is about Islam's fanatical nature, but it says nothing about Albanians as a people. "Kosovo will be just like all the other Islamic states." It might, but it's current direction is towards the west, and not the dark ages of Islam. The presence of Islamic fundamentalists among Albanians is indeed worrisome, and they are actually a bigger threat to the Albanian nation, culture and heritate than all the intellectually dishonest Serbian propagandists and their sympathizers(Yes, you too, mr. Anonymous) combined, and should not be taken lightly, but to compare Kosovo with places like Pakistan is a major overstatement. "Non-Muslims will be persecuted there, no matter what kind of spin you want to put on the country." Nevermind the fact that today most Albanians are ATHEISTS, Albanian Muslim since the Ottoman Turks brought Islam to Kosovo never persecuted their Christian compatriots. Albanians for the most part are Albanian first before they independence of Kosovo was universally supported by ALL Albanians regardless of creed. "'Moderate' Islam is not coming to the rescue." Yes, the threat of Islamic fundamentalism is universal, and there is no such thing is as "moderate Islam", only a difference of degree of adherence, but the Albanian population is largely secular and far from being Islamic, so your point is senseless in this regard.

Anonymous
August 26th, 2008
12:08 AM
...Albanian atheism is.

Anonymous
August 9th, 2008
6:08 AM
Why don't you mention that the Saudis are opening up Mosques across the country or that 4 of the Dix Hills military terror plotters came from Kosovo? Kosovo will be just like all the other Islamic states. Non-Muslims will be persecuted there, no matter what kind of spin you want to put on the country. "Moderate" Islam is not coming to the rescue.

Fatoni
August 5th, 2008
6:08 AM
Everyone should read this article, it might explain a lot http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9D0CEEDA1E3AE633A25752C3A... And there is more for those who want to research.

Genti
August 2nd, 2008
8:08 PM
To the last comment. Serbian propaganda embedded through written memos how to exterminate the Albanians such as the the on of Cubrilovic's "Final Solution on Annihilation of Albanians in Yugoslavia" is another proof.

Anonymous
July 30th, 2008
6:07 PM
In Kosovo, by contrast, almost all women, even in small villages, dress like women in the rest of Europe. Streets, cafés, restaurants, and bars are not all-male affairs as they are in much of the Islamic world, where women spend almost all their lives behind walls. If it weren’t for the occasional mosque minaret on the skyline, there is little visible evidence that Kosovo is a Muslim-majority country at all. Kosovo looks, feels, and is European.

Kosovo is deep rooted clan society, arranged and forced marriages is common along with gruesome blood feuds. If one could make some parallel it would be mafia structures in Sicily but I doubt that it is a common interpretation of what’s feels and is European.

It was a short-lived guerrilla movement that rose up against Slobodan Milosevic’s régime, first to fight for independence from an apartheid-like system, and later as a defence against mass murder and ethnic-cleansing.

Well KLA did appear on the scene when Tito parted from the Yugoslavian project, that is long before Milosevic. The albanization of Kosovo have been a project long before KLA was created the 1974 autonomy didn’t come from thin air. The militarization of the project have probably much more to do with Tito’s death than Milosevic.

In Yugoslavia Kosovo had record population growth rate, Serb and other ethnic groups share on steady decline over the decades. Serbs did almost keep up in absolute numbers, that they did not have “normal” growth was due to lower birthrates and exodus of Serbs from Kosovo.

One resemblance with Islamic countries is the steady decline of minority ethnicities and religions, there for some reason some parts of the world where multiculturalism don’t thrive.

Kosovo face enormous problems, to just keep up they need a steady economic growth rate about 5%, to improve it should be around 7%. This is not any new Monaco, Hong Kong, Singapore and so on. Poor education, poor infrastructure, insufficient rule of law, pre-industrial social structures is just some of the problems. If the steady population growth continue Kosovo will have doubled its population in 30-40 years (and there is already a water problem with its present population) and then is already a significant part of its Kosovars in working age living abroad. And then one hasn’t even touched the European problem of Kosovo as an drug, trafficking and criminal hub in Europe.

The socialist modernization didn’t succeed in will the neo-liberal do it.

Stjepan
July 28th, 2008
8:07 AM
Karadzic is a only a product created from the inspirational manifestos of how to annihilate nonSerbs in Yugoslavia. "Fina Solution on how to annihilate Albanians" written by Cubrilovic, an authentic inspiration by other monstrous mindss is one of the best examples.

PJD
July 24th, 2008
7:07 PM
Stjepan: "Murdered quarter million" - that figure has long been debunked. "history of Karadzic hiding in Orthodox Churches" - these were only rumours. Stephen Schwartz's comment is mainly nonsense. Kosovo didn't even have 90% Albanians in 1981 let alone in 1912. A "major element" is hard to define, but Serbs were around 25% of the population from WWII to the early 1960s. There is evidence to suggest that there were as many Serbs in what is now Kosovo as Albanians in the 19th century. There were less than 200,000 Serbs in the 1991 census so it is extremly unlikely there is more than that now. 100,000 would be a much more likely figure. Bizarre how he understates the number of Serbs before the 1990s but tries to overstate them now.

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