The Blog

The Second Kosovo War

Ground zero in the fight against Wahhabism.

11:00 PM, Feb 2, 2009 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Osman Musliu is a moderate Muslim mullah and Kosovar Albanian patriot. He demonstrated his commitment to both causes during the Kosovo war of 1998-99, when he was the sole Islamic cleric in the territory willing to officiate at the funeral of Adem Jashari, the main founder of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Jashari was killed in his house by Serbian troops, along with, according to foreign human rights monitors, 57 other Albanians, including 18 women and 10 children under the age of 16. Some of the bodies were burned so badly they could not be identified. A single teenaged girl survived the raid on the Jashari home, which is now a Kosovar shrine.

Kosovo remains vulnerable to Serbian aggression (see here). But it faces a second serious threat. Agents of the Saudi-financed, ultrafundamentalist Wahhabi Muslim sect have sparked open violence in Kosovo. This new conflict in ex-Yugoslavia comes after years of Wahhabi infiltration and provocation in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Muslim areas in Macedonia and South Serbia, where they have made significant gains (see target=_blank>here), as well as in Albania proper, Montenegro, and Kosovo, where they have so far been kept in check.

On January 9, Musliu, now a regional chairman of the Islamic Community of Kosovo, went to a village called Lower Zabel to preside over the installation of a new imam. A riot broke out in a mosque and Musliu was beaten up, after which nine men were arrested by Kosovo police. An investigating officer said that of the four main suspects, two wore the bizarre short pants and had the distinctive long beards of Wahhabis. Musliu told the Kosovo daily newspaper Express, which is respected for its professionalism, "They can kill me, but I will not be intimidated. Their goal is simple. They want to take over the Islamic Community of Kosovo." Later, appearing on the paper's front page with a black eye and bandaged hand, he said he doubted that Serbia had damaged Kosovo as badly as could Wahhabi infiltration.

Musliu, who has recovered from the ambush, had previously denounced the Wahhabi takeover of a library in a local school, and has now closed the mosque in Lower Zabel until things calm down. But he has also pledged to confront the radicals no matter how many people they succeed in buying off. Cash is, as elsewhere among Muslims, the extremists' main weapon. Musliu declared, "Those who give out money do the worst harm." Musliu criticized Shefqet Krasniqi, a hatemongering imam who has preached around the new republic.

Krasniqi had his moment in media, in an Express interview published January 18. He defended himself in the customary idiom of Muslim fundamentalist fanatics, saying first that Wahhabism represented the reform of Islam and great achievements in Saudi Arabia. Those accused of adherence to it, according to the radical cleric, were simply young people eager to "return" to religion, in defiance of old, traditional teachers--the latter, to the outrage of the Wahhabi preacher, are "guilty" of celebrating the birth of Muhammad. This custom, present everywhere in the Muslim world--even behind the walls of private homes in the Saudi kingdom--is despised by Wahhabis as an alleged imitation of Christianity's love of Jesus.