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From Kosovo to Gaza

Islamist radicals continue their efforts to penetrate every country where Muslims live.

9:00 AM, Jun 9, 2010 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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Ulcinj, with about 12,000 residents, mainly Albanian-speaking and Muslim, is best known for its city fortress, dating from the Renaissance, and its wide Adriatic Sea beaches, including a nude spa notorious in the region. Leaders of the official and moderate Islamic religious community in the town complained to local media as well as RFE/RL that Wahhabis had threatened and physically attacked local imams, and invaded administrative meetings. Avdo Goran, chairman of the directing board of the Islamic Community in the city, said he had heard of threats to non-radical imams but not of physical attacks.

Mustafa Canka, a Muslim journalist from Ulcinj, blamed Islamic officials for “institutional weakness, idleness and neglect, based on personal interests and selfishness.” He described the local Muslims as afflicted by “disorientation, inadequate response to contemporary problems, and ignorance.” Canka denounced Wahhabism as “a kind of Islam that when seen from one side appears strong and monolithic, but which is sterile and unproductive.” He said the radicals now have many supporters, but that their influence will not endure. He repeated his criticism of local Muslim religious functionaries, who he said were trained in the local form of Islam and did not recognize the danger when they “opened the door wide” to radical newcomers. Montenegro is mainly a Christian country and its Muslim minorities, both Slav and Albanian, have had few conflicts with the Christian majority for generations.

Islamist radicals continue their efforts to penetrate every country where Muslims live. In the Balkans, their appeal to ordinary Muslims is limited, thanks to local resentment of outsiders and a desire to avoid new conflicts. But as the Gaza flotilla showed, even small numbers of extremists can cause big problems.

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