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Moderate Clerics Purged from Kosovo Muslim Leadership

12:03 PM, Oct 5, 2011 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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The moderates stated, “Naim Ternava and his clan inside the Kosovo Islamic Community [known by its Albanian initials as BIK], under the influence of foreign individuals and organizations, decided to dismiss Idriz Bilalli as the chairman of the BIK Council in Podujeva and Osman Musliu as chairman of the BIK Council in Drenas, because of the foundation of the above-mentioned association, because they raised their voice publicly against the mismanagement of BIK, and against its falling under control of foreign individuals and organizations, which carry the banners of foreign political Islamic movements.”

Bilalli told the lively Kosovo opposition daily Express that Ternava is “trying to encourage extremist groups against us.” Mullah Osman Musliu added that Ternava is afraid of transparency in the Muslim leadership structure, since “he does not want anybody to get a glimpse of what he has been up to” during his seven-year tenure as Kosovo’s Sunni religious leader.

The main effect of the contretemps has been the open description of Ternava as an “extremist” in Kosovo media. The online comment section of Express included a post signed by “Uqalija,” from rural Kosovo, warning that Ternava, the anti-Christian preacher Shefqet Krasniqi, and Ramiqi all have radical ties, and calling on the Kosovo authorities to “isolate and punish these terrorists. Tomorrow, when Kosovo is Pakistanized, it will be too late.” A writer from Pristina, identified as “Flamuri,” which can be either an Albanian proper name or mean “the national flag,” declared succinctly, “Once, Serbia was the enemy of the Kosovar Albanians. Now the enemy of all Albanians is political Islam … down with political Islam.” 

As the controversy was discussed by the Kosovo public, the “Join!” movement continued its public prayers in front of Kosovo government offices, but with declining attendance. The radical group now concentrates on promoting itself organizationally. Ramiqi, the “Join!” chief, has said he will continue to fight for the Islamic headscarf in schools, with such ominous phraseology as, “War is made by lions and peace is enjoyed by hyenas.” While the Kosovo government is led by veterans of the KLA, Ramiqi, a former member of the ex-Yugoslav army, claims that he, not they, fought for the republic’s independence.

Kosovar Albanian Muslims are much more open than many other such communities in combating radical Islam. Their firm defense of moderate Islam in the Balkans should not be ignored.

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