4:08 PM, Apr 20, 2015 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Last month the Kosovar Center for Security Studies (KCSS), a think-tank in the Balkan republic, published a “Report Inquiring Into the Causes and Consequences of Kosovo Citizens’ Involvement as Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq.” The survey was financed by the U.S. Embassy in Pristina, the Kosovo capital, and naturally carried a disclaimer: “The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the Author [Shpend Kursani, a Cambridge graduate] and the Kosovar Center for Security Studies and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of State.”
Nevertheless, this is a muddled and faulty document, which will be interpreted correctly by Kosovar Albanians as reflecting official American attitudes to the challenge of the so-called “Islamic State” or ISIS, and a microcosm of a broader Western failure to address clearly the activities of ISIS and other terrorists in the region.
The report comprises 107 pages of analysis, statistics, and diagrams. Such a quantity of data should encompass much that is useful. Unfortunately, while some important problems of Islam in Kosovo are disclosed, they are obscured by an avalanche of often-contradictory argumentation.
An 11-page executive summary titled “Key Findings” begins with what would seem an alarming statement: “Kosovo has 125 foreign fighters . . . for every 1 million citizens, making it the highest ranking country among 22 listed [Western] countries, followed by Bosnia with 85, Belgium with 42, and Albania with 30 cases of foreign fighters . . . for every 1 million citizens.”
Yet this is followed immediately by an alternative, contradictory observation: “In terms of the number of foreign fighters [as a proportion of] their Muslim population, Kosovo is in the bottom half of the list of countries, ranked 14th among 22 countries with the highest number of foreign fighters.”
The report does, nevertheless, offer an obvious presumption: “given that it is mostly the Muslim population of each of the respective countries that holds the desire to join the Middle Eastern conflicts on religious grounds, compared to their respective non-Muslim populations, it is necessary to look at the number of foreign fighters per capita of their respective Muslim populations. It becomes clear that it is the Muslim population of the non-Muslim majority countries that are mostly affected by the phenomenon of foreign fighters.” No surprise there.
Since Kosovo is a majority-Muslim country, its relatively large complement of fighters for a country of only 1.8 million people shouldn’t be a surprise, either. But the report does not say clearly which of the baffling sets of numbers it offers are significant, although the text, after some paragraphs of convoluted remarks on these figures, avers that “violent extremist ideas in Kosovo are embraced by only a small group of people when compared to the overall population size.”
More important, the report seeks—in the manner of the Obama administration—to separate radicalism from religion and thus falls back on that well-known, handy excuse for Muslim extremism: “internal conditions at societal, family and individual levels.” The report notes correctly, “For Kosovo citizens . . . the overwhelming majority [of whom] are Muslim, conflicts in the Middle East were until recently considered as remote events, with no Kosovo citizen officially reported to have been engaged as a foreign fighter in any of these conflicts, at least not to the extent of the recent wave of foreign fighters involved in Syria and Iraq. Similarly, for Kosovo citizens the rapid spread of the Arab Spring in many majority Muslim Middle Eastern and North African countries was equally as remote as previous events in the Middle East, including the recent unrest in Syria.”
What went wrong? The report spends much space reproducing the commonplace history of the Wahhabi movement originating in Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood founded in Egypt, and discloses some arcane but relevant chapters in the history of Islam in Kosovo. After 2005, the ideology of al Qaeda—traced through the Egyptian group Takfir wa’al Hijra, or “Religious Purge and Migration,” called “Takfiris” in the report—infiltrated Kosovo from the neighboring Republic of Macedonia. The latter country has a Slav Orthodox Christian majority, which dominates it politically, and a large, restive Albanian Muslim and Catholic minority.
The long arm of al Qaeda. Jan 19, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 18 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
The jihadists responsible for the most successful terrorist attack in France in decades hunted down cartoonists. They did not target a significant historical landmark, such as the Eiffel Tower, or any well-known French politicians. They did not seek to maximize civilian casualties in a suicide bombing, a trademark of previous attacks. Instead, they methodically killed Stéphane Charbonnier, the editorial director of Charlie Hebdo, and other members of the French magazine’s staff. This was deliberate.
Jan 19, 2015, Vol. 20, No. 18 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
After the recent massacre by Islamic terrorists at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, people around the world took to social media to declare “Je suis Charlie,” or “I am Charlie.” Solidarity is a nice sentiment, and journalists in particular are fond of uttering self-soothing words about their commitment to free speech at times like this. But “Je suis Charlie” is just another lie that the media tell themselves.
11:41 AM, Jan 8, 2015 • By JIM SWIFT
On a frigid, windy night in Washington, a couple hundred people trekked to the Newseum for a vigil for the murdered French journalists from the Parisian weekly Charlie Hebdo, the police that died trying to protect them, and those that were wounded.
A presidential succession fraught with peril.Aug 19, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 46 • By OLIVIER GUITTA
Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika returned to Algiers on July 16 after three months in a hospital in Paris. His health will prevent him from running for reelection in April, and it’s unclear whether he can run the country until then. As a result, the contest over his succession is already gearing up, and the Islamists are first out of the starting blocks. The United States and the European Union—along with China, a major presence in energy-rich Algeria—are closely monitoring this latest round in the continuing struggle over the Islamists’ role in government and society.
7:21 AM, Dec 14, 2012 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
On November 29, Albania was the sole Muslim-majority country in the United Nations to be counted among the 41 abstainers from the proposal to admit Palestine as a non-member observer. Certain Islamists were displeased, to say the least. In particular, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, head of the “fundamentalist-lite” Justice and Development Party or AKP, responded with one of the tantrums that has become a hallmark of his administration.
9:29 PM, Apr 23, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
In the wake of the Arab Spring, the Obama administration is grappling with how to handle Islamists, radical adherents to Islam. Particularly, the issue has come to the fore in regards to Egypt, which, as Reuel Marc Gerecht notes, "is now certain" to elect "an Islamist" as its leaders the next time the Egyptian people go to the polls.
2:28 PM, Apr 17, 2012 • By DAVID SCHENKER
From failing European economies to staggering murder rates in Central America, there’s no shortage of crises on the agenda as the International Monetary Fund holds its annual spring meeting in Washington this week.
4:01 PM, Mar 27, 2012 • By JONATHAN SCHANZER
The first flotilla in 2010 ended in a bloodbath on the high seas, when the Israeli navy intercepted Islamists and activists seeking to challenge Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. The second flotilla fizzled, when international lawyers prevented a second round of boats from embarking on another ill-fated mission in 2011.
8:30 PM, May 17, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Quoting the Koran in a 2006 email, Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad wrote that "those who believe" should "fight in the Cause of Allah." Shahzad expressed anger over the cartoon drawings of Mohammed, conflicts that pitted Muslims against non-Muslims, and democracy.
Islamists run loose in the nation's capital.3:20 PM, Apr 29, 2010 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Yesterday in Washington, the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID), a think-tank dedicated to warm ties between the United States and so-called “moderate Islamists”--mainly in the Muslim Brotherhood--held its 11th annual conference.
The conclave was titled “U.S. Relations With the Muslim World--One Year After Cairo,” a reference to Barack Obama's "speech to the Muslim world." CSID president Radwan Masmoudi crowed that Obama’s Egyptian discourse ended “the era when U.S. policy [toward Muslims] was defined by the anti-terror war.” To also epitomize this rupture with the administration of George W. Bush, the conference celebrated the arrival in the U.S. of Tariq Ramadan, the Swiss-born academic denied a visa under the Patriot Act in 2004 and 2006. A federal court decision last year, reversing the ban on Ramadan’s entry, has become, like the Cairo speech, another over-praised item in Obama’s new dispensation.
3:45 PM, Apr 23, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist who depicted Muhammad as a suicide bomber in 2006, tells AFP that he has been placed on indefinite leave "for security reasons." Just a few months ago, Westergaard was attacked by an axe-wielding Islamist in his own home. Thankfully, in America the media are resolutely standing up to such vicious attacks on free speech.
12:45 PM, Feb 11, 2010 • By RACHEL ABRAMS
New York Times “public editor” Clark Hoyt searched the conscience of the New York Times the other day and found it wanting. (His own came up clean as a whistle, though.) Is retaining the services of Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner moral, he wondered—spurred by protests from Electronic Intifada and FAIR—when Mr.
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