Kosovo Continues Fight Against Wahhabi Infiltration

The Weekly Standard 20 March 2012
By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ

The great majority of Kosovar Albanians take pride in their reputation as the most pro-American Muslims in the world. Their Sunni Islam is conventional and moderate, and spiritual Sufism is a powerful force among the believers. Since 2009, however, a serious effort has been visible in the Balkan republic to turn Kosovar Islam in the direction of Wahhabism, the ultrafundamentalist sect that inspires al Qaeda. The meddling is coming mainly from neighboring Macedonia, where Albanians and Muslims are recognized officially as minorities, and the Islamic clerical apparatus has come under Arab control.

Kosovo defines itself constitutionally as a secular state, and female students are forbidden to wear headscarves in public schools, with religious instruction barred from state-subsidized primary and secondary education. But anti-extremist imams and professors of Islamic theology have been physically attacked and fired from Islamic teaching at the university level.

On March 8, Kosovo saw a new front open against radical Islam, in the beautiful region of Kacanik near the Macedonian border. The town of Kacanik has special resonance for Kosovars. In 1990, Kosovo Albanians met there to adopt a constitution proclaiming their independence from a collapsing Yugoslavia. The document was memorable for bearing the Statue of Liberty on its printed cover. Kacanik is also known for its historic and graceful Gazi Sinan Pasha mosque, erected in the 16th century at the order of an Albanian grand vizier of the Ottoman empire. (...)