“What does the Serbian military build-up on Kosovo’s borders mean these days when they have committed the biggest massacre of the Kosovo Muslim people in years?” With these words, the Syrian preacher living in Turkey, Youssef Beirutieh, joined the religious incitement that the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) has began, against the backdrop of the tension prevailing in the Western Balkans, specifically between Serbia and Kosovo.
It can be understood that the MB’s incitement campaigns and the mobilization of supporters against Serbia are an attempt by the group to protect the influence and presence it has achieved in Kosovo, the young Muslim-majority country, which has happened by employing the titles of charitable and advocacy work during the past two decades. Today’s security tension between the two neighbors comes as the European continent is burning due to the Russian war on Ukraine, and the growing fears of involving the Balkans in the open conflict between Russia and the West, especially with the enthusiasm shown by Serbian President Aleksandar Vutic to regain control of Kosovo and siding with Moscow as much as possible, according to some analysts.
Tensions between the two sides flared when Kosovo set a December 18 date for elections in Serb-majority municipalities, but the main Serbian political party announced its boycott. Kosovar authorities later arrested a former policeman suspected of involvement in attacks against police officers of ethnic Albanian, angering Serbs who resorted to banditry.
A systematic media campaign.
Over the past months, Serbia and Kosovo have become near-constant guests on MB-affiliated websites and within the media platforms of Qatar and Turkey.
“Systematic targeting of Muslims by Serbian authorities (..) It manifests in the demolition of mosques and restrictions on their construction or restoration.” According to a report published by the Qatari website “Al-Jazeera” last October, in which it indicates the hostility between the two countries before their borders were drawn.
The report issued by an institution claiming professionalism and impartiality not only did so, but the author of the report, which was called ” Serbia’s Muslims… marginalization, persecution, and demolition of mosques in a country that openly opposes Islam”, ideas of an inflammatory nature through phrases that are difficult to measure scientifically, like “There is a general atmosphere in Serbia supporting the aggression suffered by Bosniak Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995, and the accompanying genocide that was the worst on European land since the Second World War.” “Serbs commemorate the Srebrenica massacre and portray the military commanders responsible for these atrocities, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, as truly national heroes, making them role ideals for all Serbs in their dealings with Bosniak and Albanian Serbian Muslims. “he said
“Throughout history, Westerners and Europeans have viewed the Pecan countries as a potential gateway from which Muslims could enter the EU, and they always wanted it to become their human and urban buffer with Muslims. For Muslims, whose states spanned vast territories, the Balkans were distant countries for them, often lacking the support (or even sufficient sympathy) commensurate with the major events that took place in them,” according to a report titled “Being a Muslim in Serbia: Centuries of Persecution and Living on the Margins.” Published by the website “SASA Post”, which was launched in 2014
“The Ottoman Turks had tours during their conquest of the Rumeli lands (Balkans) and the spread of Islam in it, and recently Turkey defended Bosnia and Kosovo humanitarianly during their war against Serbia in the nineties of the last century, and played a role in the peace process that followed the war,” according to a report glorifying the Ottomans published by the Turkish TRT website, which includes in its Arabic version a number of cadres of the Syrian and Egyptian MB.
In the report, titled: “History Evocation … Why did Serbian extremists chant hostile slogans against the Ottoman Empire?”, activists from Novi Pazar, a Muslim-majority city in southwestern Serbia, vocalized hostile chants by anti-Ottoman and anti-Muslim fanatics, confusing them with the phrases “Glory to the Cross”, provocatively to the feelings of the city’s Muslim inhabitants.
Political Islam in Kosovo
The foreign sponsorship carried out by Turkey and Qatar in the Balkan countries over the past two decades has contributed to the spread of political Islam in the old continent, and these countries have even become a “backyard for the spread of extremism in the heart of EU.”
Turkey took advantage of Europe’s neglect of its eastern borders to penetrate into institutions and societies in the Balkans under the slogan of protecting citizens of Turkish origin, also benefiting from the colonial legacy of the Ottoman Empire’s presence in that region decades ago to support political Islam currents and consolidate their presence.
Recent studies indicate that Turkish influence in the Balkans has also provided vital outlets for Qatari NGOs to use their tools to access them.
Qatar’s office in Kosovo is the largest in the central Balkans and provides internal investment worth $68 million, with religious and cultural centers accounting for the largest support proportion provided for various files such as supporting the poor or providing water, food, and basic needs, according to Middle East Online.
Among the MB organizations active in Kosovo are the British-based “Islamic Relief Around the World” and “the Kosovo Islamic Forum”. The “Islamic Movement Unite-Lispa” is the first fundamentalist Islamic party in the Balkans, and according to many sources, this extremist Islamic movement represents the ideology of the MB in Kosovo, and the leader of the Islamic movement, Fuad Ramiki, is also the representative of the “European Islamic Network” in Kosovo, and the network was founded by the efforts of the late MB ideologue, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, according to the Eurasia Review website.
Kosovar authorities succeeded in dismantling some MB networks, such as AKOS Most in Sanski Most which focused on educating young people and promoting sound Islamic behavior. AKOS also belongs to the NGO Association for Culture and Education (AKEA), which operated in Kosovo as an organization suspected of links to the MB. AKEA was closed in 2014 by the Kosovo Special Prosecutor’s Office as one of 64 suspicious organizations. The organization, headquartered in Pristina, was close to the MB in Egypt and also enjoyed the support of Turkish President Erdogan’s government via TİKA. According to 2014 news reports.
As most of the countries resulted from the Yugoslavia disintegration, Kosovo includes a mixture of nationalities and religions, the most important of which – are Islam, Orthodoxy, and Catholicism, the vast majority of Kosovo Albanians consider themselves, at least nominally, Muslims, while Catholics and Orthodox are mostly Kosovo Serbs, even though they are not actively religious believers like Albanians, religion is an important component of their national identity, along with the language as well.
“Despite religious differences based on ethnic lines, it cannot be said that religion itself contributed to the conflict between Serbs and Albanians, as the population is more divided by national identities, atrocities, and injustices experienced in wartime than by tensions that arose between Islam and the Serbian Orthodox Church” According to Nour Elwan in an article on Noon Post.
Kosovo’s Muslims, along with their Bosnian and Albanian neighbors, are among the most liberal Muslims in the world. Studies have shown that Balkan Muslims have been able to embrace modernity without giving up their religious identity or seeing themselves as fully Muslims. According to a study by the Pew Research Center,
Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade refuses to recognize it and encourages Kosovo Serbs to challenge the authority of Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, especially in the north, with an estimated 120,000 of Kosovo’s 1.8 million people.
Kosovo was recognized as an independent state by 117 countries, excluding Serbia, Russia, and China.
The young republic aspires to join NATO and the European Union, so Islam is taking the back seat in state politics in a bid to ease their way into the club of countries with Christian roots, analysts say.
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