“What the official Muslim communities here have to do is to come together”

Interview with Dr Xhabir Hamiti from Kosovo about the recents arrests of radical elements in the Balkan08

EMU news: Dear Dr Xhabir Hamiti, in the moment there is a rising amount of reports about raids against so called “Muslim extremists“ on the Balkans, especially in Kovoso. How influential are these radical elements which contradict the Muslim tradition?

Xhabir Hamiti: After the collapse of communist regime in the Balkans – as well as in the world – a lot of different NGOs from eastern and western countries came to help this region under the umbrella of humanitarian aid, but not all of them were focused solely on this. From both these continents we saw new missionaries and new religious activities that the population here were unfamiliar with before 1990.

After the end of the war in Kosovo in 1999 this country also became a centre for these NGOs. They brought a lot of the money to help Kosovars rebuild after the demolition and destruction caused by the war. The citizens here were very thankful for it but unfortunately, as well as the humanitarian aid, the majority of them developed and supported at the same time a new interpretation and model of the Islamic teachings here, treating our citizens as if they were not practicing the true religion.

They based their teaching on foreign sects and groups rather than the real Islamic sources and this was absolutely incompatible with our traditional way of the Islamic life which has been followed in this region for nearly 600 years. This was the biggest mistake they made. It was they who were responsible for making the situation as it is today. The Islamic teachings in this region have always been inclusive rather than of a divisive and exceptional nature.

EMU news: In the past months there were rumors about radical individuals and groups of young Muslims to be send to Syria and Irak.

Xhabir Hamiti: The war in Syria encouraged many young people, not only from Kosovo and the Balkans but from different parts of the world, to help the revolutionary fighters and movements against Bashar’s regime, but it seems that they were not sufficiently aware of what those groups actually represented.

The call, in the name of Islam, from radical “scholars” out of the conflict zone there and beyond, through the internet links like YouTube and Facebook, translated also into the local languages, moved many people here and elsewhere to participate in the so-called “Holy War”.

But, recently the citizens here, fortunately, have understood more clearly that participation in that conflict is not their duty and that the war there is not based on the Islamic principles they propagate – with the result that they have started calling others not to go and not to fall into such a trap.

EMU news: What are the reasons for this radicalisations of some Muslims in the Balkans?

Xhabir Hamiti: The unstable political and economic situation in this region for more than 20 years has opened the door for many foreigners to interfere in the religious issues here, with the aim  of establishing their influence here and using it for their political and ideological interests in the present and the future. They translated and published a lot of the books which represent a rigid and extreme interpretation of Islam and distributed them free of charge around the Muslim communities.

The local Islamic religious communities were not sufficiently aware of what was going on and were not strong enough to stop them. This extreme and rigid interpretation of Islam is not a problem of the Balkans and Europe alone, but is a global problem which needs to be resolved in the future through the education of new generations in the real principles of Islam – which indeed have nothing to do with extremism and radicalism, but with peaceful coexistence and tolerance for all people regardless of their religious backgrounds.

EMU news: The authorities are seemingly to react in much more draconian way. Is this enough to solve the issue?

Xhabir Hamiti: I do not think that arresting people is the best way to resolve problems. The education of our coming generations in a tolerant interpretation of the religion in general, accompanied by a spirit of love and mutual respect, should be the long-term strategy for all of us, particularly for the religious representatives, as well as governmental and non-governmental institutions.

EMU news: How do the governments in your region adapt towards the Muslim tradition?

Xhabir Hamiti: The Muslims of the Balkan are not merely Muslims from today or from the last 10 or 20 years but rather indigenous in this region, practising the Islamic teachings since the time of the Ottoman Empire. We have our roots in the past and we are equipped to develop our Islam here without being part of any new ideological or political Islamic movements from the East.

The governmental institutions of this region have to support the middle way when interpreting Islam – which means that it is neither extreme nor radical – and this through their traditional Islamic communities. I think they shall be able to do this by reorganizing these communities administratively into new democratic systems and models and cutting their previous communist administrative roots.

EMU news: What would be the tasks of the Muslim Community towards this challenge by an extremist ideology?

Xhabir Hamiti: What the official Muslim communities here have to do is to come together and cooperate in order to reestablish that quality they have always traditionally possessed, i.e. tolerance. Their collaboration shall then be of real benefit, shall allow a peaceful climate to flourish in which respect of all people may be assured – one in which the religion is not exploited in order to injure, attack or kill others in the name of the “God”!

I do believe that our society will not allow radicalism and extremism to be part of their religion and their children’s future.

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