Kosovo’s mufti lays out plans for third term
After emerging from a controversial re-election campaign with an overwhelming victory, Mufti Naim Ternava said he has a full agenda for his third five-year term as head of the Kosovo Islamic Community (BIK).Ternava said he hopes to increase religious education and lead changes that would allow headscarves in Kosovo schools — a stance opposed by Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga. He also plans increase the number of mosques in Kosovo, where 90 percent of the population practices Islam.
“They have trusted my work that I have done since 10 years now as the first of the Islamic Community to lead the Islamic Community once more,” Ternava said.
After pushing through changes to the community’s constitution that allowed him to seek a third five-year mandate, Ternava defeated challenger Ahmet Sadriu, 53-5, in voting on Thursday (October 31st). Two other candidates, Sabri Bajgora and Fahrush Rexhepi withdrew before the vote was cast.
The vote, seen by some as a contest between extremist and moderate voices in the state’s Islamic community, was criticised by some who accused Ternava of manipulating the process.
Xhabir Hamiti, former chairman of the Kosovo Islamic Community Assembly, told the news portal albinfo.ch that the electoral process was degraded and based on the appointment of a commission appointed, dictated and supervised “from Ternava himself.”
“There were no fair elections and no solutions for the problems in BIK with this process,” Hamiti said, adding that if leaders do not change their course and vision in the interest of religion, nation and the society, they would cause “an irreparable damage” to the institution and the Kosovo society in general.
Political commentator Imer Mushkolaj, a columnist at Express newspaper in Kosovo, said the elections should have been a catalyst for change.
“But the elections showed that BIK does not intend to change for good, by re-electing Naim Ternava at its head,” Mushkolaj told SETimes.
Mushkolaj said that BIK excluded imams who have spoken out about irregularities in the organisation, were critical of Ternava and represented the moderate line.
“With the election of Ternava on the top of BIK, radical currents in Kosovo will only gain more ground and will be encouraged to carry out their agendas. Exactly, the resistance to prevent the realisation of the agendas of these groups is very dangerous for Kosovo and remains the main challenge of the state institutions and the society in general,” Mushkolaj said.
Ramadan Ilazi of the Kosovo Institute for Peace told SETimes that the elections were held in a non-democratic spirit.
“Contrary to the general belief in Kosovo, they have shown the powerful influence that the radical groups have in BIK,” Ilazi said.
Abit Hoxha, a senior researcher in Kosovo Centre for Security Studies, said the “test of democracy has failed in BIK” with Ternava’s re-election.
“This will have a negative impact also in the compactness of the discourse on Islam in Kosovo and deepens the cracks between the moderates and those more radical in BIK and outside it,” Hoxha told SETimes.
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