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Kosovo Takes Steps Against Islamic Extremism

A policeman escorts Sefqet Krasniqi, imam of Pristina's Grand Mosque. [AFP]

A policeman escorts Sefqet Krasniqi, imam of Pristina’s Grand Mosque. [AFP]

Authorities arrested 12 imams and continue to monitor radicals that may pose a threat to security.

By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina — 02/10/14

Kosovo continues to take measures to fight Islamic radicalism and prevent the spread of religious hatred, experts said.

Police arrested 12 imams and three others last month on charges of spreading religious hatred and committing acts against Kosovo’s constitutional order.

Six of the imams, including Sefqet Krasniqi of Pristina’s Grand Mosque, preached in mosques managed by the Islamic Community (BIK).

Police also arrested Fuad Ramiqi, head of the Islamic Movement Bashkohu (Unite).

President Atifete Jahjaga said Kosovo is determined to protect the country’s constitutional order and security.

“The institutions take seriously the responsibility to act against this global threat in accordance with the will and definition of Kosovo citizens to build a tolerant country and one that is a contributor to the collective stability and security,” Jahjaga said.

Police said they searched locations in Pristina, Mitrovica, Peja, Prizren, Ferizaj and Gjilan and confiscated evidence.

Police also warned citizens they will act to prevent anyone from joining radical and terrorist organisations operating in Syria and Iraq.

The authorities suspect Krasniqi of inciting youths to go to Iraq and Syria, as well as money laundering.

The latest arrests are part of a comprehensive plan to address radicalism from the security point of view, but also education, economic development and EU and NATO integration, said Ramadan Ilazi, an adviser to Prime Minister Hashim Thaci.

“The arrests have sent also a message that no one is untouchable when it is about the national security of our state and preservation of our fundamental Western values,” Ilazi told SETimes.

Ilazi said the imams are known for their radical religious discourse and Kosovo has clearly signalled it will not tolerate any abuse of religion to support terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria or anywhere else.

Officials said Kosovo began inspecting suspicious transactions by NGOs and individuals beginning in 2013 to the present.

“From the analysis we have done and the information received from some states in Europe and in the east, we established several cases and sent them to the Kosovo police,” Dardan Nuhiu, director of Kosovo’s financial intelligence unit, told SETimes.

Kosovo wants to show it is fighting radicalism, given the concerns that its citizens are going to Syria, said Seb Bytyci, head of the Balkan Policy Institute in Pristina.

“[But] fighting radicalism requires a greater focus on financial and organised crime on one hand, and fighting ideology with an alternative ideology,” Bytyci toldSETimes.

Other experts said the arrests are more of an attempt to create the impression that Kosovo is addressing the problem.

“[It] cannot be solved without addressing the very problem and knowing the genesis of the problem. Kosovar institutions need to work on the prevention of radicalisation in other fields and imams should become their partners,” Abit Hoxha, senior researcher of Kosovo Centre for Security Studies in Pristina, told SETimes.

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