by EMRE USLU
I don’t like to talk about Kosovo in the context of “political Islamism.” The beautiful country doesn’t deserve this. Actually, Kosovo is not inching toward political Islamism, despite concerted efforts from political Islamists. Unfortunately, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) not only managed to make Turkey remembered in connection with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)/al-Qaeda terrorism but also to make Kosovo involved in this dirt.
Kosovo’s authorities were rightly alarmed to see that the number of Kosovars joining ISIL has exceeded 160, although there is a demographic basis for this in Kosovo. They decided to crack down on the network that had recruited these people.
This is the reason for the debate discussed in this article. As you will remember, I have previously written that certain Islamist organizations that were shut down as part of the probe into ISIL and the al-Nusra Front in Kosovo are supported by the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA).
For days, Turkish authorities have tried to answer the claims voiced in that article, but their remarks amount only to cheap polemics: “The parallel structure is disturbed by TİKA’s activities” or “These are efforts to create the image that Turkey has links with Islamist terrorist organizations,” etc.
Suspicions about the Association for Culture, Education and School’s (AKEA) ties with al-Qaeda are not new. Husamedin Abazi, the founder of AKEA (formerly called Urtesia), is known to be a high-profile member of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). AKEA regularly receives financial support from certain Saudi organizations that were banned from Kosovo in 2001 by the United Nations on the grounds that they supported al-Qaeda. This is the main reason for the suspicions.
Actually, there are strange things going on. Although it appears to be close to the MB, AKEA is financed by Saudi organizations that are the archenemies of the MB. One explanation is that, like its partners in Turkey, AKEA does everything to obtain money, and this is certainly a grave contradiction.
In early 2013, AKEA received a grant of $1.5 million from one of Turkey’s famous religious holdings for the project of building imam-hatip schools (madrasas) in Kosovo. The Turkish partner in this project has recently been mentioned in connection with various corruption charges. Despite insistent efforts from the Turkish side, the Kosovar authorities opted to pay heed to the Kosovar intelligence organization’s warning and did not give permission for this madrasa project, fearing that it might fuel radical Islamism in the country.
In 2008, the Kosovo security authorities warned their Turkish counterparts through a report about one of the organizations that were recently closed down. This report described the organization in question as a “larva of terrorist groups, although it has become localized.” But Turkey paid no heed to that warning.
Now let us look into the arrested people and their ties with Turkey more closely.
Fuad Ramici: He was commander of the troops who fought under the command of Fikret Abdic, who had collaborated with the Serbs to fight the Bosnians and confront their legendary leader Alija Izetbegovic.
Ramici was the founding member and first deputy chairman of the Kosovo Justice Party (Partia e Drejtesise [PD]), an Islamist party established in the wake of the war and backed by Turkey’s AKP. Leaving the PD, which he found extremely moderate, Ramici established the Bashkohu (Join!) movement. This movement first came to public attention in street protests.
Ramici further drew attention when he joined the Mavi Marmara campaign — a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, carrying humanitarian aid, attempting to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza — and organized Kosovar and Macedonian youths to this end.
Shefqet Krasniqi: He is the top figure among the detainees. Returning home in 2008 after completing his education in Saudi Arabia, Krasniqi was unexpectedly appointed by Naim Ternava, head of the Kosovo Islamic Community, as the chief sermon deliverer (waiz) and imam of Fatih Sultan Mehmet Mosque in Pristina. Interestingly, TİKA and the Kosovo Islamic Community made an agreement about the mosque’s restoration a few days before Krasniqi’s appointment.
In his writings and sermons, Krasniqi disseminated views bordering on the Salafi/Wahhabi creed. Speaking in the mosque sponsored by TİKA, he even described the Islam valued in Turkey as a “project Islam.” However, no Turkish authority, including the representatives of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, voiced any objection to his remarks.
Mazlam Mazlami: He is the least popular among the detained imams. Due to the radical rhetoric he employed in his mosque, the Kosovo Islamic Community excluded his mosque from membership in 2000. However, it had to accept it back due to pressure from Turkey.
Since the mid-1990s, he has been acting as a mediator for Kosovar students who want to study in Turkey. He is reportedly sending these students to organizations with known radical Islamist tendencies in Turkey.