By showing intolerance and readiness to commit terrorist acts, radical Muslims are defacing the Islamic religion, experts say.
By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 10/02/14
Experts say that neither Muslims nor Islam call for violence. [AFP]
Islamic extremists are the backbone of terrorist organisations in the world today, and are a security threat to the region by spreading false interpretations and Islamic principles, according to experts.
"These Muslims' ideology and fight for 'the purity of Islam,' which is jihad for them, is completely wrong and unacceptable. Jihad is not a war against the non-believers; it is a struggle with their own low feelings. Jihad is a development of man, not exclusion," Fahrudin Kladicanin, co-ordinator at the Forum 10 academic initiative in Novi Pazar, told SETimes.
He said Islamic extremists are using the faith's vocabulary to attract people with economic and social problems to kill other Muslims.
"This leads to people today seeing Islam and Muslim as terrorists, as fundamentalists, who wear bombs and wait for an ideal chance to detonate them. It is the wrong perception, it is just an image created by radical Muslims. Of course all these wrong perceptions lead to hostility, mistrust and fear of others. Neither Muslims, nor Islam, call for killing, raping or massacring," Kladicanin said.
Darko Trifunovic, a research fellow at the Faculty of Security Studies at the University of Belgrade, agreed.
"There are institutions and individuals who are implementing dangerous segments of this religion with hate speech and fuelling racial, religious and other intolerance. They are segregating people on the basis of religious affiliation, which is causing all those fears that later reflect actions of Islamic fundamentalists," Trifunovic told SETimes.
He said the primary targets of radical Islamists are other Muslims.
"Because of that, the [Syrian] conflict is so bloody and alluring for those who consider themselves Salafis, that is the Wahhabis. Members of al-Qaeda are trained to primarily shoot Sunnis. Their anger is far higher for their fellow countrymen who practice the Sunni version of Islam than for Jews or Christians," Trifunovic said.
He said radical Islam is dangerous, especially for Muslims from the Balkans since they have to prove that they are brave warriors for al-Qaeda and passionate followers of radical ideas.
Aida Corovic, a human rights activist and former director of the NGO Urban IN from Novi Pazar, has been threatened by radical Islamists. [Facebook/Aida Corovic]
"Syria is one big polygon where they have to prove and show themselves in front of other al-Qaeda members," Trifunovic said.
As a basis for the fight and prevention of terrorism, the EU maintains a counter-terrorism strategy that focuses on prevention, protection, perusal and response to terrorism. The strategy was adopted by the Council of the EU in 2005, and is updated annually.
According to Trifunovic, almost 90 percent of organisations and individuals on the EU list of terrorists are radical Muslims.
"The EU follows the work of terrorist organisations and individual extremists in order to stop it," Trifunovic told SETimes.
Milan Mijalkovski, a professor at the Serbian Faculty of Security, said radical Islam is a security threat for the Balkan countries because the population is mixed.
"The impact of radical Islam on other people is negative, especially in multi-ethnic environments. It provokes the hate of other religions because its main characteristics are intolerance and exclusion," Mijalkovski told SETimes.
Radical Islamic groups from Sandzak, a predominantly Muslim region in Serbia, and some of their members who are fighting in Syria, have been threatening Aida Corovic, a human rights activist and former director of the NGO Urban IN from Novi Pazar.
As head of Urban IN, Corovic criticised radical interpretations of Islam as well as young people who fight in foreign wars.
The threats to Corovic have recently escalated, and she has around-the-clock police protection.
"Radical Islam is spreading a negative picture and message and provokes negative impressions which lead to conflicts. Any type of extremism will cause sparks and tensions because the normal world is scared of any kind of radicalisation," Corovic told SETimes.
The Social Democratic Party of Serbia proposed a law that will sentence those who fight in foreign wars with up to five years in prison. [AFP]
She said those who are fighting in Syria, and those who support them, are manipulated and losing their lives for no reason.
"In order to promote their religion, young Muslims should stay here and try to spread a message of love and peace, since that is the séance of Islam," she said.
Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Rasim Ljajic has also been threatened. In January, Ljajic's Social Democratic Party of Serbia proposed a law that will sentence recruiters to up to 12 years in prison, and those who participate in foreign wars with prison sentences of up to five years.
The law aims to prevent the participation of Serbian citizens in armed conflicts worldwide, regardless of whether it is for religious, material or other reasons.
"The vast majority of people who decide to fight abroad are manipulated. They very often become promoters of radical political and ideological principles and crisis generators," Ljajic said.
According to Serbian law, it is not possible to stop people from believing in a religion, since it is a guaranteed right by the constitution. It is also not possible to stop them from fighting in foreign wars.
"It is possible to prosecute them for terrorism, which is a defined by the criminal code. But the problem is proving that someone has committed these crimes," the Serbian Police Department for Monitoring and Research on Terrorism told SETimes.
Corovic calls on extremists in the region to take a part in the de-radicalisation of Islam.
"This is a serious threat for all our children, never mind which religion they belong to," she said.
In what other ways do the actions of radical extremists contradict Islam's essence? Share your thoughts below.