Muslims in the Balkans refute ISIL's so-called caliphate


Citizens from different countries in the region said they belong to Europe.

By Linda Karadaku for the Southeast European Times in Tirana -- 09/07/14


Men perform a daily prayer in Skopje. Many Muslims in the Balkans say they do not recognise ISIL leader Bakr al-Baghdadi as caliph, despite the terrorist leader's claim. [AFP]

Although the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) declared its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as caliph and leader of the world's Muslim population, many in the Balkans say al-Baghdadi is nothing more than a threat to peace and to Europe.

"Kosovo can never be part of the oriental projects, whose aim is directed against the Albanian nation and its existence," Lume Berisha of Kosovo told SETimes.

Ifeta Handan, a hijab-wearing woman walking recently on a Sarajevo street, agreed.

"I do not like any kind of aggression in religion and hope that it will overpass Bosnia; the country has a lot of its own problems," Handan told SETimes.

ISIL's caliphate is claiming land that includes part of Iraq and Syria as its own, but a map with its ambitions for the future also includes countries from North Africa to Spain, including the Balkans. ISIL has also reportedly planned to move against Istanbul, Turkey.

"This is insane. What business do they have with us? We are in Europe," Enkelejda Callo, a housewife in Tirana, told SETimes.

Osman Mucollari, an Albanian taxi driver in Tirana, said ISIL is not about religion at all.

"It has no relation to religion affairs, they are lying to people," Mucollari said.

Liridon Selmani, a doctor in Kosovo, agreed. ISIL does not enjoy support from the Muslim community in Kosovo, taking into consideration the religious tolerance always present among Albanians, he told SETimes.

"It has even less support in this time, when all Albanians have returned towards the West and the Euro-Atlantic integrations. Despite the attempts to install some extremist religious movements, to our good luck, their ideas have not found the support of the citizens," Selmani said.

ISIL has been pushing within Iraq through brutal force and according to the Associated Press quoting activists from the Syrian city of Raqqa, "music has been banned, Christians must pay an Islamic tax for protection, and violators of the strict interpretation of Islamic law are killed in the main square."

"Islam is a religion of peace and these people and their aspirations only contribute to distrust among others. Because of someone's sick ambitions or goals, everybody would suffer the consequences. It means a lot of problems for the ordinary people who believe there is a lot of opportunity for everyone, regardless of which God they believe in," Jusuf Dedajic of Sarajevo told SETimes.

Human Rights Watch reported that ISIL carried out mass executions in the Iraqi city of Tikrit. Hundreds of people have been executed. The United Nations said at least 1,000 people, mainly civilians, were killed in Iraq in June as ISIL pushed through in northern Iraq.

Sead Slezovic of Novi Pazar, Serbia, said he did not support the creation of the caliphate advocated by radical Islamists.

"I really do not want and do not support any violence. We live in a multi-ethnic environment and we want to be and remain at peace with our neighbours," Slezović told SETimes.

He added that the majority of the Muslims in Serbia do not support the idea of creating a caliphate.

"We respect Islam and live by its rules, and we respect our Orthodox neighbours. I really cannot support anyone who fights for their goals with violence and terrorism," he said.

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Demir Dalipi, of Ohrid in Macedonia, described ISIL as a threat to the region.

"The answer lies on that either we will go towards a peaceful and prosperous future, or we will risk again divisions," Dalipi told SETimes.

Correspondents Bedrana Kaletovic in Sarajevo, Miki Trajkovski in Skopje and Igor Jovanovic in Belgrade contributed to this report.

How can Southeast Europe best resist ISIL's plans to divide the region through extremism? Add your thoughts in the comment area below.

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