Kosovar Students Defy Headscarf Ban

SRBICA, Serbia (AP) - Three students were suspended from school in Kosovo this week for wearing Muslim headscarves, reflecting a debate that is echoing across Europe and complicating the province’s quest for independence…[S]ome in the breakaway Serb province fear its bid for statehood could suffer if Kosovo is perceived as overly Islamic.

“Not only does religion damage the quest for independence, it damages our entire concept,” said Rexhep Ismajli, the head of Kosovo’s Academy of Science, a body that includes the province’s leading thinkers. “It damages Kosovo’s society, it damages our vision.”

Fatmire Jashari, 18, was suspended from her high school in the central Kosovar town of Srbica — a former stronghold of the now-disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army, the guerrilla group that fought Serb forces in the
1998-1999 war.

STOP RIGHT THERE. The areas where Kosovo’s predictable trend toward religiousness is strongest are those that happen to be former strongholds of the Islamist-allied KLA. This isn’t the first time I’m hearing this. From Deliso’s book The Coming Balkan Caliphate:

In Kosovo, the Wahhabis have cleverly concentrated on those areas historically most susceptible to radicalization and rugged individualism, areas such as Drenica, Skenderaj, Djakovica, and Decani, all strongholds of the former KLA. By concentrating on these centers of Albanian nationalism, the foreign Islamists are banking on the idea that any sort of extremism is just extremism and can simpy be redirected, like a stream, as and when needed. Indeed, as one active global charity, the Birmingham, UK-based Islamic Relief makes a point of noting, Skenderaj is “a place with a long history of Albanian defiance of Serbian authority.” Eventually, hopes the foreign Islamic movement, that defiance can be redirected toward the West.

Media and policymakers in the West, however, have always blindly assumed that since the KLA and its supporters were once “pro-American” any Albanian extremists remaining among them will always remain eminently controllable nationalists. However, as has been noted, the end of the national question in Kosovo is the beginning of the religious one…

Call it the Big Duh of our Kosovo intervention. But back to the girl who wants to wear her shmata:

“I hope I won’t be pushed to choose between the two,” she said. “But if I am, I will choose the headscarf.”

We’re shocked.

Another girl in Fatmire’s school and a student in a different school were also suspended this week…Some countries in Europe remain hesitant to accede to the ethnic Albanian majority’s demands for independence, and analysts in Kosovo have raised concerns that this skepticism is due in part to Kosovo’s Islamic heritage.

“It was easy to proclaim adherence to the democratic principles of the West in during the repression of the Serb regime,” said Dukagjin Gorani, an ethnic Albanian commentator. “But when the West actually came to Kosovo, people started going to mosques. This will not necessarily make Kosovo a religious state, but it will certainly start a heated debate on what it should be.”

That last paragraph is key. Here’s a translation: “For the moment, we’d be whatever the West wanted us to be for the sake of getting that priceless intervention against the most West-like part of Yugoslavia — Serbia. As soon as we got what we wanted, lo and behold: we’re Muslims after all!”

The Albanians have been playing a similar image game in neighboring Macedonia. According to Deliso (all brackets his):

the infamous Yahya Pasha Mosque, where radical jihadi DVDs can be freely purchased…was the organizational nerve center for the February 10, 2006, protests against the Danish cartoons of Mohammad, in which some 5,000 angry young Muslims targeted the Danish Consulate and the office of a newspaper, Vreme (Time), that had printed some of the cartoons.

The event reached spectacle proportions when a vehicle containing notable persons from the then-opposition Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) pulled in front of the mob, blocking its path. DPA leaders…pleaded with the demonstrators to go home, as they were damaging the image of the Albanian people in the eyes of the world. DPA Secretary-General Ruzhdi Matoshi…later stated that “we worked for 30 years to build a partnership with the West…and [the protesters] would like to destroy that in 5 minutes. What if it had been broadcast on CNN, with images of Albanians in Macedonia looking like something out of Beirut or Pakistan — it would have been a [public relations] disaster!”

That’s right: “We mustn’t let on that anything is afoot while we still need something from the West.”

[A]s everywhere else in the Balkans, the official Islamic community on occasion takes part in supporting radical groups…In conversation, most officials state that their goal is merely to uphold the tradition of Ottoman Islam of the Hanafi school. However, this is not exactly the truth….[C]ertain factions of the IVZ [Macedonian Islamic Community] would like to see foreign varieties of Islam take root in Macedonia. It is also indisputable that senior figures from within the IVZ supported, in one form or another, the Izetbegovic government’s radical Islamist policies in Bosnia during the 1990s.