July 28, 2008

The Bin Ladens of the Balkans, Part II

I met Shpetim Mahmudi at a covered outdoor cafe on a cold day in late spring in the ethnic Albanian region of Macedonia. Black clouds hung low over the city of Tetovo. Fat rain drops pelted the sidewalk and the awning over my head as I shivered in my light black leather jacket. “Let's go inside,” he said, “where it's warmer and drier.” We found a table and ordered coffee. He leaned in close to whisper when the waiter stepped out of earshot. “We are really in trouble here,” he said. “We are really in trouble with the Wahhabis.”

After the Kosovo War ended in 1999, well-heeled Gulf Arabs with Saudi money moved in to rebuild mosques destroyed by Slobodan Milosevic's Yugoslav army and paramilitary forces. They're still there trying to impose a stern Wahhabi interpretation of Islam on indigenous Europeans, and they're having an awfully difficult time getting much traction. Almost everyone in Kosovo despises these people. They are known as the Binladensa, the people of Osama bin Laden.

Things are different in next-door Macedonia. I had driven two hours from Kosovo's capital Prishtina through beautifully sculpted mountains and forest to Tetovo near the Kosovo and Albanian borders.

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The Kosovo side of the Kosovo-Macedonia border

What I saw there was startling.

Kosovo is a Muslim-majority country. Macedonia isn't. Only a third of Macedonia's people are Muslims. Most Muslims in both countries are ethnic Albanians, but the difference between the two came like a shock – and not in the way you might expect. Aside from the mosque minarets, Kosovo doesn't look or feel like a Muslim country at all. Its culture and politics are thoroughly secular, and its believers are not demonstrative about their religion. A huge number of people in Tetovo, though, looked like they had been airlifted in from the Middle East.

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Macedonia

I spent three weeks in Kosovo and saw no more than one or two women each day wearing a hijab – an Islamic headscarf – over their hair.

“Young
Albanians in Kosovo

In Macedonia I saw dozens wearing a hijab in just ten minutes while driving to the cafe to meet Shpetim Mahmudi. I even saw a handful of women wearing an all-enveloping black abaya -- the closest thing the Arab world has to a burkha.

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An Albanian woman Tetovo, Macedonia

I never once saw one of those in Kosovo, not even in villages. As soon as I crossed the border into Macedonia, I felt like I had been whisked through a hole in the dimension from southeastern Europe to somewhere in Arabia.

Hijabs aren't strictly Islamic. There are Muslim countries all over the world where few women wear them. It's a cultural import from the Arab world. There is nothing wrong with wearing a hijab by choice (they are required by law in Iran), and it would be wrong to assume a woman or her family are Islamist extremists based on their head gear, but I was still startled to see so many in Macedonia. Albanian women do not traditionally wear them. It was obvious that soft-imperial Arab “missionaries” from the Gulf are having a much more profound effect on the ground in Macedonia than in Kosovo.

Shpetim Mahmudi teaches at the University of Tetovo and belongs to the Bektashi order of Sufi mystics. The Bektashis are part of a distinct branch of Shia Islam, and many self-identify as the most liberal on Earth. These are the last people in the Islamic world who will join any kind of jihad. They drink alcohol, for instance, and they are not obligated to pray five times every day in a mosque. Bektashi women don't wear oppressive clothing, and their feelings of openness toward people of other faiths is genuine. Naturally they are detested by Wahhabis and other radical Sunnis as much as they would be if they were pagans or Jews.

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Shpetim Mahmudi

“We don’t pray 5 times a day like the Sunnis,” Mahmudi said. “We are similar to Ismailis, and we’re treated badly in Turkey because we don’t go to the mosque. Here in Macedonia, the Sunnis don’t treat us as Muslims. They say this sometimes. They want to be the only one representing the entire community, and they say we should come under their umbrella.”

Bektashi Sufis are no less Islamic than the Wahhabis. They are arguably even more so. Their order is hundreds of years older, after all. But they aren't chauvinists about their religion, and they don't spend billions in petrodollars on a crusade to convert the planet.

“We have nothing to do with the Arab ways,” he said, “but now we’re dressing like them. This is not nice for us. We are close to Americans, not the Middle East. We don’t have that in Albania.”

“Is it getting better or worse here?” I said.

“It was worse ten years ago,” he said. “But it has always been worse in Macedonia. There have always been more fundamentalists here. Macedonia is poorer and less educated. Now it is getting better. But it is changing slowly.”

It’s hard to believe it was worse ten years ago. The difference between the Albanian region of Macedonia and the Albanian regions of every other place – Albania proper, Kosovo, and Montenegro – amazed me. Also, there were no Wahhabis in Macedonia or anywhere else in Yugoslavia during the communist era. The Macedonian Muslim community appears to be fracturing. If a majority of Albanian-Macedonian Muslims are becoming more secular and modern at the same time a minority is becoming more radical – watch out.

Few outsiders know it, but Macedonia is the most recent country in the former Yugoslavia that experienced war. It erupted in 2001, and it was the only conflict in the former Yugoslavia where Serbian nationalists weren’t among the combatants. Albanian separatists fought and lost a struggle for independence against the Macedonian state. They did not face anything like the brutal ethnic-cleansing campaign Albanians suffered in Kosovo and Bosniaks suffered in Bosnia. Casualties were relatively low on both sides, and the international community shrugged.

I did not visit Macedonia’s capital Skopje, but the portion of the country I did see seemed the most backward of the former republics of Yugoslavia. Economic development in the Albanian region, at least, is at least as sluggish as in stagnating Kosovo, if not more so. I saw many old wheezing Yugos on the roads, for instance, and I didn’t notice any, not a single one, anywhere else on my trip through seven Balkan countries. Macedonia was not a place I wanted to stick around long. I later drove through the area again with a car full of Kosovars on a trip to Tirana, Albania, and one of my traveling companions said something that didn’t surprise me.

“There are no young people left in this village,” she said as we passed through a small town near the Albanian border. “Most of them moved to America. They will never be back.”

“How much power do the Wahhabis have here?” I said to Mahmudi as we sipped our coffee in the café.

“They control seven mosques in Tetovo,” he said.

“Out of how many?” I said.

“There are 40 mosques here total,” he said. “Many people don’t like them.”

He was obviously afraid of them, or at least very cautious. He spoke so quietly when I asked him about the Wahhabis that using my voice recorder for the interview was impossible. I had to take notes by hand. If we spoke about anything other than the Wahhabi infiltration of Macedonia he spoke at a normal volume and didn’t mind if others heard what he said. I felt like I was interviewing a dissident in a total-surveillance police state. No one anywhere else in the former Yugoslavia – not in Serbia, not in Bosnia, and not in Kosovo – whispered like this when we talked about religion or politics. It seems the Wahhabis have successfully transformed this portion of Macedonia into what former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky calls a fear society.

“Why is it so much worse here than in Kosova?” I said. “It feels oppressive.”

“It’s different in Kosova,” he said, “thanks to America and NATO. If Kosova cooperated with Muslim countries instead, it would be different. Americans are bringing their culture to Kosova and Albania, but not to Macedonia.”

Arabs are bringing their culture to Macedonia. And the Macedonian government – astonishingly – is helping them do it.

*

Mahmudi’s place of Sufi worship – his tekke – is under assault by radical Sunnis who have seized most of the sprawling ancient Ottoman compound by force, converted portions of it for their own use, and desecrated its graves and its shrines. He took me there in my rented car, but we first paid a visit to the Painted Mosque.

We parked and walked in the rain. I zipped my camera inside my jacket to keep it dry.

“What do ethnic Macedonians thinks of Americans?” I said. Ethnic Macedonians are Slavic Orthodox Christians who once belonged to Yugoslavia, but they are not Serbs. They speak their own language, which is similar to Bulgarian, and they have their own cultural traditions.

“They burned American flags in Skopje recently,” he said. “They feel close to Serbia. But George Bush recognized Macedonia’s new name, so they are more pro-American now. The name is important here. I can understand.”

Most people from outside Greece and Macedonia couldn’t care less about a parochial issue like the name of the country, but locally it’s a big deal. Much of ancient Macedonia lies inside the borders of Greece. The Greeks protested its simple constitutional name, so the country was all but forced to provisionally name itself The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia instead of simply the Republic of Macedonia, or Macedonia. Controversy over whether “The Former Yugoslav Republic of” must remain part of its name still inflames nationalists in both countries.

The ancient Painted Mosque built by the Ottoman Turks in 1459 is the most beautiful small mosque I’ve ever seen.

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The Painted Mosque

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The front door of the Painted Mosque

“The fundamentalists hate painting,” he said, “but they have to deal with this.”

The mosque dates back to the 15th Century, but Mahmudi told me the colors were touched up again in the 18th. “They say the new colors are not as good as the originals,” he said.

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A painted wall inside the Painted Mosque

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Inside the Painted Mosque

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Looking out a window from inside the Painted Mosque

It’s an architectural wonder no matter how muted the colors may be. I found myself wishing I could visit an entire city built with this amount of aesthetically pleasing detail. The Binladensa who despise it are philistines who would destroy everything beautiful and civilized in this world if they could.

Ottoman Building Macedonia.jpg

And they are trying. They’ve already wrecked parts of Mahmudi’s tekke.

We parked inside the compound and proceeded with caution. The Sufis only control parts of it now. Wahhabi-inspired Sunnis seized the rest of it.

“You see that?” he said and gestured to a building with opaque glass windows. “They took it from us and turned it into a classroom for their propaganda. An Egyptian woman teaches Albanian women in Arabic even though no one speaks Arabic here. Don’t let anyone see you take a picture of it.”

There weren’t many people around. We both made sure no one was looking. Then I snapped a quick picture and covered my camera again with my jacket.

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One of the Sufi buildings at the tekke forcibly seized by radical Sunnis

“They attacked us again on the 5th of May,” he said. “They ripped down our Bektashi flag. They broke the spindles on the shrine here and stole the donation box. And they threatened the dervish.”

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The Bektashi flag (left) and the Albanian flag (right) at Tetovo’s Sufi tekke

Dervish Abdulmytalib Beqiri is in charge of the tekke – or at least the parts that haven’t been forcibly taken over.

Mahmudi introduced me to him inside one of the few remaining buildings the Sufis control. The three of us sat down to talk over coffee.

“Welcome to our tekke,” Dervish Beqiri said in Albanian. Mahmudi translated. “Thank you very much for your time.”

Dervish Macedonia.jpg
Dervish Abdulmytalib Beqiri

“Thank you for letting me visit,” I said.

“Americans are most welcome here,” he said.

“I see you have an American flag,” I said. You won’t find many of those in Islamic holy sites in the Arab world.

American Flag Gunslot Teqe Macedonia.jpg

“Yes,” Dervish Beqiri said. “We light up the flag with a candle at night. Do you know what those slots are for?” He meant the slot where the flag and candle were perched.

I had an idea.

“What are they for?” I said.

“They are for protecting the tekke,” he said. “We used to fire guns through those slots.”

The Bektashi Sufis participated in various resistance movements against the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

“Bektashis here always fought for the Albanian cause,” Dervish Beqiri. “Some clerics were at one tekke fighting the Turks, and the Turks came and occupied it. Inside were some non-Bektashis, some Orthodox Christians, and they were hidden in the tekke. The baba was very well-known and he took these Christians, put dervish clothes on them, and introduced them to the Turks as Dervish Mark and Dervish Michael, the same names, just with Dervish added. So this baba covered them and saved the lives of Christian people. Both the Christians and Muslims were fighting for the Albanian cause. The Bektashis will fight against occupation. For freedom. For schools. For educating people. Equality and tolerance are our values.”

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A Jewish gravestone chisled in Hebrew at the Sufi tekke

“When Osama Bin Laden attacked the two towers,” he continued, “the first cleric leader in the world who judged this crucial attack as non-human was the world Bektashi father at the headquarters in Tirana. He publicly denounced this attack. He even went to the Embassy of the U.S. to present his judgment.”

“How long have you had problems with the Wahhabis here?” I said.

“Serious trouble started three years ago when they broke gravestones,” he said. “They didn’t respect our saints. They also broke pictures of Imam Ali on the walls, and of the world head of the Bektashis. They cut the pictures with knives. They think we are too close to Christianity, in part because of the pictures and candles.” The Wahhabis hate candles. “Then the Sunnis came in and occupied the tekke. They said This is Muslim territory.

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A painting of Ali. Shia Muslims, including Bektashi Sufis, believe his descendents are the rightful successors of Mohammad.

Of course the tekke was “Muslim territory” already. Bektashis are Muslims. But Sufis are often thought of as heretics and non-Muslim infidels by reactionary Sunnis.

“Look how they are manipulating people,” he said. “They want to convert the tekke into a woman’s madrassa. They want to move their administration here.”

“They are influenced by Arabs?” I said. It wasn’t really a question.

“Yes,” he said. “They are. And our government is weak. Arabs can manipulate us because our government is neglectful.”

The Macedonian government is worse than neglectful, actually. The state has formed an alliance of sorts with the Wahhabis, which is an extraordinary thing for a Christian-dominated government to do in a country where a third of the population are Muslims.

“Why would the government do this?” I said.

“It is convenient for the government because they can point at Albanians and call us terrorists,” he said.

But there is a lot more to it than that, and it strangely involves the Serbs and the Greeks who don’t recognize the autonomy of the Macedonian Orthodox Church. It’s a complicated mess. Fortunately we were able to speak in private and I could use my voice recorder again.

“The Macedonian church has a problem with their Pope,” Mahmudi explained. “This Pope, Jovan Vranishkovski, is under Serbian and Greek influence. He is paid by the Serbs. Because he is preaching at his church in Serbian. The Macedonian church is not recognized by the Serbs or the Greeks."

"The Macedonian Orthodox Church is against preaching in Serbian in Macedonian territory," he later added.

“Are the Greeks and the Serbs working together on this?” I said.

“Oh yes,” he said. “Because the Serbian church is supporting the Greek church against recognizing the Macedonian church as independent. The Greek church can recognize the Macedonian church as independent, but not under this name. They are not recognizing the name of the state and they are not recognizing the language, plus they are not recognizing the church. The Muslim community is supporting the Orthodox church against this Pope, and saying You should be independent, and this Pope should have his own church in Macedonia. The Muslim community is supporting the Orthodox church, so the Orthodox church is supporting the Muslim community against us. And the Macedonian government is under the influence of the Orthodox church. Plus, this political party – the national political party – they are investing a lot of money in the church building process, mosques also, etc. So you see, this government is sacrificing Bektashism because of the problem of the Orthodox Church with the Pope.”

Got that? The Balkans wouldn’t be the Balkans without this kind of convoluted political intrigue. It really is like the Middle East when it comes to this stuff.

Damaged Building Teqe Macedonia.jpg
This building was lightly damaged in Macedonia’s civil war in 2001

“During the conflict of 2001,” Dervish Beqiri said “some of our buildings were damaged in the fighting. We are a minority.”

“Who was doing the fighting?” I said.

“Macedonians and Albanians were doing the fighting,” he said.

“Were Bektashis involved?” I said.

“As a community, no,” he said, “but individually there may have been some involved. We are always against fighting. We are for finding peaceful solutions. In the past, Bektashis were involved in making wars, but it was for the Albanian cause, mainly against the Ottomans, and for making an independent Albania. We were very deeply involved in this. As Bektashis we are not against the state, and the state rules wherever we are. For example, Bektashis are in 31countries. Greek Bektashis are fighting for the cause of Greece, Albanian Bektashis for the Albanian cause. We respect the rule of the state no matter where we are. Bektashis in America will fight if America is involved in a war to protect America and American rules.”

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Ornate Ottoman-era architecture at the Bektashi tekke. Wahhabis despise this kind of artistic construction.

“Someone in Kosova was recently arrested for smuggling weapons into Macedonia,” I said. “Who in this region is armed?”

“I don’t know where these guns were going,” Mahmudi said.

“A lot of people around here have guns,” I said. That definitely includes the Wahhabis who often fire weapons even inside the tekke just a few dozen feet from where we were sitting.

“Before the election,” Mahmudi said, “at night you could hear weapons shooting. Just two days ago someone was shooting near here. Someone was shooting from here, inside the tekke. Many times we have reported to the police that people are shooting from inside this part of the tekke at night.”

“They are intimidating you,” I said.

“Mr. Katroshi is a guest here from Tirana,” Mahmudi said, “and he has noticed that the people from outside are not only trying to scare us with weapons, but are also looking at them as enemies and trying to provoke them in any way they can. The Sunnis are looking at the people coming here with an unfriendly eye. Even the guests that used to come here often are now not coming because they are scared. They are always provoked. The only people coming to the tekke are the people who must come, who have something important to do.”

“So they are trying to take the whole thing?” I said.

“They are trying to make us not come here at all,” Dervish Beqiri said. “They are trying to take over everything. It is a cycle of aggression. I was alone when the crucial attack happened. I saw some people speaking Albanian when I went out behind to feed the chickens. They attacked the grave of a saint, they broke the shrine, and they stole the donation box. They also broke the Bektashi flag, the green one that was just next to the Albanian flag. They didn’t touch that one, the national flag, the Albanian flag, they just broke the Bektashi flag. This means the attack was done by Muslim people. If it was Macedonians they would have broken both flags. So Muslims did this, for sure. Also there was a verbal attack after this from the people praying in our place that has been transformed into a kind of mosque.”

“What did they say to you?” I said.

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Sufi gravestones

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The coffins of Sufi saints

“Some are trying to accuse us of doing this to ourselves,” he said. “But Bektashis never do things against their properties. All Bektashis believe in the same graves. We keep them and pray to them. We believe that if we damage a grave God will punish us, so we are very afraid to do this, we would never do this. We keep the saint graves. The Muslims know this, they are trying to provoke us and claim that we have done it to ourselves. But no, really they did it. Plus, I see these Wahhabis around. Usually at night the Wahhabis are coming, sometimes in trousers, sometimes in their clothes, sometimes with the things on their heads and with beards.”

The next building over in the compound had been forcibly converted into a Sunni mosque. Speakers for the muezzin’s call to prayer were bolted to the side of the chimney. During our interview the call to prayer screeched from above. “Allahu Akbar…” the muezzin called. My Bektashi Sufi hosts groaned.

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A chimney forcibly converted into a minarat by radical Sunnis

“Ugh,” Mahmudi said and made a face. “You see what we have to listen to five times a day? This is supposed to be a quiet place for meditation.”

“In the beginning, at night,” Dervish Beqiri said, “when they had full control of the city because of the conflict, the war, they were coming, preaching to the local people, preaching Wahhabism. When they came here, the Wahhabis, with the intent to take full control of the Muslim community, they used these people who had been studying in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. They were using them to put them in some of the mosques, and now they are in control of eight mosques with these people who had been studying in the Arab countries. But they couldn’t succeed in taking full control of the Muslim community. So now they are trying other ways to get influence like preaching to the local people their way of believing, trying to have some control, and even having some ideas of how to transform the tekke into their center. They couldn’t succeed in taking full control of the Muslim community because the Muslim community is not only Macedonian, but it is Kosovar, and from other Balkan countries, and their religion is influenced by the Hanafi Turkish school. It is Hanafism. They are now trying to at least change this tradition from Hanafism into their tradition. They are mainly Wahhabis, Salafi Wahhabis. They are using the fact that the local people are poor and unemployed, they are paying them to convert to Wahhabism. Also they are making people pray five times a day.”

“How much are they being paid?” I said.

“We are not sure,” he said, “maybe 200 or 300 dollars or Euros per month. They are paying more to convert women.”

I heard from a number of people in Kosovo that Saudi-funded Wahhabis are also trying to pay people there to attend their mosques and wear Arab clothing. I could not, however, verify whether or not that is true.

“So these are people who have studied in the Arab world and are bringing the ideas back from there,” I said. “Has there been any violence here between the Bektashis and the Sunnis?”

“Recently no,” Dervish Beqiri said, “because we have the support of the American Embassy and also the Albanian political party in government. Once we get support from someone they get angry and try to provoke us. But we stay away, we don’t get involved in violent acts. There have been some attempts at attacks, but small ones. No physical attacks just small attempts. We always escape from such situations. Such a conflict is exactly what they want.”

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A bullet hole in the tekke from Macedonia’s civil war in 2001

I am only aware of small violent incidents in Macedonia since the civil war in 2001, but that isn’t for lack of trying on the part of some people. 17 suspected terrorists were rounded up in this city last year, and just a few days ago they were given a combined total of 192 years in prison. One is from Serbia, one is from Kosovo, one is from Albania, and the other 14 are apparently from Macedonia. Lirim Jakupi, the Albanian from Serbia, is nicknamed the “Nazi Commander.” They are allegedly Wahhabis linked to local foundations from Saudi Arabia. They were caught with modern sophisticated weaponry, including laser-guided anti-aircraft missiles.

“In Albania,” Dervish Beqiri said, “the Muslim community is having some problems with these Wahhabis, but these are small problems. The Muslim communities are all against them, which is not the case in Macedonia. In Albania they are always against them. We don’t have that here. The Muslim population of Albania and Kosova is more educated. We have recently a university in Albania, so they are more educated and they don’t get easily involved. The Wahhabis are always trying to get involved, and it is easy for them to get involved in the less well-educated population and the poor population.”

“Is the tension with the Bektashis and the Sunnis only with the Wahhabis?” I said.

“These parts of our buildings are taken by violence from the Sunni community, so in a way we have a problem with the Sunni community, but the basis is the Wahhabism. It is mainly the Wahhabi part of the Muslim community. But also they are using the Wahhabis to realize their goals, so we have a problem with both.”

“So they are working together against you,” I said. “Do they also have problems with each other?”

“Yes,” he said. “They were shooting at each other during the elections for the president of the Muslim communities in Macedonia. The one who was to be chief of the Muslim communities was on the blacklist of America. His name is Zenun Berisha. He was the president of the Skopje branch of the Muslim community, and he pretended to become the president of the Muslim community of Macedonia.. He is on the American blacklist because of his links with foreign extremists. He wanted to be the head, but he didn’t succeed. And they used firearms. They didn’t kill, but they did this with violence.”

Covered Woman Inside Teqe Macedonia.jpg

When Mahmudi escorted me back to my car, a woman entered the tekke wearing a tent-like abaya.

“Look at that,” he said. “We never had that. Take a picture, take a picture.”

I took several pictures. I don’t think she saw me. I’ve seen many women dressed like that in the Arab world – especially in ferociously reactionary cities in Iraq like Fallujah – but never anywhere else in the Balkans.

“Please publish these pictues,” he said. “Show the world what is happening here.”

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Posted by Michael J. Totten at July 28, 2008 1:11 AM
Comments

More fantastic and important fotos, plus the coming problems of minority Muslims in Macedonia. Your paragraph about the various church based machinations was priceless.

It's funny how so many nationalists get linked with churches who want independence for their language-tribe nation. The Slovak Catholic church was quite happy to leave the domination of the Czechs, and the Slovak ex-commie leader who led the separation is arguably more popular among some Church functionaries than the Christian dissent leader who wanted to wait until joining the EU before separating.

Church politics is probably under-studied in history with respect to people's feelings and the politicians they support.

The imporation of Arab Muslim habits on women is an ominous trend that bears watching. But if poverty is an issue, education and especially jobs are the obvious answers.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Author Profile Page at July 28, 2008 6:14 AM

But wait! Haven't the Saudis been real busy sponsoring conferences on inter-religious tolerance?!

Posted by: Barry Meislin Author Profile Page at July 28, 2008 8:44 AM

It is often surprising where we find hijabs, burkas, and the like. I was surprised to find the highest concentration of both I'd ever seen in Niagara Falls, Canada, a fact which upset one of the people I was traveling with (a friend who sees these as symbols of female oppression). It didn't seem to be one particular tour, but rather several groups coming to see the falls separately. This was our last stop in a Canadian trip made my mostly Manhattanites, and it was quite a contrast to the other places we'd gone.

Posted by: calbear Author Profile Page at July 28, 2008 10:37 AM

Michael - great article. Do you have any more details about that jewish gravestone? was it an entire jewish cemetery, or a single grave? did you ask them what a jewish grave was doing there, or how long it has been there? Thanks. - Alan

Posted by: Alan Author Profile Page at July 28, 2008 11:20 AM

Alan,

I didn't ask about the Jewish gravestone because I got distracted, so to speak, by the woman walking in with the abaya and forgot to follow up on it. So I'm an idiot. I also can't read Hebrew. Can anyone here translate what it says?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 28, 2008 11:31 AM

I think it might be useful to keep in mind that Wahhabism is primarily a theological sect centred around an anthropormorphic view of God and rejection of forms of worship seen as innovative. There is no specifically wahhabi view of women's clothing anymore than there is a sufi/sunni or shia one. Plus the issue of clothing itself has only been made significant for any of these groups in the last 200 years.It isn't definative of any of them.

Secondly, I don't understand this issue of "Arabisation". African Christians wear western clothes and nobody calls that European imperialism,and why should it be if it's a free choice?

Posted by: Daniel E. Author Profile Page at July 28, 2008 11:36 AM

I was a refugee in Macedonia in 1999. I tell you, things are not as bad as they were back on those days.

I remember when I got into a fight with an Albanian in Tetovo for calling my sister a "slut" for showing off her belly and wearing mini skirts in one of the quarters of the town.

As Kosovo been freed, people there are changing drastically. Two universities have opened and many Kosovar women are teaching schools.

I think the US government should pressure Macedonia to stop allowing Arabs there and also allow Albanians to build more high schools and education institutions.

Sooner or later, they will have to reform!

Neverhtless, it takes time to change people. It will happen. It takes a generation to change people!

Posted by: TrueAlbo2006 Author Profile Page at July 28, 2008 11:52 AM

Daniel: African Christians wear western clothes and nobody calls that European imperialism

Was that always true? I don't know, but I'd be surprised if Africans didn't think so when it started.

I don't care what Albanians wear. It's their business, not mine. I pointed out the extreme difference in clothing styles in Macedonia and Kosovo because it's a visible gauge of how successful the Wahhabis are in each place. A country (like Kosovo) where 99.5 percent of the women refuse to wear a hijab is not going to become a jihad state or fall under the direction of Saudi fanatics. A European country that becomes increasingly Arabized, whether by choice or not, is going to have serious problems. Just watch.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 28, 2008 11:54 AM

Regarding the jewish gravestone. Its a bit tough to make out, but I believe the last line is a date which corresponds to September, 1702 (lit: "Elul, 5462") There also appears to be a reference to "ascend Mount Moses" and "Village of Joseph" - these might be prayers or bible verses. The name of the deceased looks like "Luriel". That's all I got. I referred your site to an expert, so hopefully we'll have more soon. - Alan

Posted by: Alan Author Profile Page at July 28, 2008 12:16 PM

The Macedonian government is worse than neglectful, actually. The state has formed an alliance of sorts with the Wahhabis, which is an extraordinary thing for a Christian-dominated government to do in a country where a third of the population are Muslims.

“Why would the government do this?” I said.

“It is convenient for the government because they can point at Albanians and call us terrorists,” he said.

'nuff said. That, and to play out the weird Orthodox Pope drama. A theocracy is the political structure most vulnerable to cultural collapse, even a Christian theocracy.

In Macedonia Albanians are second-class citizens, which has produced this most disgusting reaction: the beginning of a cooptation by extremists.

I also think it's got to do with being an oppressed minority. Kosovar Albanians had in one way or another administered themselves or been fighting to administer themselves since they can remember, within a confined territory. Macedonian Albanians, on the other side, don't have a clear cut boundary of a region in which they feel 'safe' in their identity, and free to administer themselves.

So they cling to their religion much more desperately, as a way to affirm their identity in an assimilationist host country hostile to them. They are the minority in Macedonia, so they have to try harder to be Albanian, whatever they conceive their differences with ethnic Macedonians to be (and I guess religion is one of them). Kosovars, on the other hand, have always been a majority in Kosovo, where they were secure in their identity.

That's my 2 cents. While I don't advocate union of Kosovo with Albania, I actually would be in favor of the western Albanian part of Macedonia to secede and join Albania proper, which is more emancipated and would assimilate anyone's excuses for 'religious resistance', or going 'really hard core' to affirm their Albanianness.

I was in Macedonia many years ago, visiting with my mother and her younger more transgressive friend (all Albanian from Albania proper). My mothers friend asked an Albanian man in the boulevard where the nearest disco was, and he was idignant "Go back to Albania to get your disco". I never forgot that...

Such conservatism is unheard of in Albania.

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at July 28, 2008 1:07 PM

Re: Jewish Gravestone - oweing to vegetation in front of the stone, and degredation of the carving itself, the expert couldn't read any more than I could. Looks like this will remain a mystery for some time...

Posted by: Alan Author Profile Page at July 28, 2008 2:59 PM

Medaura: Such conservatism is unheard of in Albania.

The difference between the two places (I saw them both on the same day) made my head spin.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 28, 2008 4:51 PM

I was about 13 years old, and visited Ohri and Tetova. This incident I reported was in Tetova. I remember perceiving overall backwardness, but I don't remember seeing women in hijabs/burqas myself. Or perhaps I wasn't sensitive enough to Islamism at that age to make such an observation, though I still think I would remember...

Perhaps it's gotten worse since then. It was 9 years ago.

...saddening.

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at July 28, 2008 6:08 PM

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 07/29/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Posted by: David M Author Profile Page at July 29, 2008 9:54 AM

The Wahhabis pay people to join them, and it's sad that it works. I wonder if the people would leave the religion if the money stops. Probably not after a generation of people raised a certain way...

Extremists seem to have an easy time converting poorer areas, and I never realized until now that it's probably because of the money.

Posted by: NYC Financial Planner Author Profile Page at July 29, 2008 10:09 AM

Can anyone here translate what it says?

It is hard to read, and foliage is blocking the end of each line, and along the bottom. And I am certainly no expert, but this is what it looks like to me (*** for words I can't make out):

עדינו באבו ***
*** ורך בשנים ***
**** ** *** ****
כהר משה כנר יוסף
טוגיאל ** כד לחדש
אלול התמב *****
ת

(That last letter was to make the right-left stuff come out correctly...)

My translation:

He was still in his youth ***
*** and tender in years ***
**** *** ** ****
Like the mountain of Moses like the candle of Joseph
Tugiel ** 24 of the month of
Elul 5442 ***

Posted by: David Boxenhorn Author Profile Page at July 29, 2008 11:29 AM

Bektashi Sufis are no less Islamic than the Wahhabis. They are arguably even more so. Their order is hundreds of years older, after all. But they aren't chauvinists about their religion, and they don't spend billions in petrodollars on a crusade to convert the planet.

One of the questions that always bothers me when I read about how much more radical the Wahhabis are than the ______ (fill in the blank) is where does Mohammad fit in that arc of moderation? Furthermore in the United States we always hear that it is only the Sunnis that are radical...wasn't it the Shia that planned and sponsored the attacks on the Marine Barracks? Isn't the Shia (Iran) that is sponsoring most of the attacks on Northern Israel? Is Hezb'Allah Sunni or Shia?

Posted by: Pierre Legrand Author Profile Page at July 29, 2008 11:38 AM

Pierre: One of the questions that always bothers me when I read about how much more radical the Wahhabis are than the ______ (fill in the blank) is where does Mohammad fit in that arc of moderation?

He was no Bektashi Sufi, let's put it that way. Mohammad was "progressive" for his place and time, but look at his place and time.

Furthermore in the United States we always hear that it is only the Sunnis that are radical

The worst of the crazies -- Al Qaeda -- is Wahhabi Sunni. But Hezbollah is Shia. So is Moqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army. So is the Islamic Republic regime in Iran.

Until 1979, though, Shias were a lot more mellow in general than Sunnis. That is most likely where this misconception comes from.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 29, 2008 12:33 PM

Hi Michael:

In Re the Taliban, Bin Laden and the Wahabbiyah.

It is common wisdom, (because that is how it has been spun) that Taliban means The Students, after the madrassa students which supposedly formed the Taliban.

But one needs to dissect the Word Taliban as well as Islamic narrative and mythology.

As "Im" in Hebrew means "people of" as in Ashkenazim (people of Ashkenaz) or Sephadim (peoples of the scroll- Sephar = scroll or book)
"An" means people of or followers of and Taliban means people or followers of the Student.

And who is this Student, why none other than Ali ibn Abu Talib, the first Shi'a Imam, and according them the legitimate successor of Hubal Qassim aka the praised one or Muhammad.

The name Ali ibn Abu Talib is self referential and circular translated it means Exalted son of the father of the student, (Ali = exalted, ibn = son, abu = father, talib = student), it is actually a title, and an invention, bestwwed on this personage (if he existed at all) after his death.. Ali was, in Islamic narrative, the cousin of Muhammad, the husband of Muhammads daughter Fatima and his first STUDENT.

Wrapping your mind around that, then consider that the only real seperation between Wahabi and Shi'a is the theological rift, in all of Islam the two versions of Shari'a (Islamic Law) that are most similar (and harsh) are those of Saudi Arabia (Wahabbi) and Iran now Iraq (Shi'a).

I postulate that Bin Laden was sent to Afghanistan, to use Wahabbi oil money, on a mission to create a syncretic union between Wahabbi and Shi'a Islam. Instead of excising Ali, the first Shi'a Imam, as the Sunni's have done, the Wahabbi's have sought to coopt him and bring him and his followers on board their train.

Remember that there has been a violent history in the interaction between Sunni and Shi'a since the death of the grandson of Ali (Hussein and the most revered of all Shi'a saints.. the central focus of the annual Ashura ritual where macho men beat themselves bloody with janzeer and swords.

The Wahabbi's don't believe in Saints, but they also fear a Shi'a revival, and let's not forget that Ayatollah (Verse of Allah) Khomeini, sent his wife and a delegation to ignite an insurrection in Mecca during the 1980 Hajj pilgrimage.

The Taliban are a new Islamic cult, one created by the Wahabbis and one that was fed, supported and still is by the U.S. Government, either by our leaders kindly and subordinate relations with the Saudi's or the Pakistani's.

This new cult is a syncretic union of Shi'ah and Wahabbiyah..not hostile to either, at least ostensibly. The Iranians gave and give succor to the Talban, so long as they kept and keep their activities on their side of the border and did not pose an existential threat to the mullahcracy of Iran, but when they cross border and pose a threat, then Iran reacts harshly and effectively.

But theologically, there is room in the Taliban play book for Arab Wahabbiyyah and Persian Shi'ah.

Elsewhere in the land of Islam, the alliance between Shi'a and Sunni is tenuous and is best expressed by the Arabic saying. "Me against my brother, my brother and I against my cousin, my brother, cousin and I against the stranger".

And the stranger is the Kufr, the unbeliever, the Christian, the Jew, those who do not accept Muhammad as the final prophet of Allah, or believe in the Arabic chief god Al Ilah - Allah.

Posted by: Nariz Author Profile Page at July 29, 2008 2:23 PM

The Taliban aren't hostile to the Shia?

Funny.

Posted by: Daniel E. Author Profile Page at July 29, 2008 2:45 PM
The Taliban aren't hostile to the Shia?

Funny.

Posted by: Daniel E. at July 29, 2008 2:45 PM

That comment falls under the logical fallacy category of strawman.

You put words in my mouth (and what are you really up to anyway?) Re read my comment I covered that ground quite adequately.

Are you muslim? You come across as such.

Cheers

Posted by: Nariz Author Profile Page at July 29, 2008 4:13 PM

A large number of the Muslims of Macedonia, like Shpetim Mahmudi above, are not Albanians, although they do speak Albanian (as many do speak also Serbian, Bulgarian, etc.) and are mistakenly identified as such. They are members of the Roma ethnic minority in Macedonia.

Posted by: redon Author Profile Page at July 30, 2008 7:27 AM

Redon,

What makes you think Shpetim Mahmudi is Roma? He refers to Albanians as "we," not "they."

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 30, 2008 10:09 AM

The type of triangulation you describe between the various orthodox churches isn't really that surprising. Sad, but not surprising. During the Crusades, a series of wars much more obviously about religion than these conflicts, the church out of Constantinople would regularly ally itself with Muslim caliphs against the Catholic invaders. Sometimes it would work out for them -- from their point of view, of course -- but sometimes it would backfire horribly. The enemy of my enemy...

Posted by: jasonholliston Author Profile Page at July 30, 2008 10:42 AM
Your explanation, or the dervish's, for the alliance between the Wahhabis and the Macedonian government is to say the least unclear.
“Because [their Pope] is preaching ... in Serbia, the Macedonian [Orthodox] church is not recognized by the Serbs or the Greeks... the Serbian church is supporting the Greek church against recognizing the Macedonian church as independent... under this name.”
If I get this, the Macedonian Orthodox Patriarch has sold out to Serbia. He moved to Serbia, and the Greek and Serbian Orthodox Churches use this to deny the separate status of the Macedonian Orthodox Church. The Greek Orthodox Church is in this to deny Macedonia a key national institution.
“The Muslim community is supporting the Orthodox church against this Pope... so the Orthodox church is supporting the Muslim community against us. And the Macedonian government is under the influence of the Orthodox church."
By "Muslim community" the Dervish seems to mean the Wahhabis and their foreign backers. If not, this entire paragraph is insane. That really needs clarifying. It's also very odd that the Dervish would use "Muslim" in that way - it practically concedes the claim of the Wahhabis.

What is this Muslim "support" for the Macedonian Orthodox Church?

Are the Wahhabis are slipping money under the table to the Macedonian Orthodox Church?

Posted by: Rich Rostrom Author Profile Page at July 30, 2008 10:48 AM

Rich,

Yes, it is confusing.

The mainstream Sunnis and Wahhabis are often against each other, but they collaborate against the Shia Bektashi Sufis. And yes, the Macedonian Orthodox Church and the government are throwing support behind the Wahhabis. It's insane, and they are going to regret it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 30, 2008 10:52 AM

Redon,

No way that man is a Roma.

First off, he would have self-identified as such because the Roma, while sympathetic to the Albanian national cause, do not consider themselves Albanian, or at any rate, not more so than they consider themselves Roma first.

Second, (and I know what you are thinking) his skin tone is not even indicative of Roma ancestry: while noticeably darker than the average Albanian, it is much more olive than brown.

If anything, unless he is actually 100% Albanian lineage-wise, he might/could perhaps conceivably be Jevg, but not Roma.

While the Roma are a pan-Indian nomadic tribe, the Jevg are descendants of Egyptian slaves whom the Ottomans brought with them in their military campaigns against Albanians. They do not have a national Jevg identity (unlike the Roma), consider themselves fully Albanian and are well-integrated, and it's a grave insult to point out to them their Jevg ancestry, because they consider themselves Albanian.

Their skin tone is more olive (Mediterranean/Arab) than Roma/Indian brown. Many Albanians do not even know the difference between the Roma and the Jevgs though. From various online sources:

Two distinct groups of Roma (Gypsies), the Jevg and the Arrixhi (Gabel), reside in Albania. The Jevg are more likely to be settled in urban areas and are more integrated into the Albanian economy than the Arrixhi. The two groups seldom intermarry or have any significant contact. Both groups encounter societal discrimination, but no specific violence is known to have been directed against them during 1993.

....

To all of above terms we must add the words Evgjit and/or Jevg. Both refer to a group of unascertained origins (probably Egyptian) and social structure, but are sometimes used to refer to Rroms on the grounds that they are perceived as less offensive than the colloquial terms listed above. In some regions of Albania, no distinction is made between Evgjit and Rroms, whatever names they are locally known by. Unfortunately, all Albanian dictionaries translate the English term "Gypsy" as "Evgjit", and many writers use the term to designate the Rroms in the mistaken belief that it is less inappropriate than Arxhi, Gabel etc.7. Nonetheless the common people do, as Stuart Mann points out, "make a sharp distinction between them"8; all Albanians would include both groups under the term dora e zezë ("black hand") as opposed to dora e bardhë ("white hand"- a term covering native Albanians, Greeks and Slavs: n. b. that dora, like the Turkish word kol, means both "hand" and "social group". Rromani equivalents for these phrases - kalo vast, parno vast - do exist, but are little used).

In fact the Evgjit or Jevg constitute a comparatively small minority group of not more than 40 000 persons living mostly in Tirana with smaller concentrations in other Albanian cities such as Peqin, Përmet etc. Their origins and position are extremely confused, and the little information available is contradictory. Stuart Mann is correct when he states that "they stoutly deny any connexion with the Rroms, and to call them "Tsikan" is the worst possible insult (the opposite is also true — M.C.). Their traditions seem to point to an African origin. Regarding this, I once met a Jevg in the market-place in Tirana. I told him I was a bit of a lavengro9 and asked him some questions about his language and the origins of the Jevg tribe. He told me his name, which I do not remember, said that the only language he knew was Albanian, and that all the tribe had forgotten their primitive language, except for one very old man, to whom he would introduce me if I turned up in the market-place the following Thursday. Of course I did turn up at the appointed time, but saw no more of the man. In the few minutes' chat we had, the old Jevg assured me that his people came from a land 'a two days' journey towards the sun' which must be Egypt. He was emphatic that his tribe had nothing whatever to do with the Rroms, and his statement seems to be borne out by the fact that in type and in feature the two tribes do not resemble one another in the slightest. A year later I met a Jevg who had joined the Shkodra Rroms. I spoke a few words of Rromani to him, but the others assured me he didn't understand"10

link found here: http://www.rromani.org/en/a3.htm#3.%20A%20non-Rromani%20minority%20of%20the%20Black%20Hand%20%E2%80%94%20The%20Evgjit%20or%20Jevg

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at July 30, 2008 11:54 AM

That comment falls under the logical fallacy category of strawman.

You're inventing linguistics based conspiracy theories and then claiming logical consistancy?

Are you muslim?

No. Would you like to check my junk to make sure?

Posted by: Daniel E. Author Profile Page at July 30, 2008 12:31 PM

To Redon,

(Let me explain to the public here who is unfamiliar with the current situation.)

Redon, you are a wahabi product, which it has brainwashed you, so anyone appearing on this article that does not fit your ideology, you abruptly claim to change their identity. That's the tragedy of allowing these filthy arabs in our ancient albanian lands. It's about to time to cleanse them out.
Binladensa of your like, have failed in Kosovo. I should mention how one of your binladens dude, came to Kosovo from Saudi Arabia and lost his wife and his kids who decided to choose the other way of liberal islam as Michael put it. I understand why no Muslim country recognizes Kosovo, because islam in Kosovo will change the face of the entire Islam in the world.
It's happening in Macedonia everyday. There are less religious people everyday, and redon, you are losing your battle until one day those arab petrodollars will stop streaming to your bank account. If you are Albanian, you should be ashamed of yourself. Sooner or later, you will awaken from your slumber.


Sufi is very widespread in Tetova, Shkup, Kumanov, Prizren, Gjakove, Peje, Shkoder, Berat, Korce, Vlore, Janine, Arate and so on.

Muhmud is not a gypsy, but an Albanian. Perhaps, it doesn't fit your redhead or light brown looks, but sure, as hell, he's Albanian.

Posted by: TrueAlbo2006 Author Profile Page at July 30, 2008 2:51 PM

Shpetim Mahmudi just read this article and the comments thread, and he emailed to tell me that is not Roma, but Albanian.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 30, 2008 2:53 PM

Michael,

The headquarters of Sufi or Bektashi religion are in Tirana Albania.

Posted by: TrueAlbo2006 Author Profile Page at July 30, 2008 3:02 PM

Even if Shpetim Mahmudi were Roma or Jevg, which he doesn't even seem to be, and most importantly, he has not identified himself as in the article, and is explicitly confirming now through Michael that he is Albanian, but even if he were, so what?

Or is Redon implying that a Roma could not know what he is talking about, and whatever community he represents or allies with (religious or otherwise) is not antithetic to the Albanian cause in Macedonia?

Redon didn't directly state this, but him pointing out what he thinks might be the ancestry of Shpetim Mahmudi, without any further explanation, strongly suggests that the significance he attaches to his perceived lineage is that "true" Albanians would be Wahhabis.

Perhaps I am reading too much into it.

Redon, care to elaborate?

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at July 30, 2008 4:19 PM

err, some typos above:

...he has not identified himself as such in the article...

...is antithetical to the Albanian cause in Macedonia...

Sorry, I hate typing with my feet too.

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at July 30, 2008 4:21 PM

confusion may have arisin due to the fact that the Roma are highly represented in many of the Sufi orders found throughout Kosova and Macedonia - such as the Rifa'is, Kadiris and Halvetis. However, the Bektashi order is purely Albanian, and to a lesser extent, Turkish. There are no Roma Bektashis anywhere to be found in the Balkans.

Posted by: bektashi110 Author Profile Page at July 30, 2008 11:24 PM

Hi again Michael,

Even in this second part of your article, you suck again. Your anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate is proverbial and reminds me the anti-semitism displayed in the times of Nazi Germany.

But this is not all. You seem to have no understanding of the Albanian Islam. You confuse the Ottoman Islam of Macedonians, with the Wahabi Islam. Muslims of Macedonia follow the same form of Islam as Muslims of Turkey. Many of those ppl calling themselves Albanians in Macedonia nowadays are in fact Ottoman Turks, Albanianised during the decades of Tito. However you confuse and connect them with Wahabism in such a miraculous manner, that you seems better than G. Bush who was showing WMD in Iraq before the war.

I have a suggestion for you: apply for a job in the white house. You can find the weapons of Sadam in Kosova and Macedonia!

Posted by: albanian Author Profile Page at July 31, 2008 4:29 PM

Albanian: Even in this second part of your article, you suck again. Your anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate is proverbial and reminds me the anti-semitism displayed in the times of Nazi Germany.

Oh, give me a break. One of my interview subjects -- Shpetim Mahmudi -- read this article yesterday. He is obviously a Muslim, and his only objection to this piece was a typo which I went back and fixed.

If I hated the Muslims of the Balkans (or anywhere else) as much as the Nazis hated Jews, explain to me why I supported the liberation of Kosovo from Slobodan Milosevic and his band of actually fascistic war criminals.

Some readers who have accused me of excessive bias in these dispatches from the Balkans say I am too biased toward the Albanians and the Muslims. Go bark at them. You deserve each other.

And if you want the right to stick around here without getting yourself banned, don't ever tell me I "suck" again or call me a Nazi. I will throw you out.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 31, 2008 4:46 PM

Albanian: Even in this second part of your article, you suck again. Your anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate is proverbial and reminds me the anti-semitism displayed in the times of Nazi Germany.

Firstly, you definitely need to cut the crap! Secondly, stop pretending to be an Albanian. To suggest that Albanians from Macedonia are Turks is nothing but a product of the Wahabi propaganda. Wahabis even claimed in Kosovo that because of Skanderbeg, we are nation of at most 8 million in the Balkans instead of 50 million. People in Kosovo didn't buy their bullshit, and I am, in fact, very glad that people in Macedonia (Albanians) are rejecting them slowly but surely, hopefully.

To Micheal,
You should NOT give her/him a second chance, for s/he is already brainwashed and will again spew bullshit out of his/her mouth. As an Kosovar-Albanian, who has traveled to Montenegro, Albania, and Macedonia, I can say for sure that your writings just reflect the reality on the ground.

Keep up the good job!

Posted by: DardanGator Author Profile Page at July 31, 2008 6:29 PM

DardanGator: You should NOT give her/him a second chance, for s/he is already brainwashed and will again spew bullshit out of his/her mouth.

Most likely. He/she/it gets one more chance only and will almost certainly blow it.

As an Kosovar-Albanian, who has traveled to Montenegro, Albania, and Macedonia, I can say for sure that your writings just reflect the reality on the ground.

Thanks for the backup.

stop pretending to be an Albanian.

I also thought "Albanian" might not be an Albanian and is only pretending to be. But there are Wahhabi-Albanians, and he/she/it might be one of them. If so, these comments are very revealing of the mentality.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten Author Profile Page at July 31, 2008 6:36 PM

"As "Im" in Hebrew means "people of" as in Ashkenazim (people of Ashkenaz) or Sephadim (peoples of the scroll- Sephar = scroll or book)"

What?

In "-im" is the plural ending for masculine words (typically), similar to "-s" in English.

Ashkezim are more than one Askenaz.

Sephardim are more than one Sephard.

Sepharad is the name of a region mentioned in the Bible later identified as Spain.

"Sefer" (plural "sfarim") does indeed mean "book".

Perhaps you are confusing the ending "-im" (Yud Mem) with the word "im" (Ayin Mem), which means "with" and/or the word "am" (also Ayin Mem), which means "people".

"Talib" is Arabic for student (the Hebrew is "talemid"). The "-an" is an Indoeuropean plural (related to English "-en" in "oxen"). The Arabic plural of "talib" is probably irregular, like "tulab" or something like that.

Posted by: Leauki Author Profile Page at August 1, 2008 3:30 AM

"I also thought "Albanian" might not be an Albanian and is only pretending to be. But there are Wahhabi-Albanians, and he/she/it might be one of them. If so, these comments are very revealing of the mentality."

Plus he obviously didn't read your past articles, if he thinks that you are "anti-Muslim".

(Of course, in the eyes of the Wahabi heretics, only Wahabi heretics are Muslims. They reverse the meaning of the word "Muslim".)

Posted by: Leauki Author Profile Page at August 1, 2008 3:38 AM

Michael,

As a Kosovar I'd like to thank you for the great article(s) about that region, they are very accurate and reflect my personal experiences, a couple of which I'd like to relate.

I am from the Drenica region of Kosova, where the KLA began, and I have heard repeated stories from the locals (cousins, uncles, people I trust) about how representatives from various Muslim/Arab organizations go out of their way to impose their beliefs on the populace. I heard repeatedly about how it would cost, say, 200 Euros to take a course in English but some Arab organizations would actually PAY YOU 400 Euros to take a course in Arabic. Another story I heard a few times was how some Muslim organizations (affiliated with Saudi Arabia or Egypt) would expropriate communal land within one of the innumerable small villages that dot Drenica and build a mosque upon it that no one either requested or wanted. In one instance they kept building until the village elders went down and warned them of violence if they continued

Anyway, thanks again for your wonderful and incisive commentary.

Posted by: drenicak Author Profile Page at August 1, 2008 10:09 AM

Oh wow,

Until now I had only heard Serbian nationalists acting like pricks on these Balkans threads.

Long overdue I guess: here we get the first self-styled "Albanian" brainwashed asshole.

"Albanian", your bullshit stinks so bad, that any impostor seeking to paint Albanians as extremist Wahabbis couldn't have picked better lines for his/her sock-puppet. (I do question the choice of your user-name, "Albanian", as the first choice for a Wahabbi Albanian, for whom his/her extremist dogma is much more important than his/her national identity).

If you are what you say you are, then no, the Muslims of Macedonia are not "Albanicized Turks", but you, dear, are a Wahabbicized Albanian.

Go back to the caves and stop barking at your gracious host on this site. If it were up to me, you'd get no second chance.

And if you are a sock-puppet of Serb/Macedonian propagandists, then look at how pathetic you are, trolling over blogs.

Get a clue, and get a life!

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at August 1, 2008 10:16 AM

Oh, and, "Albanian". One more thing:

If you truly are Albanian do you mind proving it?

Translate everything you said, and Michael's response to you in Albanian, in gheg dialect: no babelfish bullshit.

If you don't stand up to the challenge, I'll assume you are a moby. No Albanian, even a radical idiot like you declare yourself to be, would resist proving his Albanianness through passing such an easy test.

Let's hear it...

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at August 1, 2008 10:30 AM

Michael-

I found this article very interesting. I just spent six weeks in the South Balkans studying. Your observation of how immense the change is from Kosova to Macedonia in terms of Muslim women was very accurate. I don't remember seeing one woman in Kosova wearing any type of headscarf but in Macedonia it was much more prominent. I mainly noticed this in Ohrid, which was extremely surprising for me. I did not have the pleasure of going to Tetovo but I did visit Struga and I saw some of the same.

I will have to disagree with you on one account however, I saw many, many Yugos in Nis, Serbia. But I do agree the economy in western MK is struggling, although it will not hinder the amount of Mercedes you will see. I met an American man on my flight out of Skopje and a comment he made to me was how after reaching Tetovo and going more west there were so many more Mercedes and BMWs. This was from a man that could not place MK on a map before his visit and was barely informed on many of the more intricate struggles in the South Balkans.

Medaura-
I'm not sure if I had your comment mistaken or not..

"Second, (and I know what you are thinking) his skin tone is not even indicative of Roma ancestry: while noticeably darker than the average Albanian, it is much more olive than brown."

I'm confused on which skin tone is olive. I'm half Albanian (but I don't pretend to be an expert and I don't know the language) and my skin tone is more olive.
I also lived with a Roma family in MK for 2 weeks and a Roma family in Nis, Serbia for a week. Now I agree with you that their skin color is not indicative of their ethnicity but it is commonly accepted among Roma, that their ancestry either comes from Persia or India (of course this all depends on where you are when you're speaking with Roma).

Michael-

Thank you for this article. It was refreshing to read something that gave fair observations not necessarily opinions.

Posted by: Celena Author Profile Page at August 2, 2008 1:13 PM

One more thing-

Albanian-

"But this is not all. You seem to have no understanding of the Albanian Islam. You confuse the Ottoman Islam of Macedonians, with the Wahabi Islam. Muslims of Macedonia follow the same form of Islam as Muslims of Turkey. Many of those ppl calling themselves Albanians in Macedonia nowadays are in fact Ottoman Turks, Albanianised during the decades of Tito. However you confuse and connect them with Wahabism in such a miraculous manner, that you seems better than G. Bush who was showing WMD in Iraq before the war."

If you told my Muslim Albanian father who grew up and was born in western Macedonia that he is from the Ottoman Turks you may actual learn something because he would give you a history lesson. You sir are not Albanian because NO ALBANIAN WOULD SAY THE ALBANIANS IN MK ARE NOT ALBANIAN! He does not practice a different type of Islam from the rest of the Albanians in the area. Of course every individual person has their own personal interpretations but for the most part in remains true that Albanians are connected by blood NOT RELIGION! No Albanian would look down on their brother/sister for being Orthodox or Catholic because trust me there are plenty of Albanians that are.

I wonder if you have actually ever traveled to the Balkans? Do you know any Albanians? I know Kosovar Albanians, Macedonian Albanians, and Albanians from Albania and there is never an ill word spoken of the other.

Posted by: Celena Author Profile Page at August 2, 2008 1:22 PM

Lol.

Here is a picture of Albanian women:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lViTEZPBDjo&feature=related

Posted by: TrueAlbo2006 Author Profile Page at August 2, 2008 8:59 PM

Celena:

"I'm confused on which skin tone is olive. I'm half Albanian (but I don't pretend to be an expert and I don't know the language) and my skin tone is more olive.
I also lived with a Roma family in MK for 2 weeks and a Roma family in Nis, Serbia for a week. Now I agree with you that their skin color is not indicative of their ethnicity but it is commonly accepted among Roma, that their ancestry either comes from Persia or India (of course this all depends on where you are when you're speaking with Roma)."

Well, I didn't mean to get into a discussion over that, but it seems like one person here in the thread saw the guy's picture and assumed he was a Roma. Not that it matters even if he was, (which he isn't, as he even wrote to tell Michael), but the guy who made the observation was way off target.

He saw the darker than average skin tone and assumed the guy was a Roma. There are some pretty tan Albanians, so skin tone means nothing certain for recognition purposes, though the average Albanians is noticeably lighter than that.

It's irrelevant, but I just wanted to say that despite the olive skin tone, the man in the picture looks nothing like a Roma. Of course, like you said, some Roma are very light-skinned... I have seen beautiful Roma children with amazing blue eyes too. Doesn't matter.

I just thought it was silly to just assume the man was Roma just based on his picture. Kinda racist too.

Posted by: medaura Author Profile Page at August 3, 2008 7:49 PM

Mr.Totten

Maybe my English is not so good; I did not understood the Macedonian's reasoning.

So, I will do a "logical" recap:

The Macedonian authorities have problems with the albanian community. They support the Wahhabi/Sunni activities. But the Wahhabi/Sunni do not overtly attack the Albanians.
How could this help the Macedonian authorities in dealing with Albanians ? WHAT is their reasoning ?

Posted by: kiwii Author Profile Page at August 4, 2008 12:28 PM

To the "Albanian"
if you ever were one, you are no longer one now. You're either a Serb or an Arab so please identify correctly.

Christian Science monitor had an article by Delisso a few years ago and raised the same points:
"Macedonia's Muslims are likely to elect a moderate leader soon, but extremism persists.
For Muslims in this small Balkan country, the Ottoman Empire's Islamic legacy still endures. However, some say Arab rivals are seeking to undermine it. "When my cousin entered university in Saudi Arabia, the Wahhabis offered him 200 euros a month and an apartment if he would spread their customs back in Macedonia," says Blerim, a young ethnic Albanian and Muslim who didn't want to give his last name for security reasons. "He accepted, and my uncle is quite concerned."
csmonitor.com/2006/0214/p06s02-woeu.html

In Albania it is known that they are much more conservative. I know of several Catholic families who were about to give their daughters there but they were discouraged from doing so as they are much more conservative--in a non-Albanian
conservative way. Albanian conservatives (traditional) are actually preferred in rural Albania where dating, clubbing and premarital sex are a huge no-no.

Unfortunately, FYROM's leadership has suffered from schizophrenia: in an attempt to undermine the Albanians and gain sympathy as well they purposefully allowed these Arabs to throw money at people but they will regret it very soon unless they change course. Now FYROM is up in the air and everyone from the Albanian parties there, Greece, Albania, Bulgars has their own agenda is trying to go to the next step, by any means necessary, allowing the Arabs to thrive.

Bulgars call FYROM-ans 'lost Bulgars,' Serbs want a nice chuck of their land and no one is more eager to dismantle FYROM than Greece, who can than claim that Alexander of Macedonia was Greek too, in addition to gaining even more land. So Albanians are FYROM's best friend, simply because the alternatives are much worst. With Albanians being 30% inside their country and with 6 million others right next door, FYROM with 1.5 million slavs is gone if Albanians sneeze. Now it appears that they are smartening up and they visited Albania last month in an attempt for better relations.

With Albanian and US pressure they need to cut the umbilical cord of Saudi money and everything else collapses. Additionally, MK, Kosova and Albania will be linked soon so everyone will fuse and MK Albanians are not in their own island.

Thanks for the great article Michael. This needs publicity so authorities crack down, right now the Wahhabi thugs are spreading their hate by fear.

Posted by: nameless-fool Author Profile Page at August 4, 2008 10:30 PM

Medaura-

I totally agree with everything you said -- within the Balkans you can find different skin-toned Albanians. Also no one should make an assumption about a person's ethnicity based on their skin tone because I have realized with my recent traveling that you're usually not right!

Posted by: Celena Author Profile Page at August 5, 2008 12:29 AM

Hey, I am Orthodox and there isn't a pope in the Orthodox Church. You need to revise that. That is one of the main reasons there IS an orthodox church...Rome and Constantinople a long time ago, along with Christians from other nations, split with Rome because Rome wished to declare themselves the Head of the Church and have a figure-head declared Holy on earth....among other things. This was the first ecumenical schism which created the Catholic and Orthodox christian churches. The orthodox is still a completely unified church, separated only by locality and language. Otherwise, Whether the Orthodox church is Macedonian, Greek, or Syrian-they are the same. Catholics are similar in liturgy and we are trying to bridge the gaps between the two first churches, however, the Orthodox do not acknowledge the Pope as a leader or Rome as a place anymore special than anywhere else.

Posted by: Nikki Wooten Author Profile Page at June 3, 2011 12:05 AM
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