November 11, 2003
ERP KiM Newsletter 11-11-03
Elderly Kosovo Serbs Continually Exposed to Mistreatment and Ethnic Discrimination
Is Albania supporting "Freedom fighters" next door?
The Vatican's New Realism About Islam - The Front Page Magazine
This newsletter is available on our ERP
In 1998, when NATO's war on Yugoslavia was first being organized, secret camps were set up in northern Albania. There, British and American forces trained the rag-tag fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The two countries openly armed, supplied and supported the KLA during the war against Milosevic, using the paramilitary group as NATO's ground troops.
Posted on Sunday, November 09 @ 10:00:00 EST by CDeliso
A New Question
All of this is fact. Albania's army also directly trained the KLA.
However, at the same time "all contact stopped" between the intelligence services of the two countries, according to one informed Macedonian source. Clearly, Albania was not entirely pleased with beleaguered Macedonia's attempts at self-defense.
Since then, the Albanian government has gone to great lengths to boost economic and defense cooperation with Macedonia, under the rubric of NATO enlargement and participations in joint ventures along the east-west Corridor 8, such as prospective railroad lines and oil pipelines. Albania is clearly looking for a new lease on life and deliverance from the economic dark ages that afflict most citizens who aren't super-rich politicos or gangsters.
Nevertheless, despite these increasingly positive developments, a new question has been raised regarding the current involvement of the Albanian government - in whole or in part - in sponsoring paramilitary groups active in neighboring states. This issue is complex; its contemplation only invites further questions. With Albania, do we have state-sponsored attempts at control through disruption (as was the case with Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban?) Or could it be instead just the manipulations of sparring political gangs?
Tirana Cracks Down: One Arrested, Another Indicted
In July, the Albanian government arrested one Gafurr Adili, leader of the Front of Albanian National Unity (FBKSH). This diaspora-based group claims to be the political wing of the AKSH (or ANA, Albanian National Army), active since 2001 in Kosovo and Macedonia. The group's stated goal is to gather all "Albanian lands" into one majestic 19th century nation-state, by waging war with the "Slav colonizers," Greeks, and whoever else gets in their way.
Simultaneously, the Swiss banned Adili from living in their country. Stated the BBC, ".until now he has enjoyed refugee status - though it appears that he is not actually barred from visiting Switzerland where members of his family live." Such ambivalent restrictions are completely characteristic of the West's schizophrenic, lax treatment of Albanian militants since even before 2001.
On 8 October, a second arrest warrant was lodged for the leader of Albania's right-wing Party of National Unity, Idajet Beqiri. A high profile FBKSH leader, Beqiri is accused of "incitement and support for the extremist group."
Since last spring's attack on a bridge near Mitrovica, which proved that Kosovo Protection Corps staff members were moonlighting for the AKSH, the group has been deemed a "terrorist" one by Balkan and Western governments alike. Reports in the Economist and elsewhere described it as being run by increasingly desperate criminals and KLA veterans impatient with UNMIK's rule in Kosovo. This year's more concerted crackdowns by KFOR on smuggling, as well as similar revived efforts by Macedonian authorities, have also angered the militants.
".the AKSH represents few ethnic-Albanians. Its core consists of some 50-70 cigarette smugglers drawn from both sides of the border with Kosovo. Their latest violence has been largely prompted by their desire to stop Macedonia's police from shutting down their smuggling routes and putting them behind bars. Hisni Shaqiri, an ethnic-Albanian MP in Skopje who is trying to help keep the peace between Macedonia's Albanians and Slavs, describes Avdil Jakupi, the AKSH's "divisional commander" known as Chakala, as a "mental patient and heroin addict". A British brigadier advising the Macedonian government on defence calls the AKSH "criminals flying a political flag of convenience in the hope of finding legitimacy."
Revelations from the Inside
Until now, little has been revealed about the "highly secretive"
Recent new information from Idajet Beqiri himself casts considerable light on this issue. In its October 11-17 issue, the Serbian publication NIN ran a lengthy interview with him. Apparently, Beqiri also has a pseudonym - Albana Viosu - and is the secretary of the FBKSH. He founded Albania's Party of National Unity, was elected its president in 1991, and embarked on a volatile political career that saw him imprisoned, empowered and involved with various scandals. He has a law degree from the University of Tirana, served as a judge and claims to now work as a lawyer. Since 1997, he has been stationed in Western Europe, where he has lobbied and raised money for Albanian militant groups.
NIN claims the interview was arranged ".by tracing the news of an Albanian lawyer who organizes gatherings for wealthy Albanians throughout Western Europe." A "smiling" Beqiri then met the interviewers in Brussels.
Taking All the Credit.
Doubtless, we have to take the inevitable boasting with a grain of salt. Such figures tend to exaggerate their popularity and gains. Thus when asked whether the group only exists "on the internet," Beqiri cited "proof" to the contrary, being ".the 33 attacks for which we have assumed responsibility, as well as numerous members that join us daily."
Indeed, there have been around 30 minor bombings, murders and other mishaps since 2001, but it is decidedly unclear as to whether these were all carried out by one unified group under a single banner and command. Beqiri himself states that right now ".seven armed groups that aren't under our control act in Kosovo and Macedonia," each having around 40 members. Given the track record for Albanian gang infighting in Kosovo and Macedonia, it seems more likely that other groups have perpetrated some of these attacks - for reasons other than the Greater Albania.
Indeed, an obscure incident took place in Kumanovo a few weeks ago, when an Albanian from south Serbia opened a new pizza parlor.
Amazingly enough, Beqiri does not claim responsibility for the worst attacks - like the land mine deaths of Polish soldiers in Macedonia last spring, or the murder of Serbian children in the River Bistrica this summer. In the interview, he doesn't mention the former (they blamed it on the Macedonian army trying to discredit the AKSH), and as for the latter, he makes the rather brazen claim that the Serbs machine-gunned their own children to turn Western opinion against the Albanians. Beqiri carefully restricts his group's stated activities to legitimate military targets (though blowing up railroads and bridges doesn't seem to exactly fit the bill).
In any case, says Beqiri, ".the Front of Albanian National Unity
An AKSH Chronology
Beqiri's recounting of the group's recent history is particularly interesting. After the Tetovo turf war of spring 2002, and the short-lived Coordinative Council for Albanian unity led by Ali Ahmeti, many of the latter's "disappointed" NLA fighters went over to the AKSH.
Here is where the story takes an interesting twist. Beqiri's summary of what happened next casts aspersions on Albania's alleged "neutrality" in Kosovo's ongoing vortex of violence. States Beqiri:
".in July 2002 we organized a large gathering in the Congress Palace in Tirana, where, apart from all commanders of various fractions from Kosovo and Macedonia, also were present many high intellectuals, military people, as well as representatives of all Albanian political parties. It was established then that all of us share the same desire for resolving the 'Albanian issue' and it is necessary for the sake of it to establish a military and political structure with a clear system of hierarchy. This is how FBKSH was created."
If Beqiri can be taken at his word, key players from the whole Albanian establishment - politicians, intellectuals and most importantly of all, military men - are behind the AKSH. This story wildly contradicts every official statement made by Tirana since the war in Macedonia, i.e., that the country is not helping paramilitary forces.
".the generals played the key role from Albania, who enjoy enormous authority among the fighters and their commanders.
".The general personnel are mostly from Albania and from Kosovo.
Albania Implicated - and the Diaspora Too
This rather eye-opening statement calls into question Tirana's publicly stated anti-militant position. Apparently, right up until Gafurr Adili's arrest the FBKSH operated out of Tirana - ".where our base has been from the beginning." After losing their leader, the group went underground - i.e., to Kosovo - where Beqiri claims they work, ".completely openly as a legal political party." Given his present indictment by the Albanian government, and KFOR's uncompromising new attitude, this assertion will be tested.
According to Beqiri, the FBKSH command structure is made up 11 people and focuses on 5 "interest zones" of conquest: south Serbia's Presevo Valley, Kosovo, Macedonia, Ulcinj (in Montenegro) and Greece.
As with all liberation wars past, funding for weapons comes mostly from the diaspora. Jane's estimated that during a 6 month period in 2001 the NLA raised $60 million from diaspora contributions. As was the case then, says Beqiri, ".most of the aid comes from America, then Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium." Card-carrying members (Beqiri rather bombastically claims to have 20,000) are required to kick down monthly; locals pay 2 euros per month, diaspora members, 20 euros per month.
It is highly likely that American diaspora funding is being organized by the same congressional lobby groups that funded the last two wars, and which retain strong links with former KLA leaders. The fact that Mr. Beqiri was invited one month ago to advertise his views in front of the International Crisis Group in Brussels cannot be reassuring either.
Antagonisms on the Home Front
What kind of support does the AKSH enjoy in Albania itself, however? It would appear quite a lot. Yet is this a case of official state support (i.e., the Pakistan model), or a side effect of instability? Probably the latter. Rather than categorically blame the Albanian government, we might mention the current political volatility there - a state of affairs which leaves plenty of room for third-party mischief.
For months, unrest has been building with the government of Fatos Nano. Last week his Socialist Party suffered its second setback in 3 months, winning ".only 65 votes for nominees as foreign and interior ministers from 131 members of parliament," reported Reuters on Thursday.
With longstanding rival Ilir Meta calling for early elections in Spring, it is quite possible that Nano's days are numbered. Nano ".accused rivals who voted against him of a 'palace coup' and making common cause with the opposition Democratic Party" of Nano's other archenemy, former president Sali Berisha.
Interestingly enough, from the NIN report we learn that Nano goes way back with FBKSH Secretary Beqiri - all the way back, in fact, to their mutual imprisonment under Berisha's regime. When that regime tanked in 1997, due to the collapse of a colossal pyramid scheme that impoverished thousands overnight, Beqiri won his release, and joined a political coalition with the also-freed Nano. The latter came to power, but was removed a year later. The enmity between the two camps continues even now.
The NIN report mentions the Beqiri-Nano friendship and shared opposition to Berisha. Yet despite their common cause, the report states, Beqiri and Nano have "divergent" political views. Is NIN trying to imply that Nano is not a closet supporter of the AKSH adventure? If this were true, then how was Beqiri able to operate the FBKSH with such impunity and such high-level cooperation in Tirana, as he claims?
Indeed, this connection is being made by Beqiri's enemies in Kosovo, too. Albanian leaders there have recently damned the AKSH as a dangerous monstrosity run by Hoxha-era "Communists" under the implicit control of Nano - in other words, as an unofficial branch of the state.
That said, should we understand current Tirana's crackdown on Adimi and Beqiri as indicative of Nano's dwindling authority? Or is he being forced to sacrifice his friend due to political pressure, either internal or Western?
Hey - What Ever Happened to the Mujahedin?
No article of mine has inspired such a rancorous reaction as my brief history of Islamic terrorist involvement in Albania. While admittedly I may have exaggerated the threat, everything was based on facts and detailed reports. Since 2001, there haven't been many new developments on this front. However, another byproduct of today's political volatility in Tirana may be the subtle penetration of foreign Islamic fighters. The revelation that bin Laden's forces were training the KLA in 1999, just as the US and Britain were, was embarrassing enough for the US; but what if, after so many subsequent anti-terror operations, the Evil One has returned to the Balkans?
In a report dated 19 September, congressional director of the Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare Yossef Bodansky claims that Albania is once again being used as a "springboard" for terrorist activities in Europe:
".starting in mid-August 2003, there was a discernible increase in the number of foreigners in the Islamist mosques throughout Albania.
"This training program is conducted under the cover of the Albanian National Army (ANA or AKSh in Albanian) with most senior trainers and commanders being 'mujahedin who retreated from Bosnia' and are affiliated with al-Qaida.
"In return for the Albanian support of this endeavor, the Islamists assist the local terrorists in preparing for launching spectacular terrorism into the major cities of Serbia and Montenegro, with Belgrade and Nis believed to be the top targets. As well, Islamist cadres, mainly veterans of Bosnia, are providing advance training to thousands of Albanian terrorists in camps in Kosovo-Metohija, near Prizren, on the slopes of Mt. Sara, in the Kosovo Morava River valley, in the Albanian towns of Kukes and Tropoje, and around Tetovo in western Macedonia."
A Mess of Contradictions
This tantalizing testimony directly contradicts Beqiri's statement of policy to NIN, namely, that the AKSH desires no help from the mujahedin and has no interest in attacking Belgrade. Beqiri claims that all attacks are to be carried out only within the specified "zones of operation" (i.e., Albanian-populated areas).
However, he also admits that other, apparently unaffiliated militant groups presently prowl the hills and forests of Macedonia and Kosovo. Could some of these have struck with the Islamists? Indeed, a well-informed Western security official in Kosovo told me earlier this year that the AKSH had broken up into three groups, precisely because of cooperation with the mujahedin - unsavory for some, expedient for others.
Yet as Beqiri maintains, the main AKSH body is probably content to exist solely as a magnificent fighting force of secular-enough Albanian nationalists. Especially since they seem to have such a well-oiled and experienced diaspora machine, this bunch has no interest in winding up o n the wrong side of the war on terror. However, this does not mean that Islamist-associated fringe groups don't exist in Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia.
In the end, Bodansky's enigmatic evidence leaves one very curious as to his sources. Had the Bush Administration not been so disingenuous with the evidence on Iraq, there would be no doubting these Balkan revelations. Now we have to be a bit more critical. One hopes that an American congressional investigator would be better-informed than a lowly freelance reporter. However, the mystery may remain unresolved, barring further violence or other inside revelations.
However, even if we never get an answer on mujahedin in the Balkans, Albania is not off the hook. Should the authorities there actually arrest Mr. Beqiri (or other of his cohorts), a clearer picture will no doubt emerge of the precise connection between Tirana and the neighborhood's most notorious paramilitary group.
"Nationalistic circles in Pristina have cooked up the speculations on impending Albanians-led insurgency in northern Greece and alleged annexation of northern Greece to the so-called Greater Albania," said a Greek official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Makfax News Agency, Skopje
Athens 11/10/03 3:04:34 PM
Greece: Claims on Albanians-led insurgency in Greece cooked up in Pristina
"Nationalistic circles in Pristina have cooked up the speculations on impending Albanians-led insurgency in northern Greece and alleged annexation of northern Greece to the so-called Greater Albania," said a Greek official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Greek official added that Greece has no concrete information about the alleged insurgency that will break out ahead of 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, as German newspaper Spiegel claims.
Similar threats of alleged Albanian insurgency in northern Greece have surfaced on several occasions over the past few years, particularly in 1999, during the war in Kosovo, and later on, in 2001 during the conflict in Macedonia, and in 2002, when Greece joined the European Monetary Union.
All these threats were hinting at armed insurgency ignited by Albanian extremists from western Macedonia, with an ultimate goal of annexation of northern Greece to the so-called Greater Albania.
However, the latest threat, as German weekly newspaper Spiegel claims, differs from the previous ones because it contains American political element. Spiegel claims that Albanian extremists hope that they will muster US support in the process of uniting Albanian-populated territories in the Balkans once the retired general Wesley Clark becomes a president of the US. German newspaper claims that Wesley Clark held out a promise of full support to Albanian issue providing that the Albanian lobby in US backed his presidential candidacy. /end/
New York Major Bloomberg to Celebrate Albanian Flag day in Kosovo
The United Nations and the ethnic Albanian majority have two years to improve the situation in Kosovo before, according to Washington, there will be any consideration of the territory's final status.
Agence France Presse
BELGRADE, Nov 9 (AFP) - The United Nations and the ethnic Albanian majority have two years to improve the situation in Kosovo before, according to Washington, there will be any consideration of the territory's final status.
US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Marc Grossman gave an indication of the task ahead when to told Serbian and Kosovar leaders last week that a review of reforms in the province could take place in 2005.
If the province meets UN-set benchmarks in areas such as multi-ethnic democracy, respect for human rights and security, Grossman said the international community would then consider the burning question of Kosovo's legal status -- independence or autonomy within Serbia.
"There would then be an evaluation of Kosovo's progress toward these UN standards by mid-2005, even earlier if progress is sufficient," Grossman said during a visit to the Kosovo capital Pristina.
"If Kosovo meets these standards we are prepared to begin the process to determine Kosovo's future status."
The breakaway southern Serbian province has been under UN administration since the end of the 1998-99 war between separatist ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Serbian forces loyal to then Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic.
The province's majority ethnic-Albanians want independence, while Belgrade insists it is an integral part of Serbian territory. Four years after the war the two sides have refused to give an inch on their fundamental positions.
Grossman stressed that Washington had no preference one way or the other, as its main concern was the success of the ongoing reforms demanded by the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
"All the options are on the table. The US has taken no position one way or the other about what the final status of Kosovo is about," he said.
"The reason we have not done so is that we want to keep focused on standards," he said, referring to the policy of "standards before status" set by the UN administration in Kosovo.
Kosovo Prime Minister Bajram Rexhepi said Grossman's comments gave clarity to a complicated situation.
"We will work for the standards, not only to solve the Kosovo issue, but also for integration into the European Union and I think all is now much clearer," he said.
"Now the standards are palpable and measurable. Everyone knows the part to be played ... We now have a deadline and we will meet it on time."
Dragoljub Micunovic, the man tipped to become Serbia's next president after November 16 elections, told AFP that a lot needed to be done before Kosovo could claim to have satisfied even the basic standards of security.
He said there had been 1,300 murders "motivated by politics and nationalism" in Kosovo since the arrival of UNMIK and NATO peacekeepers in 1999.
"It's incredible that these things are still possible to this day and the international and local (Kosovo) institutions are not capable of controlling the situation," he said.
More than 200,000 Serbs have fled Kosovo since June 1999, fearing ethnic Albanian reprisal attacks for the brutality of Serbian rule under former strongman Milosevic.
So far only a handful have decided that it was safe enough to return, even though the repatriation of refugees is a key requirement of UNMIK's "standards before status" policy.
The 80,000 Serbs who remain in Kosovo -- out of a total population of about two million -- live in enclaves under constant threat of violence.
Sunday 09 November 2003
17:40 Former Yugoslav Army chief of staff and former Pristina Corps commander general Nebojsa Pavkovic, who has been indicted for war crimes by the Hague tribunal for war crimes [allegedly] committed in Kosovo in 1999, said in Jagodina that there is no reason for him to voluntarily surrender to the tribunal. "I have no reason for surrending. I am a soldier and our code of conduct states that a soldier never surrenders.
17:20 Serbian deputy prime minister and Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija head Nebojsa Covic said in an interview for BBC that there have been "attemps at bargaining with Kosovo" and emphasized that he "does not accept bargaining and blackmail". Covic did not wish to identify the Belgrade officials who he believes are showing willingness to accept concessions in order to speed up integration in the EU, asking the question whether it is really important whether Serbia will join the EU and when at the price of Kosovo.
17:00 Aleksandar Stojkovic, a 75 year-old Kosovo Serb from the Gnjilane region, sustained serious injuries after being beaten up by a group of five or six Albanian extremists as he was grazing his livestock on Sunday afternoon at about 15,00 hours. Stojkovic sustained a broken jaw, broken ribs and serious head injuries after being pistol-whipped by his attackers. They they wrapped him in nylon and pushed him into a stream.
Saturday NOVEMBER 8, 2003
21:00 The chairman of the Serbian parliament's Committee for Kosovo and Metohija Momcilo Trajkovic said that it is the international community that should be seeking to prevent the creation of an independent Kosovo.
20:40 Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija head Nebojsa Covic assessed that a change in Kosovo borders would represent a threat to regional security.
20:20 At a meeting of the Serbian parliament's Committee for Kosovo and Metohija, Committee chairman Momcilo Trajkovic warned that the principle of "standards before status" can turn out either way. "The Albanians can use it to complete the construction of this monstrous state they have begun building under a protectorate where the attributes of independence are gathering strength," said Trajkovic. Serbian deputy prime minister and Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija Nebojsa Covic reported to the Committee on the meeting with the Kosovo Albanian delegation in Vienna on October 14.
20:00 Kosovo institution officials, representatives of Serbian ministries and the Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija met on Friday in Belgrade to discuss current problems in health, power supply and social issues in Kosovo and Metohija.
19:40 Return Coalition (Povratak) whip in the Kosovo parliament Dragisa Krstovic advised the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Kosovo and Metohija Harri Holkeri of the concern of Serbian deputies in the parliament due to discrimination by the ethnic Albanian majority.
Friday 07 November 2003
20:40 Kosovo prime minister Bajram Rexhepi assessed that US diplomat Marc Grossman's plan "fills a gap" in UN Security Council Resolution 1244, which has no timeline for the resolution of the status of Kosovo.
20:20 Kosovo and Metohija parliament presidency member Oliver Ivanovic expressed his satisfaction with the announcement that talks on the status of Kosovo will begin only after democratic standards are met because this sequence of events will force representatives of provisional insitutions and ethnic Albanians to concern themselves with living standards in the province.
20:00 The Serbian parliament's Committee for Kosovo and Metohija, headed by Momcilo Trajkovic, met today with Serbian deputy prime minister and Coordinating Center for Kosovo and Metohija head Nebojsa Covic, and agreed on cooperation between the Committee and the Coordinating Center in implementation of the state strategy for Kosovo and Metohija.
12:20 UNMIK police spokesman Derek Chappell confirmed that the indictment against Ramush Halimi, arrested for attempted murder after shooting 72 year-old Sofija Jovanovic-Peric of Gnjilane, has been amended to suspicion of murder after her death two days ago.
12:00 In an arrest operation to capture the suspects in the murder of the three members of the Stolic family of Obilic, police have detained five persons of Albanian nationality, reported Pristina media on Thursday.
The Vatican's New Realism about Islam
The Civiltà Cattolica piece represents the first indication that any Catholic Church officials recognize the dimensions of the religious conflict that jihadists are waging against Christians and others around the world. Up to now the signals have all been in the other direction: the Pope has been such a relentless proponent of dialogue with Islam that Rome's criticism of the persecution of Christians in Muslim countries has been muted. And in a paroxysm of enthusiasm for peace and brotherhood, he actually kissed the Qur'an on May 14, 1999, during an audience with several Muslim officials from Iraq and the late Chaldean Catholic Patriarch, Raphael I Bidawid. Aghast attendees preserved the moment in pictures, which now can be found on numerous websites — mostly of the tinfoil-hat variety, which use the photos to support their claims that the Pope has no legitimate claim to lead the Church and may even be the Anti-Christ.
Certainly the Pope's Qur'an kiss was a moment that would have appalled the saints and martyrs who encountered in Islam a relentless and implacable enemy over many centuries of the Church's life. But perhaps those great souls were mollified by this new Civiltà Cattolica article, which is just the opposite of naïve and appeasement-minded irenicism. The article brushes aside decades of misleading historical revisionism about the Muslim conquests, daring to point out that “in all the places where Islam imposed itself by military force, which has few historical parallels for its rapidity and breadth, Christianity, which had been extraordinarily vigorous and rooted for centuries, practically disappeared or was reduced to tiny islands in an endless Islamic sea.”
Civiltà Cattolica also counters the dozens of misleadingly incomplete analyses of jihad that Muslim advocacy groups have used to befuddle the public over the last few years. Jihad, it points out, “has two meanings, both of which are equally essential and must not be dissociated, as if one could exist without the other. In its primary meaning, jihad indicates the ‘effort' that the Muslim must undertake to be faithful to the precepts of the Koran and so improve his ‘submission' ( islam ) to Allah; in the second, it indicates the ‘effort' that the Muslim must undertake to ‘fight in the way of Allah,' which means fighting against the infidels and spreading Islam throughout the world. Jihad is a precept of the highest importance, so much so that it is sometimes counted among the fundamental precepts of Islam, as its sixth ‘pillar.'” The only meaning of jihad you will get from American Muslim spokesmen is the first. Is there some reason why they don't want you to know that radicals are acting on the second all over the world today?
Contrary to another prevailing myth, that Christian-Muslim enmity began with the Christian Crusades, the article states: “All of Islamic history is dominated by the idea of the conquest of the Christian lands of Western Europe and of the Eastern Roman Empire, whose capital was Constantinople.” Warfare was initiated by the Muslim armies that swept into Syria and other Christian areas of the Middle East within just a few years of the death of Muhammad in 632. The first Crusade wasn't called until 1095.
“In reality,” says Civiltà Cattolica, “for almost a thousand years Europe was under constant threat from Islam, which twice put its survival in serious danger.” Now, in its radical, terrorist form, it is doing so again — but up until now no one at the Vatican, and precious few elsewhere, have taken much notice.
The article also speaks forthrightly about the traditional Islamic doctrines that radical Muslims exploit in order to subjugate non-Muslims. Hindus, Buddhists, and others, classified as “idolaters” because they are not listed as “People of the Book” (that is, people with a revealed scripture) in the Qur'an, are given a harsh choice: “convert to Islam, or be killed.” Jews, Christians, and other “People of the Book,” however, have a third choice: “Muslims must ‘fight them until their members pay tribute, one by one, humiliated' (Koran, Sura 9:29).” This is the foundation of dhimmitude, the inferior status that traditional Islamic law mandates for Christians and Jews in Islamic society, ensuring that they feel themselves “humiliated” in myriad ways.
What about Islamic tolerance? Another myth. “According to Muslim law,” Civiltà Cattolica notes correctly (and courageously), “Christians, Jews, and the followers of other religions assimilated to Christianity and Judaism (the ‘Sabeans') who live in a Muslim state belong to an inferior social order, in spite of their eventually belonging to the same race, language, and descent. . . . The ‘people of the Book' ( Ahl al-Kitab ) becomes the ‘protected people' ( Ahl al-dhimma ). In exchange for this ‘protection,' the ‘people of the Book' must pay a tax ( jizya ) to the Islamic state.” Dhimmis could avoid this tax by converting to Islam, but often that way was blocked as well: “Muslims, especially in the early centuries, did not look favorably upon such conversions, because they represented a grave loss to the treasury, which flourished in direct proportion to the number of the dhimmi, who paid both the personal tax and the land tax.”
The tax was accompanied by numerous humiliating regulations. “As for the freedom of worship, the dhimmi are prohibited only from external manifestations of worship, such as the ringing of bells, processions with the cross, solemn funerals, and the public sale of religious objects or other articles prohibited for Muslims. . . . The dhimmi may maintain or repair the churches or synagogues they already have, but, unless there is a treaty permitting them to own land, they may not build new places of worship, because to do this they would need to occupy Muslim land, which can never be ceded to anyone, having become, through Muslim conquest, land ‘sacred' to Allah.”
And if a dhimmi rejected this “protection”? “According to the gravity of each case, the penalty could be the confiscation of goods, reduction to slavery, or death – unless the person who had committed the crimes converted to Islam. In that case, all penalties were waived.” How tolerant.
Although the laws of dhimmitude are not in force today except where the Sharia is the law of the land, Civiltà Cattolica correctly notes that they remain as cultural hangovers, making for discrimination, harassment, and sometimes even persecution of Christians even in ostensibly secular or semi-secular lands such as Egypt, Pakistan, and Syria. Moreover, the institutionalized oppression and inequality of dhimmitude, as I explain in my book Onward Muslim Soldiers , is still part of the Sharia that radical Muslims are trying to impose everywhere. “Radical Islam,” says Civiltà Cattolica, “which proposes that shari'a law be instituted in every Islamic state, is gaining ground in many Muslim countries, in which groups of Christians are also present. It is evident that the institution of shari'a would render the lives of Christians rather difficult, and their very existence would be constantly in danger. This is the cause of the mass emigration of Christians from Islamic countries to Western countries: Europe, the United States, Canada, and Australia.” The article also details the sufferings, and sometimes the cold-blooded murder, of Christians today in Pakistan, Sudan, and elsewhere — by Muslims who saw their actions as just by virtue of the complex of dhimmi laws.
One of the most disheartening aspects of the post-9/11 world has been the general unwillingness to acknowledge the true nature of the conflict. Donald Rumsfeld just drew flack when he recently remarked: “We are in a war of ideas, as well as a global war on terror.” But radical Muslims are waging a war of ideas, on behalf of their vision of a society constituted according to Islamic law. If the West is unable to counter this vision successfully with ideas of its own, no amount of daisy cutters and high-tech weaponry will be able to forestall its ultimate defeat. A key first step to fighting and winning a war of ideas is having the courage to point out the deficiencies of the competing ideas. Clearly someone at the Vatican has gone from kissing the Qur'an to reading it, and has at last taken this step.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and the author of Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the Wes t (new from Regnery Publishing), and Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World's Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter Books).
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