17 August 2012
(This investigation was edited by Avni Zogiani, executive director of Organization for Democracy, Anti-corruption and Dignity - Çohu!)
The Head of the Islamic Community of Kosovo, Naim Tërnava does not mind the regular cooperation and acceptance of funds from an Arab organization, which among other things, is considered a supporter of terrorism by the American State. The organization Al Waqf Al Islami for some time now has been giving funds to the Islamic Community of Kosovo for the construction and re-construction of mosques. In the diplomatic cables of American embassies in Macedonia and the Netherlands it is said that this organization supports members of terrorist organizations and the name of one of its founders in Netherlands appears as part of the list of 20 Arab businessmen who have financed Al Qaeda. In Kosovo this organization has its offices more or less 100 meters away from the Swiss Embassy in Prishtina, whereas its funds are used to build and reconstruct mosques in Kosovo by requests from BIK. Al Waqf Al Islami is also in the list of organizations suspected of spreading radical religious ideas by the Kosovo Intelligence Agency, a document which the Kosovar Center for Investigative Journalism has seen.
The cable from the American Embassy in Skopje, with reference number “09Skopje95” sent to Washington by Ambassador Philip Reeker notes in the part which regards “International Terrorism”:
“In Macedonia and the region there are NGO’s which provide support for individuals who are part of or sympathize with some terrorist groups. These NGO’s include Al Waqf Al Islami, Al Haramein, Bamirësia and others”.
The Head of this organization in Kosovo is the Arab doctor Abdur Rozzaq, and a simple search in internet shows that one of its main leaders, Ahmad Al Hussaini in Eindhoven of Netherlands where this organization was founded, was one of 20 biggest Arab businessmen who have financed the biggest terrorist organization in the world, Al Qaeda. This has also been included in the report of the American company, JCB Consulting which was contracted by the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11 in the USA to investigate the financers of the organization which until lately was led by Osama bin Laden. So says the blog “Freerepublic”, citing the report of the American company “JCB Consulting’, which says that the names of the financers of Al Qaeda have been appointed by Osama bin Laden’s organization itself. This list was found after the raid in the offices of humanitarian fund “Benevolence International Foundation’ in Sarajevo. These raids were carried out by Bosnian police in 2002 in cooperation with the FBI.
Two years ago in Bulgaria, the head of Al Waqf Al Islami was arrested in the village Sarnitsa in the southern town of Pazardzhik, with the suspicion that the activities of this organization are “a serious threat to the Bulgarian security”.
What mosques is Al Waqf Al Islami financing?
This Arab organization has supported Salafist mosques throughout the world, which do not comply with the Islam practiced in Kosovo. According to the cable of the American Embassy in Hague of Netherlands, with reference number: 05THEHAGUE2705, a document wired to the State Department by Ambassador Blakeman, there are six Salafist mosques which are being surveyed by security services of the Netherlands. According to this wire, these mosques are monitored for their role in radicalizing and recruiting Muslims, whereas three of these mosques, al Fourqan, al Mouhadine and the Foundation for Islamic Youth are linked to the Saudi mission, Al Waqf Al Islami.
This organization’s branch in Kosovo regularly accepts requests by the Islamic Community of Kosovo for building new mosques, or reconstructing of damaged ones. One of those is the mosque in Bajqinë village in Podujeva for which Al Waqf Al Islami allocated 20 thousand euros in the account of BIK in Prishtina.
The transfer of this money has been confirmed officially also by representatives of the Islamic Community of Kosovo, but they do not believe this organization to be what it is suspected of even by state bodies of Kosovo.
This story does not end here, since the Imam who will be leading the mosque in Bajqinë of Podujeva for some other preachers of the Islamic Community does not promote Islam according to Hanafi school, or the Traditional Islam in Kosovo. This is Fadil Sogojeva, currently Imam of the mosque in Bregu i Diellit.
The mosque in Bajqinë of Podujeva was blocked from construction by the head of the Islamic Community of the region of Podujeva, Idriz Bilalli, first of all due to suspicions that the mosque would be used to push forward radical religious agendas.
“In my opinion and judgment he (Fadil Sogojeva) practices and preaches issues which have to do with Islam but which do not comply with their practice compliant to the judicial direction of Hanafi. This causes confusion and divisions for us. The same person holds regular meetings with groups of our congregation in Podujeva, who are recognized for their attitudes which are different from the ordinary congregation. These people sometimes even have destructive attitudes in the mosque as well”, says Imam Idriz Bilalli.
But the head of BIK has successfully gotten rid of this hindrance in order to receive the money by Al Waqf Al Islami by suspending the person who did not allow the construction of the mosque in Bajqinë of Podujeva. The reason for dismissing him was because Imam Idriz Bilalli was one of the initiators of the establishment of the First Syndicate within BIK.
The attempts to interview anyone in Al Waqf Al Islami did not come through. After the first visit to its offices, one of the employees took the phone numbers of the team of the Kosovar Center for Investigative Journalism and promised to call back for a meeting. The attempts to arrange a phone interview did not succeed. Often when the number given to us was dialed, the answer was: “No, this number does not belong to Al Waqf Al Islami”.
The suspicious links of Al Wafq Al Islami throughout the world could be the reason why it was not registered as an organization in Kosovo. The Kosovar Center for Investigative Journalism has obtained from the Ministry of Public Administration a list of all NGO’s which legally function in Kosovo and this Arab organization does not appear to have been registered. In fact, the name Al Waqf Al Islami has been hidden as “physical person” within the Polyclinic “Meka” in Prishtina, which surprisingly was registered by the Ministry of Public Administration as having medical and construction activity.
Sogojeva: I am not radical, but a preacher of true Islam
After having finished the prayer in his mosque in Bregu i Diellit, Imam Fadil Sogojeva usually continues talking for some time with the believers, sitting on his knees, just as he prays. “The conversation” is interrupted since the team of KCIJ had gone to the mosque unannounced, and he does not prefer to talk sitting on his knees …
Sitting on the only chair in the prayer room, at the very beginning of the conversation, Imam Fadil Sogojeva reminds you of what in the Kosovar Intelligence Agency say about some imams, as being “excellent orators”.
“Do you also fear my beard?” ironically asks the Imam from Bajqinë of Podujeva, implying that he knew why he was chosen to speak about this topic …
“While I was studying in Riad, the Arabs used to say to me ‘look at that hanefi’ (the Islam school which is practiced in Kosovo), whereas here they say ‘be weary of this selefi’ (the Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia)…but I am neither a radical or a moderate, but one who has studied ‘the sheriah’ or the Islamic jurisprudence”, says Imam Sogojeva, who claims that he knows Islam in the most correct manner. He says that in Kosovo he practices the Hanefit School.
Recalling the time, as he says, when Albanian women did not enter the room to speak with strange men without the permission from their husbands, the Imam of the mosque from Bregu i Diellit says “I myself do not give my hand to a woman, ever, but I am also not the one to force others not to shake hands with women”.
“This is the official site of the honored imam Fadil Sogojeva and here you can ask different questions which concern you and receive an answer from him” it is said in the official group of this Imam in the social network “Facebook”. The answers are streamed in the official channel of the imam in “Youtube”, and one of the many questions there was whether “the Muslim sister may wear sandals with or without socks?”
The answer of the preacher was that the leg, as one of the body parts which causes emotion, should not be uncovered; therefore women should wear sandals only with socks on…
The imam, who among his colleagues in the Islamic Community is accused of having radical religious views, dismisses the idea that Albanians should be forced to practice the religion the way he studied it.
“I am aware of the tradition of my people and I do not wish to change it by force”, says he. Later on, he claims that time is necessary for things to change in a peoples.
“I am not for changes now, but after some time, after having worked with the congregation, in order to properly explain the religion. Albanian Muslims in Kosovo currently are in the first grade…and any attempt to forcefully change could backlash”, says imam Fadil Sogojeva, adding that “Islamic religion is inherent with the life of a man…there is no other way to live”.
“I have not even gone to “Al Waqf Al Islami” to ask for money for the construction of the Mosque in Bajqinë…this was done by the leadership of BIK”…Fadil Sogojeva does not say this because he thinks it is wrong to accept the money from this organization, after being told by KCIJ that this organization is suspected of links to Al Qaeda...
“In order to build this mosque I would accept donations even from Jews or Christians, there is no problem at all in this”, says he.
BIK in regular cooperation with “Al Waqf Al Islami”
“Don’t tell these things to us, but to the state” is the reaction by officials at BIK when inquired concerning this bank transfer and “Al Waqf Al Islami” organization. Ahmet Sadriu, head of the department for media and publishing in BIK admits that they have cooperation with this organization and that the transfer has been made, but he is surprised with other information…
“We have cooperation with Al Waqf Al Islami…Director Abdurezak has allocated that money and after that they were sent to the Council of BIK in Podujeva. I don’t know anything about links to terrorism. These issues belong to the state. You are aware that we have hundreds of organizations here, from the east, but also from the west”, says Sadriu. A little later he adds: “A lot of projects for construction and reconstruction of mosques have been undertaken with this organization.
Accusations against the Islamic Community and especially against its head Naim Ternava have been voiced even before as regards links to extremist religious organizations. The last one to directly and sharply accuse Ternava for tolerating radical movements is the American journalist Stephen Schwartz. In a note sent to KCIJ, he recalls that, despite the fact that the head of BIK says he has nothing to do with radical movements, there are a number of behaviors by him which do not allow for any other explanation, except the one that Ternava is under the influence of radicals.
Schwartz thinks that there are three points which confirm his theory regarding Ternava’s links to radical movements, among which he mentions the tolerance of provocations by radicals.
There have been cases of physical attacks in Kosovo against Imams, who are known as liberal preachers. Among them is the Imam of the mosque of Zabel, Osman Musliu who several times has spoken of the danger of Wahabism in Kosovo, for which he believes was the reason why he was badly beaten. Imam Musliu says that those who beat him a few years ago are religious radicals of Islam, against whom the leadership of BIK has never taken any actions.
“My big doubts are that Wahabism and extremism, which some preachers do not hesitate to call them such, are sick psychotic people, people who aim to destroy the Islamic Community of Kosovo. The Islamic Community is a small matter; these people have higher purposes of causing national problems” the Zabel Imam had told the daily Kosova Sot in 2009..
Since then, the imam of Drenica, who says that he has participated in the burial of Jasharaj killed by the Serbian attack, says he has not changed views.
The criticism of Stephen Schwartz is viewed by the Islamic Community as baseless and slander, whereas the accused imams, the Islamic Community says they are “individuals who do not represent anyone, except their exaggerated ambitions and base carrier aims”.
In fact, Imams of BIK who are now openly opposing the religious movements which they call in contradiction with the traditional kosovar Islam, also nostalgically remember ex-mufti Rexhep Boja. Some of them recall how during the time when Boja was head of BIK, Imam Mazllam Mazllami who is mentioned as one with radical ideas, was expelled from the Islamic Community for non-compliance, only to be returned in the organization after current mufti Naim Ternava was named head of BIK.
Ahmet Sadriu from the media office of BIK says that during the time when Imam Mazllam Mazllami was expelled from the Islamic Community, part of the decision-making process for his expulsion was also Naim Ternava.
Islamic roots in Kosovo
The danger of radicalization of Islam, which a Kosovo Police report mentions, is not hard to be verified in the lectures held in mosques, or preaching which some Imams of the Islamic Community of Kosovo do in their YouTube channels. One of them thinks that a state led by a woman “awaits doomsday”.
Islamic religion in Kosovo has its roots since the Ottoman invasion of the Balkans. Islam was introduced to Albanians beginning from 1389 to 1912. According to official data of the Islamic Community of Kosovo, the situation currently is as follows:
90 % of the population living in Kosovo is Muslim,
6 % are Orthodox
3 % Catholic and
1 % other
Atifete Jahjaga, Kosovo’s President, the first female president of a Balkan country, while speaking at a dinner in Warsaw on May 2011 with American President Barack Obama, said that the relation of Kosovars with religion is an individual connection with God, where the state does not interfere.
During that meeting, Jahjaga spoke about the Arab Revolution, the risk that religious radical movements could take power in these ex-dictatorial countries and the lessons Kosovo could give as to society’s relation to religion.
“Islam is the relation of the individual with God, and not the individual with the state. It is a human relation with a faith not imposed to others”, said Kosovo’s President.
Displacement of roots, from “Ottoman Islam” to “Arab Salafist”
In Jahjaga’s state, there is a group of people who think that a state led by a woman, moreover an uncovered woman, is in danger of “doomsday”. Fadil Sogojeva, Imam in the Mosque in Bregu i Diellit does not say anything bad about President Jahjaga, but claims that “doomsday” awaits Kosovo because of the corruption and organized crime happening in a large scale.
This group of Imams is extremely agitated also by the ratification of an education law, which prohibits girls entering public schools with veils. Thousands of people protested against this in streets a few months ago, something that stopped when it was clear the law was passed and there was no going back. The same people required for religious subjects to be introduced in public schools. Although it was endorsed by one of the political parties in power, the request was turned down.
In public these people are recognized as “Wahabists”, people with beards and pants up to the leg junction, although they deny being such. The spreading of their ideas and influence is also backed by online propaganda and media writings.
One of the most famous Imams for views of this kind is the Imam of the biggest mosque in Prishtina, Shefqet Krasniqi, who in an interview for Klan Kosova suggested that the national Albanian flag should contain the Arab sentence “La Ilahe Il Allah” (There is no other God but Allah). This expression is found in the flag of Saudi Arabia, a country governed by a royal dynasty which came in power by the support of “Wahabists”.
In one of “YouTube” channels, the Imam of the Islamic Community of Kosovo from Prizren, Mazllam Mazllami, while commenting on the topic of extremist religion says that he is surprised to hear being accused of radicalism if he requires that “Albanians should not go to the sea together men and women and get naked”.
The influence these Imams have exerted upon a lot of young Kosovars can be observed easily on the questions they make. One of them asks if he has a right to go out with his wife hand in hand, another if it is a sin to drink coca cola…etc.
(Lectures taken from “YouTube”: lecturers include Mazllam Mazllami from Prizren, Enes Goga from Peja).
During a conversation with KCIJ, the Islamic Community of Kosovo admits that there are Imams whose prayer method is a little different. Nevertheless, Chief Imam of Kosovo, Sadri Bajgora and Afrim Sadriu from the media office say that some of the above-mentioned Imams have a different method of preaching from the official one at BIK, and that some of these Imams “have been reproached”.
Who are the Arab Wahabists and Salafists?
The confusion regarding Arab Wahabists and Salafists is not present only in Kosovo, since the difference between them hangs on a thread. However, Professor Ahmad Mousalli from Beirut American University says that the small difference is of a special importance.
He has done a study in 2009 for his university where he tried to explain the differences and things in common between these two movements. Professor Mousalli thinks that Wahabism is the strictest form of Islam initiated by Muhammad Bin al-Wahhab as a movement of theological reforms, aiming as they say, to serve the traditional disciplines and practices developed throughout the history of Islam.
The founder Abd al-Wahhab at his time argued that the recognition of a sole creator without a rival is not sufficient for proper faith and that this should be followed by a “pure’ Islamic behavior. When this movement began it also aimed at expelling the Ottoman Empire from Mecca and Medina, which according to them did not practice proper Islam.
As mentioned above, Islamic faith was spread in Kosovo during the Ottoman rule in the Balkans, something that radical movements considered as such by the State of Kosovo aim to change.
The Kosovar Center for Investigative Journalism has obtained another Top Secret report of the Kosovo Police from a few years ago, which speaks about the danger of Wahabism in Kosovo.:
“According to them (Wahabists), they may even murder another Muslim who does not belong to their sect. they act in almost all territory of Kosovo and many of the members of this sect are known as very extremist persons” says the first page of this report.
This three-page report, which was delivered to the Parliamentary Commission for Security (mandate 2007-2010) does not identify specific organizations or persons as Wahabists, but it clearly speaks about the ever increasing danger of this movement.
In its answers to the Kosovar Center for Investigative Journalism, the Kosovo Police has mainly elaborated theoretically as to what they do when they receive information about these kinds of activities. Kosovo Police has not agreed to mention any organization, which they suspect for such activities.
The American company JCB Consulting, in a special report for the President of the Security Council of United Nations in 2002 titled: “Financing of terrorism, roots and trends of financing of terrorism” speaks also about the raids that UNMIK did to organizations for this purpose. There it mentions the establishment of a committee by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which would control the funds given to religious humanitarian organizations also in Kosovo. According to the document of JCB Consulting, “UNMIK has raided one house rented by ‘Saudi Joint Relief Committee in Prishtina’ in 2002. This organization (established by the kingdom of Saudi Arabia) operated as a cover for some of the operations of Osama bin Laden, including ex-director of this committee, Adel Muhammad Sadi Bin Kazem and Wael Hamza Julaidan (General Secretary of the Trust Rabita in Pakistan and one of the cofounders of Al Kaeda, declared as a terrorist organization by United States in 2002”).
The same raid is also mentioned by Shaul Shay in his book “Islamic Terror and the Balkans”, where among other things, it is said that “it was evident that SJRC has served as a cover for the activities of terrorist units and for the transfer of funds and the organizing of activities in the Balkans”.
The persona non grata “Imam” who enters Kosovo
The self-declared imam of Marine in Skenderaj, Kastriot Duka has managed to enter Kosovo without the knowledge of the state, although there is an official decree against him as persona non grata in Kosovo. He continues to send money to Kosovo and continues his activity which was interrupted in 2010.
The only case, at least publicly, when the state of Kosovo has intervened against persons suspected of spreading extreme religious ideas was the one of Marinë of Skenderaj.
Back then, the state had decided to expel Kastriot Duka, who publicly appeared as Imam, but had never received the approval of the only organization entitled to give this post in Kosovo, namely the Islamic Community of Kosovo.
His expulsion from Kosovo through the Vermice border point was followed by TV cameras, but as KCIJ has found out, he has come back to Kosovo silently, despite the decision to declare him “persona non grata".
Kastriot Duka aka “Imam” Xhemajl Duka from Elbasan seriously challenged the Islamic Community of Kosovo two years ago. Expelled from Kosovo through a court verdict in March 2010, banned for three years, Xhemajl Duka has again entered the Kosovo territory.
H. K.,the main contact of Duka’s Arab organization in Marinë has told KCIJ that the Kosovar state did not manage to stop the self-declared imam for three years.
“He was banned from returning to Kosovo for three years, but they did not manage to ban him for as long as that.
KCIJ: He has come back to Kosovo again?
Yes of course, he was here eight or ten times”, says the main man who continues to receive money from the Arab organization “Rahmy” during a conversation with KCIJ conducted in England, a conversation recorded with a phone camera.
In March of 2010, the Ministry of Internal Affairs had requested from the Kosovo Police to undertake all measures in order to expel Duka from Kosovo, who in Marinë of Skenderaj had constructed a mosque without the permission of the Islamic Community of Kosovo. Duka had been supported by the village habitants, mainly because they benefited materially from him, but this did not help him from being deported to Albania, only to come back, supposedly because he had changed the activity, for which he had acquired a permission to stay in Kosovo.
The note of MIA said: “There are credible and proven reasons even by Mr. Duka himself in his public appearances that the primary purpose for which he requested to stay in Kosovo has changed and had a completely different orientation. The staying permit was issued for the undertaking of humanitarian activities and not other activities which Mr. Duka has undertaken in the territory of the Republic of Kosovo”.
He was expelled from Kosovo after a petition was filed in the Municipal Assembly of Skenderaj, signed by six thousand people.
The petition was managed by “Prehja” organization led by Ajneshahe Halimi, who in 2010 had stated for Top Channel that in the newly built mosque by Duka “different activities took place, including coming and going of guests from different parts of the world, as well as the organizing of various ceremonies which are in violation of Islam”. Duka also distributed propaganda religious literature according to his views, not approved by the Islamic Community of Kosovo.
Despite the views of the state of Kosovo on how “the imam” appeared in the media, he continues to be remembered nostalgically by the inhabitants of Marinë.
Frustration can be observed in the wrinkled face of the person who keeps contact with Duka, the family and the Arab organization of England at all times. Not rarely does he burst in condemnation for the people who forcefully expelled his beloved “imam”.
H.K. also explains that, apart from Duka, the Arabs of England of “Rahmy” organization come regularly to bring money for more than 300 orphans who continue to benefit from this organization. Duka often brings his brothers in his private visits to Kosovo.
“The Arab coming from England to bring the money is named Halil…there are cases when they send the money through the bank…I go take them…or they bring them to Kosovo. Then the orphans get the money in my house yard…before that we used to distribute the money sometimes in the mosque…sometimes in the ambulance built by them just near the mosque…now there is no place…so I am distributing them in my house yard”, says H.K..
Rexhepi: I wanted to stop them, but the internationals did not allow me
Internal Minister Bajram Rexhepi makes a harsh accusation, saying that internationals have experimented with Kosovo.
He recalls the time when he was Prime Minister, between 2003 and 2004, a period when new movements with radical tendencies did not have any congregation or little influence. Rexhepi had at that time proposed a law which would promptly ban the activities of all organizations of all religions which appeared to be spreading ideas different from the traditional form.
“When I was Prime Minister, I proposed a law which would ban different sects, be that Islamic, Catholic or Orthodox, which were different from the religion regularly practiced among us…But for this I had barriers from the Council of Europe in Strasbourg…from the highest officials. I had at that time requested from the working groups to legally ban their activities, but I was accused that I was violating the human rights and freedom of religion. I had posed the question if in your respective country you observed that national security at stake would you as much respect those abstract human rights you are mentioning? Of course not…why then are you experimenting with us?, Bajram Rexhepi recalls during an interview with KCIJ.
He says that there were cases when the state interest was at stake, such as due to fundamentalism or Wahabism. He also mentions cases when, after having been arrested, persons were released because the judges requested more proofs.
“We have stepped in when we observed illegal activities…such as carrying of weapons, or forceful religious infliction…You know that at one time more than nine people were arrested in Prizren…They were kept in custody two or three days…some of them more and then the court asked for much more arguments to be kept in prison…the judges back then were mainly local…but even the internationals release them in the same way”, the internal minister says.
According to Bajram Rexhepi, despite the good work they might be doing, AKI as a service is fairly new, with only four years of existence, “it is questionable whether they are capable of infiltrating in different suspicious NGO’s and find the arguments necessary for the court”.
AKEA wants all of Kosovo
At the beginning of 90’s, a young man from Kosovo, while studying in Riad of Saudi Arabia asked himself, whether the Islamic Revolution was successful in Iran, and if the same could be done in Kosovo or the Balkan?
As his colleagues say, after deliberating it for 20 years, Husamedin Abazi now heads one of the most powerful non-governmental organizations in Kosovo, namely the Association for Culture, Education and School (AKEA), registered in 2004. The organization began exactly at the time when Prime Minister of Kosovo (2003-2004), Bajram Rexhepi says he was not allowed to send to the Assembly a draft law which would ban the activities of suspicious organizations.
Officially, Abazi says that this organization was the idea of a group of students of the University of Prishtina, including Behar Avdiu, Nhari Toska, Bashkim Mehani, Ilir Xhoxhaj, Ilir Gashi. According to the information of KCIJ, AKEA’s logo can be seen everywhere, ranging from cultural activities to joint activities with Kosovo government ministries. It has 700 activists and more than 80 members with full rights. Those who know it and those (state agents) who have been following it are convinced that Abazi is the main link of the Muslim Brotherhood in Kosovo.
“The Muslim Brotherhood” aims to create the Islam Halifat in the World, an idea similar with the “New World Order”, where the world would be controlled by one single center led by the chief of the “Muslim Brotherhood”.
KCIJ has obtained some documents, which some members of this organization call internal plans of AKEA to take control of all of Kosovo. These documents yield details regarding the plans of recruiting as many people as possible, mainly persons with a good social status, professional development of staff, establishing the first Islamic Bank in Kosovo, and working intensively to “clarify the positive and universal thought of Islam in more than 50% of Kosovo citizens”, or also “the increase of cultural awareness of Islam on no less than 1000 students a year”…etc.
It was made clear to KCIJ that the conversation with the three members of this organization should be conducted in their terms, without questions, in fact without any right…”only what we tell you…otherwise we have no agreement”. They say that they have decided to violate the oath each member of AKEA takes for not speaking publicly, for the time being, since as they say, they are disappointed with the organization’s failures, especially with director Husamedin Abazi.
The say the aim of AKEA is not radicalization of Islam, but the leadership of the state according to the true Islamic principles, mainly the one practiced in Kosovo until now…A few years later they can be presented to the public opinion as an alternative political force. For this end, one of the rules respected strictly by all members is to inform the public opinion that they have no relation to any of the political parties in Kosovo.
“Why mingle with current parties, immersed in corruption, when we are working for something much higher that when we go publicly, nobody, I repeat NOBODY will have a chance to match us”, says one member of this organization. This member says that he wants to speak publicly since he does not agree with some of the things done within AKEA, and most of all on the delays caused inside the organization as regards the implementation of this plan ….
“All of it, slander” says Husamedin Abazi regarding these statements when talking to the Kosovar Center for Investigative Journalism in the mosque in Dodona neighborhood, where he serves as Imam. He does not deny, however, that AKEA aims to spread the word of Allah as much as possible throughout Kosovo.
“We are not a religious organization…but we are a civil society organization which has Islam as a reference point…” says Imam Abazi and explains that “average Islam” is what exactly AKEA refers to.
This religious line is followed also by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Turkish party AKP, which for years on end considered illegal, now is in power and is led by Prime Minister Taip Erdogan.
“The long-term aims of the Organization (2006-2017)” is the title of one of the documents which tells of the aims and time periods of the plans, which is divided in “Internal Field” and “Society Field”. This plan is divided in three time periods. The first is already implemented, which started in 2006 and lasted till 2009. During this period the initial preparations of the organization were done, and over 50 people were recruited. Currently, AKEA is in the implementation of the second phase which began in 2010, a phase expected to end in 2013. The number of members with full rights has exceeded 80, and at this phase they are being professionally developed. The recruitment, a term disliked by the head of AKEA, Husamedin Abazi is a long and sophisticated process.
According to three members of this organization, the membership of new members is not done without thoroughly testing their loyalty before becoming part of AKEA.
The most interesting part of the membership, however, is not with the important persons, but the young kosovars. AKEA, according to these three members, targets young persons who have just finished high school, mainly from poor families. These families are presented with a good economic offer, taking their children to Prishtina for courses, education, or even scholarships for studies …
Meanwhile, AKEA organizes lectures for these youngsters and different meetings, which initiates the verification of the views of these young people. In fact, the regulation of the organization says that each member with full rights should supervise up to three persons, potential candidates to be part of AKEA…This implies that if AKEA currently has 80 members, then the number of those currently being tested to become members is more or less 200 people. AKEA’s “Testers” have to fill an evaluation form at the end of the supervision, where they give their opinions with grades as regards each candidate, showing which ones should officially be offered to become full member of AKEA. During the entire time of this scrutinizing process, the candidates in fact have no idea they are being tested.
The director of AKEA did not admit that there is a special procedure for the membership. Moreover, he calls members with full rights “voluntary members”.
KCIJ has obtained the evaluation form of person B.Z. 22 years of age, who was evaluated as worthy of “beginning the training for Awakening” (The Awakening Meeting). According to this form, this student was evaluated for the positive traits regarding knowledge and respect for Islam. In part II named “DEVOTION/IBADET”, the tested student was assessed on “Reading of Kuran, knowledge of Kuran hifaz, prayer with congregation, care and caution from Haram, Devotion to family and relation with parents”.
Further down the form, assessments are done regarding “love and respect for the organization” with grades of good, average and unclear. The form obtained by KCIJ highlights whether the person evaluated is worthy of proceeding to the “Awakening Meeting”, followed on each detail, including his personal life.
The questions posed by the evaluator on the part named “General Relations” are:
1) Friendship outside of the organization
2) Private life
3) Doubts on his relationships
Members of AKEA who have spoken for KCIJ say that the most beautiful part of this process is the oath taken by the new members. In AKEA this oath officially is called “The Awakening meeting”.
“The night of ‘Awakening meeting’ lasts till morning, namely till after the Morning Prayer, and the place should be completely dark. The Commission of this night usually consists of leaders of AKEA and some members. Throughout the interrogation process, the candidate is spoken concerning the possibility of being compromised by the government and that they should be patient, in the name of God, not to say anything to investigators regarding the organization, even at the price of prison. In all this procedure, the most beautiful part, according to three members of AKEA, is when “the verdict” is given. If the candidate has successfully passed “the Awakening meeting”, the entire commission weeps from joy.
“That moment, when you see the men of the commission, mainly elderly, weeping from joy, you get the feeling as if you have become part of a family which loves you more than your own family and for which you are capable of doing anything”…says one of the members of AKEA, while tears gush through his beard.
“The time for action is NOW”
The three members of AKEA say they have broken the vow of silence because AKEA is losing the path for which it was created.
“A salary has been paid in my name, but I have not received that salary”…says this member of AKEA, explaining further that the money most probably came from abroad (God knows where they came from) and then they were allocated in the main headquarters of the organization. This has been going on for years. AKEA has a budget which mainly comes from donations, inside and outside of the country, but a considerable part of the activities is covered from the percentage deducted from salaries of the members. In fact, the largest part of the membership of AKEA has a job which has nothing to do with the organization or religion, from which they are obliged to contribute 3-5% of their salaries to AKEA. The organization in fact benefits from its members a full salary, money that comes from abroad and from 3-5% of the salaries that members take in their regular jobs. This is the reason why these three members have agreed to speak, since they claim that the leadership of the organization is compromising the ideal and the ultimate purpose of AKEA for financial issues. Apart from this, they say that the leaders of the organization are delaying the implementation of the ultimate goal…delaying thus the implementation of some of the plans, such as the establishment of the first Islamic Bank.
According to documents obtained by KCIJ, during the second phase 2010-2013, “two production businesses are expected to launch, which would cover 30% of the activities of the organization”.
Third phase: the time of no going back
According to information obtained by KCIJ, so far there are 30 Imams of the Islamic Community of Kosovo who have joined AKEA. Without mentioning numbers though, Husamedin Abazi, head of AKEA admits that there are Imams who are “voluntary members” of the organization. On the other hand, the head of the Islamic Community of Kosovo, Naim Ternava in certain cases has participated in the activities organized by AKEA, such as promotion of books.
Except Ternava, also the Minister of Education has participated in the activities of the organization led by Imam Husamedin Abazi. One of the latest large activities of AKEA is the concert co organized with the Ministry of Education, Ministry of culture, and Directorate for Culture in the Municipality of Prishtina to honor the victims of Jasharaj family. The activity was held on 3rd of March of this year in the red hall of the Youth Center.
AKEA is very cautious when inviting its members in a meeting, going so far as using language like “we’ll go for tea” during phone conversation about the meeting. According to persons speaking for KCIJ, this is the code for the invitation of the meeting in AKEA.
During the meetings, the success of the first phase is assessed, which ended in 2009, current successes of the second phase which ends in 2013, as well as discussion regarding the third phase, which is expected to begin in 2014 and last till 2017.
The document obtained by KCIJ: “Long-term aims of the organization” (12 year period 2006-2017) shows that the three phases are divided in Education, Administration, Economy, Values, Development, Information, and Politics.
Part of the agenda is also the opening of working groups in every faculty, entitled “Administration”. The part “Values” speaks of the attempts to increase the religious awareness of Islam up to 1000 students a year and up to 3000 young people throughout Kosovo.
AKEA plans to start a newspaper, a portal and a television, which they say should be the best in all of Kosovo. The organization aims to establish institutions beginning from kindergartens to “establishing of an institution for humane and social sciences”. The part which deals with Politics says:
“There should be caution that the activity of the organization (up to 2017) should be stripped of all political nuances.
(This research was carried out by the Kosovar Center for Investigative Journalism supported by the Danish fund for investigative journalism “Scoop”. The responsibility for this material belongs entirely to the authors of this text).