Islamists and public security concerns in eastern Europe

Gyorgy Lederer

Přinášíme rozšířenou verzi přednášky, kterou pronesl arabista Gyorgy Lederer na konferenci OI “Islam, EU a jihovýchodní Evropa” v Lichtenštejnském paláci 6.října 2008.

The proponents of Islam as a program or set of values in public life (Islamists) have represented a tiny but vocal minority among the many million Eastern Europeans of Muslim origin.  The majority of these millions tend to regard their belief or the lack of it as a personal, rather than social, matter.  This applies to Bosnia-Herzegovina too, where most of the region’s Islamists live. (besides Russia, which is to be considered separately as far as Islam in post-socialist Europe is concerned)

The widespread sharp distinction between (Neo-)Salafi and Ikhwani (Brotherhood-type) Islamists is less justified in the Eastern portion of the continent.  Despite their apparent differences, the two often refer to the same authors and concepts.  They had inspired each other at the Saudi faculties of theology for decades.  Then, from the late 1990s on, the prominent Eastern European Salafi preachers, particularly the Bosniak ones, also studied there.  The fortnightly review (Saff) published by some of these “spread extremist and anti-American rhetoric” according to an April-2008 State-Department report.  Saff was, in actual fact, not more critical of George W. Bush’s America than Western Islamists generally were.  Most were not branded as extremists. (double standard)

The group behind Saff (the former “Aktivna Islamska Omladina”) and Bosniak Salafis in general regard the Saudi Awakening (Sahwa) sheikhs, like Salman al-Awda or Safar al-Hawali, as moral role models.  These unambiguously denounce what they view as reprehensible, if not heretical, innovations (bid’a) within the Muslim world, western Infidel secularism, Israel, the aggressions against Muslims as the attacks on Iraq, Afghanistan or Gaza.  The Awakening sheikhs were not responsible for Bin Laden’s earlier references to them as scholarly authorities.  Most appear to be co-opted by, and adapted to, the Saudi regime which imprisoned them in the 1990s.  Islamism in Eastern Europe can only be understood in light of its recent evolution in Arabia, which has been so aptly tackled by Stephane Lacroix, Thomas Hegghammer and Madawi al-Rasheed.

Through various Saudi-funded transnational proselytizing networks, both Salafi and Ikhwani ideas have spread among certain Eastern European Muslims.  Outside of Bosnia, the Serbian Sandzak, Macedonia and Kosovo, Salafi influence has been limited to rather small groups.  As to the main Ikhwani institutions they tend to identify themselves with the Qaradawi-inspired European Council for Fatwa and Research and as members of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe:  the OIRK Association for Islamic Development and Culture (Smolyan, Bulgaria), the Islamic League of Romania, the Arraid Federation of Social Organisations (Ukraine), the Muslim Students Union (Czech Republic), the MME Congregation of Muslims (Hungary), the Muslim League of the Polish Republic and the Islamic Cultural Association of Moldova.  The AKEA Charity (Kosovo), the Ardhmaria Future Organisation (Albania), the AKOS Association for Culture (Zenica, Bosnia) and the FRI Islamic Youth Forum (Macedonia) are little but also formal members of the FIOE.  Nonetheless, further Ikhwani-minded and Salafi groups and individuals have been active in the latter four countries, often among their Muslim elites.  In addition to the Saff people, Sulejman Bugari and war-hero Nezim Halilovic Muderis are popular preachers of Islamic morality and political commitment in Bosnia.

Some of the above-listed and other Muslim charities are run by Arab immigrants in cooperation with local ethnic-Muslims and converts.  Muslim immigrants are much fewer in Eastern Europe than they are in the West.  However, if the Caucasus and the Ural border the continent, then Eastern Europe’s residents of Islamic extraction outnumber those of the West, which has been perceived by some as massive Muslim presence.  It is not easy to tell at what stage of the secularization process one ceases to be a Muslim.  The international media’s labeling of Bosniaks (Bosnians of Muslim ancestry) as “Muslims” and using the two terms synonymously added to the confusion.  

For the last few years, western attention to Islamists in post-socialist Eastern Europe has focused overwhelmingly on one particular dimension: the assumed security threat, i.e. the potential of violence.  It was argued that violent actions in, or in connection with, Eastern Europe could not be excluded, also as far as logistical and recruiting bases, resting and recuperation areas, bridgeheads into the West for actual militant extremists were concerned.  The region’s traditional Muslim institutions, Bosniak national identity and politics, Albanian ethnic bias, war history and today’s instabilities in the Balkans seem to have less global relevance.  Serbian and pro-Serbian authors have tried to relate these issues and the Balkan peoples of Muslim tradition in general to the worldwide terror threat and to conflate Albanian nationalism and criminality with Muslim radicalism.  Certain American terrorism analysts referred to these tendentious exaggerations like the so-called Balkan Green Transversal theory.  Albanian pimps and smugglers throughout Europe may be violent, but not necessarily religious.

Post-9/11 anxieties led to the mostly unprofessional police scrutiny of some Islamists in the region, particularly the Arab Mujahedin veterans of the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.  The Bosnian citizenships of these were reviewed, even if they had Bosnian wives and children.  Six innocent Bosnian-Algerians were mistreated in Guantanamo for seven years.  However, many Bosnians rejected the undeniably anti-western Mujahedin (some of these had terrorized the population in the late 1990s) and denounced their impact on the thousands of young Bosniak Salafis, who became known as Vehabis.  The Arab Salafi missionaries’ hostility to local religious (Hanafi and Sufi) tradition and their monthly payments to poor Balkan women for wearing the hijab provoked public indignation.

In a European democracy everyone does have the right, under the rule of law, to preach anti-western ideas and live in separate groups or parallel societies as certain Salafis do.  For obvious reasons, it is in principle the state security services’ duty to monitor the ideologically-motivated networks the least invasive way possible.  These should not be perceived as criminal gangs despite the few cases of violence as the March-2007 arrests in the Sandzak and isolated incidents in Bosnia and Macedonia.  The expectation of transparency does not imply the association of Salafism with terrorism.  From the police this task requires not only tact and civism but, above all, familiarity with Islam.

The Eastern European experts of Islam seldom advise their countries’ intelligence services for, in many cases, the professional level and senior personnel of these have not changed essentially since the socialist period.  At that time the state services were those oppressive regimes’ iron fists.  The cooperation between post-socialist intelligence officers and their American colleagues has been excellent according to all reports, not only the ones on the ill-famed CIA planes or the Polish transit detention camp.  The western European services of democratic tradition were, assumedly, less subservient.

Eastern Europe’s police felt the need to provide results in the “Global War on Terror.”  The former Mufti of Sofia was arrested in 2006 for editing a pro-Chechen website.  In 2004 a Palestinian-Hungarian Salafi Imam was detained for 70 days without proof.  He was falsely accused of preparations to bomb the Budapest Jewish Museum at the Israeli President’s visit.  (Later a Budapest court awarded him a rather modest compensation, with no formal apologies.)  Numerous similar intimidating investigations were conducted in the Balkans.  The police strived to meet perceived U.S. expectations, particularly in Romania and Albania.  Paradoxically, the Islamists can hardly afford overt anti-Americanism in the Albanian lands’ context, where even the (normally internationalist) Salafis behave as proud patriots.

Certain western public figures responded to the radical challenge by endorsing the ambitions of Bosnian-Islamic-Community Head Mustafa Ceric to institutionalize what he had called Muslim authority in Europe.  Both secular and a number of religious Bosniaks accuse him of authoritarianism and connivance with the Salafis.  Nonetheless, the reductive pattern of “pushing the (alleged) moderate to counter the radical” impresses many Westerners.  Ceric has been much more vocal in public life than an average religious leader is in the European Union of Enlightenment tradition.  Some resent this, while others explain his statesman-like behavior by the particularities of Bosnian party politics which were originally behind his nomination in 1993.

The issues of shaky Bosniak ethnic (not necessarily religious) identity, war grievances and post-Dayton injustice raise today less western attention than Balkan Islamist radicalism does.  This has been grossly overstated by those unscrupulous (pro-)Serbian propagandists.  It is true nevertheless that some within the Islamic Community of Bosnia do sympathize with the Salafis, whose discourse is more Islamically-authentic than European.  It may convince futureless youngsters in a traumatized country that was betrayed by Europe in 1992-1995.  These young Bosniaks feel inspired by the Islamist renascence in the Arab world.  As Ceric put it meaning the Saudis who back both him and the Salafis: “We should not cut the branch we sit on.”  It is fair to note that Ceric has been attacked by extremists (Bosniak Takfiri Salafis, also from the western diaspora) for whom he is not Muslim enough, or not at all.  Islamism has no genuine roots in the post-socialist countries.  It has been imported from the Middle East only since 1990, except for early-bird Alija Izetbegovic, through the usual channels: the Muslim World League, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth, the International Islamic Relief Organisation and various Arab “humanitarian” foundations.  Some of these were terror-listed after 9/11.

For their Wahhabi legitimacy, the Saudi princes had no choice but to generously support Salafi proselytism throughout the world, and so did many other wealthy Arabs.  By accommodating the princes for the well-documented reasons, the successive U.S. administrations contributed to the worldwide spread of defiant (“Jihadi”) Salafism.  The post-9/11 funding restrictions affected only certain, arbitrarily-selected charities.  However, tracking the money trail, electronic surveillance, police brutality and limited agent penetration were expected to contain and deter the assumed martyrdom-seekers.  Their motives were largely disregarded because Muslim theology was beyond the ken of most U.S. bureaucrats.  These apparently relied, as to Bosnia, on Croatian government agencies.  Such methods alone could hardly be effective in the longer run. 

9/11 was instrumentalized to justify, preserve and even enlarge a huge and not necessarily competent American intelligence apparatus of Cold-War tradition.  Its agents graduated from the U.S. mass higher education system.  Michael Scheuer and Graham Fuller convincingly describe how mediocrity was coupled with unaccountable imperial arrogance.  “Forwarding Freedom”, Iraqi nation-building, Al-Hurra TV, Donald Rumsfeld’s “Office of Strategic Influence”, the oft-repeated analogies between the “War on Terror” and the Cold War proved deceptive, and so were the contradictory official declarations first about Islamo-Fascism, then the great morality of Islam.  The Bush administration simply needed to crusade, to frame the conflicts in religious terms.  Its failed strategies did great disservice to the very cause it claimed to champion, i.e. global security.  America has become discredited in the Muslim world, where most unelected corrupt regimes have been supported by her for the lack of acceptable (non-Islamist) alternative.  As to the latter point little change can be expected for America and Israel badly need those kings, emirs, presidents and elites.

From an Eastern European libertarian perspective, the U.S. administration still enjoys prestige and leadership for America’s firm stance during the Cold War, when Western Europe’s pro-détente intellectuals protested against it, and for having hit Milosevic twice in the 1990s.  This was only indirectly related to Islam, even though Bosnia had become a rallying cry for the Islamists worldwide.  While Western Europe remained idle, those unselfish Balkan interventions saved lives and discouraged post-socialist ethnic extremists in general, not just in Yugoslavia.  (The victimized Kosovars’ controversial nationalism may be an embarrassing, but unreligious, exception.)  As a result, the Eastern European libertarians’ post-9/11 outpouring of solidarity with the U.S. was unsurprising.  Despite the Neo-Con damage, America remains an ideal of democracy for many, also for her traditional non-governmental civic initiatives in international relations and studies, which are relevant in this context.  Her decline from global preeminence might be destabilizing.

The ideals of the Islamists – the Saudi regime, its Ikhwani and Awakening Salafi “opponents” – represent, in many respects, the contrary of what libertarians stand for.  Nonetheless, this does not justify the isolation of the Islamists in Europe, which would hardly be possible anyway.  Those of Eastern Europe should also be engaged in civil dialogue preferably by Arabist professionals, who comprehend their theologically-defined discourse, not by Islamically-uneducated bureaucrats.  Such encounters will help to identify the Islamists better and avoid unnecessary suspicion in crisis situations.  The agnostic, if not anti-clerical, tradition of the Enlightenment must be stressed for the Islamists tend to view Europeans as “Christians” which most are not really anymore, or even those who are would not like to be addressed as such in public life, let alone to be represented in it by bishops. (“inter-religious dialogue”)  It is not Islamophobic at all to call the Islamists’ attention to this continent’s progressive societal trends as human rights, gender equality, the categorical rejection of homophobia or the decreasing role of religion, particularly in the political sphere.  No immigrant should despise the values of a land he/she wishes to settle in.  The same applies to Eastern Europe’s fewer Islamists.

Many Europeans feel uncomfortable with certain anachronistic Islamist expectations, as the normative accommodation of Muslim legal (Sharia) provisions, even through private arbitration, the ban on the defamation of religion (“Durban II”) or the so-called anti-Islamophobia campaign.  Ironically, these demands often reach Eastern Europe from the West, which is still its model not only in terms of secular democracy, but also as to the involvement of scholars of Islamic studies in the authorities’ mapping of the Islamists.  The post-socialist authorities’ democratic and professional credentials are much weaker, and so are, for bureaucratic reasons and the lack of resources, the chances of a civil initiative to engage with the region’s Islamists.  Practically all of these accept, in principle, transparency and contacts with us, Infidels, “on the basis of common interests”, as Saff’s Director put it.  This was precisely how Prophet Muhammad proceeded in the 7th century until no Infidel remained in Arabia.  The Islamists’ holy mission should be well comprehended.  By proposing Islam to the rest of us, they sincerely offer to rescue us from the eternal torments of hell.  Ignoring them may hardly be the long-term solution in light of the current demographic and migratory trends.  However, Islam represents a life philosophy only for a few Eastern Europeans. 

The apolitical traditional or official Islamic institutions (the counterparts of the national Churches) in Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro (Bosniak-Albanian), Bulgaria (Turkish-Pomak), Romania (Tatar-Turkish), Ukraine (Crimean Tatar) focus on spiritual services, education and administration.  If they proselytize at all, they do this less ambitiously.  For millions, Islam means little more than a dimension of (Turkish, Tatar, Albanian, etc) ethnic identity.  They hardly comment on public life as Muslims, in the spirit of the separation between politics and religion, which many Islamists tend to reject.  This principle is generally respected even by the larger Islamic Community of Bosnia.  Nonetheless, this and its “pedagogical academies” employ a number of specialists whose religious ideas are certainly not limited to personal spirituality.  Most were trained in Arab countries.  The situation is somewhat similar in the Serbian Sandzak and Macedonia, with a strong Albanian ethnic commitment in the latter.

These “official” Muslim institutions as well as the various Sufis and the recent indigenous converts should all be viewed as parts of Islam in Eastern Europe.  The Islamists, who are always louder and sometimes arrogant, should not be allowed to monopolize it.  This is not a divide-the-Muslim-camp de-legitimization strategy, just common sense and democratic reasoning.  However, the FIOE-member organizations do not necessarily seek monopoly.  With Middle Eastern backing, they succeeded in imposing their agenda and interests more effectively than did those who regard Islam primarily as a private matter of conscience.  The Germany-based European Muslim Union, which includes a number of such Eastern European members, has been less efficient than the FIOE.   So far no Balkan Muslim organization has been invited to join the Brussels-headquartered Muslim Council of Cooperation in Europe.  To date, the anti-radical Hungarian Islamic Community has been its sole Eastern European member.  Even western-minded Muslim leaders may feel compelled or tempted to seek Saudi funding.

The U.S. foreign policy changes will certainly affect the Muslim groups of Eastern Europe, where only the politicians, rather than the wider public, acted as cheerleaders and enthusiastic participants in the Iraqi war, accepted Rumsfeld’s division of Europe into “Old” and “New.”  The lessons of the “War on Terror” justify, in many respects, the Islamists’ and others’ anti-American criticism, which most pro-American libertarians rejected in 2003.  It was clear from the very beginning that Saddam Hussein was anything but an Islamist, but the now well-know American atrocities were difficult to predict.  Most in the Muslim world still do not see the purported huge moral difference between the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The U.S. foreign and intelligence service personnel remain more or less unchanged.  In the post-socialist world they cooperate with local government bureaucrats, but so does official Western Europe too, including the publicly-funded European institutions that claim to encourage civil causes in Eastern Europe.  E.U. support programs are either channeled through the post-socialist governments or restricted to heavily-institutionalized applicants, which often means the same.  The attention the region’s few committed specialists of Islam manage to raise is limited.  In the poorer, post-socialist environment and tradition of omnipotent statehood fewer such independent initiatives can be expected than in the more developed and civic West, which the general E.U. granting requirements have been designed for.

Reaching out to like-minded western colleagues, who share the concerned Eastern European Arabist specialists’ sense of responsibility, may help all the more that Islamism in this region differs little from its western expressions.  Only the authoritarian (miserable, corrupt, ignorant, overtly xenophobic, racist, etc) eastern political and social systems do.  National frontiers should be disregarded within Eastern Europe itself for the Islamist networks’ markedly transnational character.  However, these countries’ state administrations tend to be ethnically-minded and distrustful of each other.

The politically-correct platitudes parroted by the western appeasers of Muslim radicalism do considerable harm, even if some of their statements may be literally correct.  The perception of Islam exclusively as “the religion of peace hijacked by a tiny minority” veils the inevitable but manageable conflicts between the values and ideals of most Westerners and most Islamists.  Dogmatically avoiding the use of the words “Islam” and “terror” in the same sentence is another counter-productive PC taboo.  Islam, as an interpretable plural system of tenets, can hardly be responsible for anything.  Its followers are for their own discourse and deeds, and so are we, Infidels, too, if we do not react.  The dissociation of the evildoers from their motives will make their identification more difficult and deprive the investigators of indispensable tools.

The ongoing unfortunate “anti-Islamophobia” campaign targets primarily anti-immigrant racism, marginalization and stereotypes in the West.  These are ugly and reprehensible indeed.  The term of Islamophobia itself appears inappropriate as the campaigners hardly blame any comprehensive critical scrutiny of Islam.  Considerable professional training is required for this academic venture.  Few respectable orientalist scholars engage in it today, also for the emotional commonality they tend to feel with the universe of Islam.

Certain Muslims, rather than an abstract theory, have provoked the ordinary, non-specialist Europeans’ anxieties.  These are well-founded, not phobic, and should not be conflated with the deplorable discrimination against immigrants of Islamic origin. (How many of these are actually Muslim, and in what sense?)  It has been argued that the reductive anti-Islamophobia campaign nurtures the sense of victimhood.  It attempts to silence protests against human-rights violations perpetrated worldwide with reference to Islam.  It suggests that European Muslims are entitled to more sensibilities, as the right not to be offended or mocked, than the ones the other Europeans expect for themselves.  Moreover, it patronizingly generalizes a western pattern by projecting it to the Eastern European, and even to non-European, countries where most “Muslims” have not been immigrant or racially different from their fellow-countrymen. 

The official representatives and diplomats of dark Arab regimes happen to protest the loudest against what they portray as Islamophobia.  These should not lecture the rest of the world as far as rights, liberties and discrimination are concerned.   They complain about cartoons, films, books, press articles to demonstrate how zealous Muslims they are, to out-Islamize their Islamist foes back home.  Although many Arab officials are uninspiring by any democratic standard, their western counterparts will keep courting them as „moderates”, for bowing to their mostly rhetorical demands is the assumed antidote to the „fundamentalists.”  This simplistic logic would send a confusing message to Eastern Europe’s „Muslims”, if these cared at all. 

The Danish cartoons and the French headscarf ban were criticized by the region’s Islamist groups, mostly the FIOE-affiliated ones.  These are highly unlikely to be involved with violence.  Nonetheless, the uncompromising anti-American, anti-secular, anti-gay stance of some, particularly the Salafi Islamists, arouses distrust and fear, which they are fully aware of.  A number of them appear to enjoy this effect.  The inflammatory sermons and films they circulate, watch online and even produce in Bosnia and the western Bosniak diaspora, especially Austria, their similarly-minded printed publications are all part of an anti-western subculture, which is well known in Europe, particularly the United Kingdom.  There, this exaltedness has inspired more or less spontaneous, sometimes dangerous violent acts as well as volunteers for the Afghan front.  This front can be transferred elsewhere in the future. 

The global terror networks obviously try to recruit among those whom they deem close to their cause.  This may, in actual fact, also occur in Eastern Europe.  The region’s Islamist leaders can reasonably be expected to provide some kind of assurance in this respect if they are adequately approached, not by U.S. intelligence agents who used to abduct in the streets of Europe, nor by their local post-socialist lackeys.  (The disclosure of the last years’ War-on-Terror illegal covert activities in Eastern Europe would dispel myths and reduce European anti-Americanism.)  The Awakening sheikhs and other Saudi clerics could also be engaged directly in the spirit of „mutual interests” in case of genuine U.S. policy change, not just PR campaigns to „win hearts and minds” and “exploit fissures” within the Muslim world.  (In his open letter to „Brother Osama”, Sheikh Salman al-Awda clearly asked him to stop.)  The Salafi dimension of the Saudi support for anti-western Islamists worldwide is becoming increasingly topical as the new U.S. administration allegedly refrains from ideological confrontation and the export of democracy.  The global proselytizing plans, the adaptation of the Prophet’s conquering example of the 7th century to the 21st, should be widely published and explained. 

Many Eastern Europeans expect „World-Citizen” Barack Hussein Obama to engage with the world’s Islamists, to reduce the tension.  Even if this will probably not work out eventually as hoped, the new President deserves the support of all democrats, including the region’s specialists of Islam, for the partnership he preaches, his inclusion of Europeans and those he called non-believers.  This should primarily mean sensitivity to civil ally criticism, which was largely ignored by the previous administration.  The majority of the Islamists will probably not unclench their fists for they expect too significant apologies and concessions from America.  Arab popular resentment against her is, in most cases, religiously-inspired for her perceived global anti-Islamic intrigue, support for Israel and tyrants in the Muslim world.  This Islamist sense of humiliation and rage has had fewer expressions in the Balkans.

Libertarians may represent only a few percents of Eastern Europe’s population, but their potential is promising as to social progress, minority issues, inter-ethnic and racial tolerance.  They tend to be western-minded, markedly secular, opposed to authoritarianism, nationalism and, to a great extent, the obsolete nation-state fetish itself.  The weakening and relativization of the latter through the process of European integration will improve democracy in the Balkans and the predicament of its so-called Muslims.  The Neo-Con discourse was often anti-libertarian worldwide (“any religious values are better than none”) and indirectly encouraged nationalisms in Eastern Europe.

Without the Serbian atrocities of the late 1990s in Kosovo, the western Balkan countries may have joined the E.U. earlier.  Kosovars might have become the minority of a European democracy as the South-Tirolers, or the Swedes of Finland.  Eastern Europe still pays for the Serbian nationalistic intolerance of the 1990s.  Serbia’s and her allies’ rejection of Kosovo’s independence and support for the Republika Srpska of Bosnia jeopardizes the whole region and particularly its nominal Muslims.  Ironically, most Muslim countries have still not recognized Kosovo, but many Serbs consider themselves as victims of a Muslim plot.  This paranoia should be denounced by Serbia’s libertarians, who are at least as “European” as anyone in the region.  They should give up clearly on the dogma of Serbia’s national sovereignty.

The relatively strong Eastern European anti-semitism is also relevant in this respect, despite the very low number of Jews left in the region except for the former Soviet Union and Hungary.  Anti-semites need no actual Jews in order to hate.  Certain Islamist radicals consider themselves in a state of war with “world Jewry.”  During the 2006 Lebanon and even more the 2008-2009 Gaza battles, Arab immigrants reached out to non-Muslim indigenous Judeophobes in several Eastern European countries in their protest against Israel.  Their common chanting in the streets recalled sad WW2 memories.  Anti-semitism among the Balkan peoples of Muslim culture has been limited in spite of the Serbian propaganda’s frequent reference to the WW2 (Bosniak) Handzar and (Albanian) Skanderbeg SS divisions.  The progressive historical role of Eastern European Jews (who founded, later, Israel) has been a sensitive discussion topic between the few immigrant Islamists, who showed interest in their host countries’ past, and local libertarians.  The latter tend to sympathize with Jews, often in a Judeophobic social environment, but not necessarily with everything today’s Israel does.  However, most Eastern Europeans would accept few sacrifice for the security of Israel, the western democratic world’s alleged first line of defense, as it is often portrayed.

Despite the distinct historical and current social contexts, the western PC-apologist anti-racist concepts of Islam tend to be adopted by the eastern European governments as these routinely comply with western agendas and norms.  Nonetheless, the foes of the “Islamization” of Western Europe (“Eurabia”, “Jizya-paying dhimmitude”, “Stealth Jihad”, etc) have also had some echo in the East, where the related passions and emotions run lower.  Of course, the western anti-Islamists are entitled to their criticism of Islam. (“blasphemy”)  This has not always been very objective so far, which also applies to many Islam-demonizing western terrorism analysts.  These have shown little familiarity with Eastern Europe.

If public liberties and Muslim immigration cannot be restricted, and basically they do not need to be as things stand now, then the rise of Islamism in Europe is inevitable.  This wave appears to reach the East from or through the West.  The related apprehensions and implications should be addressed at an international level, preferably with the Islamists’ involvement, if they accept the basic rules of secular civic interaction.  In Eastern Europe most do.  Instead of the fashionable debate topics of the last years as the compatibility of Islam and democracy or the rhetorical condemnation of violence, usually with ifs and buts, the European Islamists’ respect for the heritage of Europe as well as their concrete contribution to its public security should be discussed.  As to the ideology, it would be hypocritical not to challenge the anachronistic social-political programs derived from authors as Mawdudi, Qutb and the like-minded preachers of today, let alone from Sharia practice in Saudi Arabia or wherever.  When prominent Islamists consider Europe as “Land of Truce” (Dar as-Sulh) between its Infidels and Muslims, as Mustafa Ceric does, it is only logical to ask how many Europeans the Islamists represent and whom they are addressing.

The choice of Infidel interlocutors in the debate is sensitive not only for the West’s bitter division over the perception and integration of the Islamists.  In this respect one can hardly talk of “western camp.”  In a democracy, elected representatives or even public servants may not have to negotiate at all on political matters with (unclearly-mandated or any) religious leaders, not even in countries where Churches have traditionally enjoyed privileged legal status.  No exception should be made for today’s Islamists.  Someone should, nevertheless, listen to what they have to say.

by Gyorgy Lederer

Jeden příspěvek - Islamists and public security concerns in eastern Europe

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