WASHINGTON – Just as al-Qaida is extending its reach through franchises from the Arabian Peninsula and across North Africa, it could soon be linked up with the growth of radical Islamists in the Balkan countries that once made up Yugoslavia, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
With its breakup in the 1990s, Sunni Muslims began to spread into Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, which once was the heart of Christian Serbia. This spread is offset by Christian majorities in Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia.
The Balkans, however, have a history of Islamist concentration since the end of the Cold War. Osama bin Laden, for example, began setting up charities there as a way of funneling money to help with the spread of Islamist militancy against the Christians in the 1990s.
Indeed, the Balkans were where Muslims retreated following the unsuccessful siege of Vienna on September 11, 1683. It was a battle of the Holy Roman Empire along with other military forces of Christian countries to counter the spread of the Ottoman Empire into Europe.
The region is facing “a growing challenge from imams trained in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey who are promoting a more fundamentalist and radical form of Islam,” according to a report in the open intelligence group Langley Intelligence Group Network, or Lignet.
Even the Vatican recently noted that “enormous funds (are) pouring in from Saudi Arabia and Turkey” to radicalize Muslims in the region.
A Macedonian security official said that radical Islamists “exist in larger numbers than what the public knows.”
The self-styled spokesman for al-Qaida, Sunni Omar Bakri Muhammad, who was kicked out of Britain and now resides in Lebanon, said that the Balkans are a “legitimate target” for Islamists because they represent “territories that belong to Islam.”
Nusret Imamovic, who is a Sunni Wahhabi leader in Bosnia and Herzegovina, insists the region needs to be ruled under Shariah law.
“Islam has an unbreakable bond with the policy of Shariah,” Imamovic said. “For us, the highlight of Islam is jihad. Allah loves those who fight in his way.”
To underscore this viewpoint, the region in recent years also has seen a rise in terrorist attacks.
Analysts agree that the growing influence of radical Islam could threaten stability of southeast Europe in 2013.
This rise is in large measure attributed to economic stagnation and high youth unemployment.
“The worsening economic crisis in the Balkans could draw more followers to radical Islam in the region and lead to more terrorist incidents in 2013,” the report said.
“Although this is a problem that has been mostly overlooked by the West, regional leaders recognize this threat and hope to counter it with economic reforms and cracking down against radical Islamist activities.”
However, that could be problematic, since these countries’ economies are tied into members of the European Union, which similarly are experiencing economic difficulties, suggesting the radical Islamist problem will get worse before it gets better.
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