09 December 2006

Serbian commentary examines presence, activities of Wahhabis in Balkans

BBC Monitoring International Reports - November 10, 2006, Friday


Text of commentary by Radoslav Gacinovic, professor at the Belgrade Academy of Diplomacy and Security, headlined: "Wahhabis in Balkans" by Serbian newspaper Politika on 8 November


The Wahhabi movement is a growing presence and a dangerous threat to security in many parts of the world. Wahhabism arose in the mid-18th century on the Arabian peninsula, founded by Muhammad Bin-abd-al-Wahab, a follower of Bin-Taymiyah, a theoretician of the Hanbal school of jurisprudence in Sunni Islam.


In 1803 the Wahhabis captured Mecca, followed by Medina in 1804. Members of that movement were the first to declare holy war - jihad. Wahhabism is a reformist movement aimed at restoring orthodox Islam and purging the faith of so-called innovations in customs. They are actually battling that which has enriched Islamic culture and tradition over the course of history. Wahhabis believe that every Muslim should look like Muhammad and his companions, the ashabs. They are easily recognizable by appearance, customs, and behaviour: They have long beards and short hair and usually wear ankle-length trousers. They rarely mix with and communicate poorly with neighbours who are not also followers of the movement. They pray with their legs and arms spread, striking the ground, which symbolizes their resolve to fight and voluntarily sacrifice themselves for Islam.


Wahhabi women wear veils that cover their entire face. Wahhabi men do not shake hands with women. They are extreme fundamentalists who are willing to lay down their life for jihad, but also to take others into death with them.


During the 19th century, the movement managed to exert significant influence in India, after which it ultimately took control in Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism is the most radical interpretation of Islam, having emerged as part of a revival of the radical ideas of Imam ibn Hanbal, a founder of one of the four schools of thought that guide Muslims with regard to ibadah [worship] and Shari'ah [law].


Their political strategy is based on fear. Because of the aggressive behaviour of Wahhabis, there have been cases of Muslims in Algeria converting to Christianity, which was previously without historical precedent. Wahhabis bar their followers and future members from watching television, using the Internet, or educating women. One of the biggest Muslim authorities, Sayyid al-Husseini, is very concerned about the ideology and aggressive actions of Wahhabis.


The Arab office of "Taleban International," officially a humanitarian organization, is responsible for the arrival of Wahhabis in the lands of the former Yugoslavia. From 1989 to 2002, tens of thousands of foreigners from Islamic countries entered B-H [Bosnia-Hercegovina], and according to available information some 30,000 of them have not left B-H, at least officially. It is assumed that a large number of them are Wahhabis who have obtained citizenship with the help of the SDA [Party of Democratic Action] and settled in that new Balkan state. However, one must add to that figure the mujahedin who fought in the ranks of the Muslim army and acquired citizenship and permanent residence.


Together with the Wahhabis, the mujahedin - holy warriors or "God's lunatics," as they are referred to by the United Nations - have set up training camps, the most famous one being in the village of Bocija, on Mount Ozren. Prior to 2001, some 80 mujahedin families were living in that village, with around 600 members. SDA officials in Maglaj and Muslim municipal leaders demanded that the Bocija community accept Wahhabis in local institutions of government. International security forces made only one attempt to approach the village of Bocija, but later they seemed to forget about it. After the civil war in B-H, Wahhabis were active in the area between Doboj, Maglaj, and Zavidovici. They are supported in particular by so-called Salafis, which is to say orthodox Muslims.


The majority of the world's Muslims do not support the Wahhabis, and so it is the obligation of members of that faith in B-H to take the lead in resisting the expansion of that dangerous movement.


The existence of Wahhabis in B-H and the support that they enjoy from Bosnian Salafis is confirmed by a statement by Senad Agic, the chief imam of the Islamic community for the United States. Four years ago Agic warned that 1 per cent of Muslims in B-H belong to the Wahhabi movement. In view of the fact that they are spreading very aggressively, it can be assumed that there are many more of them today. Imam Agic has warned Muslims: "If we do not do something, the Wahhabis will cost us our lives." Muslim religious dignitaries in Bosnia too are calling on believers to reject Wahhabi teachings, even though state institutions there continue to tolerate that movement.


It has long been suspected that a number of Wahhabis are present in Raska district [Sandzak] and in Kosovo-Metohija. It is not known how many of them there are, but recent events in Novi Pazar point to an urgent need to take action to protect citizens from violence perpetrated by members of that movement. The Wahhabis' militaristic aspirations are not limited to the territory of our country, but extend far beyond it, and for that reason it is urgent that the United Nations take concrete antiterrorism measures. The Wahhabis are currently recruiting young, discontented people, those who have no jobs, and so on.


Erhard Busek, the coordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, has in fact expressed concern about the presence of Wahhabis in Raska district. Many Islamist terrorist organizations aim to create ethnically pure Muslim states in Europe. It is estimated that there are currently more than 18,000 well-trained and politically motivated Al-Qa'idah terrorists present in some 60 countries, whose aims are the same as those of the Wahhabis. Al-Qa'idah has assisted the Albanian terrorist-separatist movement in the Balkans to the tune of some $700 million. Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency, has said that a large quantity of conventional explosives previously disappeared from the former Iraqi military base at Al-Qaqa. Wahhabis or an Islamic religious sect pose a serious security threat in the Balkans. Europe must realize this fact in time and prevent an offensive by aggressive Islam.


Source: Politika, Belgrade, in Serbian 8 Nov 06