A New Muslim Nation in Europe?

Published on February 21, 2008, CBN News

Category: Islamic Terror in Kosovo

By Dale Hurd
CBN News Senior Reporter

Kosovo, a former province of Serbia, caused international furor when it declared its independence this week.

While the world community works out the international implications of Kosovo's independence, others are worried about a Muslim-majority state in Europe. The creation of a such a state raises fears of a radical Islamic state that would persecute Christians and become a base for terrorism.

Christians Targeted for Almost a Decade

Since 1999, the Orthodox Christian Serb minority has been attacked by the Albanian Muslim population.

In 2004, Muslim mobs, angry at the murder of three ethnic Albanians, attacked Serb enclaves, destroying hundreds of churches and monasteries.

This week, Kosovo's President Fatmir Sejdiu tried to calm the fears of the Serb Christian minority.

"We understand their fear, but there is no reason to fear," he said. "They will be part of the process as they were before."

But the Serbs may be targeted more for their Serb ethnicity than their Christian faith.

Peter Kuzmic is a Slovenian Evangelical and human rights advocate. He says Kosovo's Muslims are moderates, who do not want a religious war.

"This Kosovo situation is not a question of a religious war. It's not a religious question," he explained. "It's a political question, territorial question and religion is being abused by extremists on both sides."

Steven Schwartz of the Center for Islamic Pluralism lived in Kosovo for four years. He says there is religious freedom for all faiths in Kosovo.

"It is a majority Muslim country," Schwartz said. "It is also filled with Christian missionaries who have never been molested. I have walked up and down the streets of the main towns and there are Holiness churches and Evangelical churches. These are all new and nobody says a word about it."

Targeted By Jihadists?

However, some terrorism experts believe Islamic states like Saudi Arabia want to export their strict brand of Wahhabi Islam to Kosovo.

They warn that Kosovo's moderate Muslims, angry at high unemployment, organized crime, and drug smuggling, would welcome a Taliban-type rule.

Prior to this week's declaration, John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told Russian television that Kosovo is a potential target for takeover by radical jihadists.

"I think it's very risky if it's granted recognition by the U.S. and other European countries," Bolton told the Russian interviewer. "I don't think it is economically viable. I think its instability risks attracting Islamic extremists from around the world."

But Schwartz says Islamic radicals won't find welcome in Kosovo. Its people are grateful to the U.S. for protecting them.

"The bottom line is the Kosovars now have freedom and they have freedom because of the United States," he explained. "And they're not dumb. They're not going to turn to radical Islam."

Now the Bush administration is counting on this new Muslim nation to be an ally, not an enemy, in the war on terror.

Russia and China have joined Serbia in protesting Kosovo's independence to the United Nations.

They say the declaration violates international law.

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