The Bosnia and then the Kosovo Wars, which were conceived in much of the world only in terms of Serbian nationalism under Milosevic, have yet another dark side to them that is not widely discussed, and that is the rise of Islam in the Balkans.
During the Ottoman domination of the Balkans, many of the region's inhabitants: Bulgarians, Serbs, Albanians, Montenegrins and Croats embraced Islam as a way to elevate their status in the eyes of the occupying Muslim Power. But when those peoples attained independence through bitter wars of liberation, Muslim populations remained in their localities, for the most part as minorities in the countries where they belonged.
Yugoslavia, which consisted of a federation of six states and two autonomous territories (both belonging to Serbia), elevated Bosnia-Herzegovina to the status of an “ethnic” state, like all others, by making Islam as an identity, parallel to the identities of the Serbs, Croatians, etc. So, when Yugoslavia disintegrated, Bosnia had to assert its Muslim identity because it had none other, in spite of the fact that the majority of its population was either Serb or Croat.
In Bosnia it was the revivalist Islamic ideology of Alia Izetbegovic which was the engine of this new Bosnian Nationalism, which was aided by Iran and other Muslim countries, happy to see Islamic politics back in Central Europe. Then came the Albanian uprising in Kosovo, which duplicated the same situation, and drove the re-Islamization of that land under the support of the West.
The result is that while the Muslims have established a continuity which drives a wedge within Christian Central Europe, the West is looking with indifference to that evolving situation which they hope will create a docile Turkish-like Islam. But in view of the trouble Turkey itself is suffering from Muslim fundamentalists, it is doubtful whether these hopes will be fulfilled.
During the turmoil, which swept the Balkans on the eve of the Berlin Congress (1878), the Albanians, as an ethnic group, came up with the concept of including within their fledgling national entity all the Albanians of the Balkans, beyond the geographic boundaries of Albania itself. Being Muslims, the Albanians, like the Islamized Bosnians, enjoyed a privileged status in the Ottoman Empire . In 1878 the Albanian League was established in Prizren, which presented the Greater Albania plan. While the Albanians constituted the majority in the core areas of Albania proper, their proportion in Kosovo did not exceed 44%. 70 Like in the case of Bosnia where ethnicity was religion-bound, there could not exist an Orthodox Croat, nor a Catholic Serb, nor a Bosnian who was not Muslim. 71 So in Albania, Islamized Serbs, Greeks and Bulgarians became ipso-facto Albanians. In 1912 an attempt was made under Austro-Hungarian auspices to implement the idea, followed by another such attempt under the Italian fascists in 1941. The third attempt, initiated at the end of the 1990s as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, translated into tearing Kosovo, by now predominantly Albanian-Muslim, from Serbian sovereignty, following up on the Bosnian experience which had subtracted that province from Serbian-Yugoslavian hegemony.
The precedent of Bosnia , which had allowed in 1971, ironically under the communist rule, the recognition of Bosnia 's nationalism as Muslim, would now propel the ethnic Albanians to revive their Islamic heritage and claim their Muslim identity which ipso-facto would justify their separation from the Serbs. At first, the awakening of the Albanians was undertaken along the ethno-national track. Prior to 1971, the break between Maoist Albania and Yugoslavia had occasioned the Albanian revolt in Kosovo (1968), but after the normalization of their relationships in 1971, the Albanians turned to cultural propaganda by peaceful, if subversive, means. Interestingly enough, like the Palestinians who are competing with Israel over their ancestral land by conveniently claiming that they are the descendants of the ancient Cana'anites who had preceded the Israelites on the land, the Albanians now advanced the claim that they inherited the ancient heritage of the Illyrians who were the original inhabitants of Kosovo. 72 This resulted in the Albanian rebellion of 1981, in which they demanded the status of a republic (no longer an autonomous region within Serbia, like Voivodina in the north), still within the six-republic Yugoslavian Federation. After the fall of Communism in Albania, the new regime recognized in 1991, the self-declared Republic of Kosovo , and its head, Ibrahim Rugova, opened an office in Tirana. 71
The disintegration of Yugoslavia by necessity revived the old dreams of a Greater Albania, which now eyed not only Kosovo, but also parts of Macedonia , Greece , Serbia and Montenegro where an Albanian population had settled over the years. The rising of Muslim consciousness in the Balkans, after the Bosnian precedent, and the spreading of the Izetbegovic doctrine, now acts as a catalyst to draw together, under the combined banners of Greater Albania and Islam, all the Albanian populations of that region. In 1992 Albania joined the Conference of Islamic Countries, and it has been working to attract support of other Islamic countries to the Greater Albania plan, actually presenting itself as “the shield of Islam” in the Balkans. 74 It has been noted that while the Albanian demographic explosion in Kosovo, which has allowed them to predominate and demand secession, has not taken place in Albania itself, 75 perhaps an indication, as in Palestine and Bosnia, that the “battle of the womb” heralded by nationalists and Muslim fundamentalists, is not merely a natural growth but may be also politically motivated.
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