POLITICAL ISLAM AND TERRORISM
Terrorism is a modern epidemic of the 21st century which is destroying lives and property in certain regions of the world.
During their visit to Israel, the delegation of the International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, took part at the 4th International Conference on the Impact of Global Terrorism (ICT) which was held from 11 to 14 September 2004 in Herzliya. The conference was attended by the leading anti-terrorist experts from 33 countries and the representatives of the Israeli political circles: Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, General of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff general Moshe Ya'alon and German Minister of the Interior Otto Schilly. The complete speeches of the IFIMES International Institute representatives are given below.
Terrorism is a modern epidemic of the 21st century which is destroying lives and property in certain regions of the world. Today, the ideas of terrorism spread like metastases among the young population in the Islamic world. It is not my attempt to associate terrorism with the Islamic religion, but I do want to relate terrorism with political Islam which threatens not only the West and its interests but, above all, Islamic states and nations.
The correct definition of political Islam was perhaps given by Chief Rabbi of Israel Yona Metzger at the international conference in Milan a few days ago when he expressed the demand for the establishment of a UN organisation for religions with the headquarters in Jerusalem which would increase co-operation and dialogue between the religions. Rabbi Metzger said that it must be shown to the world that the majority of Muslims do not think like Osama Bin Laden and Al-Kaida. Political Islam shuts women in houses in the name of God (for example in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia), kills innocent populations in the name of God, carries out attacks at pipelines, tourist facilities and other infrastructure of vital importance for their own nations, all in the name of God.
The situation is becoming more dramatic than ever. On the other hand, the fight against terrorism is more and more quiet. The international community is uniform as far as the definition of terrorism is concerned, but divided as regards the manner of fighting it. Some states, such as Iran, Syria etc., publicly support terrorism, while some states passively allow terrorists to organise meetings on their territory, as is the case in France.
Some states publicly condemn terrorism while their media freely provoke intolerance and spread the idea of terrorism. Some religious leaders, such as the liberal Sheikh Qaradawi, publicly call to killing not only of soldiers but also of foreign civilians in Iraq. The fight against terrorism is not effective because it is not co-ordinated, so we may expect many more bloody attacks and even worse devastation.
The fight against terrorism should be pursued in three directions:
Intelligence: close international intelligence co-operation should be established. We have to admit that terrorists have already managed to infiltrate into the security apparatus of some states, such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, some Balkan states etc.
Media: the UN and international organisations such as the International Federation of Journalists have to punish the media houses and individual states for spreading intolerance and violence.
Finance - perhaps the most important segment: terrorists undisturbedly get funds in cash or through various companies so that the formerly used manner of money transfer (called Hawala in the Arab language) no longer exists.
In my opinion Al-Kaida suffered the worst stroke after September 11 and international sanctions against individual financiers of this organisation. Today, Al-Kaida has its own companies and shares in large corporations in the Balkans. It is tightly connected with all criminal and mafia structures in the Balkan states. The Balkans represents the crossroads where the routes of illegal weapons and drugs meet and it is estimated that Al-Kaida gains at least 200 million dollars a year from those activities.
We should not overlook the fact that the inhabitants of the Gulf states have 1500 billion dollars of savings, of which 250 billion are invested in the Islamic investment funds which are mostly not controlled nor are the real holders of certain shares known. Therefore I suggest to start a dialogue with the businessmen who are the alleged financiers of Al-Kaida and other radical organisations. Such efforts will surely bear fruit.
Personally, I have met several times the president of the national council of Iraqi tribes, Sheikh Hamza Alshumary, and the president of the council of Iraqi Sunnite tribes, Sheikh Saadun Alqasimi. They eventually asked our International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) with the head office in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, to represent them in the European Union. This is how the dialogue started and it should be furthered and spread to other relevant organisations and distinguished individuals. The IFIMES International Institute is ready to offer its services and staff in establishing contacts as well as in developing and promoting such dialogues. Let me conclude by stressing again: dialogue, dialogue and again dialogue.
THE BALKANS: POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS ASPECT
For some time the Balkans has occupied the central position in the news of the world media which would perhaps be good if the problems of the Balkans were resolved. Unfortunately, the problems are only half-way resolved which, again, stirs new crises. To start with, I would like to draw your attention to two aspects of the Balkans: the political and the religious aspect.
In the political sense the Balkans represents the region in which a number of new states have emerged since 1990. However, the processes of forming new states were painful and mostly accompanied by blood-shedding wars between the nations which actually have a lot in common. Two political blocks were formed in the new states: the former communists and the new nationalists. Regrettably, neither were a lucky choice for those states. The Balkan states need a new or third political block that will change it into a modern and prosperous region. In the present situation the third block comprises the satellite parties of former communists and new nationalists who are preoccupied with their own interests rather than with the visions and the future of their states. Under these conditions the reputable and experienced individuals are pushed far away from the political life since such political environment enables and promotes negative selection. In the political sense the Balkans is therefore extremely unstable and will remain so unless we are ready to respond in an appropriate way to the new challenges in this region.
The IFIMES International Institute tries to perceive and point to the new centres of crisis in the Balkans which are not present much in the media yet but may unfortunately soon become the main topic of the world news. At IFIMES we will continue to work in this direction in order to contribute to the long-term stabilisation of the Balkans and the Middle East.
Thus, for example, the north Serbian region of Vojvodina is faced with the unresolved problem of the Hungarian national minority (about 300,000 Hungarians) and this issue will probably have to be internationalised. The fact is that almost none of the Balkan issues can be resolved without internationalisation. The Sandzak region in the south of Serbia and north of Montenegro represents a new crisis. The region has about 250,000 inhabitants and is populated mostly by Muslim citizens. The question of dividing Serbia and Montenegro is no longer the question of the relations between the two states but of whom the region of Sandzak will belong. The region of Sandzak is tightly connected with Turkey. A number of generals in the Turkish army actually come from Sandzak. Surely, Turkey will not allow the division of Sandzak? Will the international community be able to respond to this challenge and prevent the conflicts while proving at the same time that it is not fighting against the Muslims but against all those who disrespect international rules, international law and values of civilisation? There will be no stability in the Balkan states without a new and proper regionalisation. However, there is significant resistance to the new regionalisation present in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Macedonia. This resistance was brought about by the fact that the political elites in those states are closely connected with organised crime which hinders stability since it can not function in a stable environment. Organised crime represents a prior phase to terrorism – and this is the Balkan powder keg. Organised crime played an important role in the process of gaining independence in the new Balkan states. Unfortunately, many generations of inhabitants in the Balkan region will have to pay for this »historical merit«.
The core issue is perhaps Kosovo, since it is not the question of whether Kosovo will be a part of Serbia or not but a question of principles of international relations and international law. If we allow disrespect of the principles of international law in case of Kosovo, we have to be prepared for new »Kosovos« around the world and even in some European regions which have shown a tendency to achieve independence. In Kosovo we witness examples of violation of the rights of minority Serbian, Romany, Bosniak and Turkish communities by the Albanian community. Therefore, the role and presence of the international community in Kosovo should be reviewed.
Following the fall of communism, religious communities have gained new room and impetus for their functioning and affirmation in the Balkans. This is characteristic of all post-communist states. The fact is that religious communities are deeply rooted in the political life of many Balkan states although their constitutions guarantee the secularity of religion and state.
Clericalisation of the Balkans is an on-going process which can be regarded as the »adolescence« of religious communities in the Balkans after 50 years of communist regime. Now this process is in the final phase and the fact is that religious communities can play an important role in the dialogue between the nations which were at war not long ago. Unless those processes are realised there is a real danger of spreading the Middle East situation to the Balkans which can destabilise other parts of the world. At the beginning of previous century, the Balkan and Middle East regions were covered by one section within the State Department – it depends on all of us and on the events that will follow whether they will again be dealt with as one region as regards their core problems and bahavioural forms. I would like the Middle East and the Balkans to be the regions of stability and prosperity and not the regions of »darkness« and retardation.
If we do not pay attention to the above facts we will encourage processes which can one day turn into open terrorism and produce new terrorists. Socialisation of all citizens in individual states and respect of national, religious, political and other rights is the right way to stabilisation and prosperity.
The members of the IFIMES International Institute are ready to take an active part in the resolving of the above issues.