The fireworks are going off across Kosovo as the people of this ethnic Albanian nation celebrate their independence from Serbia. Europe’s newest nation has a population that is 92% Albanian. The vast majority are of nominally Muslim faith. Should the US be scared of this development?
Conventional wisdom says another Muslim nation in Europe would be a potential hotbed of anti-US religious extremism. But Kosovars regard such conventional wisdom as political heresy. Some allegedly conservative commentators in Australia regarded David Hicks’ Kosovo expedition as the beginning of his radicalisation. But the fight for Kosovo’s independence was certainly no holy war against the West. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to see young Kosovars celebrating by flying both Albanian and American flags.
The BBC quoted one elderly Kosovar Albanian declaring: “Thank you USA, thank you. I am free of Serbia, my grandchildren are free of Serbia.”
He had a large American flag draped across his shoulders. I first discovered this pro-US phenomenon at a 9/11 anniversary conference organised by a Sydney Turkish Muslim group on Sunday 11 September, 2005. Almost all speakers (including media identity Keysar Trad) castigated the United States for its hypocrisy in the Middle East, as if to suggest that 9/11 represented the US reaping what it had sown.
One speaker, however, stood out from the panel. This Bosnian imam, a graduate of one of Europe’s oldest Islamic seminaries, complained that far too many young Muslims, especially from the Middle East, were infected by the rhetoric of anti-American elements and those he described as “the blind followers of Noam Chomsky”. He then reminded the audience that the United States had saved Bosnia and Kosovo from near-oblivion. He also reminded them of the crimes of communism against his people.
The imam’s speech drew only muted applause from many peace activists and young Muslims of Arab background. Arguably, the Yanks didn’t do much for the Bosnians when they were being slaughtered during the mid-1990’s. But the Americans did turn a blind eye when the desperate Bosnians were channelling weapons in from Iran and other controversial yet sympathetic countries.
In the case of Kosovo, American Albanians sent truckloads of cash into Kosovo, as well as lobbying the United States to act and stop another Balkan attempted genocide. The Americans pounded Serbia’s capital with air strikes in 1999. These were the air strikes they had threatened Serbia with during the Bosnian war some five years earlier. So here, in the heart of Europe, a set of young nominally Muslim countries are happy to fly the stars and stripes.
I just hope they remember that American-style democracy also involves affording equal rights to minorities.