Religious Tolerance in Kosova exists, thanks to the Albanian Muslim majority, and will continue to do so
Publikuar më: 31.07.2014
Dr. Shefqet Krasniqi
The U.S. Government Annual Report on Religious Freedoms in Kosovo fairly concluded that 'there is a growing of hate language’, a conclusion that I am quite reserved about because on the ground reality speaks completely different.
There was, is and will be full freedom and religious tolerance in Kosova, as nowhere in the world, primarily thanks to the overwhelming majority of Muslim community and then to the country's preaching imams, who are very careful to preserve and to further cultivate this tolerance inherited from their ancestors. Kosova up to this date not only did not register any conflict but even the smallest incident based on religious basis, especially among Albanians, who have more than one religion, and without any hesitation they visit and congratulate each other for the feast of Eid (Bajram) and Easter.
In this report, surprisingly, my name is also curved referring to some media reports although not even a single word of mine is cited to prove the claim, i.e. ‘urging or spreading religious hatred’, which in reality does not stand. In this emphasizing it is stated:
‘Imam Shefqet Krasniqi of BIK’s largest mosque, Pristina Grand Mosque, accused the Catholic community of hatred against Muslims, described women with disparaging language, and declared voting for certain political parties a “sin” in sermons widely disseminated via the internet and various media appearances'.
Considering these findings do not really stand I will endeavor to answer these charges as follows:
Firstly, I would like to mention some facts, not to defend myself, but rather for the sake of truth, and I say this by full conviction that initially our religion forbids us to spread hate speech. Therefore, we try to maximally stick to religious norms according to the Quran and prophetic teachings. As much we can and as much as we know we do not go outside the rules of our religion even as a single hair. Our faith is the most tolerant one, it is a religion that accepts different viewpoints and proclaims peace and tolerance among believers and people around the world.
In this context, we delivered many lectures, published and are still publishing written articles, which clearly speak about religious tolerance and urge on interfaith tolerance. As an illustration I would like to mention the topics "Tolerance in Islam", "Illustrations of Islamic Tolerance", "What others said about Islamic Tolerance", three of them published in my book, "Attitudes in Time 1" p. 16-23. Then, we interpreted the verse: "There is no compulsion in religion" Al-Baqarah, 256, where among other things I mentioned: "Umar, the second caliph of Muslims, despite his accuracy and strictness, however once he met an old Christian woman and said: O old woman be a Muslim – say la ilaha ilallah. She replied: I am an old woman and I am almost finished, I am grown on this religion and I would like to die with this religion. Umar said: "There is no compulsion in religion". Which means that Umar could not impose the old lady to accept Islam because he had no right, and if he did it means there was violence and coercion in religion ... this is one of the principles of Muslims and Islam, no religion violence, not anyone impose his religion… there is no single proof during whole the lifetime of Prophet (pbuh) that anyone was imposed Islam, also caliphs who came after him did not apply any imposing.
Next, we interpreted the verse 40 of chapter Al-Hajj, stating "And if God were not to driven back some people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might."(Al-Hajj, 40) where among others I have stated that "war, jihad, is permitted to protect shrines of different religions not only those of islam, and this leads to understand that in our faith there is a great tolerance toward other religions and how Islam gives other people the opportunity to practice their own religion. This tolerance, I am convinced, we have not found in any other religion.
The protection of places of worship other than mosques, let to understand that Muslims, in Kosova in particular, are not fanatics to the level to think that this land belongs to us only and that there is no place for other religions and/or ideologies. However, of course, it is our right to think what we offer to the people is the truth and that other religious views might be wrong, always proving our claims and maintaining our culture of tolerance, because we believe it is our duty to invite people to Islam and explain to all interested parties the greatness of this faith. But this does not mean that we invite, or have ever called, to hate others, to ruin their temples or prevent them to worship God in the way they choose, because Islam rejects violence or compulsion in religion. These and many other lectures and articles of mine can be found on the Internet, not just the claimed ones.
Moreover, I am the first Imam in Kosova to come out openly against the riots of March 2004, I declared against the burning of Orthodox Churches and looting of their property. But these attitudes based on my religious principles, are hardly to be interpreted or even heard about via the Kosovar media?!
Thirdly, I tried to explore the references of this international report, however, despite my interests such references are not found except casual referring to some media reports. So I think the problem lies precisely in the fact that some of our media and portals, biased and subjective, to cover their failures or being in service of certain clans and patrons, endeavor to their utmost to transform Kosovo into an extreme society which knows nothing rather than atheism and anti-religiosity even to the highest extreme level possible.
Therefore, unable to stop the thrust of the growing number of Muslims in Kosova, the youth in particular, the media did not hesitate to invent successive charges, slander and lies, against the holders of the word "La ilaha illallah". Some of our media exaggerate, add and invent news and events, without giving even the least account and without fear of any potential liability. So, the reality on the ground is not as the report or better said ‘café informants' describes, but the reality was, is and God willing would remain different. As the majority Muslim community, we will continue to maintain tolerance and diversity created in this country for centuries, not because we fear or seek someone’s sake, but because our religion is such, it commands us, teaches us and obliges us to hold such an attitude.
In addition, I consider that in terms of what is highlighted in the report as "hate speech" we should keep in mind the mindset, the level of awareness and the culture of expression of a particular people. I tried and I always try to be in line with the mentality and level of understanding of my people. I do receive lots of encouraging comments from the people, the community of believers every day on Facebook and other social networks. Hence I bear no responsibility about the misunderstandings others might gain from unauthorized translations or interpretations with specific goals that possibly could be done to my lectures. I speak to my people, in my folk language with a simple language and articulation that simple masses could understand me. They have never advised or warn me of any misunderstanding or hate, so I am accountable just to them and to no one else. In Kosova there is no specific law or guideline that defines hate speech, so I have neither the time nor do I want to answer the whims of a few reporters, the anti-religious atheists, for whom the hate speech have become a tool to realize their personal or their patrons goals. I am not going to answer nor give them any hint because this is not my mission.
Regarding the claims that I "accused Catholic community for hatred against Muslims" I say with full conviction that I have never spoken against Catholics but I mentioned or paraphrased what they have stated against Muslims, either as individuals or bishops, as the case of the priest, Anton Kçira, who publicly expressed regret for not cutting and grinding of 1.9 million Albanian Muslims by Milosevic’s regime as they previously have done with Bosniak 'dogs', according to his vocabulary. Then their statement against the construction of the Grand Mosque in the center of Prishtina, their statement against the introduction of religious education subjects in public schools, etc. So this was just about quoting some of their statements nothing more.
Regarding that I "describe women with a disparaging language", this is not true even. Rather I defend women rights and their freedoms more than any other imam. For this I have been sometimes accused by some ‘fanatic’ men and on the other hand I have got many compliments from different women. And if by denigrating language is meant my efforts to maintain morality and honor of our sisters, to educate them, to protect their religious and national identity, then yes, this is true and I will continue to follow such path and mission even further, because this is not a denigrating language neither in my view nor in the viewpoint of Muslim women in Kosova. The requirement to maintain religious and human morals is a legal requirement of every religion and every pure human society, anywhere in the civilized and democratic world. Regarding the statement that "voting for certain political party is a ‘sin’ I would like to make clear that, just like any other voter, I am entitled the right to vote my preferred one, and according to the norms of democracy I have the right to defend my right(s).
To sum up I am wondering whether the hate language/speech is a phenomenon exclusively for imams. Why the report for instance did not mention any hate language/speech by others against Muslims, in particular imams. If we analyze the logs, ads and descriptions of several portals and newspapers against me and my other fellows, then, we will clearly see who is using what kind of language. Besides being an imam and lecturer of my religion, I'm an ordinary citizen of this country, this society, too, and of course fully responsible I do express my opinion about who should or should not be voted. Some probably have forgotten what language political leaders use against their opponents during elections. I consider that it is not logical, nor rational either in Kosova or the US to vote for a party which is against the nation, against the faith, against religious rights and against the values ??of its own people, let it be any party. May our Lord guide us all and protect us from all evil. Amin!