These are imams. They are teachers of Islam, and devout Muslims. They have dedicated their lives to understanding Islam and teaching it to others. How did they come to hold the idea that jihad involved violence against unbelievers — an idea that we are constantly told in the West is something that only greasy Islamophobes believe?
“Albania Nabs Suspected Al-Qaeda Recruiters,” by Besar Likmeta for Balkan Insight, March 12:
The seven suspects are accused of recruiting a number of Albanian citizens to fight in the bloody civil war in Syria.
The suspects include the imams of two Tirana mosques, Genci Balla and Bujar Hysi, who are believed to be ringleaders of the group.
Balla, who is also known as Aburrahman Balla, has drawn attention with his fiery sermons posted on YouTube, calling on Albanians to join Islamist militants linked with al-Qaeda in Syria.
“Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State [of Iraq and al-Sham] are the only groups that are fighting to create an Islamic state where sharia law will rule,” Balla says in a sermon posted on YouTube.
“The [mainstream, anti-government] Syrian Free Army… don’t want Islam to rise up,” the preacher adds.
Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the al-Nusra front, is a branch of al-Qaeda fighting in Syria. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, ISIS, was founded in the early years of the Iraq war. It pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda in 2004, becoming known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
The mosques where Balla and Hysi preached are not part of Albanian Muslim Community, the official organization representing Muslims in Albania.
A 33-year-old Albanian, Anri Maliqi, who died fighting in Syria, used to attend Balla’s mosque, which is located in a poor suburb of Tirana.
A growing a number of Muslims from the Balkans are being drawn into the sectarian conflict raging in Syria, Iraq and, increasingly, Lebanon. Most Albanians are Muslims, at least nominally.
The International Center for the Study of Radicalization, ISRA, a think tank based in King’s College, London, believes some 300 Albanian fighters, from Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania, have joined Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS.
The arrests follow an investigation launched by Prosecutor’s Office for Serious Crimes in cooperation with Albanian state police.
During the arrests, police sized an AK-47, a hand grenade and hundreds of automatic rifle rounds.
“All the suspects are accused of the crime of ‘recruiting of individuals in order to carry terrorist acts, incitement and propaganda”, the general prosecutor’s office said.