12:03 PM, OCT 5, 2011 • BY STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Kosovo’s top Islamic cleric, Naim Ternava, last month purged the two most outspoken anti-radical preachers from the local Sunni religious apparatus. The dismissal of Mullah Osman Musliu of the Drenas region and Imam Idriz Bilalli of the Podujeva municipality—both proven moderates—from the official Islamic Community of Kosovo followed the foundation by Musliu, Bilalli, and others of a Professional Association of Islamic Community Workers as a platform for their criticism of Ternava, whom they accuse of sympathy for extremist ideology.
Musliu was brutally attacked in 2009 by a gang of fundamentalist Wahhabis. The assailants were identified as strangers by Muslims in the locality. But they were easy to detect as Wahhabis, with characteristic unkempt beards and short breeches of a kind unknown in the Balkans except among Islamist fanatics. Wahhabis claim that Muhammad did not trim his beard, and did not let his garments touch the ground. Although these claims are matters of legend, the Saudi-financed and Pakistani-directed agitators claim that affecting distinctive facial hair and a peculiar costume are necessary to restore the purity of early Islam.