KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 11.00, 26 November 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

I. YUGOSLAVIA/KOSOVO: UN AUTHORITIES FAILING TO
ASSIST ISLAMIC COMMUNITY? More than 200 mosques were
destroyed between February 1998 and June 1999, according to the
Kosovo Islamic community publication to "Serbian Barbarities Against
Islamic Monuments in Kosovo". International agencies have given some
assistance in mosque reconstruction, but secretary to Grand Mufti Rexhep
Boja, Xhabir Hamiti, told Keston News Service in Pristina on 25 October
that "that is only buildings. No one is rebuilding our Islamic community."
A new centre in Pristina would promote Saudi Arabian culture, Hamiti
complained. It "is not for us - local Muslims are not involved." Across
Kosovo, Keston encountered criticism of what is seen as a lack of
monitoring of mosque construction aid by the UN authorities.

II. YUGOSLAVIA/KOSOVO: SECULARISATION OF SOCIETY
UNDER UN AUTHORITIES. Religion is "totally disregarded" by the
international authorities in Kosovo, a Serbian Orthodox monk told Keston
News Service on 26 October. Keston found this immediately apparent in
two public spheres � education and the media. Despite signs that a
sizeable proportion of the religious community would favour the option
of religious education within the state curriculum, the UN authorities
appear opposed. Both the Orthodox and Islamic communities in Kosovo
have their own publications, but there appears to be no religious
broadcasting of any kind in Kosovo.

I. YUGOSLAVIA/KOSOVO: UN AUTHORITIES FAILING TO
ASSIST ISLAMIC COMMUNITY?

by Geraldine Fagan and Branko Bjelajac, Keston News Service

Two hundred and eighteen of some 500 mosques were destroyed by Serb
military and paramilitary forces between February 1998 and June 1999,
according to "Serbian Barbarities Against Islamic Monuments in
Kosovo", a 2000 publication by Kosovo's Islamic community. Despite
some assistance in mosque reconstruction from international agencies,
secretary to Grand Mufti Rexhep Boja, Xhabir Hamiti, told Keston News
Service in Pristina on 25 October that "that is only buildings. No one is
rebuilding our Islamic community."

A May 2001 report for UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific
and Cultural Organisation) proposes allocating funding for the restoration
of four pre-eighteenth-century mosques in Kosovo, and two out of a
further five mosques mentioned in the report - fifteenth-century Bajzakli
Mosque in Pec (Peja in Albanian) and sixteenth-century Hadumi Mosque
in Djakovica (Gjakova) - are to be restored with Italian and US funding
respectively. Nevertheless, Hamiti told Keston, only ten mosques have
been built or rebuilt in Kosovo since the civil war. Progress is slow, he
explained, since the UNMIK authorities have yet to set up a property
commission to deal with such issues.

Travelling the breadth of Kosovo on 25 October, Keston indeed observed
only a handful of rural mosques, while those prominent in major towns
appeared not to be new. Speaking to Keston on 24 October in Belgrade,
however, Brian Erickson, liaison officer in Gnjilane (Gjilan) for the
United Methodist Committee on Relief, commented that new mosques
had been "going up left, right and centre" in the western part of the
province. Assistant to Abbot Teodosije of Decani Monastery, Fr Sava
(Janjic), also remarked on 26 October that a Saudi Arabian organisation,
Al-Haramain, was building several mosques in the Decani area.

Interviewed by Keston on 26 October, Bob Charmbury, UNMIK deputy
head of Pec regional administration, was able to state only that four
mosques had been restored in Pec region (which includes Decani), while
a new mosque in Decani town had been funded by Brunei. Charmbury
added that another Muslim country - he said that he could not remember
which - was proposing to renovate a further 29 mosques.

Although Charmbury admitted that building permission had previously
been dealt with by the UN authorities "in a non-formalised way," he said
that a property department - the "Reconciliation and Reintegration Unit" �
was about to be set up in the province. Keston encountered substantial
criticism from various quarters in Kosovo of what is seen as a lack of
monitoring of mosque construction aid by the UN authorities. Andreas
Szolgyemi, adviser to the OSCE on religious issues in Kosovo and now
approaching the end of a mandatory six months� sabbatical, commented
that although Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had given aid
for mosque reconstruction, the local Islamic community in particular were
"very dissatisfied" with it. Speaking by telephone from Hungary on 16
November, Szolgyemi explained that Kosovar Muslims worshipped in
ornate, Turkish-style mosques rather than the spartan surroundings of
some other Islamic cultures, and thus had "very different ideas"
concerning mosque decoration from the Saudis, "who are Wahhabi".

Able to comment only on the new mosque in Decani funded by Brunei,
Charmbury assured Keston that it had been built in consultation with the
local imam. In the case of the sixteenth-century Hadumi Mosque in
Djakovica, however, according to a January 2001 report on religion by
the International Crisis Group for the OSCE, "the Institution for
Protection of Kosova Monuments reported that Saudi Joint Relief
Committee for Kosovo (SJRCK) representatives authorised to reconstruct
[the mosque] attempted to destroy grave markers in its cemetery and later
began to wreck the remains of the structure." On 5 August 2000,
continues the report, provincial authorities in the form of the Kosovo
Interim Administrative Council Cultural Department announced that they
had "barred further involvement of SJRCK in the rehabilitation of the
mosque."

On 25 October Keston observed the large-scale construction on a
prominent site in Pristina of the King Fahd Cultural Centre and Mosque.
Although Saudi Arabia collected money for Kosovar Muslims during the
civil war, complained Hamiti, it was now being spent on this centre,
"which is not for us - local Muslims are not involved." According to
Hamiti, the Centre will promote Saudi culture with its own students,
having been built "without any liaison with us - only the municipality."
How had such a development come about, asked Keston? "This is the
Balkans," replied Hamiti, "if you give money, anything is possible."
(END)


II. YUGOSLAVIA/KOSOVO: SECULARISATION OF SOCIETY
UNDER UN AUTHORITIES

by Geraldine Fagan and Branko Bjelajac, Keston News Service

Despite being one of its largest missions with at least one large building
in Pristina alone, Keston News Service was told at the headquarters of the
Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in the Kosovar capital
on 25 October that the organisation has no post dealing solely with
religious affairs. On requesting information on religion in the province,
Keston was presented with a 16-page January 2001 report by the
International Crisis Group (ICG) as the only publication in the OSCE's
possession on the subject.

Speaking to Keston at Decani Monastery on 26 October, Fr Sava (Janjic),
assistant to Abbot Teodosije, complained that even though the Serbian
Orthodox Church is "the only institution left representing the Serb people
in Kosovo," religion had been "totally disregarded" by the international
authorities. When on 25 October Keston asked Sister Mikhaela at Pec-
Patriarchate Convent why there were apparently no OSCE reports of
problems faced by religious communities in the province, she remarked,
"because we don't exist."

A Moscow source told Keston that the OSCE in Kosovo does in fact
employ an adviser on religious issues - Andreas Szolgyemi, who is
currently approaching the end of a mandatory six months' sabbatical.
Speaking to Keston by telephone from Hungary on 16 November,
Szolgyemi acknowledged that not enough attention is paid by the
international authorities and agencies in Kosovo to religious affairs. "For
the OSCE and UNMIK the main issues have been politics and political
parties," he explained, "but even these are very much influenced by
religious ideas." Szolgyemi pointed out that the majority of Kosovars are
greatly influenced by religion "even if they are not religious in the sense
of visiting mosques - they live like Muslims." However, he thought that
Kosovo's administration was now becoming more attentive to religious
developments due to a recent visit by a representative of the Vatican,
about which he said he knew no further details.

Szolgyemi said that his primary role in Kosovo had been to locate
different religious groups, to encourage their leaders to discuss religious
affairs and to inform his colleagues about religious practices. The
information given to Keston that the January ICG religion report was the
only such report in the OSCE's possession was, in his view, "a big
mistake" probably due to lack of co-ordination between departments,
since he had written a 90- page book on the subject which the OSCE's
Vienna office had had on disk for a year.

In Kosovo, Keston found that a tendency by the authorities to disregard
religious life was immediately apparent in two public spheres � education
and the media. There is currently no religious education in schools in
Kosovo, secretary to Grand Mufti Rexhep Boja, Xhabir Hamiti, told
Keston in Pristina on 25 October: "We would need UNMIK's permission
to go into schools." Yet despite signs that a sizeable proportion of the
religious community would favour the option of religious education
within the state curriculum, the UN authorities appear opposed. Although
the ICG religion report acknowledges that the Islamic community
"advocates establishing religious classes in public [state] schools and
offering Muslim, Catholic and Orthodox children the option to choose
their own courses", and that the Catholic Church wishes to establish a
religious high school in Prizren, it recommends that "public schooling for
all communities in Kosovo should remain completely secular." While
making little mention of religion, UNMIK's June 2001 annual report
states that "the focus of education is being changed from being identity-
based to a personality orientation."

Both the Orthodox and Islamic communities in Kosovo have their own
publications - the weekly bulletin "Herald of Kosovo and Metohia" and
the monthly magazine "Diturio Islamie" respectively. Currently, however,
there appears to be no religious broadcasting of any kind in Kosovo.
Hamiti told Keston that the UNMIK authorities in Pristina have twice
rejected a Muslim proposal to broadcast a radio programme with a
religious component produced by local imams, professors and students.
The two refusals - approximately one year and two months ago - were
"diplomatic and polite" but without substance, said Hamiti, and the
Islamic community believes that the religious component is the true
reason, since "ten other radio stations operate freely in Pristina." (Radio
Gracanina, based in the Orthodox monastery, has reportedly had UNMIK
support, but is not primarily a religious radio station.)

On 26 October UNMIK deputy head of Pec (Peja in Albanian) regional
administration, Bob Charmbury, told Keston that he was not aware of any
official regulations governing religious education or broadcasting; "the
whole world of broadcasting is just evolving." He commented that, while
he would accept the role of the Serbian Orthodox Church as a partner in
dialogue, the international community did not view the Church as "the
voice of the Serb people." As far as Charmbury knew, there was no
specialist post in UNMIK for religious issues: "It is not in our remit - our
job is to get on with the civil state." (END)