Report: Saudis Fund Radical Islam In BalkansSkopje | 29 March 2010 | Sinisa Jakov Marusic
The groups are taught to hate the West and some of them recruit fighters for the jihad in Afghanistan, the Sunday Times writes.
“Hundreds of millions have been poured into Macedonia alone in the past decade and most of it comes from Saudi Arabia,” said a Macedonian government source quoted by the paper. “The Saudis’ main export seems to be ideology, not oil.”
According to a classified document seen by the Sunday Times, Macedonia is currently investigating a number of Islamic charities, some in Saudi Arabia, which are active throughout the Balkans and are suspected of spreading extremism and laundering money for terrorist organisations.
Some 50 persons suspected of being Al-Qaeda volunteers recruited to fight in Afghanistan are also being followed by the Macedonian authorities, the newspaper reported.
Fundamentalists, like some strict Wahhabi and Salafi factions funded by Saudi organisations, are clashing with traditionally moderate local Muslim communities in the Balkans, the head of the Macedonian Islamic Religious Community, Sulejman Rexhepi; told the Sunday Times.
He explained that a number of mosques had been forcibly taken over by such groups. Four in central Skopje are no longer under the control of the official Islamic authorities he said, adding that the new imams claim they have been “spontaneously” installed by the “people”.
“Their so-called Wahhabi teachings are completely alien to our traditions and to the essence of Islam, which is a tolerant and inclusive religion,” said Rexhepi.
In some mosques believers are being told that Macedonia, which sent 200 soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan, as part of the NATO missions there, has been tricked into supporting a crusade against Islam spearheaded by Britain and America, the daily claims.
Some of the radical groups have up to £225 a month to spare on each of their followers, sources say. In return the followers are expected to grow beards and to persuade their wives to wear the niqab, or face veil, a custom virtually unknown in the liberal Islamic tradition of the Balkans.
Macedonia is a predominantly Orthodox Christian country, while roughly one quarter of its population is Muslim.