Balkan Islamism and the Fort Dix Terror Plot Bust

With the news that two brothers who plotted to kill soldiers at the U.S. Army’s Fort Dix in New Jersey are ethnic Albanians originally from Macedonia, expect a lot of news coverage and commentary in the coming days about the extent to which fundamentalist Islamism is present in the Balkans. (Even though these guys apparently left Macedonia as very young men and plotted their attack while living in a New Jersey suburb.)

This AP story from today describes the plotters’ ethnicity as unexpected, pointing out that the would-be terrorists’ homeland is “one of Europe’s most pro-American corners — a region that remains grateful to the United States for ending the Kosovo war.”

But expect coverage in coming days to shift somewhat the conventional wisdom about the Balkans as a place largely free of the brand of Islam that breeds terrorists. Indeed, even before the Fort Dix story broke, there were some who were out front on this story, notably Stephen Schwartz in the Weekly Standard. As a convert to Islam who travels widely in the Muslim world and regularly speaks to moderate Muslims about radical Islam, Schwartz is usually worth reading.

And of course we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention our own related story, published way back on May 2. “Wahhabi Rules: Islamic Extremism Comes to Bosnia” was first published in the German weekly Jungle World, but appeared in English exclusively on World Politics Review, courtesy of a translation by contributor John Rosenthal.

The Kanzleiter article recounts conflict among upstart fundamentalist Wahhabi Muslims and followers of “the indigenous Bosnian form of Islam” in Bosnia-Herzegovina, citing an incident in February at Sarajevo’s Careva mosque and “a massive brawl in the town of Kalesija after the Wahhabis occupied the local mosque there and chased off the Imam.” Kanzleiter’s piece continues:

Such incidents remain relatively isolated. But the Islamists are increasingly brazen about their presence. In Sarajevo, for instance, one sees more and more people who respect the fundamentalists’ prescripts: men with shaved heads and long beards wearing shin-length pants and women covered from head to foot in long black robes. Wahhabi “vice squads” have already been known sometimes to beat young couples whose public displays of affection violate the Wahhabis’ strict moral code. According to a recent survey conducted by Prism Research, nearly 70 percent of the two million Bosnian Muslims reject Wahhabi doctrine. Thirteen percent, however, subscribe to it.

We will continue to follow this story, and attempt to avoid both alarmism and guilelessness in doing so.

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