Michael Totten describes The Bin Ladens of the Balkans, Part II
I met Shpetim Mahmudi at a covered outdoor cafe on a cold day in late spring in the ethnic Albanian region of Macedonia. Black clouds hung low over the city of Tetovo. Fat rain drops pelted the sidewalk and the awning over my head as I shivered in my light black leather jacket. “Let’s go inside,” he said, “where it’s warmer and drier.” We found a table and ordered coffee. He leaned in close to whisper when the waiter stepped out of earshot. “We are really in trouble here,” he said. “We are really in trouble with the Wahhabis.”
After the Kosovo War ended in 1999, well-heeled Gulf Arabs with Saudi money moved in to rebuild mosques destroyed by Slobodan Milosevic’s Yugoslav army and paramilitary forces. They’re still there trying to impose a stern Wahhabi interpretation of Islam on indigenous Europeans, and they’re having an awfully difficult time getting much traction. Almost everyone in Kosovo despises these people. They are known as the Binladensa, the people of Osama bin Laden.
Things are different in next-door Macedonia. I had driven two hours from Kosovo’s capital Prishtina through beautifully sculpted mountains and forest to Tetovo near the Kosovo and Albanian borders.
What I saw there was startling…