Kosovars Want Muslim Recognition, Help
By Hany Salah, IOL Correspondent
"We call on the Muslim world to recognize the nascent state of Kosovo," Bajgora told IOL
CAIRO — The Albanian Muslim majority in newly-independent Kosovo is appealing for swift recognition from Muslim countries as well as assistance to help sustain their new state.
"We call on the Muslim world to recognize the nascent state of Kosovo," Sabri Bajgora, the chief imam at the Islamic Sheikhdom of Kosovo, told IslamOnline.net over the phone.
Prime Minister Hashim Thaci declared the independence of Kosovo on Sunday, February 17, vowing the new state will be a democratic society that respects human dignity.
The announcement was instantly marked by fanfare.
Hundreds of thousands of flag-waving Kosovars, many returned from overseas for the occasion, poured into the snow-blanketed streets of the capital Pristina to celebrate the birth of their independent state.
Firecrackers went off sporadically, competing with folk music blaring from loudspeakers outside CD shops.
Many believe the happiness would be completed with international, particularly Muslim, recognition of Europe's newest state and world's 193rd.
"We are in urgent need of political support to preserve our independence," said imam Bajgora.
Abdullah Klinako, the leader of the Justice Party of Kosovo's youth wing, agreed.
"We need Muslim assistance to join international organizations such as the United Nations."
The US and major European powers had been expected to give swift diplomatic recognition, but EU foreign ministers are still wrangling over how to react.
At an emergency session of the UN Security Council on Sunday, Western powers resisted a bid by Serbia's ally Russia to block the independence.
Kosovo, where nearly two million Muslim Albanians make up more than 95 percent of the population, has been run by the UN since a 1999 NATO campaign ended ethnic cleansing by Serbian troops.
The survival of the world's newest country – small, landlocked and economically dependent on others - hinges very much on its friends.
Aware of the fact, Kosovars are hoping fellow Muslims, especially wealthy countries, will extend a helping hand.
"We need Muslim economic support to develop our new state in all fields," said imam Bajgora.
"We need Muslim investments to create new job opportunities for young Kosovars," agreed Agron Hoxha, the owner of an internet café.
Landlocked and poor apart from mineral deposits, some 45 percent of the population subsists below the poverty line of 1.5 euros a day.
Half the workforce is in formal employment, with the rest either long-term unemployed or working unofficially.
Some 30,000 young people enter the job market every year, five times the number Kosovo businesses can absorb.
The road and rail network was neglected in Yugoslav times, fell into a total state of disrepair during the 1990s, and was partly destroyed in the 1998-99 war.
Luljeta Selim, the chairwoman of Jeta Ne Kasterjot foundation, hopes Muslims would help thousands of women who were systematically raped by Serb troops during the war.
"Kosovo also needs Muslim aid for thousands of orphans who lost their parents during the war."