May 7, 2012 – Washington, D.C. – The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) is deeply concerned about the latest reported incident of religious intolerance, which took place at a rally in downtown Skopje. Alleged Islamist militants chanted “Death to Christians” on the city streets, and young men brandished what appeared to be Hezbollah and Jihadist symbols. Around 1,500 protestors demanded the release of suspects arrested by police, in connection with the cold-blooded assassination of five Macedonian men on the eve of Macedonian Orthodox Easter.
“Since the Denmark incident a few years ago, where a political cartoon sparked the murders of Christians and the burning of churches, there seems to be a new taboo in the world today. Governments, the media and other organizations are scared to criticize radical Islamist threats against Christians, Jews and other religious groups, and it has created a new double standard,” said UMD Chairman Stojan Nikolov. “In the wake of Macedonia’s deeply flawed Ohrid Framework Agreement, there is a new ‘culture of grievance’ in ethnic Albanian politics. As a result, Albanian political parties – be they in government or in opposition – are silent when Macedonian Christians are threatened. But just imagine the uproar if Macedonian groups held rallies such as the one on Friday, preaching ‘Death to Muslims’ in the middle of Skopje? Radical Islamism is incompatible with liberal values, and it is a problem that all liberal democracies share.”
UMD President Metodija A. Koloski added: “We call on ethnic Albanian leaders to be much more vocal in their opposition to Islamist rallies and threats against Macedonians. As Greece continues to illegally veto Macedonia’s NATO membership, there is a deep concern that Islamist terrorists in Macedonia are seeking to destabilize the country, and spark a war before NATO membership is granted. This is all the more reason for the Obama Administration and NATO to finally do what is right, and grant Macedonia the NATO membership that it has already earned on the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
In the last decade, there has been an increase in incidences of Islamist extremism in Macedonia, with suspected involvement and funding from Saudi Arabia and Iran. While observers agree that Wahhabism and related doctrines have not found fertile ground among the majority of Macedonian Albanians, an ethnic Albanian terrorist group with links to Al Qaeda called the NLA attacked Macedonia in 2001. Eventually, a general Amnesty Law was established, and former NLA terrorists such as Ali Ahmeti became politicians, but the violence against Macedonian civilians has obviously not stopped.
Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska suggested that Macedonia’s role in Afghanistan might have been a factor: “(The suspects) are from Skopje, and followers of radical Islam, which is dangerous for Christian and Muslim believers…Some of the members of this group had fought in Afghanistan and Pakistan on the side of the Taliban and against NATO soldiers.”
The Macedonian police have arrested three of five main suspects directly implicated in the quintuple murder of April 12, a one-day massacre that Macedonia has not seen since 2001, or the days of the SS Skanderbeg division in World War II. All of Macedonia’s neighbors – including Albania and Kosovo – have publically offered their support to the Macedonian Interior Ministry, for the capture of the two remaining suspects. Interpol warrants have been issued, and police suspect the two men are probably hiding in Kosovo.
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