The Islamic Religious Community of Macedonia, IVZ, is urging the government and international community to help it counter the growth of radical Islam in the country’s mosques.
In a dramatic appeal in front of the media, the head of the IVZ, Sulejman Rexhepi, asked for help in their bid to take back control of several mosques they say have been taken over by members of radical Islam groups following Wahhabi teachings.
Rexhepi said on Monday: “I urge the government … [ethnic] Albanian parties, state institutions and all foreign diplomats – especially the ones from the US and EU embassies – to support IVZ and take appropriate measures against these radical groups whose goal is to harm [Macedonia’s] image and prevent our country from entering EU and NATO.”
Local security experts believe the radical brand of Islam is gaining ground throughout the Balkans.
The IVZ, which represents moderate Macedonian Muslims, is in a power struggle with a group of Muslim radicals who control at least four mosques in the capital, Skopje, that had previously belonged to the IVZ.
Islam is the second-largest religion in Macedonia after Orthodox Christianity.
Most of the country’s ethnic Albanians, who make up a quarter of Macedonia’s population of more than two million, are Muslims.