When Kosova declared its independence from Serbia on February 12 (becoming the seventh state to emerge from the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991), the US and nineteen members of the European Union (EU) backed the declaration. Given the fact that 90 percent of Kosova's population of 2 million are Muslims, while Serbia is Christian, it soon began to be widely asked why the US government and its allies are supporting Muslims against Christians, particularly when the Serbs are bitterly opposed to separation by the Kosovars. However, the answers given to the question – especially in the Western media – show that Washington's motives are as inimical as ever, since its real aim is to mislead the Muslim world about its sympathies, and to distance Kosova from the rest of the Ummah.
Interestingly, the issue was treated in the world media as largely to do with religion. Washington's desire to secure a foothold in Eastern Europe, in order to compete with Russia and the EU and strengthen its bargaining power there, was given as one of the main reasons for its support of Kosova's independence. But the attention of the debaters and analysts was centred mainly on considerations of religion
The BBC World Service, for instance, placed its discussion of the issue in its main religious programme (Reporting Religion), broadcast on May 11. The debate made it clear that, for several reasons, Kosova is hardly seen in Europe or America as being essentially Islamic. Most Kosovars are believed to be highly secular, and Islam is in any case differently practised in Kosova than in other Muslim countries. Another reason cited during the discussion to explain why Kosova is not all that Islamic is that it always tries to balance its religion with other religions: it happens to be the only country in the world where men drink beer on their way to the mosque.
There can be little doubt that Washington and its allies believe that support for Kosova's independence from Christian Serbia will help maintain the level of its people's secularism and may even raise it. They also happen to believe that any backing for Serbia's position by those powers will drive Kosovars into the hands of "radical Islamists" and lead them to seek external help from Muslim countries and Islamic organisation such as Islamic Iran and al-Qa'ida. The very mention of Iran or al-Qa'ida is enough to drive the US and its allies to decide to build a metaphorical wall between Kosova and the Muslim world; in their eyes, one way of doing that is to back Kosova's demand for independence visibly and unequivocally. The simple fact that the Kosovars are entitled to independence under "international law" is not relevant to their thinking and is not mentioned.
A brief look at the history of Serbia and at recent events in the region shows why Serbs and Kosovars cannot live together in peace. It was in the thirteenth century that the medievalkingdom of Serbia emerged from the rule of the Byzantine Empire and formed a large and prosperous state in the Balkans, only to fall, after military defeat, under Ottoman rule in 1389, which situation lasted for 500 years. However, the Serbs gained autonomy under Turkish rule in 1815 and full independence in 1878, and established a kingdom three years later.
When eventually Serbia joined other states in the region to form Yugoslavia, it continued to hold onto Kosova as a province enjoying autonomy, which, however, it withdrew in 1990. The loss of autonomy led to the exclusion of the Albanian majority from public life and laid the basis for the declaration of independence by the Kosovars last February. But even as early as 1991, the loss of autonomy had driven them to hold a referendum for independence from both Serbia and Yugoslavia. Not surprisingly, the decisive vote for independence by the Kosovars led the Serbian government to declare the referendum illegal and to tighten its control.
Equally unsurprisingly, the confrontation was followed by fighting between Kosovar nationalists and Serb forces, which peaked in the late 1990s. The Serbs unleashed a crackdown in 1998 which developed into a systematic and brutal process of ethnic cleansing. The crackdown drove more than 800,000 people into Albania and Macedonia; more than 500,000 were internally displaced. The violent ‘ethnic cleansing' was so ruthless that the so-called international community had no choice but to condemn it. NATO intervened in March 1999, bombing military targets in both Kosova and Serbia.
Serbia had no option but to accept a peace plan prepared by NATO and Russia, and to withdraw its forces. A peace-keeping NATO force arranged the return of more than 850,000 refugees. The peace-keeping force also arranged the disarming of the KLA (Kosova Liberation Army). Even more significantly, Kosova has been under the administration of the UN's Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). The mission has arranged for the establishment of a new parliament and the election of presidents and prime ministers. But the most important development took place in February 2007, when a UN plan for Kosova's eventual independence was announced.
If such a UN plan for Kosova's independence exists, why has it never been invoked by those Western powers that publicly back the declaration of independence? Why did they not arrange for the implementation of the UN plan, instead of posing as the only ones backing Kosova's independence? It is true that convening the UN security council will not work, as Russia will veto any attempted implementation. But the UN general assembly is not subject to vetoes by the big powers, and would give far wider publicity to the issue. Perhaps it is time for Muslim members of the UN to call for a session of the UN general assembly and work for the implementation of the UN plan for Kosova. However, this would not serve the purpose of driving a wedge between Kosova and the rest of the Ummah, as the enemies of Islam and Muslims desire. It is a plausible hypothesis that this is why the UN plan seemed to come to nothing, and the Kosovars were driven to declare and seize their independence unilaterally.