KOSOVO – Islam takes backseat in Kosovo politics as country pushes for EU membership

Middle East Eye | 070918

“We are a Euro-Atlantic nation,” Kosovo PM Ramush Haradinaj says (MEE/James Reinl)

PRISTINA, Kosovo – Former US presidents are seldom venerated on the streets of Karachi or Cairo. The tiny Balkan breakaway region of Kosovo, however, stands out as a rare pocket of the Muslim world where American leaders of yesteryear are revered.

Its capital, Pristina, lionises the Arkansas statesman Bill Clinton with a 3.5-metre statue, his left hand outstretched and flashing a smile across a drab, Soviet-era plaza. Odder still, the beaming bronze stands only 1km from the corner with George Bush Street.

Striped American flags are still seen flapping in the breeze across Kosovo, 19 years after NATO military operations halted Serbian massacres and other atrocities there, and 10 years after the mostly Muslim province declared it was splitting from Belgrade.

I’m Albanian. I’m not Muslim. Religion is not my first identity

– Ramush Haradinaj, Kosovo PM

Speaking with Middle East Eye and other news outlets from his airy office in Pristina, Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj stressed that Kosovars inhabit “another world” than their Muslim brethren in the nearby Middle East.