The seemingly usual working atmosphere ruled yesterday at the headquarters of the Islamic Religious Community. Grand Mufti Sulejman Rexhepi came to work early in the morning, wanting to leave the impression that Tueday’s dramatic events and the attempt for his replacement didn’t cause any discomfort. With a smile on his face, he commented that he was continuing with his work, in a hurry to meet with Catholic Bishop Kiro Stojanov, who initiated a meeting on the eve of the arrival of Pope Francis in Skopje.
However, things are far from usual and idyllic for the Grand Mufti, who lost self-control yesterday and sent death threats to the judge who gave authority to his opponent Skender Buzaku, which is why he will have to explain his controversial statement the Prosecutor’s Office.
“I just heard that she had health problems. But I don’t feel sorry for her, people like her should die,” Rexhepi said about Judge Suzana Doncevska.
The threat from several weeks ago that the government’s attitude towards the IRC will be reflected in the votes of the presidential elections, now receives direct connotation, and the Reis-ul-ulema is no longer trying to explain that he was misunderstood.
“The executive or anyone else cannot decide on the selection of the first men of the Riyasat. Electing a new IRC chief is carried out with elections in the Riyasat, anything else could lead to anarchy. Other religious communities are allowed to function peacefully, so why do not the authorities restrain the IRC? The court’s decision is an adventure for the judiciary. I will not allow a marionette driven by the state to head the IRC. Buzaku is an outcast from the IRC, even from Islam, I swear in Allah, if he is a Muslim, then dogs are also Muslim,” Rexhepi said before the mufti at the extraordinary session in the Riyasat.
“I was honored by Donald Trump, may God bless him. For the whole world, I am the carrier of peace and tranquility, only in Macedonia I have demonstrated strength. I do not threaten, I swear. But the truth affects people. We don’t want such government and politics. I am speaking on behalf of the 13 muftiships in the country, which have jointly adopted conclusions that we do not need these authorities that spread anarchy. We do not want or deserve this, because we have always been a model community. We will not allow any abuse. I was asked to remove the monster. Who is the monster now?” Rexhepi said in one breath.
Buzaku, who tried to enter the IRC premises on Tuesday evening, stood aside yesterday. In a statement for Nezavisen Vesnik/Independent daily newspaper, he stressed that he didn’t want to cause commotion or fights, noting the matter would be taken to court before taking up the post. According to him, the court order that puts him at the helm of the IRC was published in the “Official Gazette” and is legally valid.
“We do not want physical confrontation. We don’t use his vocabulary because we have been taught differently. It would be shameful for a man my age to use such language. All internal acts are respected,” Buzaku said.
Asked when he was going to take over the post, he replied that everything would be solved through the institutions.
“We will ask the Court for a temporary court order which will allow me to enter the premises, although an office does not make you a Grand Mufti. There are so many offices,” Buzaku said.
The latest turmoil over the IRC is occurring between the two election rounds and in the situation when the Albanian electorate delivered fewer votes than expected, so the question now is whether the retaliatory attempt has a political background. Prime Minister Zoran Zaev tried to calm things down, but SDSM Vice President Muhammed Zekiri and DUI coalition partners continued to send threats back and forth.
“The government is not interfering in the work of the religious communities, and this applies to the IRC as well. I know that assistance was requested from Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski, and three police officers were sent. For us, Grand Mufti is the one who establishes the Constitution and the laws of the Islamic Religious Community. The secular character of the state is clear. It’s not my place to comment on who is the Reis. I have read the court decision, but if I comment, it will be taken as political interference,” PM Zaev said.
Zekiri, on the other hand, is convinced that this is one of DUI’s manipulative games.
“As it happens, criminals defend criminals. The DUI’s games with the IRC is transparent and is an attempt to find excuses why they cannot deliver what they promised in the elections. Luckily, people have not trusted the party for a long time, nor the IRC’s shameful activities,” said Zekiri.According to Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Osmani, the turmoil and intrusion in the autonomy of the Islamic Religious Community (IRC) is scandalous and disgraceful.
“My attitude and position of DUI is that it was a scandalous and disgraceful act of intrusion on the constitutionally guaranteed autonomy of religious communities, in this case the Islamic Religious Community. The state should take all measures to guarantee this autonomy of the religious communities,” Osmani said.
Analyst Qenan Aliu believes the government was involved in the attempt of incursion the autonomy of the IRC, but that, however, will not affect the turnout of Albanians in the second election round.
“The moment is indicative, but I think citizens are already politically mature to decide. Those who decided to vote – will vote, the ones who decided to abstain – will abstain and that is their democratic right. If you are asking about anger in the Albanian public, it is much greater after the sentence of 38 years in prison for the two boys over the murder of Nikola Sazdovski. There is great dissatisfaction here and this can affect the motivation of Albanians to support the government,” Aliu told Nezavisen Vesnik.
Both the opposition parties in the Macedonian and Albanian political blocs, believe that politics continues to influence religious communities.
“The president of the IRC himself testified that he had long been exploited by politics and as such doesn’t deserve to remain in this post. But the court decision between the two election cycles gives the impression that once again the goal is exploiting this institution for political goals,” said the party led by Zijadin Sela.
VMRO-DPMNE reminded that Zaev has previously called the head of IRC – an embarrassment, evil and untouchable.
“VMRO-DPMNE strongly condemns this kind of interference, and we expect the competent institutions to take all actions for solving this case,” said Igor Janushev, VMRO-DPMNE’s Secretary General.
Reis Sulejman Rexhepi became famous last month when he called Macedonians “a wild nation”. He survived several shuffle attempts, although dissatisfaction with his work and accusations of criminal acts are becoming increasingly louder. The Public Revenue Office has expressed interest in checking the financial operations of the IRC, but there is no cooperation.
“We will let the state check our funds when it will begin to finance the community,” the IRC replied.