Back in 2006, many unanswered questions remained regarding the future of Islamism and terrorism in the Balkans, and indeed worldwide, with the US bogged down in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a recent legacy of terrorist attacks or riots in European countries like Spain, France and Great Britain. It was in this context and against the following backdrop that this book was written.
Volatile Kosovo, not yet independent, was already thoroughly penetrated by foreign Islamic foundations and groups with extremist ideologies, and had a particularly vicious record when it came to mistreatment of the Serbian Christian minority. Bosnia was, as ever, a stillborn international protectorate with an uncertain future- ruled by the same political faction that had collaborated with Saudi Arabia and Iran in the 1990’s to bring jihad to the Balkans, for the first time since the various Ottoman massacres of Christians in the region. Meanwhile in Albania, a former incubator for al-Qaeda related groups, terrorist-linked personages were still being found here and there, while new rifts were developing between Muslims and Catholics. In Bulgaria and particularly Macedonia, foreign-backed Islamic NGOs and other groups were also becoming more active.
Against this disturbing backdrop, The Coming Balkan Caliphate came out as the first comprehensive region-wide situational assessment of events and trends in these countries, while also gauging the potential for the future in terms of politicization of Islam, terrorism, and the developing threat of technology in future plots. Since its 2007 release, Balkan origin-Muslims have been fingered in several terrorism plots in the US and Europe, with the most extreme going on to jihads in the Middle East, while the presence of religion in social life and politics also fostered instability in several countries.
No wonder, then, that this book soon found its way onto the reading list of US and other military and intelligence officials, diplomats, peacekeepers and so on. Of course, some of its findings were unpopular for ‘experts’ who had been shown up as less than expert, while ‘scholars’ and other personalities on the Islamist payroll were quick to criticize. However, those who have a professional interest in the subject paid attention, even if most of them did not comment (as is fitting considering their jobs).
Divided into chapters treating most of the Balkan countries individually, the book discloses how foreign Islamic groups and governments sought to establish a presence in the post-Communist Balkans, appealing to economically and socially vulnerable local Muslim communities and sending mujahedin and funds to help Muslim military causes in the 1990s.
In that period, the shortsighted and politically motivated policies of the United States and its allies directly allowed these mujahedin and terrorist-related entities to establish a foothold in the region–just as with the progenitors of the Taliban a decade earlier in Afghanistan. In effect, this policy directly expedited the ‘migration’ of international Islamic jihad from Asia into Europe.
Since then, the proliferation of foreign-funded fundamentalist groups has challenged the power and legitimacy of traditional Balkan Muslim communities, and influenced larger political and intercommunal life. This was allowed to continue due to the chronic “don’t rock the boat” mentality of international peacekeepers and diplomats who have no enduring stake in the region.
Nevertheless, regional demographic and cultural trends, coinciding with an increasingly hostile attitude in the larger Muslim world over Western military actions and civil strife in Muslim countries, indicate that the Balkans will become increasingly valuable as a strategic base for Islamic radicals over the next two decades.
“For any serious analysis of the threat posed by radical Islam, Deliso’s regional perspective is essential.”
-Leslie Lebl, former State Department official, in The American Thinker
“Deliso offers much evidence regarding the presence of Al Qaeda in the Balkans.”
–Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
“…Deliso does not contend that Muslims in the Balkans are about to cast off their centuries of liberal thought and behavior. Rather he argues that small groups of local but globally connected fundamentalists could gravitate toward existing terrorist organizations, and introduce a new dimension to political issues and social policy that will impact the Christian as well as Muslim populations of the peninsula.”
–Reference & Research Book News
“Anyone imagining that Moslem extremists must be seen as a threat only east of Suez should read Chris Deliso’s alarming accounts of their activities in parts of the Balkans made vulnerable by wars and poverty.”
–David Binder, New York Times Central and Eastern European correspondent, 1961-2004.
Author’s note: Ah, Caliphate. Here I suffered the same side effects as occurred with Hidden Macedonia– by not guaranteeing contractual control over title and graphics, I got something that didn’t reflect the actual substance of the book. In the case of Caliphate, these didn’t really represent the content of the actual book, meaning that people who had never even read it suddenly found themselves qualified to speak about it. Good for them.
This was a difficult book to write for several reasons. Inhabiting as it does a middle ground between academia and current events, it has structural aspects of both but is ultimately ephemeral, left susceptible to the unpredictability of future events. So I will not write another book in the ‘instant history’ genre, although I have been asked to.
Another very important factor in limiting the book’s comprehensiveness was that it was rushed to fit into someone’s production cycle. Thus in spring/summer 2006, I had only three months to write it- even having had several years of relevant research under my belt by that point, this was too much to ask. It would have certainly benefited from a few more months of interviews. I did the best I could with the resources available to me at the time. Also, had I known about John Schindler’s excellent Unholy Terror (which ironically would be published at the same time as Caliphate, in 2007) I would have been able to cite that very valuable reference and thus make the Bosnia section better. However, it was not possible to have known this in 2006.
The central issues in the book were largely accurate, but the context has changed somewhat since 2006. The biggest lack, which should have been apparent at the time, was not predicting the near-total ascendancy of political Islam in Turkey. At the time, however, not many people expected it would ever becomes so pervasive as it has, and the country was only peripheral to the book anyway. In general, the world’s focus was on terrorism more than social issues that lead to politicization of religion back then.
Nevertheless, there were several points made in the book that have unfortunately come to fruition. There is a very visible interrelationship between politics and religion among ethnic communities, and the participation of Balkan-origin jihadis in Syria and other conflict zones, indicative of the revolving-door jihad that began in Afghanistan in the 1980’s, spread to Bosnia in the 1990s, and continued on to Iraq and now other countries in recent years, picking up Balkan-origin fighters radicalized by the presence of Saudi and other foreign proselytizers, as well as Balkan diaspora groups in Europe and elsewhere.
Nevertheless, this (rather pricey) book is somewhat dated by now; on rare occasions I provide private briefings on the subject, but I do not expect to write another book in this genre.