Renea Morina’s decorations at the windows of a business. Photo: Courtesy of Renea Morina

Religious Extremism Casts Shadows on Kosovo’s New Year’s Eve Celebrations

In December 2023, Kosovo faced two cases of religious division and incitement related to the celebration of the New Year’s Eve. In a mosque in the capital, children were given a task of thinking of ways to convince their parents not to celebrate the New Year’s Eve, while in another municipality, a Christmas tree was set ablaze.

On December 31 a teacher in a mosque in Prishtina instructed children to write an essay against the celebration of the New Year’s Eve, and a Christmas Tree was set on fire on December 28 in the courtyard of the Municipality of Han i Elezit. This sparked a debate in society about whether the religious community and the state have successfully combated religious radicalization.

Kreshnik Gashi, in an interview on, highlighted that the case of the mosque in Prishtina illustrated the attempts to make the messages unidirectional. He added that critical thinking, presenting arguments for and against, is essential for a constructive debate.

“We see this from the task that the children in the mosque in ‘Mati 1′ in Prishtina have had. They were not asked why the New Year should and shouldn’t be celebrated, but they had the task of arguing why this holiday shouldn’t be celebrated”, Gashi stated.

“The other element is the offensive language used for people expressing different views on this topic. Insults used online divert the discussion away from constructive dialogue,” Gashi further emphasized.

He points out that the problem is that the post of the “Mati 1” mosque on the Facebook page has not yet been deleted.

“Even though the Islamic Community with a branch in Prishtina has reacted in a modernized form, the post continues to be on the Facebook page and people are seeing it. This is motivation against those who celebrate the New Year”, Gashi declared further.

While the Islamic Community of Kosovo has not made any social media post distancing itself from the teacher’s actions in the capital, the Women’s Department within the Islamic Community of Kosovo stated its distance from the event.

For this activity, the Council of the Islamic Community of Prishtina said that it will interview the imam of the “Mati 1” mosque, Fadil Musliu.

Regarding the incident in the Municipality of Han i Elezit, where a Christmas Tree was set on fire, the Mayor, Mehmet Ballazhi for stated that the person arrested for this offense had a history of radicalism.

“I decorated the city to be equal to other civilized municipalities, someone else might have thought it was not a good thing. I think that everyone should give freedom to everyone, to celebrate and not to celebrate, to believe and not to believe, to respect the opinion of others,” he stated.

“There are also 2 minors among the suspects. We have also asked the BIK in Hani i Elezit to react to this issue and we had a meeting with them. It was necessary to come out with a reaction, not for something else, but only to separate the acts of violence and the disagreement with these acts of violence,” said the mayor of Hani i Elezit.

Meanwhile, Musa Vila, the chief imam of Islamic Community in Hani i Elezit, said that the reason they did not react was the fact that he was in Switzerland and that he did not see the news until 4 days later.

“When I realized it, I spoke with the responsible person at BIK in Hani i Elezit who had to come out with a reaction against this phenomenon, but he did not give me an answer,” said Vila.

He emphasized that for such cases they have been attacked many times by people with extremist religious beliefs.

“There have been cases before, this is a cowardly act, no one dares to do such a thing, something that is public must be preserved. BIK does not produce violent acts even at the instigation of such people, on the contrary, such persons have attacked us hundreds of times,” says the imam of Hani i Elezit.

Regarding the celebration of the New Year’s Eve, he emphasized that the policy of the Islamic Community is a middle path, neither liberal nor extremist.

The chief imam of the Hani i Elezit says that there are radicals in this municipality.

“For 15 years, people have been praying separately, there are also people like them in the education and municipality sectors. These are people who try to impose themselves on the mass,” he added further.

Regarding these attacks, Kreshnik Gashi said that religious imams in Kosovo are the most vulnerable in society from radical attacks.

“I think that we have not given the necessary public and institutional protection to the imams with a more centered view , who promote traditional Islam in the country. The first thing that was done in the process of radicalization was to intimidate and beat the imams,” Gashi emphasized.

According to him, BIK should identify these gaps in religious interpretation that create problems and tensions.

Regarding the burning of the Christmas Tree in this municipality, the Court of Ferizaj has approved the request of the Prosecution for the appointment of the measure of detention against the defendant K.B., suspected of the criminal offense.

According to the announcement from the Court, the suspect initially on December 28 in the Hani i Elezit deliberately and publicly spread hatred, division and impatience between national, racial, religious or ethnic groups, by printing some posters with religious content about the New Year’s holiday.

“Initially, he provides the adequate material, then in his home he prepares, designs and prints the A4 format posters with the content: “New Year is not our holiday, don’t celebrate non-Muslims’ holidays,” the Court described the defendant’s offense.

Furthermore, the Court says that the defendant distributed some of these posters personally, while he gave some others to two minors, who then distributed them in the city.

15/01/2024 - 13:11

15 January 2024 - 13:11

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.