Letter to The Toronto Sun, April 24, 1999

Please find below:

(1) A response by American Hellenic Media Project Associate Theodore Karakostas to The Toronto Sun; and

(2) The Toronto Sun article responded to, "Religion's at the root of Balkan evil"

(For "fair use" and educational purposes only)


American Hellenic Media Project
P.O. Box 1150
New York, N.Y. 10028-0008

Via fax & e-mail: (416) 947-3228

April 24, 1999

To the Editor of The Toronto Sun:

Eric Margolis confuses rhetoric for reality in his article "Religion's at the root of Balkan evil" (4/22/99). The conflict in the Balkans is political, not religious. Just as Saddam Hussein played his Islamic card, attempting to rally fellow Muslims even though his secular dictatorship had little to do with Islam, Slobodan Milosevic is an atheistic communist that has tried to do the same with Christian Orthodoxy -- and has been denounced countless times by the hierarchy of the Serbian Orthodox Church.

The vast majority of Orthodox Christians have little or no sympathy for the Milosevic regime and its disastrous policies of ethnic cleansing. Orthodox sympathy for Serbia, however, is based on the suffering of ordinary Serb people and their legitimate concerns for the territorial integrity of their country.

Milosevic has had no better support than that given by President Clinton's foreign policy team. Two and a half years ago, tens of thousands of Serbs took to the streets in pro-democracy demonstrations to oppose Milosevic. Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and Richard Holbrooke chose to abandon them, indicating to many that Washington preferred a partitioned Serbia over a democratic one that would have sought better treatment for its Albanian minority. Bombing civilian areas in Yugoslavia has compelled Serbs to unite behind their government, guaranteeing that Milosevic will remain in power.

Finally, America's humanitarian intentions in Kosovo have been seriously questioned given the U.S.'s unqualified support of Turkey. According to U.S. State Department reports, over 3,000 Kurdish villages have been destroyed in eastern Turkey, and between one to three million Kurds have become refugees as a result. Likewise, in 1974 Turkey invaded Cyprus, killing thousands of civilians and ethnically cleansing over 200,000 Greek Cypriots from northern Cyprus.


Theodore G. Karakostas
Milton, Massachusetts


The American Hellenic Media Project is a non-profit organization created to address inaccuracy and bias in the media and encourage independent, ethical and responsible journalism.



Thursday, April 22, 1999

Religion's at the root of Balkan evil

This is not just a war over land, it is an eruption of vicious medieval hatred

Contributing Foreign Editor

NEW YORK -- Serbia's savagery in Kosovo has finally exposed one of Europe's darkest and dirtiest secrets: the long racial and religious war against the Muslims of the Balkans.

Hatred of Muslims is the 1990s' version of the anti-Semitism of the 1930s that led to the extermination of Europe's Jews. Just as many Europeans were overtly or secretly happy during the Nazi era to be rid of the Jews, so today some modern Europeans actively or tacitly support the latest campaign by Serbia's Muslim-hating racist regime to impose a "final solution" to the "problem" of the Balkan Muslims.

After the Ottoman Empire in Eastern Europe collapsed in 1912, hundreds of thousands of Muslim Turks were slaughtered or driven out.

At the end of the Turkish-Greek war of 1920-28, 400,000 Turks were expelled from the Balkans; simultaneously, one million Greeks were driven from Aegean Turkey.

From 1912-28, large numbers of Slav and Albanian Muslims were expelled from Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia. Today there are almost two million people of Bosnian descent and some one million of Albanian origin living in Turkey.

These vast expulsions still left some Turks, and millions of native Balkan Muslims, the descendants of Serbs, Albanians, Greeks and Bulgarians who had voluntarily converted to Islam in the 15th-16th centuries to escape fierce religious persecution by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, or to avoid a head tax on Christians levied by the Ottomans.

Today, there are some 10 million Muslims in the Balkans: nearly three million nominal Muslims in Albania; 2.3 million in Kosovo and Sanjak; two million in Bosnia; two million more in Bulgaria; 180,000 in Greece; and 600,000-700,000 Muslim Albanians in Macedonia.

In the 1980s, Bulgaria expelled 300,000 Muslim citizens and forced those remaining to Slavicize their names and adopt Orthodox Christianity. A few years later, Serbia began attempts to exterminate or drive out Bosnia's Muslims.

Ineffectual opposition

France and Britain, nervous over their own large Muslim minorities, and traditionally anti-Muslim because of their colonial pasts, thwarted U.S. efforts to halt ethnic warfare against Bosnia's Muslims. Greece, Bulgaria, and Macedonia gave the Serbs economic and diplomatic support. The West's tacit approval, or ineffectual opposition, to this ethnic-religious warfare opened the way for Serbia's "final solution" in Kosovo.

Today there is wide support among Orthodox nations of Eastern Europe for Serbia's merciless campaign to eradicate its Muslim and Catholic Albanian minority.

What we are seeing is not just a war over land, it is an eruption of the most vicious medieval hatred against non-Slavs and non-Orthodox people, encouraged and enflamed by demagogue Slobodan Milosevic and some extremist elements of the Orthodox clergy.

Slavs in Bulgaria, Macedonia and Russia and, sadly, some Greeks, are cheering on this massive pogrom, just as Europe's extreme Catholic right applauded Germany's "purification" of Jews from their midst.

'Islamic horde'

Serb propaganda paints Albanians and Muslims as "dirty, violent Turks" who "breed like rabbits, run drugs" and flood Slav lands with their alien offspring, the vanguard of a vast "Islamic horde about to invade Christian Europe."

Orthodox priests preach revenge for events 500 years past, even urging a new crusade to "liberate Constantinople (modern Istanbul) from the Turks." Slobodan Milosevic began the horrors of ethnic warfare, vowing, a decade ago, "We will send all the Muslims back to Mecca."

Ironically, Albania was renowned for religious tolerance. Muslims drank and celebrated Christmas and Easter; Catholics often observed Ramadan; Muslim, Orthodox and Catholic Albanians mixed freely and without the slightest rancour. Every member of Albania's small Jewish community was hidden from the Nazis and Italian fascists in World War II.

Yet the easy-going, unreligious Albanians and other Balkan Muslims now are paying a terrible price for long past centuries of religious and racial hatred. They have become scapegoats for the frustrations, economic ruin and low self-esteem of the failed, only semi-Europeanized nations of the darkest Balkans.

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