When not leading prayers in his village mosque in western Kosovo, imam Drilon Gashi was scribbling some unorthodox thoughts on social media — like his belief in evolution.
Eventually, the embrace of both Islam and Darwinism cost him his job.
The 31-year-old was unceremoniously expelled from his post by top clergy last month, in what he says is evidence of the growing threat to Kosovo’s traditionally moderate brand of Islam.
“Living creatures are created by evolution, but this evolution is led by God,” Gashi told reporters of his theory of how Islam is compatible with the theory. “Science reveals natural phenomena as God created them.”
The political future of Kosovo, a young and troubled democracy on the EU’s fringe, is to be decided in a general election on Sunday — the fourth since the former Serbian province declared independence in 2008.
However, behind the headlines is a different battle for the soul of its dominant faith.
Embracing evolution would not seem that unusual in Kosovo, whose population of 1.8 million has long been known for its moderate flavor of Islam.
More than 90 percent of Kosovars identify as Muslim, according to a 2011 census.
Yet alcohol flows freely and abundantly, the people are famous for an ardent love of all things American and most do not wear religious dress.
However, this identity has shifted over the past two decades, with a religious revival in the late 1990s opening a schism between traditional practitioners and a new wave of imams trained abroad.
After the 1998-1999 independence war with Serbia, an influx of Persian Gulf charity money built hundreds of mosques in Kosovo, spread new teachings, and gave imams scholarships to study abroad in places like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Gashi was one of those beneficiaries, studying in Medina, Saudi Arabia. However, he did not take to the doctrine practiced there, and the religious establishment did not like his “modern opinions,” he told reporters.
Back in Kosovo, whose Muslim roots date back to Ottoman rule, he took up his mandate at a new, Dubai, United Arab Emirates-funded mosque in Vitomirice, a village of about 5,000 people.
On social media and in comments to the local press, he aired his views.
For the Islamic Community of Kosovo (BIK), the top clerical body, this constituted a “gross violation.”
“His principles are contrary to the principles of Islam and our internal regulations,” BIK spokesperson Ahmet Sadriu told reporters after his expulsion last month.
Globally, views vary on Charles Darwin’s theory in the Muslim world. Some Muslim academics say that the Koran is less explicit on creation than the Bible’s Book of Genesis.
Xhabir Hamiti, a professor of Islamic studies, said Gashi’s beliefs might be controversial, but “it would be better and more useful if we had a debate” on the topic in Kosovo.
For Gashi’s fans, the sacking was the latest sign of a shrinking space for moderates.
“Congratulations Drilon! You know far more than these ignorant and conservative religious representatives,” one Facebook user wrote in support.
‘OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE’: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been researching bat coronaviruses to trace the SARS pathogen, which is 80 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 The Chinese virology institute in the city where COVID-19 first emerged has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new contagion wreaking havoc around the world, its director has said. Scientists think COVID-19 — which first emerged in Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide — originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal. However, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster China Global Television Network that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others that the novel coronavirus could have escaped from the facility were
SPACE RACE: The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp mission aims to land a robotic rover and put a probe into orbit around the planet China is targeting a July launch for its ambitious Mars mission, which includes landing a remote-controlled robot on the surface of the Red Planet, the company in charge of the project has said. Beijing has invested billions of dollars in its space program in an effort to catch up with its rival, the US, and affirm its status as a major world power. The Mars mission is among a number of new space projects China is pursuing, including putting Chinese astronauts on the moon and having a space station by 2022. Beijing had been planning the Mars mission for some time this year,
China is poised to enshrine individuals’ rights to privacy and personal data for the first time, a symbolic first step as more of the country of 1.4 billion people becomes digitized — and more vulnerable to leaks and hacks. The legislation is part of China’s first civil code, a sweeping package of laws that is being deliberated during the annual meeting of China’s National People’s Congress, which began on Friday after a delay of more than two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent draft, an individual has a right to privacy and to have their personal information protected. Data
India has moved additional troops along its northern border as it prepares for an extended conflict with China, after several rounds of talks failed to ease tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals. China has already placed about 5,000 soldiers and armored vehicles within its side of the disputed border in the Ladakh region, an Indian government official said, asking not to be identified, citing rules. India is adding a similar number of troops as well as artillery guns along the border to fend off the continuing incursions by the Chinese army, the official said. The standoff began on May 5, when troops clashed