Many Islamic-majority countries will probably end up recognizing Kosovo at some point–although they may also hesitate given the strong emphasis of many Kosovars of their secular, European identity as opposed to an Islamic one. But if and when they do, they may add caveats about possible precedents–not really caring what U.S. and European diplomats once again said at the Brussels Forum last week–that could create headaches for the U.S. down the line and which Washington still seems unprepared to deal with.
— Nikolas K. Gvosdev, “OIC Summit and the Dakar Declaration,” 20 March, 2008.
As I wrote in my previous post about the global Islamic community’s response to Kosovo’s declaration of independence, their hesitation to immediately extend recognition to the Balkan territory has more to do with geopolitical responsibilities than it does with any set of ideational concerns.
There is no evidence to suggest that Kosovo’s emphasis on its European identity will hinder Islamic countries from recognizing it. Thus far, the justifications given by those Muslim states — the overwhelming majority of them — who have not recognized Kosovo have either been that they were concerned with matters of national sovereignty or were entirely indifferent to the matter. Countries such as Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Morocco, Sudan and others all supported the Serbian position outrightly. Some of them did so as a result of obviously Russian (or perhaps even Chinese) leverage, others out of fear of the the application of the “Kosovo precedent” to their own territorial disputes. Various others, such as Jordan and Egypt have not recognized Kosovo’s independence, but will likely do so if a positive resolution is produced by Security Council. Turkey proposed a document that would have called for recognition on the part of the Islamic community, but due to opposition this was watered down to merely supporting the Kosovar people.
None of the discussion in Dakar revolved around how more or less Islamically oriented Kosovo was in relation to the wider Islamic world, and none of it questioned the territory’s identity or fidelity to Islamic civilization. On the contrary, the discussion on Kosovo has been quite upbeat, and has tended to question the legality of the country’s independence and whether or not it conforms to international norms. The OIC’s Secretary General, Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu (himself a Turk), said that Kosovo “will be an asset to the Muslim world and will further enhance joint Islamic action,”” and none of the member states seem to disagree. Nevertheless, Muslim countries have national interests aside from being Muslim countries and on many, if not most, occasions act on those interests before acting on their religious prerogatives.
The concerns of Muslim countries are identical to those of much the rest of the international community when it comes to matters of state sovereignty and the preservation of existing borders, two categories into which the Kosovo situation fits snugly. The component relating to the territory’s Islamic identity does make it a more salient affair than it would be if it were a non-Muslim country, but it is still of far less concern to the Muslim world than it is to Europe, and its tangible geopolitical results, in the eyes of Muslim governments, outweigh the religious or civilizational responsibility to recognize it right off the bat.