Sunday, October 02, 2005


Bula Zade Mosque (but the photo above is of Bajrakli Mosque):

I Identified the site from a photograph of Bula Zade Mosque with a caption explaining that,
[t]he 17th-century Bula Zade Mosque in Peje (pictured here) was demolished to make room for a reinforced concrete structure
and wrote its narrative from the text in Said Zulficar's article on mosques in the Balkans, in which he stated that,
The Saudi aid agency in question was also responsible for the demolition of the 17th-century Bula-Zade Mosque in Peje (Pec) and the construction of a reinforced concrete mosque historically inappropriate to the region.
I had written that:
this would and should have been the seventeenth-century Bula Zade Mosque, but the Saudi Joint Relief Committee for the People of Kosovo and Chechnya were generous enough to bulldoze it and build a concrete one in its stead, purged of its multicultural architecture and the coexistence it symbolised.

The only reason they have been able to get away with this where they have is that they have made aid dependent upon acquiescence to this violence; locals and UNMIK are powerless to halt this campaign of destruction.
This is perhaps the most contested of the postings that I've made, as it doesn't concern "simple" errors made by me ("simple" not detracting from how serious some of them were) or questions over the definition of terms. [Actually, it was a very simple mistake, now resolved.]

Before we get into the details of the dispute, I want to note that, due to the delay in updates, one commenter, Artan, returned and insisted that, 'You either publish my previous comment or change the description! I bet you would have published my comment if i have just praised you. Too bad!' I didn't publish the comment earlier because I was not aware of it; I lacked e-mail access for so long that my account deleted my e-mails notifying me of comments awaiting moderation. It was only with the new version of blogger (which, unlike the old one, shows you in the list when you have posts awaiting moderation), that I was made aware of the comments and the errors.

I was made aware today; I corrected all of them today. (I also redirected my e-mail notifications to my main account, so that it is only if I lack internet access that this may occur again.) I cannot promise that my access will remain as good as it has, but I can promise that I work in good faith and that I will try to keep up-to-date. As I hope my inclusion of many critical comments in the body of the posts demonstrates, I am not only publishing comments that praise me. I can only hope that the corrections and the inclusions of the criticisms helps restore some faith in my work.

Artan commented:
WHAT?!!! Are you kidding me?! Where did you get this information? I am from Peja, and I can tell you for sure that the mosque was never "bulldozed" as you say and there was no Saudi humanitarian group involved in its reconstruction. The mosque was burned down by Serbian forces as it was every other mosque in the town as well as 95 % of houses in the town(mine included). The mosque was actually reconstructed from the Italian Government - Misione Acrobaleno, and even the Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi visited it in one occasion to see how the works are proceeding.
I appreciate the work you have done here, but please get the facts straight before any post.
And btw, there is more risk of islamic extremism getting ground in Serbia than there is in Kosovo (i.e. for one thing, they both hate the West).
And, since you have been in Kosovo then you probably know how religious people are there.
I have to admit that at this point, I'm I was simply confused.

The Council of Europe's General Rapporteur on the Cultural Heritage, Eddie O'Hara, in a report on the 5th of April 2004 on "the protection of the cultural heritage in Kosovo", said that '[t]he three historical mosques that had been set on fire by the retreating Serbs [were] all in the process of reconstruction'. So, it was "set on fire", but it may not have been "burned down", depending upon the different observers' categorisations of the damage sustained.

Based upon O'Hara's report, which, when discussing '[t]he three historical mosques', mentions only '[t]he Red Mosque', '[t]he Bajrakli Mosque' and 'the medieval bazaar', it appears as if Artan may have been I believe Artan was referring to Bayrakli Mosque, as it is the only one noted as being restored by the Misione Acrobaleno that Artan referred to. O'Hara stated that
The Bajrakli Mosque (15th century) was restored by the Italian humanitarian organisation INTERSOS in co-operation with the Italian National Institute for Restoration. The Italian mission Arcobaleno financially supported the project. The restoration of the Mosque was part of a wider programme aimed at improving reconciliation between local communities through the awareness and respect of cultural heritage. Alongside the restoration of the Mosque, INTERSOS was also simultaneously dedicated to the urgent restoration of some frescoes in the Patriarchate of Peja.
This might would make sense, if Andras's comment is were correct; Artan may indeed be was talking about Bayrakli/Bajrakli mosque because my photograph may be was of that mosque. I realise that it is a little backwards, but I want to address Andres's comment and then quote it in full as the conclusion of this post; I think that will make sense when it's read.

The Christian Science Monitor that Andras referred me to no longer includes a photograph, but it does describe the new Bula Zade Mosque (Bath House Mosque) thus:
Across the street stands the Bathhouse Mosque, which was also burned. Today, though, it boasts a suburban-style glassed-in veranda, lemon yellow walls, and a sterile whitewashed prayer room. Nothing about its appearance hints that the mosque, too, was built 400 years ago by the Ottomans.
That isn't the mosque in the photograph. So, it appears that Artan was correct, but about the Bajrakli Mosque that I mistakenly identified as the Bula Zade Mosque in the photograph; I was correct in my narrative, but I was narrating the history of a different cultural heritage site to the one shown.

Andras commented:
Nice photo, but wrong mosque. The one in your photo is not the Bula Zade Mosque (which was indeed messed up by the Saudis, as Peter Ford recounted in the Christian Science Monitor - where you can see a picture). Nor is the mosque in your photo made of concrete.

In fact, what your photo shows happens to be the oldest surviving mosque in the town of Pec/Peja, the Bajrakli Mosque ("Mosque with a Flag" [flown from its minaret on holidays]), a.k.a. Sultan Muhammed the Conqueror's Mosque, built in 1471 by the Ottoman sultan Muhammed II. Like other mosques in the town and its surrounding villages, the Bajrakli Xhamia was torched by Serb forces during the 1999 war and was burned out and badly damaged. You can see signs of the fire in these photos of
the exterior and the interior of the mosque. The second photo shows the marble columns holding up the women's balcony, damaged by the heat of the fire, being restored by experts from the Italian Academy of Fine Arts. Another photo shows the original 15th-century minbar (pulpit) of the mosque, carved entirely out of marble, its surface layer calcinated (turned into burnt limestone powder) by the intense heat of the fire. The Bajrakli Mosque is a rare success story in post-war Kosovo - it is one of only a bare handful of war-damaged cultural monuments to have been restored with Western assistance, under the direction of professional restorers from Europe.

The Saudis, with their destructive approach - insisting that mosques be rebuilt according to the donors' wishes, to be "bigger, better, and 'more Islamic'" - would not have made such an impact (in Kosovo or in Bosnia) if there had been any alternative sources of funding and technical assistance available after the war.

But the UN official, the EC bureaucrats and other "internationals" involved in postwar reconstruction assistance were only too happy, as one Western official was heard to say, "to let the Arabs take care of their own [co-religionists]." As far as that official and his colleagues were concerned, these 500-year-old mosques, built by local craftsmen on European soil, are not really part of Europe's cultural heritage. It seems these monuments belong to the "Orient" and the Turks just forgot to take with them when they were driven out in 1912.

3 comments:

  1. WHAT?!!! Are you kidding me?! Where did you get this information? I am from Peja, and I can tell you for sure that the mosque was never "bulldozed" as you say and there was no Saudi humanitarian group involved in its reconstruction. The mosque was burned down by Serbian forces as it was every other mosque in the town as well as 95 % of houses in the town(mine included). The mosque was actually reconstructed from the Italian Government - Misione Acrobaleno, and even the Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi visited it in one occasion to see how the works are proceeding.
    I appreciate the work you have done here, but please get the facts straight before any post.
    And btw, there is more risk of islamic extremism getting ground in Serbia than there is in Kosovo (i.e. for one thing, they both hate the West).
    And, since you have been in Kosovo then you probably know how religious people are there.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You either publish my previous comment or change the description!
    I bet you would have published my comment if i have just praised you.
    Too bad!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nice photo, but wrong mosque. The one in your photo is not the Bula Zade Mosque (which was indeed messed up by the Saudis, as Peter Ford recounted in the Christian Science Monitor -- where you can see a picture). Nor is the mosque in your photo made of concrete.

    In fact, what your photo shows happens to be the oldest surviving mosque in the town of Pec/Peja, the Bajrakli Mosque ("Mosque with a Flag" [flown from its minaret on holidays]), a.k.a. Sultan Muhammed the Conqueror's Mosque, built in 1471 by the Ottoman sultan Muhammed II. Like other mosques in the town and its surrounding villages, the Bajrakli Xhamia was torched by Serb forces during the 1999 war and was burned out and badly damaged. You can see signs of the fire in these photos of
    the exterior and the interior of the mosque. The second photo shows the marble columns holding up the women's balcony, damaged by the heat of the fire, being restored by experts from the Italian Academy of Fine Arts. Another photo shows the original 15th-century minbar (pulpit) of the mosque, carved entirely out of marble, its surface layer calcinated (turned into burnt limestone powder) by the intense heat of the fire. The Bajrakli Mosque is a rare success story in post-war Kosovo -- it is one of only a bare handful of war-damaged cultural monuments to have been restored with Western assistance, under the direction of professional restorers from Europe.

    The Saudis, with their destructive approach -- insisting that mosques be rebuilt according to the donors' wishes, to be "bigger, better, and 'more Islamic'" -- would not have made such an impact (in Kosovo or in Bosnia) if there had been any alternative sources of funding and technical assistance available after the war.

    But the UN official, the EC bureaucrats and other "internationals" involved in postwar reconstruction assistance were only too happy, as one Western official was heard to say, "to let the Arabs take care of their own [co-religionists]." As far as that official and his colleagues were concerned, these 500-year-old mosques, built by local craftsmen on European soil, are not really part of Europe's cultural heritage. It seems these monuments belong to the "Orient" and the Turks just forgot to take with them when they were driven out in 1912.

    ReplyDelete