TIRANA, Albania — Ask Bujar Hysa about the charges that landed him in Tirana’s cramped No. 302 Prison, and he spits furious denials. “I never encouraged terrorism!” declared the Muslim cleric, convicted last month of recruiting young Albanians for the Islamic State.
But press further and Hysa readily admits to supporting a kind of Islamic state — not in Syria, but at home, in Albania, a NATO member and close U.S. ally on Europe’s southern flank. Reflecting on his country’s future from the prison’s tiny visitor’s room, he predicted that Albanians would inevitably replace Western-style governance with sharia, or Islamic law. Indeed, younger members of his flock were clamoring for it, he said.
“Islam can coexist with other religions, but with democracy? No!” the bearded imam told a reporter as a guard kept an anxious watch just outside the door. “Anyone who says that sharia can coexist with democracy is a hypocrite.”