English

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Ajni SINANI

A Mission Association in the Balkans

Ajni Sinani

Ajni Sinani

Abstract
Unreal secession and partition of Muslim lands as a result of expulsion of The Ottoman Empire brought forth the formation of states in the Balkans where only, two of them, had Muslims as a majority; Albania and Bosnia.
People in these areas were subjected to being second class citizens and a minority group. They are forced either to be exiled or assimilated and converted to accepted religion, besides being continuously brutalized, tortured and killed by their enemies. The communist system abolished the freedom of religion and stated the country as atheist. When the foreign forces entered in these two countries, along came many missionary organizations many atrocities and ruins, economical damaged infrastructure, making these countries as one of the poorest countries in Europe along with Bosnia.
Self-created atmosphere after September 11 is a kind of support and the easiest way doing activities related to these organizations. Christian missionaries are famous for their hard efforts, well organized, numerous funds, and adequate permission documents. Moreover, they describe our Prophet as antiChrist, Qur’an as plagiarist of Bible, Islam as heresy and compare with paganism. The main aim of Christian organizations is to get as many conversions from Muslims and if unsuccessful, create doubts and suspicions among the unaware so as to be engaged in unmoral acts, thereby destroying individual Muslim morality.
Missionaries use their own humanitarian methods to fulfill goals in line with the Christian spirit. They publish and distribute Christian books and booklets, empathise with the need of medical help of families, offer some kind of funds to create some sort of indebtedness and preparedness to convert.
The impact of the terrorist attack of September 11 was fatal and created disaster for Islamic Organizations created mounting pressure and strict regulation on funds and thereby, created limitations during fundraising. Accusations flew on being suspected of supporting terror for these organizations.
I have also concluded that our Islamic organization practices a lack of evaluation priorities and long strategy and may not be at necessary level. There are certainly many ways of protecting Islam within our community as I have mentioned in my conclusion.

Introduction
Unreal secession and partition of Muslim lands as a result of expulsion of The Ottoman Empire brought forth the formation of states in the Balkans where only, two of them, had Muslims as a majority; Albania and Bosnia.
Albania was formed in 1913, although more than half of Albanian Muslims reside outside of Albania. Despite this more than 75% of the population was Albanian Muslims.
The unprecedented partition of Muslim Albanian territories (Kosovo and Çameria) from Albania[1] were handed to Serbia, Greece, Macedonia and Monte Negro, as well as the Muslim Sandzak.[2] Under the Ottoman Empire where they were once a majority group was converted into a minority and second class citizens and were subjected to the atrocities like forced either to be exiled or assimilated as converts.
As a consequence, Muslims from these regions decided to move toward the direction of Turkey. Bosnia was not spared either as the situation was similar. Bosnian Muslims were a majority, yet Serbian and Croatians attempted to dominate them, executing heavy punishments upon Muslims of this region.
The weakening of the Ottoman Empire created an effect on the neighboring lands of Albania, Bosnia and Turkey leading to different harsh atrocities and massacres. Muslims from these regions during the 20th century have undergone different civil wars and were victims of barbarities due to different cultures and civilizations or as Huntington cites in his work, in the section islamit periferik.[3] Thus, we come to a conclusion that, the expulsion of Ottoman Empire became fatal for Balkan Muslims because they were deported, continuously and intensively brutalized, tortured and killed by Serbians, Greeks, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Bulgarians and the Croatians in such a harsh way that no one can even bear to hear.
The Second World War marked another chapter of persecution and genocide against the broken Balkan areas. In 1945, Albanian Muslims from the Cameria region in Northern Greece were experiencing ethnic cleansing, some of them were forced to be exiled in Albania and Turkey. Homes and mosques were either destroyed or confiscated by the Papandreou government with the excuse; the Cami Albanians were collaborating with the Nazis. It is, however, not as bad as the persecution after the World War II in 1967, where the communist regime installation in Albania by the Yugoslavs and Soviets abolished the freedom of religions and declared Albania an secular state.[4]
The breakdown of Warsaw Pact, the collapse of socialist system of Eastern European countries and also the end of the cold war, was received with enthusiasm by Muslims of Balkan, but they had to suffer the bloodiest consequences. Bosnian Muslims and Kosovo Albanians were two groups who paid the greatest price of the Yugoslavia disintegration. In fact, there are many fresh war images and crimes in our mind made by Serbian forces in Bosnia and Kosovo.[5] The deployment of the international forces in Bosnia and Kosovo was welcomed from Muslims of these countries because this action brought an end to their genocide. When the foreign forces entered in these two countries, along came many missionary organizations.

Missionary Organizations and Their Influences
When the Ottoman Empire collapsed, one could find different kinds of missionaries all around the Balkans area. Thus, in 1914, there were different missionaries who sent their reports to the USA for the crimes made by Greek forces against Albanians whereas in 1921, American Methodist Mission tried to take control of Technical School in Tirana, which was founded in the same year. In 1933, schools those were run by foreigners, including the ones managed by missionaries, came under the administration of Albanian State.[6]
According to the cruel socialist system, religion was prohibited; people were isolated and barred from the rest of the world. Due to this, Muslims in Albania did not have the opportunity to learn anything about their religion.
As soon as the Socialist System in Albania collapsed, it simultaneously opened its borders to the whole of the world in 1991, hundreds of humanitarian organizations, from different parts of the world, including dozens of Christian missionaries came in Albanian lands, and some of them were very close to masonry.[7]
The same thing happened with Bosnia at the end of the war (1992-1995) so there were deployed multination forces of SFOR[8] in 1996 and also in Kosovo, deployed KFOR[9] forces in 1999 and installation of the international administration.
During the Serbian occupation era, Kosovo suffered apartheid. When Serbians left, they left many atrocities and ruins, economical damaged infrastructure, making Kosovo, one of the poorest countries in Europe along with Bosnia.
Approximately for forty years, being closed up with the installation of atheism and wild regime of Enver Hoxha in Albania, there was a great spiritual and ignorance vacuum among a high range of political and intellectual masses for Islam. This kind of situation was very much in favor of the activities of missionary organizations.
It is a well known fact after crises; different kind of war situations would appear and mushroom with the entrances of many different Christian organizations. This situation happened in these countries. There are different kinds of opinions about missionary organizations. Some people think that even though a number of them made their presence clear, their influence was limited to the particular individuals or groups where the main reason was to offer material aid or otherwise, no gained persuasion. Others think we should be careful because the presence of a great number of missionary organizations in a proportion of Islamic organizations is approximately 7 to 1, thereby a thought on negative and dangerous impact towards the countries.
These should not be ignored and underestimated the work and activities of these missionaries since they have vast experiences, possibilities and huge funds to accommodate to needs. Besides that, they also have long-run plans.
During the preparation of this seminar, I have concluded that from the Muslim side, they do not have sufficient clarification about these missionaries. There are cases where some Muslim families were obliged to ask for medical help but could not find any help from the Muslims, yet found support from Christian organizations, thus the reason of their conversion to Christianity.[10]
In May 2008, 32 individuals belonging to the same family, Sopi of Lapushnik, had themselves converted to Catholicism. Lapushnik village is situated in the same region of Drenica, northeastern part of Kosovo. Ismet Sopi, a spokesman for the family told local journalists there were many from the same region who intended to convert from Islam to Catholicism, “maybe as many as 320 or 3200”.[11]

The Main Actors who Support Missionary Activities
Self-created atmosphere after September 11 is a kind of support and the easiest way doing activities related to these organizations. Therefore, these organizations use a common weapon by spreading a poisonous seed among Muslims. The activities of Muslim organizations have been attacked and watched; on the contrary, the missionary organizations that have come from all around the world continue their missionary activities without any limitations and with vast freedom.
Most of these organizations have been supported from local and international institutions. Based on this, political institutions from Kosovo and Albania have their own respective ideas. Ex-President of Kosovo, Ibrahim Rugova had asked for a secondary school, located in the centre of Pristine, to be ruined and instead of it, to construct a great cathedral. Catholics can be counted by fingers in Prishtina, the capital of Kosovo, and a total of around 60,000 in the whole of Kosovo.[12] Meanwhile, there has been for a long time an initiative from Islamic Community of Kosovo, a place to be given for a large mosque to be built which was necessary for Prishtina worshippers.
The same thing has happened in Tirana as well. Local authorities was given permission to build a large Orthodox church in the centre of Tirana while there was none for a mosque to be build next to the Albanian Parliament which used to be a mosque area before. In 2005, in Prizren (Kosovo), the local government gave 4 hectares to a Jesuit school, Loyola.[13]
Even in Bosnia, the situation is similar. Undoubtedly, it has been noticed that “it is very hard to find any case where the government of BH has given any permission for any of education institutions of non-Christian organizations. Christian missionaries are only allowed to spread openly poisonous seed to Muslim children”.[14] The Christian missionaries are famous for that they never look tired, they are well organized, they have a lot of money and they also have adequate necessary permission documents.

What are the aims of missionary activities?
It is well known missionary organizations are the ones that are available to use the war and disaster, human situation as an ideal case for their own activities and considered themselves as “the inviters of Divinity” with the only way to Christianize Muslim population. Missionary organizations openly invite people in Christianity. They use different kinds of methods. The well-known European Middle age prejudice they had then, they used them before to attack Islam[15] and the same is used nowadays from different kinds of Christian Organizations.
Those organizations, describe Muhammed (pbuh) as an anti-Christ, the noble Qur’an as a plagiarist of Bible, Islamic religion as a heresy and they also compare it with paganism.[16] The Orthodox Church (Serbian, Greece, Macedonian, Montenegrin) and also other certain native Catholic Churches in Albania and Kosovo and also the Orthodox Church in Albania, also, there are some of evangelist groups which are very much active in these areas, all of them, have a very negative view against Islam, their hatred has been spread in the inner side of the history.[17] Among these, the most active are those of Protestant Organizations from America. Their mission is to spread accusations against Islam with the aim of planting doubt to Muslims; they are also famous for their own complexion superiority of Christianity to Islam.
There were also those missionary organizations, which made shows through the streets of Tirana with their extravagant wear, with the only way to spread their own nakedness to Albanian young girls. Unfortunately, some of those even abused their own young people. The main aim and the duty of these missionary organizations is “to pull out the Muslim from Islam so the one to become a creature without any link to Allah Almighty; and related to this, they would become distant from moral values and they want very much to create a generation, whose main aim would be the fulfillment of passion”.[18]
Missionaries work hard in the way of distancing the youth from Islam and after that, they want very much to fulfill their heads with Christian knowledge. In order to make it more attractive inside their organizations and their sermons, one can find different kinds of entertaining, such as alcoholic drinks with no limit, thus a way they succeed to degenerate them and engage them very much to destroy their own moral.
To conclude, the main aim of Christian organizations is to get as many unaware Muslims to be engaged in immoral acts. Even if they cannot succeed in converting them into Christianity, they will get them aroused with suspicions on Islam, thereby destroying individual Muslim morality.

How do they use their missionary methods?
A lot of missionary organizations use their own humanitarian methods to fulfill their goals during a long period of time with “the will and wish to help others; a way they want to predict their human Christian spirit”. They publish and distribute Christian books and booklets, all to succeed towards the main aim, that is, to be engaged against Islam.[19] They organize different kind of courses to learn foreign languages, particularly the native language. Personnel of these organizations have very much been knowledgeable in different kind of issues. There are doctors and nurses among them because this is the best way to succeed in spreading the Christianity.[20]
Having a very high level of experience in their missionary work and also in a mighty material support, they are able to open different kind of courses; especially those of computing and English language to name a few, organize excursions in different cities and offer scholarships for studying abroad. They establish different organizations, renaming them, to show that there are different kinds of organizations for youth development in every segment of life. They try to identify Muslim youth who are in poverty, offer them necessary help in their life so that he/she would have a chance to stay and trying to work in their organizations.
Most of them are concentrated with their activities and work particularly to Muslim children. They offer them different kind of presents and illustrated books related to Jesus and Christian religion, thus they plant in their minds dangerous ideas against Islam.
There are a lot of missionaries who hired or bought houses to hold their activities there. A number of young people frequently go these places but they are not motivated from the sympathy they have for the Christian religion. Instead, they are there because they can find friends and entertain themselves with girls. This is a permanent risk for them because frequent meetings and organized parties are self-destructive to the youth, thus becoming victims of wrong morality and their own faith.
Some of these foundations, besides those mentioned above, also offer to some of the ill members of the family’s medical aid abroad. They establish a particular fund for their own purposes under the pretext to help people in poverty, thus they try to spread their impact.
There are frequent conditions when they offer something to Muslim families, or perhaps, those who are in high scale of poverty and hardly can find any other way of solution, immediately prepare themselves to accept Christianity so that the ill can find a cure.[21] Actual economic crises made families convert to Christianity because of scholarship offerings, nationalities renouncements to take on another nationality or they offer some kind of jobs for them abroad. Among their own methods, there are some of those whom they try to find authoritative people, journalists, politicians, historians, publishers.

Division of Missionary Activities According to the Countries
From 1990 till 1999, there were dozens of Islamic organizations doing their activities in Albania. When the war ended and the pullout of Serbian forces from Kosovo occurred in 1999, the same Islamic organizations in Albania moved to Kosovo.
The impact of the terrorist attack of September 11 was fatal and disastrous for Islamic organizations as well. Most of them were obliged to reduce their funds or to finish their unfinished activities immediately, or even to close up their offices in Balkans.
There were left just a few of those organizations whose activities were going on but because of the strict control of their funds and mounting pressure they had, it created a sensitive limitation to their acts especially during the fundraising time.
The Islamic Organizations, under the motto of fighting the terrorism, were accused as the supporters of terrorism as they were found to be suspicious even though they do not have any basis or evidence of supporting terrorism.

Albania
According to the American State Department reports for the freedom of religion, during 2006, at a State Community for Cult in Albania, there are 3.6 million citizens living in Albania, registered 245 organizations, groups, foundations and religious organizations. It has been considered in Albania, there are four traditional religions: Suni Muslims, Bektashi, Orthodox and Catholic. Among 245 organizations which have been officially registered at the Court of Tirana, 34 of them are Islamic ones. 189 others are Christian ones.[22] Americans are on the first place ranking as missionary ones, others come from Western Europe and the least in number come those from Middle East. According to this report, during 2004 “From the State Community of Cult there were released 1084 permissions for foreign missionaries”.[23]
The Catholics had an agenda and aggressive propaganda to convert Albanians in the past few years. Their activities remain uncountable but the most significant one would be the establishment of a great Catholic cathedral in the heart of Tirana, the opening of a Catholic university, numerous institutions, newspapers, radios and even a political party. Similarly, the Orthodox Church in Albania operates many institutions such as non-profit church hospitals, public schools, press institutions and companies. The Orthodox not only does the religious conversion but makes the national assimilation of Albanians as well by having a strong influence on Albanian immigrants in Greece where numbers seem to be more than 700,000.[24]
After 1991, when Albania opened its borders to the western countries, there has been a flooding of an army of different sects and organizations such as: Protestants, Mormons, Jehova witnesses, Evangelists, Calvinists, Adventists, Tele-Evangelists, Kadianists, Bahaj and others who have occupied Albania. The number of nongovernmental organizations with activities done in Albania is so huge that it is impossible to be mentioned all of them here. Meanwhile, the following list shows that Albania has faced[25] a flood of crusaders.

Kosovo and Macedonia
Similarly, Kosovo is facing the same situation as Albania, with huge numbers of active Christian organizations and their activities. Those numbers reach the same as in Albania[26] (above 200) because nearly all missionaries have spread into Kosovo and Macedonia.

Bosnia
In the early days of 1990, some of major nongovernmental religious organizations assured emergency humanitarian aid which are stated here: World Vision, Catholic Relief Services and the United Methodist Committee on Relief.[27] World Vision is a huge international organization where one can find it in different areas of the world as well as in Bosnia too. Its main goal is children treatment. You cannot find any data in internet about the number of missionary organizations in Bosnia.

Self Protection of the Islamic Society against Missionary Activities
There were a lot of funds pouring from different Islamic organizations in Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia and Macedonia but there was a lack of evaluation of priorities and long strategy. Occasionally, their management was not in a necessary level. The Islamic Community should think that their own panel has to be spread up all around the villages in order to present and attend religious lectures. We should try to prepare real missionary leaders, try and stop quarrelling with each other and also be careful on how to cultivate traditional Islam. Entering different kind of Islamic sects inside societies of these countries can cause dilemmas and frequently this kind of mixture can bring disunity among the people.
Missionaries should try to escape from the provocations among each other, their reasons are not to triumph a group from the other, xhamaat or any organization. They must be linked with the words La Ilahe illa Allah Muhamedun RasulAllah and let them be the protectors of that was offered to them from the knowledge and wisdom. They should call about the Muslim unity and they also should try to be so active in protecting from the disunity and confrontation. It is the only way to do because they all read and understand the book of Allah, the book where they can find this comment:[28] “And do not dispute (with one another) lest you lose courage and your strength departs…” (El Enfal:46)
Methods and the way of calling in Islam should be instructed in the mosques. It has been asked to be as close of those families who are in a high scale of poverty, those who need our help. There should be funds particularly formed to help them. We should be engaged to establish visual and written Islamic media, with the only aim of that Islamic message can be delivered to Muslim families. We should try to establish and open Islamic schools, colleges, magazines, etc. Arabian countries should give their help in this direction too. There should be collaborated work with those rich people in the country directing their own contribution in that way.
Christian missionaries have their own active strategies in these areas. They are surely here for a long period of time. They have found the easiest way to be more active in these territories because they have begun to know better the mentality of Muslims. If we want to minimize their activities, you should try to be engaged more with youth. If we want to reach these goals, the mission of calling in Islam, we should not consider it as a profession, from which one can have their own material profit but it should be perceived as a mission and an obligation with the only aim of spreading the divine reality.
There should be links among xhemaat and imams and then there should be close ties among the Islamic communities themselves. Every village should spend efforts necessary to have their own mosque with each having their regular and educated imams. There should be Islamic institutions where literally, people can prepare their studies and lectures with the only aim to fulfill goals of and answer all vital questions of Muslim society.

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[1] http://sq.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historia_e_Shqip%C3%ABris%C3%AB
[2] http://bs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sand%C5%BEak_(oblast)
[3] Huntington, Samuel P., Përplasja e qytetërimeve dhe ribërja e rendit botëror, Logos-A, Shkup, 2004, f. 245 e tutje.
[4] Jazexhi, Olsi, Albanians and Islam, between existence & extinction, marrë nga: http://www.geocities.com/djalosh/albanians.htm
[5] Serbs in Kosova destroyed 218 mosques during the last war 1997-1999.
[6] Silajxhic, Haris, Shqipëria dhe SHBA në arkivat e Uashingtonit, Dituria, Tiranë 1999, f. 20-23.
[7] Sakar, Muhammed Ibrahim Esh Sherbini, El Hareketu El Mesihijetu El Usulijetu El Amerikijetu ve alakatuha bi Es Sehjunijeh, Kajro, 2003,f. 52 e tutje.
[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SFOR
[9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kosovo_Force
[10] Dragusha, Fehim, see: http://forumi.kurandhesunet.net/lajme-nga-bota-islame(24)/misionaret-ne-kosove-dhe-arsyet-e-konvertimit-te-muslimaneve-kosovare(6819).html
[11] Di Lellio, Anna , Kosovan – and Catholic, shih:http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/may/21/kosovanandcatholic
[12] Pirraku, Muhamed, Jo Katerdrale (No Cathedrale), Prishtinë, 2005.
[13] There is a professional Catholic school of jezuit Christian among muslims with its name gymnazium. See: Ibrahimi, Nexhat, Gjimnazi “Loyola” në Prizren – What is hidden behind it? :http://www.mesazhi.com/author_article_detail.php?id=24
[14] Beganović, Ezher, Krscansko misionarstvo u BiH, see:http://prosvjetitelj-muallim.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1014&Itemid=100
[15] Ibrahimi, Nexhat S., Paragjykimet ndaj Islamit gjatë shekujve, Zëri Islam, Prizren, 2000. f. 5-30.
[16] Sinani, Ajni, Të tjerët për Islamin, Zëri Ynë, Prishtinë, 2005, f. 8.
[17] Kovać, Mirnes, Evangelizam u Muslimanskim zemljama, Novi Horizonti, nr. 48: http://www.iltizam.org/index.php?ime=tekstovi&tekstovi=tekst&id=2145540869
[18] El-Muhajjis, Nebil B.Abdurrahman, Muslimanë, Zgjohuni!, Stamboll, 1999.
[19] See: Mbi Kuranin, letër apologjetike, shkruar nga Joseph Smith, Prishtinë, 2001.
[20] They sed: “We need Christians in every dimension especially education in terms of administration, teach ing (quality of teachers in all disciplines) and technical support (computers and library science). But most importantly, we need zealous Christians who can and want to make a spiritual difference and impact on the lives of younger generation. Our academic system is structured in such a wey to allow a teacher to come for a few weeks, or several months up to a year to provide educational lectures and seminars to make that spiritual impact. See:http://groups.yahoo.com/group/alb-muslimstudents/message/40619
[21] http://forumi.kurandhesunet.net/lajme-nga-bota-islame(24)/misionaret-ne-kosove-dhe-arsyet-e-konvertimit-te-muslimaneve-kosovare(6819).html
[22] Në Amerikë ka rryma fundamentaliste fetare, që besojnë se Mesihu do të kthehet shpejt dhe, për hir të këtij qëllimi, ata janë të gatshëm që të bëjnë verpime të pakontrolluara. Shih: Havali, Sefer, Dita e Hidhërimit, NUN, Shkup, 2003. f. 19.
[23] Xhani, Qamil, Shqipëria, 3.6 milionë banorë, 245 shoqata fetare, Raporti i Departamentit amerikan të Shtetit për lirinë fetare gjatë 2006-ës, shih: Gazeta Tirana Observer, Albania, marrë nga webfaqja:http://www.tiranaobserver.com.al/20060917/aktualitet.htm#2, shtator, 2008.
[24] Jazexhi, Olsi, op. cit.
[25] Ibid.
[26] More about this organizacion see:http://www.albanian.com/community/vbl/archive/index.php?t-14367.html
[27] http://www.icnl.org/KNOWLEDGE/ijnl/vol6iss1/special_4.htm
[28] El Bedevi, Dr. Ahmed Abbas, Misioni Islam dhe Misionarët, Shkup, 2002, f. 51.

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15TH EDITION OF SCIENTIFIC-CULTURAL MAGAZINE “UNIVERSE” IS NOW RELEASED

Univers 15The scientific magazine “Universe” continues to enrich the realm of science and culture in academic feeds from prominent authors and scientists, Albanian and worldwide for 13th consecutive year. Already, Albanian Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization released 15th edition of scientific and cultural magazine “Universe”

The themes of this number are known for their quality and diversity. Their range includes history, linguistics, literature, philosophy, pedagogy, architecture, ethnography, social anthropology and theology. The authors, all affirmed in their fields of study, alternated among the young generation, such as Jolanda Lila, Edison Ceraj , Rudina Mita. As well as generation of professors such as prof. dr.Gazmend  Shpuza , prof. dr. Hysen Kordha, prof. dr. Muharrem Dezhgiu etc.

Readers will be introduced in this editorial of the magazine with an interesting perspective on the report of history in the Balkans and the need for its writing in accordance with scientific criteria in accordance with perspective of regional integration in the European Union.

The chapter “Studies” contains historical works about the head of the Prizren League, Iljaz Dibra, the patriot Akif  Pashe Elbasani, Sinja Parliament and policy of Italy during the invasion of Albania language works about co-existence between Albanian dialects of Independence and press. Kostaq Cipos’s contribution, Dictionary of the Albanian language of 1954, works on the relationship between philosophy and theology in Islam and the implications for the psychology of motivation from  Islam perspective.

The chapter “Social Horizons” brings articles about the report in the state-religion 1912-1920 and the role of religion in mental health. In the sections “Art and Culture” and “Opinions”, among other things, provide interesting insights on mankind of Naimi Frasheri’s world, aesthetics of Islamic art and contemporary visions of works of Mehmet Akif  Ersojit. While columns “Documents in focus” and “Publishing” represent historical documentation about voice “Albania” in Encyclopedic Dictionary of prof. I. E. Andrejeiskit, published in St. Petersburg in 1890, and two works about books “100 Years of Independence, 100 Dibran personalities” and Ottoman law of the late Middle Ages among Albanians”, authored respectively prof.dr. Arian Kadiu and dr. Dritan Egro.

The “Universe” magazine, as part of publications of Albanian Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization, aims to achieve consistently high standards of scientific culture and provide qualified information to its readers.

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Olsi JAZEXHI

THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF ISLAMOPHOBIA IN ALBANIA

Olsi Jazexhi

Olsi Jazexhi

In a recent publication from the Council of Europe, Islamophobia has been defined as: ‘a fear of, or prejudiced viewpoint towards Islam, Muslims and matters pertaining to them. Whether it takes the shape of daily forms of racism and discrimination or more violent forms, Islamophobia is a violation of human rights and a threat to social cohesion’.[1] Islamophobia as a term first appeared in an essay by the orientalist scholar Etienne Dinet in L’Orient vu de l’Occident (1922). However the term became common parlance in defining the discrimination faced by Muslims in Western Europe only in the 1990s.[2]

Islamophobia, as it is currently understood, is a modern anti-Islamic discourse and practice which has intensified drastically in the West after 9/11. The term Islamophobia is contested by a number of writers, since it is often imprecisely applied to very diverse phenomena, ranging from xenophobia to anti-terrorism. As Marcel Maussen points out, “the term ‘Islamophobia’ groups together all kinds of different forms of discourse, speech and acts, by suggesting that they all emanate from an identical ideological core, which is an “irrational fear” (a phobia) of Islam.”[3]

The writer of this paper has observed that Islamophobia is not related to fear only, but also to an irrational hate of what Islam and Muslims stand for. In the Albanian case Islamophobia is presented and inherited from the communist past in arts, literature, media and public debates, where Islam and Muslims are shown as the “other” and the adversaries of civilization. Islamophobia is often mixed in Albania with the past communist propaganda against religion (in our case Islam only), with modern Christian and particularly Catholic proselytism, Turkophobia and Arabophobia. The present war on terrorism and past hatreds against the Ottoman legacy are often mixed together for producing anti-Islamic sentiments.[4]

Even that Islamophobia is new as a term, negative perceptions regarding Islam and Muslims can be easily traced back in the history of Europe. From the Crusades to colonialism, from the Iranian Revolution to the current war in Iraq, Islam and its followers have habitually been misrepresented in Europe and in other places, where Islam meets Christianity. As Karen Armstrong has shown, with the advent of Islam towards the West and the invention of the Crusades, Islam and its prophet become the supreme enemies of Western civilization and all sorts of obnoxious and dishonest terms were employed to describe its supposed menace.[5]

In Southeastern Europe, acerbic views about Islam and Muslims arrived with the Ottoman expansion of the 14 and 15th centuries. The local Christian churches saw Islam as sheer wickedness and perceived the Ottoman victories in Europe as a threat to their religion and power. Yet Islamophobia reached its greatest impulse in the Balkans during the 19 and early 20th centuries, when the Ottoman Empire came under attack, both physically and propagandistically by the newborn Balkan nationalisms and their European supporters. Almost all “national historiographies” of the Balkans projected the Turks and their religion as the cruel and domineering ‘other’.

Even though the majority of Albanians are Muslims, Islamophobia and Turkophobia has been part of the Albanian culture since the creation of the Albanian state in 1912. Because Islam in the Balkans was connected with the Turks, with their expulsion, the Albanian nationalists (primarily of Christian and Bektashi backgrounds) who were brought to power after the fall of the empire, constructed a national narrative filled with hatred against the Turks and, either directly or circuitously, portrayed the Sunni Muslim population of Albania as their collaborators.

The spirit of Islamophobia in Albania was strengthened and institutionalized even more during the era of communism. By perceiving themselves as modernizers, the communists inherited from the nationalists’ generation of Rilindja (“national “rebirth”) as well as from other Balkan national hagiographies, extreme anti-Turkish and Islamophobic prejudices. As a result, the communists portrayed the 500 years of the Ottoman Empire upon Albania, as a dark and medieval times which cut Albania off from mother Europe and her enlightened civilization.[6] In the history textbooks of modern Albania, the Ottoman Empire was (and still is) blamed for the backwardness of Albania, and the Ottoman officials who ran the empire, namely – the beys, pashas and ağas – together with the Muslim clergy, i.e. the hojas, dervishes and muftis – are often portrayed as the root cause of Albania’s social afflictions. Through publications, movies, books, pictures and poems the communist regime portrayed the Ottoman officials of pre-modern Albania as Turkic and hence non-Albanians, something which was rarely the case historically. By labeling the “oppressors” as aliens and Asian invaders in a European land, communist historiography could easily manipulate the masses against their own tradition and heritage.[7]

Islamophobia was likewise transmitted through the usage of orientalist themes in the art of the socialist realism, thereby demonizing the beys, ağas, kulaks, hojas, dervishes and all the Muslims believers, by portraying them as opportunists and collaborators, who had a hand in suppressing the “progressive” European nature of the Albanian nation. The fight that the communists regime organized against Islam in Albania, known as lufta kundër zakoneve prapanike (the war against obsolete practices,) uprooted Muslim traditions such as modest dress, the abstention from alcohol and pork, as well as belief in God and the hereafter.

In the arts and media of communist Albania, Muslim and Turkish officials were commonly branded as anadollakë (Anatolians), prapanikë (backward), tradhëtarë (turncoats), dallkaukë (idiots), turqeli (little Turks), dylberë (homosexuals), aziatikë (Asians), fanatikë (fanatics), bixhozçinj (gamblers), përdhunues (rapist) and barbarë (barbarians). They were publicized as a people with a sinister mission, whose main objective was to split Albania from Europe and make it part of feudal Asia, through the process of Islamization. As Enis Sulstarova has shown, Ismail Kadare, Albania’s main architect of the national literature in the communist and present Albania; has and is one of the most significant promoters of cultural Islamophobia and Orientalism.[8]

Islamophobia in post communist Albania

With the opening of Albania to the West in the 1990’s, a rebirth of religion – including Islam – came to pass. During the first years of democracy, the Muslims of Albania managed to build a number of mosques and open few madrasas in the country. Their religious activities were organized by the Muslim Community of Albania, the World Headquarters of Bektashis and a number of other smaller Sufi orders (tariqats), which, with the help of overseas Muslim organizations, tried to rebuild their destroyed organizational infrastructures as much as they could.

However, with the opening of Albania to the West, a number of ex-communist apparatchiks who were instrumental in suppressing all types of religious beliefs during Enver Hoxha’s day, virulently protested against what they regarded as the “re-Islamization” of Albania. Well-known for his anti-religious sentiments during communism, Ismail Kadare,[9] led the campaign in opposing any rediscovery of Islam among Albanians. His hostility towards Islam now was transformed from militantly defending atheism, to his open desire to convert Albanians to Christianity. This was made clear since 1991 when he declared that:

Albania’s future is towards Christianity, since it is connected with it culturally, old memories, and its pre-Turkish nostalgia. With the passing of time, the late Islamic religion that came with the Ottomans should evaporate (at first in Albania and then in Kosova), until it will be replaced by Christianity or, to be more exact, Christian culture. Thus from one evil (the prohibition of religion in 1967) goodness will come. The Albanian nation will make a great historical correction that will accelerate its unity with its mother continent: Europe.[10]

As can be understood from the above, the conversion of Albanians to Islam is considered to be an historical “sin” by Kadare.

Kadare, who during communist and present days Albania is considered as a kind of ‘national father’ and the ‘public face’ of Albania in the West, can be considered without any doubt as the main architect of Islamophobia and Turkophobia of present Albania. The reverence that Enver Hoxha had for him, and the high political status that Kadare enjoys presently due to the powerful French lobbying and Sali Berisha’s public veneration for him,[11] have made Kadare a living saint of the post-communist thought of Albania. But his racist views towards Islam, Asia, Turks, Arabs, Gypsies, Vlachs and the rest, which often are used in the Albanian public school textbooks for educating the youth, have created many controversies and public outcries in Albania and Kosova,[12] since many people find them full of racism and Islamophobia.

In great part of his novels and writings, Kadare equates Islam with the sheer malevolence. While in his post-communist writings Europe has replaced the communist ideal that Kadare defended until 1989 and is used for projecting the ultimate good, Islam, Asia and the Turk remain his favorite malevolent. As Sulstarova has shown, in the works of Kadare the projected national enemy of the Albanians, during the era of communism but even after it is the Turk and his religion. In fact, Kadare divides the relation of Albanians with the Turks in these phases:

a. the moments of anguish – which are before the Turkish invasion.

b. the moments of barbarity – which start with the Turkish invasion and the Islamization of Albania.

c. the moments the revolt of civilization against barbarity – which start with the Albanian rebellions against the Turks.

d. the moments of dawn – which come with the separation of Albania from the Ottoman Empire.[13]

The Islamophobia that Kadare demonstrates in his treatment of the Turks is continuously connected to their religion: Islam. For example in his novel, Ura me Tri harqe, he describes the coming of the Ottoman Empire in Albania as: “… something dark … coming in the horizons: the Turkish state.’ The Turkish state which is portrayed as feudal and pure evil is connected with Islam. Kadare speaks of ‘The shadows of its minarets reaching us.”[14] Kadare portrays the Turks as people who bring a murky shadow upon Europe.[15] For him, the main aim that the Turk had against Europe and Albania (who is portrayed as its frontier guard) was to destroy the Albanians, make them Asians, and if they resisted, replace them with Arabs, so that the Albanian guards of European civility would cease to exist.[16]

The spirit of racism and Islamophobia within Kadare’s works has not died even in present times. His most recent essay “The European Identity of Albanians” (published in 2006) is another example of his literary use of Islamophobia. Here, through the use of racism and fears of present war on terrorism, he tries to convince Albanians that as Europeans they must totally be disconnected from Islam. Kadare reprimands the participation of Albania in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the attempts of a number of Albanian intellectuals to describe Albanians as Muslims. He attacks those who want to see Albania as part of the Muslim World and even the very prostration of Muslims during their prayers! According to Kadare, Albanians are only Europeans[17] and being European for Kadare means being the opposite of Islam. By dividing the world into two parts – the West and the rest – Kadare declares that Albania cannot be part of both Asia and Europe, but only Europe, and by extension Catholic Christianity.

For Kadare the Islam that the Ottomans brought to Albania was a special brand of Islam. The Ottomans, as he claims, brought in Albania an Islam that was far inferior to Catholic Christianity. He observes the inferiority of this Turkish Islam in arts which according to Kadare, were filled with homosexual and pedophile perversities. Kadare sees the Ottoman Islam as reactionary, credulous and backward. And because of its reactionary nature he argues that Islam gives refuge to tradition and, at present, to terrorism, unlike his perceived Christianity.[18]

The notion that Islam is contrary to Europe and modernity and is the foremost cause of Albania’s stagnation has been repeated time and again for the past seventeen years principally, by many other ex-communist intellectuals of Albania. This is, naturally reflected greatly in contemporary Albanian politics. The Socialist Party of Albania (Partia Socialiste e Shqipërisë) is in the vanguard of countering Islamic expression in Albania. Their officials who are mainly Orthodox Christians from the south, during their campaign against the Berisha administration in mid-1990’s frequently accused him of wanting to Islamize not only Albania, but all of Europe. When they took power in 1997 they launched a hysterical anti-Muslim campaign against foreign Muslim countries,[19] Albania’s membership in the OIC and the reconstruction of old mosques and madrasas that were closed or destroyed by the socialists 3 decades ago. The hierarchy of the Socialist Party in Albania has continuously seen Islam as one of the main reasons why Albania is not accepted by the “Christian” Europe. Neshat Tozaj, a leading exponent of the Socialists, declared in 1995 that:

While Albania is knocking at the doors of Europe, it is entering the Islamic League… The anathema of being an Islamic Country is hanging over Albania, an anathema that we are stamping on ourselves with a hot iron standing in our foreheads… while [our Skanderbeg] fought against the Ottoman Turks for a quarter of century and prevailed, not only to save Albania, but at the same time, by becoming a barrier for the Christian Europe.[20]

Tozaj’s belligerent remarks against OIC were cross-reference to an article published in Paris which labeled Albania as a repository of Islamic fundamentalism. Because of his perception of Islam being a malicious force in the world, Tozaj proposed a national referendum that would prove to the West that Muslims in Albania were a small and insignificant minority.

The most outspoken Socialist Party politician attacking the Islamic identity of Albanians in the recent years, has been Fatos Nano, who was the on and off prime minister of Albania from 1997 to 2005. When his party seized power from Berisha in 1997, he declared that his government would reverse the effects of the last 555 years of history – referring obviously to the Ottoman period and its present supporters. A year later he declared that his government would stomp out, without mercy, ‘political, ordinary and Islamic criminality’,[21] candidly equating Islam with a crime. In 2003, when the Muslims of Elbasan protested against the take over of their namazgah[22] properties by Nano’s government, he inflammatorily appealed to the people of Elbasan to oppose it, stating that if left with the choice to vote, ‘for the new namazgah or for the political ferexhes that we left in the past, for Kostandin Kristoforidhi or Haji Qamili – choose the former!’[23] As it can be understood from this text, Nano sees the ferexhes (the modest dress of Muslim women) and the place of the pro – Ottoman warrior Haji Qamil as belonging to the past. While he portrays modernity as being anti-hijab and lead by Christian nationalists such as Kostandin Kristoforidhi.

In 1998, when the Americans extradited a number of Arabs suspected for involvement in terrorist acts from Albania, the political Islamophobia reached a new crescendo in Albania, since the socialists used it for blaming Berisha as being connected with the international fundamentalism. The US administration’s war on terrorism was accompanied by an increase in Islamophobic tirades in the media, not only from the Socialist Party, but even from a number of American and Soros sponsored NGO’s that were operating in Albania. An example of this can be found in an article by Remzi Lani and Fabian Schmidt in Albanian Foreign Policy between Geography and History. [24] In it Lani who is director of the Albanian Media Institute[25] and board director of the Open Society Foundation,[26] and Schmidt, a German, give the impression that Berisha’s government is anti-American and anti-European since he placed Albania into the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

The role of Soros-sponsored NGO’s in encouraging Islamophobia in Albania can be noticed even in other instances. Here we can mention the MJAFT organization which through its magazine Mapo published the cartoons of Prophet Muhamed in November 2006.[27] However the most obvious and disturbing Soros sponsored individual on inciting Islamophobia in post-communist Albania has been the case of Piro Misha. After serving for a long time as one of the board directors of The Open Society Foundation in Tirana, Misha, whose organization ‘Instituti i Dialogut Publik & Komunikimit’ runs on Soros’ money, has generated many controversies in the Albanian press with his blatantly anti-Islamic remarks over the last ten years. He has continuously attacked Albania’s membership in the OIC,[28] called for the isolation of Albania’s Muslims from the rest of the Muslim world, for the safeguarding of what he labels ‘Albanian Islam’ from the ‘Arab Islam’ and moreover for the isolation of those that rejected America’s invasion of Iraq.

Unlike Kadare, who despises the old ‘Turkish Islam’ of the Ottomans, Misha is concerned with the ‘Arab Islam’, which, according to him, is replacing ‘Albanian Islam’ and threatening the national security of Albania. Like Kadare, Misha was a communist apparatchik in the past and wrote novels demonizing the Ottomans and defending communism.[29] However with the fall of communism, Misha, like Kadare, underwent somewhat of a paradigm shift. And now, the ultimate good for him is no longer communism but rather the “Christian” West, which is being threatened not by capitalism as it was in the good old days of Hoxha, but by the “Arab Islam”. Because Misha sees himself as the vigilante of the correct European culture in Albania, he perceives the “Arab Islam” which is popping up in Albania; in the way how Muslim men grow their beards and Muslim women wear headscarves, as a threat.[30] His articles have been instrumental on inciting Islamophobic tensions in the Albanian media as well as politics and have caused a number of leading Muslim officials to condemn his attacks.[31]

For Misha, Muslim ladies that wear headscarves are not doing this for religious purposes but rather, he argues, as a political statement. He thinks that this is done in same manner as Gandhi started his independence movement, by throwing away his British-tailored suite and wearing the traditional Indian dress, or how Mao prohibited European clothing, and how Khomeini imposed the covering of the women. For these reasons, Misha thinks that the beards and headscarf of Muslims, aim the disjointing of Albania from the West.[32] According to Misha the scarf-wearing women are using their dress as an anti-Western and anti-European statement, and using “religion for political mobilization.” For this reason he suggests that the state has to take over the management of Islam in Albania, in order of preserving the “Albanian Islam” from being contaminated with the “Arabian Islam”.[33]

The political manipulations that exploit Western fears of the perceived “foreign Islam” versus “our Islam” have been a theme that has dominated the Albanian press during the last ten years of Socialist Party rule. Individuals such as Piro Misha, Ilir Kulla, Mustafa Nano, Paskal Milo, Fatos Nano, Fatos Tarifa and Damian Gjiknuri are some of the names that have been in the forefront of Islamophobic expression in Albania, especially in dividing Islam into an “Albanian Islam” and an “Arab Islam”. Damian Gjiknuri – a high ranking Socialist Party official who served as Chief of Cabinet for the Minister of Public Order in 2005 – even composed a defectively organized thesis at the Naval Postgraduate School in California in June 2004, defending a long played out thesis of Kadare’s and the Socialists that “Albanians have suffered equally from Communism and Islam” and that Albania should not be part of the OIC.[34] The idea that Albania’s membership in the Organization of the Islamic Conference means the opposite of Europe is randomly expressed by high socialist officials of Albania, such as Fatos Tarifa,[35] who served as Ambassador of Albania in Netherlands and in the United States. But socialists such as Gjiknuri, claim even that the Islamic Community in Albania is suffering from an internal war for control – between the supporters of “Arab Islam” and those that want an “Albanian Islam.”[36] In his above quoted thesis, Gjiknuri suggests that Albanian authorities must intervene and prop up the “correct” version of Islam inside the Muslim Community of Albania – even that the Islam that people like Kadare, Gjiknuri and the Socialists want to create in Albania, is no Islam at all.

The fabrication of an “Albanian Islam” versus the “foreign Islam” is an invention that chiefly comes out of mainly Orthodox Christian controlling the Socialist Party of Albania nowadays. The “Albanian Islam” that the Islamophobes want Albania to have, is no Islam at all. As Fatos Tarifa declared in one of his interviews, where he was defending the attacks of Kadare against Islam in 2006, he described the Albanian Islam as a “Scotch or Whisky Islam”.[37] But while for Kadare, “Turkish Islam” is portrayed as the mother of all of evils who endangers to contaminate the “Albanian Islam”, for Piro Misha, Fatos Nano, Damian Gjiknuri and other socialist apparatchiks, the “Arabian Islam” is the dreadful jinny which must be contained in the bottle.

The temptation for creating the politically correct “Albanian Islam” led Ilir Kulla, who was the head of the committee of religious cults in Nano’s government in 2005, to openly express the desire of his government to isolate Albanian Muslims from the rest of the Muslim World in numerous occasions. When he began his work he declared that the Albanian state desired to no longer allow Albanian Muslims study in foreign countries which have cultural, ethnical and political differences with Albania.[38] While on another occasion he requested the state to take over the control of the Muslim Community of Albania,[39] even when other churches would have the right to operate as they desired.

While the above mentioned Islamophobes have dealt with the “Muslim Problem of Albania” by calling for the preservation or the creation of an “Albanian Islam” versus the so-called “foreign Islam”, Mustafa Nano, a socialist supporter and board member of The Open Society Foundation[40] recommended another solution in 2002. In an essay published in June 2002 he declared that there were no Muslims at all in Albania, and even the residue of Islam that was left in the country, will sooner or later be removed by the prevailing West:

‘Our Western rulers with little strategic effort and the help of some rewarding mechanisms, be them forceful and violent, could very sharply return Albanians into their ancient religion. But nowadays there is no need for Western action. The process of de-Islamization is naturally happening, not only because of an elitary desire for deleting this religious identity and rediscovering ourselves (in Europe), but also because of the lovely pressure of the rich and powerful West.’[41]

The feeling that Islam is something utterly malevolent can be appreciated by reading the productions that the Albanian media and political parties have produced in post-9/11 Albania. The Zëri i Popullit newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Socialist Party, has been continuously attacking the leader of the Democratic Party of Albania (Partia Demokratike e Shqipërisë), Sali Berisha with terms like “Muslim Berisha”. The mayor of Tirana, Edi Rama, has also compared Tirana and the political situation of Albania as a process of ‘Kandaharization’ and accused Berisha as having his supporters, generals coming from Libya and Syria. While Sali Berisha on the other hand labels his opponents with names of Islamic terrorists. Thus he called the leader of the Socialist Movement for Integration (Lëvizja Socialiste për Integrim), ex-prime minister Ilir Meta, “Sheikh Metullah”, the director of the national television as “Mullah Omar” and the mayor of Tirana, Edvin Yassin Al Kadi. Ervin Hatibi, a well known Muslim publicist has called the negative connotations that Islam gets from the quarreling parties of our media, as the process of forceful Islamization of the opponent.[42]

Islamophobia is mediatically produced in Albania even by Catholic intellectuals of Northern Albania and their media, who perceive the fact that the majority of Albanians are Muslims as one of the greatest tragedies of their religion and nation. After 1991 they have continuously attacked the Islamization of Albanians and the membership of Albania in OIC. The range of the Islamic evil for the Catholics varies from their comparison of Islam with communism,[43] up to relating the Organization of the Islamic Conference with Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda.[44] An accusation that the Catholics label against the Muslims of Albania very often is that they are not real Muslims, but victims of a violent conversion in Islam by the Turks, and thereby claiming that Christianity is the real cultural identity of the Albanians.[45]

The way in which Islam is equated with evil can be grasped even by the titles of several newspaper articles marketed aggressively in Albania. Titles like: “The Islamic danger for Albania”, “Islam has spread with terror and violence in Albania”, “Albania is a depot of Islamic ammunition”, “Albanian Muslims are descendants from the harems of the sultans”, “Allah destroys churches”, “The sons of Allah are divided”, can make even the most casual observer understand the towering level of ignorance and hatred about Islam, rooted in post-communist Albania, by Christian and ex–Communist fundamentalists.

President Alfred Moisiu and the Muslim Forum of Albania

The greatest Islamophobic assault yet launched against the Muslims of post-communist Albania was that of the November 10th, 2005 made by the then President of Albania, Alfred Moisiu, during a speech given at the Oxford Forum entitled: “Inter-religious tolerance in the tradition of Albanians”. In his speech, the president said among other things that “Islam in Albania is not an original religion, but rather was brought into the country by the Ottoman army…” and, “Islam in Albania was not spread at the time of its origin and it is not a residing religion, but a notion inherited in the languages and religious literature of those who brought it” and still further, “as a norm, Islam in Albania is a superficial one. If you dig just a little into any Albanian you will uncover his Christian roots.”

The president went on saying that “You will find fifteen centuries of Christianity in every Muslim of Albania” and that “it is not true that in our country there is a majority Muslim population” but “from the viewpoint of a religious timeline, all Albanians are Christian”. The president also said that “one can conclude that until the appearance of the Ottoman political, military and religious factors, for the average Albanian, the important thing was being a devout Christian”.

President Moisiu’s affront against Islam in claiming it nothing more than a remnant of Ottoman administration, his declaration that the Muslims of Albania are not Muslims at all, and that all Albanians are Christians at heart, infuriated the newly formed advocacy organization – the Muslim Forum of Albania. The Muslim Forum protested Mosiu’s speech in all the major media of Albania and requested an immediate apology from the president.[46]

Despite the outlandishness of such statements coming from the head of state of a multi-religious nation, Moisiu never expressed regret for his insensitive words but said that he was misunderstood. However the protests of the Muslim Forum of Albania were a new development on the fight against Islamophobia and discrimination in the history of post-communist Albania. The protests of the Muslim Forum were accompanied by an enormous number of letters, articles, emails, and phone calls directed at all media outlets in Albania, the president, international organizations, embassies and mailing lists. However the American State Department[47] and other western organizations that claim to defend religious freedoms in the world, failed to take note of Albanian Muslims’ concerns with their devoted pro-Bushist president.

Because Islamophobia reached such intolerable levels in the years 2005, the Muslim Forum of Albania has initiated a process of monitoring anti-Muslim hate and Islamophobic speech in the Albanian media and has continuously set the agenda for responsibility and change in the Albanian public opinion. The Muslim Forum of Albania continuously condemns Islamophobic assaults, such as Ilir Kulla’s desire for the state to break its laissez-faire approach to religion and intervene directly in the internal matters of the Muslim Community, rejected the verbal abuse of Edi Rama – Tirana’s mayor – with the late Hafiz Sabri Koçi[48], denounced the Danish Cartoons,[49] the blatant racism and Islamophobia of Ismail Kadare[50] etc.

Given that after 9/11 a number of foreign citizens of Muslim origin residing in Albania have unjustly been abducted, held without charge and deported from the country, the Muslim Forum has appealed to Muslims living in Albania through its website and conferences that be they Albanians or foreigners, to contact the Forum and seek justice.[51]

The Muslim Forum of Albania has been resolute in monitoring Islamophobia, even when it comes to the behavior of international organizations, such as the European Union. On June 8th 2007, when an Albanian journalist based in Brussels, alluded that the European Union is not fond of Albania because of its Muslim population and that Albania will never be allowed to join EU, the Muslim Forum reacted resolutely.[52] Its affiliated journalists contacted the offices of European Union and the chairperson of the European Parliament’s Delegation to Southeastern Europe and asked for their reassurance that the religious identity of the Albanians is not a problem for the European integration of the Albanians.[53]

The Muslim Forum has raised its concerns even with the American Embassy in Tirana over the attempts to transform the Fatih Mosque into a church by the Institute of Cultural Monuments with funding from the United States Embassy.[54] And lately it has raised concern with the present Democratic government over the issue of the identity cards and the preservation of separation of church and state in the face of certain attempts to Christianize the Albanian national identity.[55]

With its conviction that Islamophobia is a bigoted and ill-educated viewpoint towards Islam, Muslims as well as a violation of basic human rights, the Muslim Forum of Albania is dedicated to fight racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia in all forms, throughout Albanian society. Since its formation and its public reactions, the Muslim Forum has noticed a decrease in Islamophobic harassment in Albania. It believes that by engaging Muslims and Islamophobes in peaceful public debate, and demanding that those who break the law be brought to courts of law, and calling for an immediate end to the political usage of Islamophobia, the Muslims of Albania will live as free citizens, without the fear of being labeled as terrorist fanatics, anti-European and anti-American bigots and made to feel as unwelcome aliens in their own homeland because of their faith and origin.

[1] Islamophobia and its consequences on young people, Seminar Report, Council of Europe, 2004, p. 6

[2] Muslims In Western Europe After 9/11: Why the term Islamophobia is more a predicament than an explanation, available online at: http://www.euro-islam.info/PDFs/ChallengeProjectReport.pdf%20-4.pdf

[3] ibid

[4] I am thankful for this definition to Gyorgy Lederer with whom I discussed this paper.

[5] Karen Armstrong, Mohammed, a biography of the Prophet, Jehona Study Center, 2006, pp. 30 – 50

[6] Enis Sulstarova, Arratisje nga Lindja, Tirane, Dudaj 2006, pp. 124 – 125

[7] Ibid, pp. 127 – 128

[8] For more consult his book: Enis Sulstarova, Arratisje nga Lindja, Tirane, Dudaj 2006

[9] For Ismail Kadare’s attack on religion consult his article: Realizimi socialist-arti i madh i revolucionit, Zeri i Popullit, 13 janar 1974

[10] Ismail Kadare, Nga Nëntori në Nëntor, 1991, quoted by Rexhep Qosja in Gazeta SHQIP, 15.06.2006

[11] Sali Berisha declared in 2006 that Ismail Kadare is a modern Rilindas (national saint) and the national honor of Albania.

[12] A strong denunciation of Ismail Kadare was made recently by the Kosovar academician Rexhep Qosja. His book Realiteti i Shperfillur, TOENA 2006 denounces what Qosja calls the geographical racism of Kadare. Abdi Baleta, the Muslim Forum of Albania, the organizations of the Aromunians of Albania and a number of other organizations have denounced in the recent years the hatred and racism of Kadare as well.

[13] Enis Sulstarova, Arratisje nga Lindja, Tirane, Dudaj 2006, pp. 135 – 136

[14] Ismail Kadare, Ura me tri harqe, Shtëpia botuese “Onufri”, Tiranë 2004, p. 130

[15] Enis Sulstarova, Arratisje nga Lindja, Tirane, Dudaj 2006, p. 221

[16] Ibid. p. 150

[17] Ismail KADARE, Identiteti Evropian i Shqiptarëve, 30 March 2006

[18] Ibid

[19] See: Albanian Islam – Development and Disruptions, by Rajwantee Lakshman-Lepain at: KARL KASER FRANK KRESSING, Albania – A country in transition. Aspects of changing identities in a south-east European country, Baden-Baden: Nomos-Verlag, 2002

[20] Tozaj, N. (1995). “Shqipëria, një depo e municionit islamik?” Zëri i Popullit, Tiranë. 10.01.1995.

[21] Fatos Nano, Koha Jonë, 25.01.1998

[22] Namazgahs are huge pieces of land where Muslims since the Ottoman times organize their Id – Bayram prayers.

[23] Nano, ne Elbasan: Investuam 110 milione USD, Gazeta Korrieri, 4. Sep. 2003

[24] Remzi Lani and Fabian Schmidt, Albanian Foreign Policy between Geography and History, The International Spectator, Volume XXXIII No. 2 (April-June 1998), Online at: http://www.ciaonet.org/olj/iai/iai_98lar01.html

‘…At the very time when he was striving for the integration of his country into Europe, he suddenly took the controversial decision to accede to the Islamic Conference. Initially Berisha had come to power as a pro-American; in the end he left it as an anti-American.’

[25] The Albanian Media Institute can be accessed online at: http://www.institutemedia.org/. It is one of the main receivers of Soros’ money in Albania.

[26] The names of the present board directors of Soros’ Open Society Foundation can be found here: http://www.soros.al/osfa_annual_report_2005_2.pdf .

[27] Kristi Pinderi, Gazetari qe tronditi boten, flet për MAPO, Online at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/alb-muslimnews/message/4242

[28] Piro MISHA Implikimet e pjesemarrjes ne Konferencen Islamike, 09 Shkurt 2006, online at: http://www.korrieri.com/index.php

[29] See Piro Misha. (1981) Per mallin e tokes. Tirane: Naim Frasheri.

[30] Pirro Misha , Toleranca fetare apo papergjegjshmeri?, Gazeta Shekulli, 10.01.2003

[31] See The Bayram speech of the Mufti of Elbasan given in TV Klan, February 2003

[32] Pirro Misha , Toleranca fetare apo papergjegjshmeri?, Gazeta Shekulli, 10.01.2003

[33] Ibid

[34] Damian Gjiknuri, (June 2004), Albania’s Counter-Terrorism Policy Options: Finding a Strategy of Common Sense, Available online at: http://handle.dtic.mil/100.2/ADA434661, P. 14

[35] Carolina Seminar on Comparative Islamic Studies, “Albania, Kosovo, and Islam”, a presentation by Dr. Fatos Tarifa, Albanian Ambassador the Netherlands, November 17, 1998

[36] Damian Gjiknuri, op. cit. p. 23

[37] Fatos Tarifa, 3 pyetje 3 përgjigje, Tirana Observer, 2006, 17 may 2006

[38] Ilir KULLA, Pse-te e universitetit islam!, 23. 01. 2005, Online: http://www.korrieri.com/index.php?k=1&i=9782

[39] Press Release, 03/06/2005, MFA Denounces the Islamophobia shown on 2.06.2005 in Vizion +, Online at: http://www.forumimusliman.org/english/pershtyp1.html

[40] Awful Islamophobes of Albania like Piro Misha, Remzi Lani, Mustafa Nano, Kristi Pinderi, Maks Velo etc have surprisingly great support from Soros foundation in Albania. More information on their sponsorization and cooperation with Soros foundation can be found at: http://www.soros.al/osfa_annual_report_2005_2.pdf and at: http://www.soros.al/nosa/anetaret.htm

[41] Nano, M. (2002). “Në kërkim të rrënjëve, ose në kërkim të vetvetes”. Gazeta Shekulli. Tiranë. 08.06.2002.

[42] Hatibi, E. (2005). Republick of Albanania. Tiranë: Ora. Pp. 233-8

[43] See: At Zef Pllumi, intervista e fundit. Online at: http://www.shekulli.com.al/news/53/ARTICLE/16145/2007-09-27.html where Zef Pllumi declares that the Albanian communism was Islamic fundamentalism.

[44] Zef Brozi, Terrorizmi e Fondamentalizmi: Kercenim gjithnje aktual per boten demokratike dhe per Shqiperine, USA, Shtator 2006. Online: http://www.mirditaonline.net/terrorizmidhefundametalizmi.html

[45] Tritan Shehu, IL CARATTERE PARTICOLARE DEL DIALOGO RELIGIOSO IN ALBANIA E

LE RADICI DELLA SUA ESISTENZA, In Conference ‘Per Un Mondo Senza Violenza’, Napoli, 22.10.2007. Online: http://www.santegidio.org/uer/2007/int_1599_IT.htm

[46] Press Release, 11/11/2005, The President of Albania, Alfred Moisiu, insults the Muslims, available online at: http://www.forumimusliman.org/english/pershtyp7.html

[47] See: Albania: International Religious Freedom Report 2006: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2006/71364.htm

[48] Press Release, The Muslim Forum of Albania rejects the irony of Tirana’s Mayor with the late Haji Hafiz Sabri Koçi. online at: http://www.forumimusliman.org/english/sabrirama.html

[49] Press Release, The Danish Cartoons Insult the Feelings of Muslims and Incite Islamophobia. Online at: http://www.forumimusliman.org/english/danish.html

[50] Press Release, The Muslim Forum is disturbed from the racism and islamophobia of Ismail Kadare. Online at: http://www.forumimusliman.org/english/kadare.html

[51] See for example in the website of the Forum, the section “Report Cases of Discrimination”: http://www.forumimusliman.org/english/raporto.html

[52] Press Release, 08-June-07, The Muslim Forum of Albania welcomes President Bush and expresses its distress about the insinuations on the European Union in our media. Online at: http://www.forumimusliman.org/english/baku.html

[53] See the interview of O. Jazexhi with Doris Pack, Pack: Shqipëria myslimane s’është problem për BE published at Panorama Newspaper, June 9, 2007

[54] Press Release 26/10/2005 , The Muslim Forum of Albania is against the conversion of the Fatih Mosque into a Church, Online at: http://www.forumimusliman.org/english/pershtyp6.html

[55] Press Release, 19/07/2007, FMSH shqetësohet nga fushata kristjanizuese dhe abuzimi me Nënë Terezën, Online at: http://www.forumimusliman.org/tereza2.html

==========

IT WAS HELD THE COMMEMORATIVE CONFERENCE ON THE OCCASION OF THE 200TH BIRTH ANNIVERSARY OF KHODJA HASAN TAHSIN

Jubilee of the 100th anniversary of the Albanian state has promoted this year holding more cultural and scientific activities in commemoration of the Albanian personalities, who have had a significant contribution in shaping and development of the national idea, as well as the formation and strengthening of the Albanian National Movement, which culminated in the act of the Declaration of Independence in 1912. Based on this pattern, but first of all from of love for one of the greatest personalities precursor of the Albanian National Renaissance, Albanian-Turkish Cultural Association “H.Hasan Tahsin “and the Albanian Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (AIITC) organized in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports (MTCYS) a commemorative conference on the occasion of the 200th birth anniversary of Hoxha Tahsin.

2The conferernce entitled “Khodja Hasan Tahsin Efendi the foregoing of patriotism and knowledge” took place on Saturday, dt.20.10.2012 in the Hall “TeftaTashkoKoco” in MTCYS. In this conference there were present the President of PDIU Mr. TahirMuhedini, Vice Minister of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports Mr.AbayHado, Vice Minister of Education Mr. ArdianTana, representatives of the diplomatic corps accredited in Tirana, etc.

3The conference was opened by the Vice President of the Association “H. Hasan Tahsin “, Prof. Dritan Spahiu, who spoke about the importance of the personality of Khodja Tahsin as a representative model of the scholar and patriot, which has led them to bear his name as their association and strive continuously through activities and publications further elevate the image of the personality. Then, Mr.Spahiu passed word tothe historian and folklorist Ibrahim D. Hoxha, in order to make a 20-year overview of the activity of the “Khodja Hasan Tahsini”. Mr. Hoxha summed up in his speech all the efforts that ​​this association has made during these 20 years of its work, to put the name of Khodja Tahsinwhere it belongs, in the pantheon of the Albanian national personalities. The overview coupled with a photographic presentation revealed the best hard work and difficulties that have passed this society activists to achieve their noble goal.

 

Then the conferences is attended by maintaining a scientific paper by Dr. Genciana Abazi (Egro). It unveiled a multifaceted personality scientific aspects of H. Tahsin, his efforts in the field of English linguistics, as one of the promoters of the birth of a special alphabet for the Albanians, a different alphabet from neighboring peoples, in order to maintain the Albanian identity. According to her, the alphabet of Tahsin was unique and original, but failed to find due to the difficulty of spreading his printing press of the time.

5The third speech was that of Dr. Ramiz Zekaj, which addressed the relationship science –religion due the worldview of Hasan Tahsin. According to Dr. Zekaj, Tahsini was “the leader of the first state university in the Ottoman Sultanate and the” Xhemijet-Ilmijje Arnavudijjê “(Society ofAlbanian Scholars or Albanian Scientific Assembly), an institution that was used as “Dar-ul Funùn” (university). Thus, Khodja Hasan Tahsin Efendi became and remained the first and the only Albanian who organized and led an international university – the ottoman one, and was hoists and leader of both the superior nodes Albanian wisdom: “Academy of Sciences and the University of Albania’s first capital of the then Ottoman sultanate, Istanbul.” He also, he emphasized: “The scientific explanation of natural phenomena H. Tahsini based on faith, who connected with the universality of the divine; rather as would happen later in communist Albania, where some Tahsin researchers attempting to interpret the teachingshis alleged he was “against” God and his project was essential secularization of all knowledge and science. Tahsini owed ​​to the great success of his knowledge that he had the sciences of the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He is considered as a treatise on the Quran and sunnah science achievements as a system of laws.”

6Then the conference is followed by the words of Mrs. Manushaqe Salianji and Mr. Rasim Bebo, member of H. Tahsin Association. They emphasized particularly the worldview parts of Tahsin and his activity as a patriot. As one of the organizers  of the meeting, it was also the Vice Minister of Tourism, Culture, Youth and Sports, Mr. Abbas Hado who spoke in this conference. He thanked the organizers and sponsors of this event, stressing that the personality of Hasan Tahsin is one of the brightest personalities of Albania, and in a range with him is the outstanding painter Kole Idromeno from Parga, Chameria. Mr. Hado said that with the efforts of all, the President has honored the personality of H. Tahsin with the highest title “Honor of the Nation”, which places him in the pantheon of national personalities. At the conclusion of the conference, for the guests there was a cocktail.

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