How to reform Muslims of Albania? Challenges of Balkan Muslims (Part 6)
Continued from Part 5
Why to reform Muslims of Albania?
The other Balkan Muslim countries mentioned in the previous articles definitely need support from the Islamic world particularly Turkey. But it is highly recommended to focus on Muslims of Albania as it is the main Balkan Muslim country. Today, it’s an official candidate for European Union’s Membership. It’s also a member of NATO, United Nations, World Bank, OIC, WTO, UNESCO, OSCE, and COE.
Muslims are in majority in Albania. Although, the Council of Europe has declared the figure 58.79% Muslims out of 2.83 million total populations in Albania as unreliable. It is estimated that 3 million Albanian population include seventy percent people of Muslim origin.
Enver Hoxha’s iron rule brainwashed Muslims of Albania
But Albania has a very small number of practicing Muslims. It’s the main issue. This issue stems from the strict atheist and Stalinist regime under Mr, Enver Hoxha for the second half of the 20th century.
After Enver Hoxha’s takeover of Albania in 1944, his communist regime launched a major attack on religion. He banned the following of religion in the constitution, jailed and murdered religious leaders. He didn’t only ban religion but he also demolished mosques and churches. Also, he disallowed private property and traveling of Albanians abroad too.
Enver Hoxha’s forty years of the iron rule which came to end at his death in 1985 made Albania the most secretive and isolated country in the world. The younger generation discovered Islam only after the Fall of communism in 1992 through overseas Islamic charities and the Islamic community.
Albania was strictly atheist under the Stalinist regime that was in place for the second half of the 20th century. When communism collapsed, overseas Islamic charities came, largely from the Arab peninsula and north-eastern Africa, to assist the Muslim community. As communists destroyed religious infrastructure, and banned public worship, therefore, the Islamic community remained disorganized and short of resources. Albanian Muslim community badly needed funds but when the foreign funds came they were not organized for them.
Bringing Albanian Muslims closer to true peaceful Islam
Today religious harmony and peaceful coexistence are needed among Albanians. Roman and Ottoman’s occupation of Albania for centuries kept it religiously diverse but it remained ethnically a homogeneous nation. In the last century, religion has been kept away from politics and society.
But the tarnished Muslim Identity is needed to be preserved to prepare a ground for the coming generation’s successful future.
The Albanian Muslims are also scattered across other Balkan countries. A weak Muslim community in Albania will discourage others out-side the country because it is their main center. Therefore, the Albanian Muslim community must develop a great intellectual capacity to understand and deliver the true spirit of Islam. The Muslims of Albania with the help of other Muslim countries need to establish quality cultural, religious, and educational institutions. Civil
society organizations need to hold seminars, conferences to focus on the identity of Muslims in Albania and their social life. The effective use of media in this regard can be very helpful to make the Muslims of Albania aware of their forgotten religion Islam.
Turkish colleges in Albania are engaged with both religious and educational organizations but without involving the Albanian Muslim community. Turkey needs to come forward to support the establishment of great centers of Islamic theology and Madrasa organizations in all of the Albanian cities. It must involve Muslim communities in Albania for their ownership in establishing these madrasas. The religious-demographic indications would have been different today if such initiatives had been taken before.
(To be continued)
(Written by Ijaz Ali, a freelance journalist from Pakistan. He holds a Master Degree in European Studies from Germany and can be reached at [email protected])