Lessons from Spain: Challenges of Balkan Muslims (Part 7)
Continued from Part 6
Investing in Balkan Muslims
The religious, cultural, and political situation of the Balkan Muslims has been discussed in the previous episodes of this series. In the light of the facts and figures presented it is concluded that strengthening the Muslim identity in the Balkan region is inevitable. Balkan Muslims from Bulgaria, Greece to North Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and most importantly Albania need real investments.
The investments are needed in different areas. In education, Islamic universities of Islamic teaching and research of high standard can help protect the identity of Balkan Muslims. The establishment of institutions like Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egyp, and Darul Uloom Deoband of the subcontinent can shape the future of Islam in the Balkan region.
Similarly, Muslim students can be sent to various Islamic countries to specialize in Islamic education and research. And the existing institutions in the Balkan region, madrasas, Islamic organizations, and faculties of Islamic disciplines need to be strengthened.
Need for unity
Pan-Slavism, world wars, and the anti-religion Communist regime distorted the very identity of the Muslims of the Balkan region. Their culture was wiped-out and they were left disorganized internally. And their external links with the Islamic world were cut off. Their solidarity was tarnished and one could not believe that indigenous Muslims ever lived in Balkan Europe.
Balkan Muslims can get inspiration from their history of the Ottoman Empire for their unity. The clash between Arab and Turkish influence can further divide the Balkans. The Baktashi and Sunni Muslims also must not let others separate them as different religious groups which could endanger the demographic status of Balkan Muslims.
A powerful media channel can play an important role in the Balkan Muslim’s cultural unity. Pro-Jewish and Pro-Christian media foundations are trying to eliminate Ottoman-Islamic cultural linkage in the Balkan region. In such a scenario, the establishment of a powerful TV channel for Muslims can help preserve their Islamic image and heritage.
Lessons from Spain for Balkan Muslims
The Berber Muslims conquered the Iberian Peninsula in 711 by crossing the strait of Gibraltar under Tariq ibn Ziyad’s leadership. This was the first time that Islam reached the continent of Europe which is modern-day Spain. In Spain, Muslims lived for almost eight hundred years. The Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived peacefully for a very long period in Spain. The peaceful coexistence was due to the true spirit of religious tolerance derived from Islamic Law.
But When the Christians attacked Al-Andalus, the rest of the Muslim world didn’t bother about the Muslims’ expulsion and their assimilation.
It’s shocking today that there is no organized Muslim community in Spain although Muslims ruled there for hundreds of years. The Muslim civilization has been erased. There are no signs of Muslim identity in Spain.
The Balkan Muslims and the rest of the Islamic world can learn from the history of Muslims in Spain. Culture and identity require greats efforts for their preservation. Its high time that Balkan Muslims and Turkey realize this fact and plan to pass on Islam to their coming generations.
(Written by Ijaz Ali, a freelance journalist. He holds a Master Degree in European Studies from Germany and can be reached at [email protected])