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Islam in Albania
Sunni and BektashiShia clergymen alongside Albanian patriots holding an Albanian flag in 1914
Islam in Albania mainly arrived during the Ottoman period when the majority of Albanians over time converted to Islam and in particular two of its denominations: Sunni and Bektashi (a Shia-Sufi order). Following the Albanian National Awakening (Rilindja) tenets and the deemphasizing of religion during the 20th century, the democratic, monarchic later the communist governments followed a systematic dereligionization of the Albanian nation and national culture. Due to this policy as with all other faiths in the country, Islam underwent radical changes. Decades of state atheism which ended in 1991 brought a decline in religious practice in all traditions. The post-communist period and the lifting of legal and other government restrictions on religion allowed Islam to revive through institutions that generated new infrastructure, literature, educational facilities, international transnational links and other social activities. According to 2011 census, 58.79% of Albania's population adheres to Islam, making it the largest religion in the country. For contemporary Muslims in Albania, Muslim religious practices tend to be minimal. The remaining population belongs either to Christianity, which is the second largest religion in the country practiced by 16.99% of the population or are irreligious.
Conversion and Consolidation (15th-18th centuries)
Albania first came into contact with Islam in the 9th century when Muslim Arabs raided the eastern Adriatic. Islam was first introduced to Albania in the 15th century after the Ottoman conquest of the area. During the 17th and 18th century Albanians in large numbers converted to Islam, often to escape higher taxes levied on Christian subjects. As Muslims, some Albanians attained important political and military positions within the Ottoman Empire and culturally contributed to the wider Muslim world.
National Awakening (19th and early 20th centuries)
By the 19th century Albanians were divided into three religious groups. Catholic Albanians who had some Albanian ethno-linguistic expression in schooling and church due to Austro-Hungarian protection and Italian clerical patronage. Orthodox Albanians under the Patriarchate of Constantinople had liturgy and schooling in Greek and toward the late Ottoman period mainly identified with Greek national aspirations. Muslim Albanians during this period formed around 70% of the overall Balkan Albanian population in the Ottoman Empire with an estimated population of more than a million. With the rise of the Eastern Crisis, Muslim Albanians became torn between loyalties to the Ottoman state and the emerging Albanian nationalist movement. Islam, the Sultan and the Ottoman Empire were traditionally seen as synonymous in belonging to the wider Muslim community. the Albanian nationalist movement advocated self-determination and strived to achieve socio-political recognition of Albanians as a separate people and language within the state.
Wars and socio-political instability resulting in increasing identification with the Ottoman Empire amongst some Muslims within the Balkans during the late Ottoman period made the terms Muslim and Turk synonymous. In this context, Muslim Albanians of the era were conferred and received the term Turk, despite preferring to distance themselves from ethnic Turks. This practice has somewhat continued amongst Balkan Christian peoples in contemporary times who still refer to Muslim Albanians as Turks, Turco-Albanians, with often pejorative connotations and historic negative socio-political repercussions. These geo-political events nonetheless pushed Albanian nationalists, many Muslim, to distance themselves from the Ottomans, Islam and the then emerging pan-Islamic Ottomanism of Sultan Abdulhamid II. Another factor overlaying these concerns during the Albanian National Awakening (Rilindja) period were thoughts that Western powers would only favour Christian Balkan states and peoples in the anti Ottoman struggle. During this time Albanian nationalists conceived of Albanians as a European people who under Skanderbeg resisted the Ottoman Turks that later subjugated and cut the Albanians off from Western European civilisation.Albanian nationalism overall was a reaction to the gradual breakup of the Ottoman Empire and a response to Balkan and Christian national movements that posed a threat to an Albanian population that was mainly Muslim. Muslim (Bektashi) Albanians were heavily involved with the Albanian National Awakening producing many figures like Faik Konitza, Ismail Qemali, Midhat Frashëri, Shahin Kolonja and others advocating for Albanian interests and self-determination.
During the late Ottoman period, Muslims inhabited compactly the entire mountainous and hilly hinterland located north of the Himarë, Tepelenë, Këlcyrë and Frashëri line that encompasses most of the Vlorë, Tepelenë, Mallakastër, Skrapar, Tomorr and Dishnicë regions. There were intervening areas where Muslims lived alongside Albanian speaking Christians in mixed villages, towns and cities with either community forming a majority or minority of the population. In urban settlements Muslims were almost completely a majority in Tepelenë and Vlorë, a majority in Gjirokastër with a Christian minority, whereas Berat, Përmet and Delvinë had a Muslim majority with a large Christian minority. A Muslim population was also located in Konispol and some villages around the town. The Ottoman administrative sancaks or districts of Korçë and Gjirokastër in 1908 contained a Muslim population that numbered 95,000 in contrast to 128,000 Orthodox inhabitants. Apart from small and spread out numbers of Muslim Romani, Muslims in these areas that eventually came to constitute contemporary southern Albania were all Albanian speaking Muslims. In southern Albania during the late Ottoman period being Albanian was increasingly associated with Islam, while from the 1880s the emerging Albanian National Movement was viewed as an obstacle to Hellenism within the region. Some Orthodox Albanians began to affiliate with the Albanian National movement causing concern for Greece and they worked together with Muslim Albanians regarding shared social and geo-political Albanian interests and aims. In central and southern Albania, Muslim Albanian society was integrated into the Ottoman state. It was organised into a small elite class owning big feudal estates worked by a large peasant class, both Christian and Muslim though few other individuals were also employed in the military, business, as artisans and in other professions. While northern Albanian society was little integrated into the Ottoman world, it was instead organised through a tribal structure of clans (fis) of whom many were Catholic with others being Muslim residing in mountainous terrain that Ottomans often had difficulty in maintaining authority and control. When religious conflict occurred it was between clans of opposing faiths, while within the scope of clan affiliation, religious divisions were sidelined. Shkodër was inhabited by a Muslim majority with a sizable Catholic minority.
Realising that the collapse of Ottoman rule through military defeat in the Balkans was imminent, Albanians represented by Ismail Qemali declared Independence from the Ottoman Empire on 28 November 1912 in Vlorë. International recognition of Albanian independence entailed the imposition of a Christian monarch which alongside internal political power struggles generated a failed Muslim uprising (1914) in central Albania that sought to restore Ottoman rule. During World War one, northern, central and south-central Albania came under Austro-Hungarian occupation. In the census of 1916-18 conducted by Austro-Hungarian authorities, the results showed that Muslims in the regions of Dibër, Lumë and Gorë were over 80% of the population. In the western part of the mountainous areas, Shkodër and in the mountains east of the lake were areas that contained a large Muslim population. In central Albania, the area from the Mat region to the Shkumbini river mouth toward Kavajë encompassing the districts of Tiranë, Peqin, Kavajë and Elbasan the population was mainly Muslim. In the area of Berat Muslims were a majority population with an Orthodox minority, while south of Elbasan Muslims were a plurality alongside a significant Orthodox population. In the region of Gramsh Muslims were a majority except for two people and in the southern Peqin area only Muslims were present. Muslims also were a majority population in the Mallakastër region alongside a small Orthodox minority. The experience of World War One, concerns over being partitioned and loss of power made the Muslim Albanian population support Albanian nationalism and the territorial integrity of Albania. An understanding emerged between most Sunni and Bektashi Albanians that religious differences needed to be sidelined for national cohesiveness. Whereas an abandonment of pan-Muslim links abroad was viewed in the context of securing support internationally for and maintaining independence, though some Muslim Albanian clergy were against disavowing ties with the wider Muslim world.
Interwar period (1919-39): State interference and reforms
From the early days of interwar Albania and due to Albania's heterogeneous religious makeup, Albania's political leadership defined Albania as without an official religion. Muslim Albanians at that time formed around 70% of the total population of 800,000 and Albania was the only Muslim country in Europe. In the former Ottoman districts of Korçë and Gjirokastër forming southern Albania, the share of the Muslim population increased in 1923 to 109,000 in contrast to 114,000 Orthodox and by 1927 Muslims were 116,000 to 112,000 Orthodox. From 1920 until 1925 a four-member governing regency council from the four religious denominations (Sunni, Bektashi, Catholic, Orthodox) was appointed. Albanian secularist elites pushed for a reform of Islam as the process of Islamic religious institutions were nationalised and the state increasingly imposed its will upon them. At the first Islamic National Congress (1923) the criteria for delegates attending was that being a cleric was unimportant and instead patriots with a liberal outlook were favoured alongside some delegates being selected by the state. Government representatives were present at the congress. Following the government program of reforms, the Albanian Islamic congress in Tirana decided to deliberate and reform some Islamic traditional practices adopted from the Ottoman period with the reasoning of allowing Albanian society the opportunity to thrive. The measures adopted by the congress was a break with the Ottoman Caliphate and to establish local Muslim structures loyal to Albania, banning polygamy (most of the Muslim Albanian population was monogamous) and the mandatory wearing of veil (hijab) by women in public. A new form of prayer was also implemented (standing, instead of the traditional salat ritual).
As with the congress, the attitudes of Muslim clerics were during the interwar period monitored by the state who at times appointed and dismissed them at will. Amongst those were the abolition of Sharia law and replacement with Western law that made Muslims in Albania come under government control while the Quran was translated into Albanian and criticized for its inaccuracies. After prolonged debate amongst Albanian elites during the interwar era and increasing restrictions, the wearing of the veil in 1937 was banned in legislation by Zog. Throughout the interwar period, the Albanian intellectual elite often undermined and depreciated Sunni Islam, whereas Sufi Islam and its various orders experienced an important period of promising growth. After independence, ties amongst the wider Sufi Bektashi community in former Ottoman lands waned. The Bektashi order in 1922 at an assembly of 500 delegates renounced ties with Turkey. In 1925 the Bektashi Order whose headquarters were in Turkey moved to Tiranë to escape Atatürk's secularising reforms and Albania would become the center of Bektashism where there were 260 tekes present. In 1929, the Bektashi order severed its ties with Sunnism and by 1937 Bektashi adherents formed around 27% of the Muslim population in Albania. Apart from Bektashis, there were other main Sufi orders present in Albania during the interwar period such as the Halvetis, Qadiris, Rufais and Tijaniyyah.
World War Two (1939-45)
Former Sulejman Pasha Mosque and Muslim graveyard of Tiranë destroyed during World War Two and its minaret in 1967
On 7 April 1939, Italy headed by Benito Mussolini after prolonged interest and overarching sphere of influence during the interwar period invaded Albania. Of the Muslim Albanian population, the Italians attempted to gain their sympathies by proposing to build a large mosque in Rome, though the Vatican opposed this measure and nothing came of it in the end. The Italian occupiers also won Muslim Albanian sympathies by causing their working wages to rise. Mussolini's son in law Count Ciano also replaced the leadership of the Sunni Muslim community, which had recognized the Italian regime in Albania with clergy that aligned with Italian interests, with an easily controlled "Moslem Committee" organization, and Fischer notes that "the Moslem community at large accepted this change with little complaint". Most of the Bektashi order and its leadership were against the Italian occupation and remained an opposition group. Fischer suspects that the Italians eventually tired of the opposition of the Bektashi Order, and had its head, Nijaz Deda, murdered.
Communist period and persecution (1945-91)
Mirahori mosque of Korçë in 2002 with destroyed minaret from communist times (left) and with rebuilt minaret in 2013 (right).
In the aftermath of World War Two, the communist regime came to power and Muslims, most from southern Albania, were represented from early on within the communist leadership group, such as leader Enver Hoxha (1908-1985), his deputy Mehmet Shehu (1913-1981) and others.
 Albanian society was still traditionally divided between four religious communities. In the Albanian census of 1945, Muslims were 72% of the population, 17.2% were Orthodox and 10% Catholic. The communist regime through Albanian Nationalism attempted to forge a national identity that transcended and eroded these religious and other differences with the aim of forming a unitary Albanian identity. Albanian communists viewed religion as a societal threat that undermined the cohesiveness of the nation. Within this context, religions like Islam were denounced as foreign and clergy such as Muslim muftis were criticised as being socially backward with the propensity to become agents of other states and undermine Albanian interests. The communist regime through policy destroyed the Muslim way of life and Islamic culture within Albania.
Inspired by Pashko Vasa's late 19th century poem for the need to overcome religious differences through Albanian unity, Hoxha took the stanza "the faith of the Albanians is Albanianism" and implemented it literally as state policy. In 1967 therefore the communist regime declared Albania the only non-religious country in the world, banning all forms of religious practice in public. The Muslim Sunni and Bektashi clergy alongside their Catholic and Orthodox counterparts suffered severe persecution and to prevent a decentralisation of authority in Albania, many of their leaders were killed.Jumu'ah or communal Friday prayers in a mosque that involves a sermon afterwards were banned in Albania due to their revolutionary associations that posed a threat to the communist regime. People who still performed religious practices did so in secret, while others found out were persecuted and personal possession of religious literature such as the Quran forbidden. Amongst Bektashi adherents transmission of knowledge became limited to within few family circles that mainly resided in the countryside. Mosques became a target for Albanian communists who saw their continued existence as exerting an ideological presence in the minds of people. Through the demise of mosques and religion in general within Albania, the regime sought to alter and sever the social basis of religion that lay with traditional religious structures amongst the people and replace it with communism. Islamic buildings were hence appropriated by the communist state who often turned into them into gathering places, sports halls, warehouses, barns, restaurants, cultural centres and cinemas in an attempt to erase those links between religious buildings and people. In 1967 within the space of seven months the communist regime destroyed 2,169 religious buildings and other monuments. Of those were some 530 tekes, turbes and dergah saint shrines that belonged mainly to the Bektashi order. 740 mosques were destroyed, some of which were prominent and architecturally important like the Kubelie Mosque in Kavajë, the Clock Mosque in Peqin and the two domed mosques in Elbasan dating from the 17th century. Of the roughly 1,127 Islamic buildings existing in Albania prior to the communists coming to power, only 50 mosques remained thereafter with most being in a state of disrepair.
Republic of Albania (1992 onward)
Lead Mosque with minaret in Shkodër, circa late 1800s (left) and without minaret in dilapidated state and prone to flooding, 2013 (right).
Following the wider trends for socio-political pluralism and freedom in Eastern Europe from communism, a series of fierce protests by Albanian society culminated with the communist regime collapsing after allowing two elections in 1991 and then 1992. Toward the end of the regime's collapse, it had reluctantly allowed for limited religious expression to reemerge. In 1990 along with a Catholic church, the Lead mosque in Shkodër were both the first religious buildings reopened in Albania. Muslims, this time mainly from northern Albania such as Azem Hajdari (1963-1998) and Sali Berisha, who later served multiple terms as president and prime minister were prominent leaders in the movement for democratic change and between 1992 and 1997 people part of the Albanian government were mostly of a Muslim background. Areas that had been traditionally Muslim in Albania prior to 1967 reemerged in a post-communist context once again mainly as Muslim with its various internal complexities. Due in part to the deprivation and persecution experienced during the communist period, Muslims within Albania have showed strong support for democracy and its institutions including official Muslim religious organisations. Within this context Muslim Albanians have also supported the separation of religion from the state with faith being considered as a personal private matter. Today Albania is a parliamentary secular state and with no official religion.
Revival of Sunni Islam
In the 1990s, Muslim Albanians placed their focus on restoring institutions, religious buildings and Islam as a faith in Albania that had overall been decimated by the communists.Hafiz Sabri Koçi, (1921-2004) an imam imprisoned by the communist regime and who led the first prayer service in Shkodër 1990 became the grand mufti of the Muslim Community of Albania. During this time the restoration of Islam in Albania appealed to older generations of Muslim Albanian adherents, those families with traditional clerical heredity and limited numbers of young school age people who wished to qualify and study abroad in Muslim countries. Most mosques and some madrassas destroyed and damaged during the communist era had by 1996 been either reconstructed or restored in former locations where they once stood before 1967 and in contemporary times there are 555 mosques. Muslim religious teachers and prayer leaders were also retrained abroad in Muslim states or in Albania. The Muslim Community of Albania is the main organisation overseeing Sunni Islam in Albania and during the 1990s it received funding and technical support from abroad to reconstitute its influence within the country. Due to interwar and communist era legacies of weakening Islam within Albania and secularisation of the population, the revival of the faith has been somewhat difficult due to people in Albania knowing little about Islam and other religions. Emigration in a post-communist environment of Albanians, many Muslim, has also hindered the recovery of religion, its socio-religious structures and organisation in Albania. In contemporary times the Muslim community has found itself being a majority population that is within a socio-political and intellectual minority position with often being on the defensive. Political links also emerged in the 1990s from parts of the Sunni Albanian community with the then new Albanian political establishment of whom some themselves were Muslim Albanians. The Sunni community is recognised by the Albanian state and it administers most of the mosques while also viewed as the main representative of Muslims in the country. As such it interprets its position as safeguarding an Albanian specific version of Islam which follows on institutional and ideological models established during the post-Ottoman state-building period and have gradually gained the status of an Albanian tradition. There are a few prayer houses located throughout Albania and one masjid (mosque without a minaret) run by the Sufi Rifai order.
Sunni Islam, transnational links, education and administrative institutions
The Albanian Sunni Community has over time established links with oversees Muslims. Due to funding shortages in Albania these ties have been locally beneficial as they have mobilised resources of several well funded international Muslim organisations like the OIC which has allowed for the reestablishment of Muslim ritual and spiritual practices in Albania. Particular efforts have been directed toward spreading information about Islam in Albania through media, education and local community centres. Around 90% of the budget of the Albanian Muslim community came from foreign sources in the 1990s, though from 2009 after the signing of agreements the Albanian government allocates funding from the state budget to the four main religions to cover administrative and other costs. Some of these oversees Muslim organisations and charities coming from Arab countries, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, and also the Muslim diaspora in Europe and America have at times exerted sway over the Muslim Albanian community resulting in competition between groups.
The Gülen movement based on Muslim values of Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen also is present from 1992 onward and its institutions are viewed as a counterweight to more conservative Muslim organisations from Arab countries in Albania, especially in the early 1990s. Some 7 madrasas (Muslim colleges containing complementary religious instruction) were opened up in Albania by Arab NGO's, although now 2 are administered by the Muslim Community and the Gülen movement runs 5 madrassas and other schools that are known for their high quality and mainly secular education based on Islamic ethics and principles. In April 2011, Bedër University, Albania's first Muslim university was opened in Tiranë and is administered by the Gülen movement. The presence and influence of the Gülen movement in Albania has recently been a source of tension with the Turkish government headed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan since it has blamed the movement for attempting to destabilize Turkey. The main state run Turkish Muslim organisation Diyanet has funded and started construction of the Great Mosque of Tiranë in 2015. The mosque will be the Balkans largest with minarets 50 meters high and a dome of 30 meters built on a 10,000-square-meter parcel of land near Albania's parliament building able to accommodate up to 4,500 worshipers. International assistance from oversees organisations such as the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) have also helped finance the restoration of Ottoman era mosques, of which only nine survived the communist dictatorship. In a post-communist environment the Muslim Community of Albania has been seeking from successive Albanian governments a return and restitution of properties and land confiscated by the communist regime though without much progress.
The Muslim Community of Albania in its statutes claims authority over all Muslim groups in Albania. The Bektashi however have reaffirmed in their statutes and kept their post-communist era independence as a separate Muslim movement of a worldwide Sufi order. A traditional reliance on hierarchy and internal structures the restoration of Sufi Islam, akin to Sunni Islam, has faced organisational problems in reestablishing and stabilising former systems of authority. That stood in contrast with the activities of local people who were quick to rebuild the destroyed tyrbes and other mausoleums of Sufi saints by the end of 1991. As Albanian migrants went abroad financial resources were sent back to fund other reconstruction projects of various Sufi shrines and tekkes. The Bektashi order in the 1990s was only able to reopen 6 of its tekkes. Other Sufi orders are also present in Albania such as the Rifais, Saidis, Halvetis, Qadiris and the Tijaniyah and combined they have 384 turbes, tekes, maqams and zawiyas. In post communist Albania competition between the Sufi orders has reemerged, though the Bektashi remain the largest, most dominant, have 138 tekes and have on occasion laid claims to Sufi shrines of other orders. The Bektashi as the main Sufi order within Albania have attempted to appeal to a younger, urban and also intellectual demographic and placing itself within the wider socio-political space.
The Bektashi order in Albania views themselves as the centre of a worldwide movement and have reconnected with various Turkish educational and Iran religious organisations emphasising their common links, something that other Sufi orders in Albania have done. Prominent among these have been Iranian Saadi Shriazi foundation who has funded numerous Bektashi cultural programs, while dervishes from the Bektashi have received educational training at the Theological faculty in Qom. The Bektashi though are selective of outside influence, with sometimes for example editing texts of Iranian Shia thinkers in Bektashi literature or borrowing from others. The Bektashi during most of the 1990s had no privileged links with the political establishment until 1997 when the Socialists came to power. Members from the then Albanian government, some with Bektashi heritage in the late 1990s onward have favoured Bektashism as a milder form of Islam for Albanian Islam and it playing a role as a conduit between Islam and Christianity. Bektashis also highlight and celebrate figures such as Naim Frashëri who was made an honorary baba because he was involved in the Albanian National Awakening and often referred to his Bektashi roots. Bektashis also use Shiite related iconography of Ali, the Battle of Karbala and other revered Muslim figures of the prophet Muhammad's family that adorn the interiors of turbes and tekkes. The Bektashis have a few clerical training centres though no schools for religious instruction. The Ahmadiyya movement has also established recently a presence in Albania and owns one mosque in Tiranë, the Bejtyl Evel Mosque.
In 2011, a Pew Research Center population estimate in a global study based on growth rates put the percentage of Muslims in Albania at 82.1% (estimated number 2,601,000) However, a Gallup poll gave percentages of religious affiliations with only 43% Muslim, 19% Eastern Orthodox, 15% Catholic and 23% atheist or nonreligious.[when?] In the 2011 census the declared religious affiliation of the population was: 56.70% (1,587,608) Sunni Muslims, 2.09% (58,628) Bektashis, 10.03% (280,921) Catholics, 6.75% (188,992) Orthodox, 0.14% (3,797) Evangelists, 0.07% (1,919) other Christians, 5.49% (153,630) believers without denomination, 2.05% (69,995) Atheists, 13.79% (386,024) undeclared. Controversies surrounded the Albanian census (2011) over whether a religious affiliation option should be part of the count as people like some intellectuals in Albania feared that the results may make Albania appear "too Muslim" to Europe. From previous pre-communist highs of 69.3% (1937) and 72% (1947) the official census of 2011 was the first to count religious affiliation after an absence of many decades that showed the Albanian Muslim population to have deceased to 56.70%. The Muslim community of Albania objected to having the generic Muslim option split according to internal differentiation into categories such as Bektashi. The census results overall have been criticized by the Muslim community of Albania and they have estimated the number of all Muslims in Albania to be 70%. Owing to the large number of people in Albania not having declared a religion the census figures leave scope for other explanations and analyses of what is the actual religious composition of Albania.
Most Muslims in Albania are ethnic Albanians. There are however small though significant clusters of non-Albanian (speaking) Muslims in the country. The Romani minority in Albania are mostly Muslims and estimated to number some 50,000 to 95,000 located throughout Albania and often residing in major urban centres forming a significant minority population. The Romani community is often economically disadvantaged with at times facing socio-political discrimination and distance from wider Albanian society like for example little intermarriage or neighbourhood segregation. Within the Romani community there exist two main divisions: the Gabels who speak the Romani language and those who self identify as Jevgs that consider themselves separate from the Romani, speak Albanian and are somewhat integrated in Albania. The Romani in Albania were and are still known to be religiously syncretic often combining other elements of religions and nature in Islamic practices and pilgrimages to holy sites.
Other Muslim communities are of a Slavic linguistic background. In the north-eastern borderland region of Gorë, the Gorani community inhabits the villages of Zapod, Pakisht, Orçikël, Kosharisht, Cernalevë, Orgjost, Orshekë, Borje, Novosej and Shishtavec. In the central-eastern borderland region of Gollobordë, a Muslim Macedonian speaking community known as Gollobordas inhabits the villages of Ostren i Madh, Kojavec, Lejçan, Lladomericë, Ostren i Vogël, Orzhanovë, Radovesh, Tuçep, Pasinkë, Trebisht, Gjinovec, Klenjë, Vërnicë, Steblevë and three families in Sebisht. In Albania people from the Gollobordas community are considered Albanians instead of Macedonians, even by the Albanian state, and they are known to intermarry with Muslim Albanians and not with Orthodox Macedonians. Until the 1990s an Orthodox Macedonian minority who have since migrated used to live in some villages alongside the Gollobordas and the latter community in recent times numbers some roughly 3,000 people. The Bosniak community of the Shijak area whose presence dates back to 1875 inhabits almost entirely the village of Borakaj and in the neighbouring village Koxhas they live alongside Albanians and form a minority. Bosniaks from these settlements have also settled in Durrës, Shijak and in 1924 some went and settled in the village of Libofshë where they have mostly become linguistically assimilated. There is a small Muslim Montenegrin speaking community near Shkodër whose presence dates back to 1878 and are known as Podgoriçani, due to their origins from Podgorica in Montenegro. Podgoriçani inhabit the villages of Boriç i Madh were they form a majority alongside a few Orthodox Montengrins and some Albanians, while they live compactly in both Shtoj i Vjetër with 30 families and in Shtoj i Ri with 17 families and some families in Shkodër city.
Ethno-cultural Albanian identity and Islam
Religious and linguistic map of Albania. The Muslim population is as follows: Albanian Sunni (cherry red), Bektashi (burgandy) and other Sufi (crimson red); Macedonian/Bulgarian speakers (kelly green), Gorani (forest green); Bosniaks (jade green) and Romani (purple).
Throughout the duration of the Communist regime, national Albanian identity was constructed as being irreligious and based upon a common unitary Albanian nationality. This widely spread ideal is still present, though challenged by religious differentiation between Muslim Albanians and Christians which exists at a local level. In a post communist environment, religious affiliation to either Muslim and Christian groups is viewed within the context of historical belonging (mainly patrilineal) and contemporary social organisation as cultural communities with religious practice playing a somewhat secondary to limited role. Some contemporary Muslim Albanians in Albania see themselves as being the purest Albanians. This view is based on the large contribution Muslim Albanians made to the National Awakening (Rilindja) and resistance to the geo-political aims of the Serbs. Some Muslim Albanians, meanwhile, view Islam as a force that maintained Albanian independence from Christian countries like Greece, Serbia and Italy, and united Albanians. Some Albanian Muslims also hold the view that unlike them, Christian Albanian communities of the Orthodox historically identified with the Greeks. Some Muslim Albanians often refer to Orthodox Albanians as Greeks and attribute to them pro-Greek sentiments, while Orthodox Albanians view Muslim Albanians as having historically collaborated and identified with the Ottomans thereby earning the epithet Turk. Some Muslim Albanians hold and have expressed negative views of Catholic Albanians, while some Catholic Albanians resent past political dominance held by Muslims in Albania and have expressed dislike of Islam and what they have interpreted to be its tenets, mores and values.
Islam and Interreligious relations
In rural areas in northern Albania and southern Albania, relations between Muslim Albanians and Catholic Albanians or Muslim Albanians with Orthodox Albanians vary and are often distant with both Muslim and Christian communities traditionally living in separate villages and or neighbourhoods, even within cities. Various pejoratives are in use today for different religious groups in Albanian, some based on the Ottoman system of classification: turk, tourko-alvanoi/Turco-Albanians (in Greek), muhamedan/followers of Muhammad for Muslim Albanians, kaur/infidel, kaur i derit/infidel pigs, for Orthodox Albanians, Catholic Albanians, Greeks, Vlachs and Orthodox Macedonians. Among Muslims in Albania the term used for their religious community is myslyman and the word turk is also used in a strictly religious sense to connote Muslim and not ethnic affiliation, while Christians also use the word kaur to at times refer to themselves. During the Albanian socio-political and economic crisis of 1997, religious differences did not play a role in the civil unrest that occurred, though the Orthodox Church in Albania at the time privately supported the downfall of the Berisha government made up mainly of Muslims. Over the years minor incidents between Muslim Albanians with Christian Albanians have occurred such as pig heads thrown into mosque courtyards, Catholic tombstones being knocked down, an Orthodox church in Shkodër being bombed and damage done to frescoes in a church in Voskopojë. An interreligious organisation called the Interreligious Council of Albania was created in 2009 by the four main faiths to foster religious coexistence in Albania.
In southern Albania, urban centres of central Albania and partially in northern Albania, the status of Christianity dominates in contrast to Islam which is viewed by some Muslim Albanians as a historic accident. A rejection of Islam has also been attributed to a divide that has opened up between older city dwellers and rural Muslim Albanian and somewhat conservative newcomers from the north-east to cities like Tiranë, where the latter are referred to pejoratively as "Chechens". Some young Muslim Albanians educated in Islamic Universities abroad have viewed their role as defending Islam in the public sphere over issues such as wearing of the veil, organising themselves socially and criticised the Muslim Albanian establishment. Following the lead mainly of Albanian Christians obtaining visas for work into Greece there have been instances where Muslim Albanian migrants in Greece converted to Orthodoxy and changed their names into Christian Greek forms in order to be accepted into Greek society. Some other Muslim Albanians when emigrating have also converted to Catholicism and conversions in general to Christianity within Albania are associated with belonging and interpreted as being part of the West, its values and culture. A 2015 study estimated some 13,000 Christians exist in Albania who had converted from a Muslim background, though it is not clear to which Christian churches these people were affiliated. Among Albanians and in particular the young, religion is increasingly not seen as important. In a Pew research centre survey of Muslim Albanians in 2012, religion was important for only 15%, while 7% prayed, around 5% went to a mosque, 43% gave zakat (alms), 44% fasted during Ramadan and 72% expressed a belief in God and Muhammad. The same Pew survey also estimated that 65% of Albanian Muslims are non-denominational Muslims.
The leaders of Albania's four main denominations in Paris, France, in a demonstration for interfaith harmony, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks from 2015. From left to right: Sunni, Orthodox, Bektashi, and Catholic.
Despite occasional issues, Albania's "religious tolerance" (tolerance fetare) and "religious harmony" (harmonia fetare) are viewed as part of a set of distinctly Albanian national ideals, and said to serve an important part in Albania's civic framework where sectarian communities ideally set aside their difference and work together in the pursuit of national interest. Although considered a "national myth" by some, the "Albanian example" of interfaith tolerance and of tolerant laicism has been advocated as a model for the rest of the world by both Albanians and Western European and American commentators, including Pope Francis who praised Albania as a "model for a world witnessing conflict in God's name" and Prime Minister Edi Rama, who marched with Christian and Muslim clergy on either side in a demonstration in response to religious motivated violence in Paris. Meanwhile, Albania's "example" has also drawn interest recently in the West, where it has been used to argue that "religious freedom and Islamic values not only can co-exist, but also can flourish together", and is seen as a positive argument in favor of accelerating Albania's accession to the EU.
Interfaith marriages between Muslims and Christians are held to be "common" and "unremarkable" in Albania with little social repercussion, although there is little statistical data on their prevalence. During the communist period, it is known that during the period of 1950-1968, the rates of mixed marriages ranged from 1.6% in Shkodër, 4.3% in Gjirokastër to 15.5% among the textile workers in Tiranë. In the district of Shkodër they reached 5% in the year 1980.
Most Albanian Muslims nowadays approve of mixed marriages, with 77% approving of a son marrying outside of the faith, and 75% for a daughter, the highest rates of all Muslim nationalities surveyed by Pew at the time. Meanwhile, 12% of Albanian Muslims agreed that "religious conflict is a big problem in Albania", though only 2% thought Christians were "hostile" to Muslims and 4% admitted that they thought Muslims were "hostile" to Christians. 79% of Albanian Muslims said all their close friends were also Muslim, the second lowest number (after Russia) in the survey.
Religious observances, customs and culture
In Albania a series of religious celebrations are held by the Muslim community. Two recognised by the state as official holidays are:
Bajrami i Madh (Big Bayram, Eid al-Fitr) celebrated at the conclusion of Ramadan and Kurban Bajram (Bayram of the sacrifice) or Bajrami i Vogël (Small Bayram, Eid al-Adha) celebrated on 10 Dhu al-Hijjah. During the month of Ramadan practicing Sunni Muslims in Albania fast and 5 nights are held sacred and celebrated. These dates change per year as they follow the Muslim lunar calendar. In recent times during April the prophet Muhammad's birthday is commemorated and the Muslim Community of Albania holds a concert in Tiranë. It is attended by Albanian political and Muslim religious establishment representatives alongside Albanian citizens, many non-practising Muslims. Other than the Sunni related celebrations, the Sufis such as the Bektashi have a series of holidays and observances. The Day of Sultan Novruz (Nowruz) on 22 March is an official holiday that celebrates the birth of Imam Ali.Ashura, a day commemorating the massacre at Karbala is also held and multiple local festivals in various areas, some also observed as pilgrimages are held throughout the year at Sufi saints tombs and shrines like that of Sari Salltëk in Krujë. Most prominent of these is the pilgrimage on 20-25 August to Mount Tomorr to commemorate and celebrate the Shi'ite saint Abbas Ali.
Sufi tyrbe within citadel of Gjirokastër.
Interior of Gjirokastër tyrbe shrine with Sufi saints tombs.
Abaz Ali teqe on Mount Tomorr.
Pilgrims at Abaz Ali teqe on Mount Tomorr.
Banner hailing fasting month of Ramadan, Shkodër.
Food, dress, law and burials
In Albania Halal slaughter of animals and food is permitted, mainly available in the eateries of large urban centres and becoming popular among people who are practicing Sunni Muslims. No centralised organisation exists for Halal certification of food which is unavailable in Albanian state institutions like schools, army, hospitals and so on and people requesting Halal food in those places are usually sidelined. Muslim dress is not prohibited in Albania in public areas. Unofficial restrictions and regulations on religious clothing worn within public institutions in order to maintain the secular status of the state were upheld by principals of schools and others. Examples included within schools and universities whereby some young women wearing the hijab were expelled or told to remove it. These have eased especially after the Albanian government in 2011 backed away from proposed legislation that would have officially banned displays of religious symbols in schools. Religious Muslim law as with other religious law is not recognised by the Albanian courts. The Sunni Muslim Community of Albania however recognises nikah or religious Muslim marriage although not many people undertake marriage in this form. While chaplaincy though not officially recognised within state institutions, access to, religious advice and preaching in prisons is allowed to inmates while chaplains are banned in state schools. During the communist period Muslim Albanians were buried alongside Albanians of other faiths and due to that legacy in contemporary times separate Muslim graveyards are uncommon.
Controversies and current issues
Debates about Islam and contemporary Albanian identity
Mosque in Delvine
Within the Balkans apart from the ethno-linguistic component of Albanian identity, Albania's Orthodox neighbours also view it through religious terms. They refer to Albanians as a Muslim nation and as Muslim fundamentalists which has placed the secular part of Albanian identity under strain. The word Islam in Albania has acquired negative connotations in Albanian media and intellectual discourses. Among Albanian intellectuals and other notable Albanians, many Muslim, this has generated much discussions and at times debates about Islam and its role within Albania and amongst Albanians as a whole in the Balkans. Within these discourses, controversial Orientalist, racist and biological terminology has been used by some Albanian intellectuals when discussing Islam and Albanians. Prominent in those discussions were written exchanges in newspaper articles and books between novelist Ismail Kadare of Gjirokastër and literary critic Rexhep Qosja, an Albanian from Kosovo in the mid-2000s. Kadare asserted that Albania's future lay with Europe due to its ancient European roots, Christian traditions and being a white people, while Qosja contended that Albanian identity was both a blend of Western (Christian) and Eastern (Islam) cultures and often adaptable to historical contexts. In a 2005 speech given in Britain by president Alfred Moisiu of Orthodox heritage, he referred to Islam in Albania as having a "European face", it being "shallow" and that "if you dig a bit in every Albanian, he can discover his Christian core".
The Muslim Forum of Albania responded to those and Kadare's comments and referred to them as "racist" containing "Islamophobia" and being "deeply offensive". Following trends dating back from the communist regime, the post-communist Albanian political establishment continues to approach Islam as the faith of the Ottoman "invader".
Islam and the Ottoman legacy has also been a topic of conversation among wider Albanian society. Islam and the Ottomans are viewed by many Albanians as the outcome of jihad, anti-Christian violence, Turkification and within those discourses Albania's sociopolitical problems are attributed as the outcome of that legacy. In debates over Albanian school textbooks where some historians have asked for offensive content regarding Turks to be removed, some Christian Albanian historians countered angrily by referring to negative experiences of the Ottoman period and wanting Turkey to seek redress for the "invasion" of Albania and Islamisation of Albanians. Some members from the Muslim community, while deemphasizing the Ottoman past, have responded to these views by criticizing what they perceive as prejudice toward Islam. Others, like academic Olsi Jazexhi, have added that contemporary Albanian politicians akin to the communists perceive "Modernisation" to mean "De-Islamisation", making Muslim Albanians feel alienated from their Muslim traditions instead of celebrating them and embracing their Ottoman heritage. Other debates, often in the media and occasionally heated, have been about public displays of Muslim practices, mosque construction in Albania, or local and international violent incidents and their relationship to Islam. Issues have also arisen over school textbooks and their inaccurate references of Islam such as describing the prophet Muhammad as God's "son", while other matters have been concerns over administrative delays for mosque construction and so on. Catholic and Orthodox Albanians hold concerns that any possible unification of Balkan areas populated by sizable numbers of Albanian Muslims to the country would lead to an increasing "Muslimization" of Albania. Muslim Albanians deemphasize the (Christian) religious heritage of two famous Albanian figures by viewing Skanderbeg as a defender of the nation while Mother Teresa is acknowledged for her charitable works and both individuals are promoted as Albanian symbols of Europe and the West.
The school curriculum of Shkodra in northern Albania was criticized for diminishing the role of Muslims in the history of Albania. For example, "out of over 30 famous writers, historical gures, actors named in [a] textbook, there is only one Muslim in the entire list." Similarly, in 2014, Professor of Sociology at the University of Tirana Enis Sulstarova performed a comparative study of school textbooks finding that tenets of the Christian faith were often presented as a historical fact, while aspects of the Muslim faith were rendered a 'superstition.' The Deputy Chairman of the Albanian Muslim Community has accused the media in Albania of anti-Muslim bias, frequently calling individuals arrested as 'jihadists' and 'terrorists' before they have been sentenced and perpetuating a "clash of civilizations" narrative between Muslim Albanians and the rest of Europe. Legal experts noted a "violation of legal procedures, and the application of psychological pressure on [detainees] and family members with medical conditions" following the arrests of 150 people suspected of perpetrating the 2016 Balkans terrorism plot. The majority of those arrested had no connection to the incident and were promptly released, but authorities at the time "did not present arrest warrants" and questioned suspects without the presence of an attorney. On 7 August 2016, a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf was beaten on a bus and called a "terrorist."
Religious establishment views of Islam in Albania
The official religious Christian and Muslim establishments and their clergy hold diverging views of the Ottoman period and conversion of Islam by Albanians. Both Catholic and the Orthodox clergy interpret the Ottoman era as a repressive one that contained anti-Christian discrimination and violence, while Islam is viewed as foreign challenging Albanian tradition and cohesion. The conversion to Islam by Albanians is viewed by both Catholic and Orthodox clergy as falsification of Albanian identity, though Albanian Muslims are interpreted as innocent victims of Islamisation. Albanian Sunni Muslim clergy however views the conversion of Albanians as a voluntary process, while sidelining religious controversies associated with the Ottoman era. Sufi Islam in Albania interprets the Ottoman era as promoting a distorted form of Islam that was corrupted within a Sunni Ottoman polity that persecuted them. Christian clergy consider Muslim Albanians as part of the wider Albanian nation and Muslim clergy do not express derision to people who did not become Muslim in Albania. Christian identities in Albania have been forged on being in a minority position, at times with experiences of discrimination they have had historically in relation to the Muslim majority. Meanwhile, Muslim clergy in Albania highlight the change of fortune the demise of the Ottoman Empire brought with the political empowerment of Balkan Christians making Muslims a religious minority in contemporary times within the Balkans.
Conservative Islam and Muslim fundamentalism
The Muslim Albanian community has also contended with increasing numbers of Christian charities and missionaries proselytizing (especially those of the Orthodox working often in tandem with official Greek policies) which has made a part of the Sunni Albanian leadership become more assertive and calling for Islam to be declared the official religion of Albania. These calls within the scope of political Islam have greatly waned after non-Muslim Albanians objected to those suggestions. The Muslim Community of Albania opposes the legalisation of same-sex marriages for LGBT communities in Albania, as do the Orthodox and Catholic Church leaders of the country too.Muslim fundamentalism has though become a concern for Albania and its backers amongst the international community. In the 1990s, small groups of militant Muslims took advantage of dysfunctional government, porous borders, corruption, weak laws and illegal activities occurring during Albania's transition to democracy. These Muslim militants used Albania as a base for money laundering and as a transit route into the West with at times the assistance of corrupt government employees. There were claims by critics of the Albanian government that high-profile militants like Osama Bin Laden passed through Albania while president Sali Berisha and head of Albanian intelligence Bashkim Gazidede had knowledge and assisted militants, though no credible evidence has emerged. Salafi and Wahhabi forms of Islam have also entered Albania and adherents have come mainly from among the young. As of March 2016, some 100 or so Albanians so far have left Albania to become foreign fighters by joining various fundamentalist Salafi jihadist groups involved in the ongoing civil wars of Syria and Iraq; 18 have died. In response to these events the Albanian government has cracked down with arrests of people associated with the few mosques suspected of radicalisation and recruitment.
Islam and Albanian geo-political orientation
US president George W. Bush and Albanian prime minister Sali Berisha during a joint press conference in Tiranë, Albania (2007)
With the collapse of the isolationist communist regime, Albania's geopolitical orientation between West and East and the role of Christianity and Islam became debated among Albanian intellectuals and its politicians. Within the context of nationalist discourses during the 1990s the governing Albanian democratic party regarding European aspirations stressed aspects of Catholicism and as some government members were Muslims made overtures to Islam to join international organisations like the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). In 1992 Albania became the only entirely European member of the OIC, generating intense controversy within Albania due to concerns that Albania might drift from a secular European future. The Albanian government viewed membership in the OIC as being a bridge between the Muslim-Christian worlds and also as having a "civilising mission" role within the Islamic world due to the Western orientation of Albania. The government of Sali Berisha in the 1990s generated a Muslim network in Albania which was dismantled by the incoming Socialist government in 1997. By 1998-99 Albania's OIC membership was suspended and temporarily withdrawn by prime-minister Fatos Nano who viewed it as inhibiting Albania's European aspirations. In the post communist period different socio-political reactions have occurred by regional neighbours and international powers toward Albania and Muslim Albanians. For example, in the 1990s, Greece preferred and assisted Orthodox Albanian leaders like Fatos Nano in Albania over Muslim Albanian ones like Sali Berisha as they were seen as being friendlier to Greek interests. During the Kosovo crisis (1998-1999), the Albanian political establishment was concerned with Western public opinion viewing Albanians as "Islamic" due to Serbian government claims portraying the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) as interested in creating a Balkan Islamic state.
In a post-communist environment, Albania emerged as being generally supportive of the USA. During the Kosovo War (1999) and ethnic cleansing of mostly Muslim Albanians by Orthodox Serbs alongside the subsequent refugee influx into the country, Albania's status as an ally of the USA was confirmed. Support for the USA has remained high at 95% in Muslim majority Albania in contrast to the rest of the Islamic world. Albania joined the NATO military alliance in 2009 which remains popular in the country especially due to its intervention in the Kosovo war and Albania has contributed troops to NATO led operations in Afghanistan. Within the wider Balkans Albania is considered to be the most pro-EU and pro-Western country in the region and, unlike its neighbours (except Kosovo), it has little to negligible support for Russia. Albania is an aspirant for European Unionmembership after formally submitting its application to join in 2009. Sentiments among the EU exist of viewing Albania as a mainly Muslim country cause concerns for the Albanian political establishment who promote an image of Western orientation for Euro-Atlantic integration, especially when overt displays of Muslim practice arise such as dress or rituals. State relations of Albania with Turkey are friendly and close, due to maintenance of close links with the Albanian diaspora in Turkey and strong Turkish sociopolitical, cultural, economic and military ties with Albania. Turkey has been supportive of Albanian geopolitical interests within the Balkans. In Gallup polls conducted in recent times Turkey is viewed as a friendly country by 73% of people in Albania. Albania has established political and economic ties with Arab countries, in particular with Arab Persian Gulf states who have heavily invested in religious, transport and other infrastructure alongside other facets of the economy in addition to the somewhat limited societal links they share. Albania is also working to develop socio-political and economic ties with Israel.
^ abcdElbasani 2015, p. 340. "Another crucial dimension of the post-Communist format of secularism is the imprint of decades of Communist-style propaganda in the perceptions and practices of Muslim believers. Almost everywhere in the post-Communist world, forced Communist-style modernization and eviction of religion from the public arena, has led to a certain secularization of the society and a sharp decline in religious practice. Post-Communist citizens seem to embrace religion more as an aspect of ethnic and social identity rather than a belief in the doctrines of a particular organized spiritual community. This is reflected in the gap between the great number of Albanians who choose to identify with religion and the few who attend religious services and serve religious commandments: 98% of Albanians respond that they belong to one of the religious communities; but only 5.5% attend weekly religious services and 50% only celebrate religious ceremonies during poignant moments in life such as birth, marriage and death (University of Oslo 2013). Additionally, post-Communist Albanians appear strongly committed to institutional arrangements that confine religion strictly within the private sphere--away from state institutions, schools, the arts and the public sphere more generally (ibid). Such secular attitudes show that post-Communist citizens are in general little receptive to concepts of religion as a coherent corpus of beliefs and dogmas collectively managed by a body of legitimate holders of knowledge, and even less receptive to rigid orthodox prescriptions thereof."
^Ergo 2010, p. 14. "The first contacts between Albanians and Islam occurred in the middle of the 9th century. Having conquered a great part of Southern Italy, the Muslim Arabs launched raids on the eastern shores of the Adriatic."
^Skendi 1967a, p. 174. "The political thinking of the Orthodox Albanians was divided into two categories. Those who lived in Albania were dominated by Greek influence. The majority of them- especially the notables-desired union with Greece. The Orthodox Christians in general had an intense hated of Ottoman rule. Although this feeling was shared by their co-religionists who lived in the colonies abroad, their political thinking was different."
^Nitsiakos 2010, p. 56. "The Orthodox Christian Albanians, who belonged to the rum millet, identified themselves to a large degree with the rest of the Orthodox, while under the roof of the patriarchate and later the influence of Greek education they started to form Greek national consciousness, a process that was interrupted by the Albanian national movement in the 19th century and subsequently by the Albanian state."; p. 153. "The influence of Hellenism on the Albanian Orthodox was such that, when the Albanian national idea developed, in the three last decades of the 19th century, they were greatly confused regarding their national identity."
^ abKarpat 2001, p. 342."After 1856, and especially after 1878, the terms Turk and Muslim became practically synonymous in the Balkans. An Albanian who did not know one word of Turkish thus was given the ethnic name of Turk and accepted it, no matter how much he might have preferred to distance himself from the ethnic Turks."
^ abHart 1999, p. 197."Christians in ex-Ottoman domains have frequently and strategically conflated the terms Muslim and Turk to ostracize Muslim or Muslim-descended populations as alien (as in the current Serb-Bosnian conflict; see Sells 1996), and Albanians, though of several religions, have been so labeled."
^Megalommatis 1994, p. 28."Muslim Albanians have been called "Turkalvanoi" in Greek, and this is pejorative."
^Nikolopoulou 2013, p. 299. "Instead of the term "Muslim Albanians", nationalist Greek histories use the more known, but pejorative, term "Turkalbanians".
^League of Nations (October 1921). "Albania". League of Nations -Official Journal. 8: 893. "The memorandum of the Albanian government... The memorandum complains that the Pan-Epirotic Union misnames the Moslem Albanians as "Turco-Albanians""
^Mentzel 2000, p. 8. "The attitude of non Muslim Balkan peoples was similar. In most of the Balkans, Muslims were "Turks" regardless of their ethno-linguistic background. This attitude changed significantly, but not completely, over time."
^Blumi 2011, p. 32. "As state policy, post- Ottoman "nations" continue to sever most of their cultural, socioeconomic, and institutional links to the Ottoman period. At times, this requires denying a multicultural history, inevitably leading to orgies of cultural destruction (Kiel 1990; Riedlmayer 2002). As a result of this strategic removal of the Ottoman past--the expulsion of the "Turks" (i.e., Muslims); the destruction of buildings; the changing of names of towns, families, and monuments; and the "purification" of languages--many in the region have accepted the conclusion that the Ottoman cultural, political, and economic infrastructure was indeed an "occupying," and thus foreign, entity (Jazexhi 2009). Such logic has powerful intuitive consequences on the way we write about the region's history: If Ottoman Muslims were "Turks" and thus "foreigners" by default, it becomes necessary to differentiate the indigenous from the alien, a deadly calculation made in the twentieth century with terrifying consequences for millions."
^Puto & Maurizio 2015, p. 183."Nineteenth-century Albanianism was not by any means a separatist project based on the desire to break with the Ottoman Empire and to create a nationstate. In its essence Albanian nationalism was a reaction to the gradual disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and a response to the threats posed by Christian and Balkan national movements to a population that was predominantly Muslim."
^ abcdeKokolakis 2003, p. 53." ? ? ? , ?, ? ? ? , ? ?. [With the exception of a few members of the old communities such as Romaniote Jews of Arta and Ioannina, and even small groups of Catholics in Vlora, the residents of Epirus were separated by the criterion of religion into two major groups, the Orthodox and Muslims.]"; p. 54. "? ? ?, ? ? ? , ? ? , ? «?», , ? ? ? 3/4 ? 40% ?. [The Muslim community in Epirus, with the exception of small urban populations of the southern Greek-speaking areas, which we mentioned, and 2-3000 dispersed "Muslim Romani", consisted entirely of Albanian speakers, and in the late Ottoman period covered approximately 3/4 of population ethnic Albanian speaking areas and more than 40% of the total area."; pp.55-56. "?' ? ? ?, ? ?, ? ? ? (, , , ?, ). [In these parts of the Muslim communities, where present, were limited to compact population of certain towns and cities (Gjirokastër, Libohovë, Leskovik, Delvinë, Paramythia).]", pp. 370, 374.
^ abStoppel 2001, pp. 9-10."In den südlichen Landesteilen hielten sich Muslime und Orthodoxe stets in etwa die Waage: So standen sich zB 1908 in den Bezirken (damals türkischen Sandschaks) Korca und Gjirokastro 95.000 Muslime und 128.000 Orthodoxe gegenüber, während 1923 das Verhältnis 109.000 zu 114.000 und 1927 116.000 zu 112.000 betrug. [In the southern parts of the country, Muslims and Orthodox were broadly always balanced: Thus, for example in 1908 were in the districts (then Turkish Sanjaks) Korçë and Gjirokastër 95,000 Muslims and in contrast to 128,000 Orthodox, while in 1923 the ratio of 109,000 to 114,000 and 1927 116,000 to 112,000 it had amounted too.]"
^Baltsiotis 2011. para. 14. "The fact that the Christian communities within the territory which was claimed by Greece from the mid 19th century until the year 1946, known after 1913 as Northern Epirus, spoke Albanian, Greek and Aromanian (Vlach), was dealt with by the adoption of two different policies by Greek state institutions. The first policy was to take measures to hide the language(s) the population spoke, as we have seen in the case of "Southern Epirus". The second was to put forth the argument that the language used by the population had no relation to their national affiliation... As we will discuss below, under the prevalent ideology in Greece at the time every Orthodox Christian was considered Greek, and conversely after 1913, when the territory which from then onwards was called "Northern Epirus" in Greece was ceded to Albania, every Muslim of that area was considered Albanian."
^Kokolakis 2003, p. 56. "? ? ? , ? ? ? , ? ? , ?' ? ? 19 . [This process of Hellenization of Orthodox areas, operating in reverse to that of Islamization, accelerated the identification of the Albanian element with Islam, an element that will prove decisive in the evolution of nationalist conflicts during the 19th century]"; p. 84. " ? 1880 ? ? ?, ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?. [The main enemy of Hellenism from the 1880s onwards was the Albanian idea, slowly but firmly dismissed the possibility of serious Greek-Albanian cooperation and rendered inevitable the future dismemberment of Epirus.]"
^ abVickers 2011, pp. 60-61. "The Greeks too sought to curtail the spread of nationalism amongst the southern Orthodox Albanians, not only in Albania but also in the Albanian colonies in America."
^Kokolakis 2003, p. 91. "? ? , ? ? ?, ? , ? ? ?, ? ? ? ?. ? ? ? ." "[By limiting the Islamic character, the Albanian nationalist movement secured civil protection from two powerful forces in the Adriatic, Italy and Austria, which was ready to do what they could to save the Balkans from the threat of Pan-Slavism and the Anglo French tutelage that is supposed to represent its extension through Greece. The dissemination of ideas in Albanian Christian population started to become visible and very concerning to Greece]."
^ abLederer 1994, p. 337. "Most Muslims and Bektashis understood that religious differences had to be played down in the name of common ethnicity and that pan-Islamic ideas had to be rejected and fought, even if some so-called 'fanatical' (Sunni) Muslim leaders in Shkoder and elsewhere preferred solidarity with the rest of the Islamic world. Such an attitude was not conducive to Albanian independence to which the international situation was favourable in 1912 and even after World War I."
^Clayer 2003, pp. 2-5, 37. "Between 1942 (date of the last census taking into account the denominational belonging) or 1967 (date of religion's banning) and 2001, the geographical distribution of the religious communities in Albania has strongly changed. The reasons are first demographic: groups of population, mainly from Southern Albania, came to urban settlements of central Albania in favour of the institution of the Communist regime; during the 1970s and 1980s, Northern Catholic and Sunni Muslim areas have certainly experienced a higher growth rate than Southern Orthodox areas. Since 1990, there were very important population movements, from rural and mountain areas towards the cities (especially in central Albania, i.e. Tirana and Durrës), and from Albania towards Greece, Italy and many other countries".
^Czekalski 2013, p. 120. "The census of 1945 showed that the vast majority of society (72%) were Muslims, 17.2% of the population declared themselves to be Orthodox, and 10% Catholics."
^Kopanski 1997, p. 192. "The sophisticated culture, literature and art of Islam were ignored by the generality of historians who hardly even tried to conceal their anti-Muslim bias. Their ferociously anti-Islamic and anti-Turkish attitude not only obscured and distorted the amazing process of mass conversion of entire Christian communities to Islam, but also provided an intellectual prop for the ultra nationalist policy of ethnic and religious cleansing in Bosnia, Hum (Herzegovina), Albania, Bulgaria and Greece. For against the backdrop of the history of the Balkans, as generally portrayed, what appeared as a kind of historical exoneration and an act of retaliation for the 'betrayal' of Christianity in the Middle Ages. The policy of destroying Islamic culture and way of life in Albania after the World War II is the primary reason why the history of medieval Islam in this land has not been properly studied."
^Czekalski 2013, p. 129. "The capital's Et'hem Bey Mosque was recognized as a monument. This place later served as a place of prayer for diplomats working in Tirana, but Albanians were forbidden from praying in this place. A few Bektashi temples, including the sacral buildings were changed into cultural centres, warehouses and restaurants."
^Ramet 1998, p. 220. "Of the 1,127 mosques in Albania before the communist takeover, only fifty survived that era, most of them dilapidated. As of 1991, only two mosques in Tiranë were fit for use by worshipers."
^ abcVickers & Pettifer 2007, p. 31. "Many Greek Orthodox clergy privately relished the downfall of the northern predominantly Muslim government. As always in Balkan conflicts, religion is a major factor under the surface and the no doubt that the Greek Orthodox Church was privately very happy to see the departure of the DP government. It was also clear to Athenian politicians that if they gave a certain amount of tacit diplomatic help to the rebellion, they could expect a post-conflict government in Tirana that was likely to be much more sympathetic to Greece and its regional priorities than the Berisha administration." p. 41. "Islam as a political factor did not emerge at all throughout the crisis, even though most of the Berisha government was nominally Muslim. The presence of prominent northern Catholics such as Pjeter Arbnori, as Speaker of the Parliament and someone close to the government, assisted this perception while on the rebel side Orthodox links with Greece were certainly useful."
^Steinke & Ylli 2010, p. 11. "In den 17 Dörfern des Kosovo wird Na?inski/Goran?e gesprochen, und sie gehören zu einer Gemeinde mit dem Verwaltungszentrum in Draga?. Die 19 Dörfer in Albanien sind hingegen auf drei Gemeinden des Bezirks Kukës aufgeteilt, und zwar auf Shishtavec, Zapod und Topojan. Slavophone findet man freilich nur in den ersten beiden Gemeinden. Zur Gemeinde Shishtavec gehören sieben Dörfer und in den folgenden vier wird Na?inski/Goran?e gesprochen: Shishtavec (?i?taec/?i?teec), Borja (Borje), Cërnaleva (C?rnolevo/C?rneleve) und Oreshka (Ore?ek). Zur Gemeinde Zapod gehören ebenfalls sieben Dörfer, und in den folgenden fünf wird Na?inski/Goran?e gesprochen: Orgjost (Orgosta), Kosharisht (Ko?ari?ta), Pakisht (Paki?a/Pakia) Zapod (Zapod) und Orçikla (Or?ikl'e/O?ikl'e)'. In der Gemeinde Topojan gibt es inzwischen keine slavophone Bevölkerung mehr. Die Einwohner selbst bezeichnen sich gewöhnlich als Goranen 'Einwohner von Gora oder Na?inci Unsrige, und ihre Sprache wird von ihnen als Na?inski und von den Albanern als Gorançe bezeichnet."
^Steinke & Ylli 2008, p. 10. "Heute umfaßt das Gebiet von Golloborda in Albanien 22 Dörfer, die verwaltungstechnisch auf drei verschiedene Gemeinden aufgeteilt sind: 1. Die Gemeinde Ostren besteht aus dreizehn Dörfern, und Südslavisch wird in den folgenden neun Dörfern gesprochen: Ostreni i Madh (Golemo Ostreni/Ostreni Golemo), Kojavec (Kojovci), Lejçan (Le?ni?ani), Lladomerica (Ladomerica/Ladimerica/Vlademerica), Ostreni i Vogël (Malo Ostreni/Malastreni/Ostreni Malo), Orzhanova (Or?anova), Radovesh (Radove?/Radoe?/Radoe?t), Tuçep (Tu?epi) und Pasinka (Pasinki). 2. Die Gemeinde von Trebisht umfaßt die vier Dörfer Trebisht (Trebi?ta), Gjinovec (G'inovec/G'inec), Klenja (Klen'e) und Vërnica (V?rnica), und in allen wird Südslavisch gesprochen. 3. Die übrigen Dörfer von Golloborda gehören zur Gemeinde Stebleva, und zwar Stebleva, Zabzun, Borova, Sebisht, Llanga. Südslavisch wird in Stebleva (Steblo) sowie von drei Familien in Sebisht (Sebi?ta) gesprochen. Wie aus den bisherigen Ausführungen und den Erhebungen vor Ort hervorgeht, gibt es nur noch in fünfzehn der insgesamt Dörfer, die heute zu Golloborda gehören, slavophone Einwohner. Die Zahl der Dörfer in Golloborda wird manchmal auch mit 24 angegeben. Dann zählt man die Viertel des Dorfes Trebisht, und zwar Trebisht-Bala, Trebisht-Çelebia und Trebisht-Muçina separat. Zu Golloborda rechnete man traditionell ferner die Dörfer Hoti?an, ?epi?t, Manastirec, Drenok, Modri? und Lakaica, die heute in Makedonien liegen."
^ abSteinke & Ylli 2013, p. 137 "Das Dorf Borakaj (Borak/Borake), zwischen Durrës und Tirana in der Nähe der Kleinstadt Shijak gelegen, wird fast vollständig von Bosniaken bewohnt. Zu dieser Gruppe gehören auch die Bosniaken im Nachbarort Koxhas."; p. 137. "Die Bosniaken sind wahrschlich nach 1875 aus der Umgebung von Mostar, und zwar aus Dörfern zwischen Mostar und ?apljina, nach Albanien gekommen... Einzelne bosnische Familien wohnen in verschiedenen Städten, vie in Shijak, Durrës. Die 1924 nach Libofsha in der Nähe von Fier eingewanderte Gruppe ist inzwischen sprachlich fast vollständig assimiliert, SHEHU-DIZDARI-DUKA (2001: 33) bezeichnet sie ehenfalls als bosniakisch."; p. 139. "Die von den österreichisch-ungarischen Truppen 1916 durchgeführte Volkszählung in Albanien verzeichnet für Borakaj 73 Häuser mit 305 muslimischen Einwohnern. Von ihnen werden 184 als Albaner und 121 als Serbokroaten bezeichnet. In Koxhas werden 109 Häuser mit 462 muslimischen Einwohnern erfasst, von denen 232 Albaner und 230 Serbokroaten waren, Ferner werden in Shijak 17 Serbokroaten und einer in Sukth registriert (SENER 1922: 35, 36), Für Borakaj sind die Angaben zur ethnischen Zusammensetzung problematisch. Es ist unwahrscheinlich, dass innerhalb von vierzig Jahren die Hälfte der Einwohner in Borakaj albanisiert wurde. Dem widerspricht vor allem auch die ethnische Homo-genität des Ortes bis zu Beginn der 1990er Jahre. Andererseits gibt es keine Hinweise, dass die fraglichen Albaner zwischenzeitlich wieder weggezogen sind oder von den Bosniaken assimiliert wurden. Wahrscheinlich hat sich ein Teil aus irgendwelchen Gründen nur falsch deklariert."; p. 139. "Anders stellt sich die Situation in Koxhas dar. Die Albaner dort bilden bis heute die Mehrheit, d.h. der Anteil der Bosniaken war immer kleiner und hat weiter abgenommen, sodass dieses Dorf in der unmittelbaren Nachbarschaft nicht bosniakisch geprägt ist. Weiterhin dubios bleibt jedoch für beide Ortschaften die Beizeichnung der Einwohner als ,,Serbokroaten", weil die muslimischen Slavophonen von Seiner sonst immer in die Rubrik ,,Sonstige" eingeordnet werden."
^ abTo?i? 2015, pp. 394-395."As noted above, the vernacular mobility term 'Podgoriçani' (literally meaning 'people that came from Podgoriça', the present-day capital of Montenegro) refers to the progeny of Balkan Muslims, who migrated to Shkodra in four historical periods and in highest numbers after the Congress of Berlin 1878. Like the Ulqinak, the Podgoriçani thus personify the mass forced displacement of the Muslim population from the Balkans and the 'unmixing of peoples' (see e.g. Brubaker 1996, 153) at the time of the retreat of the Ottoman Empire, which has only recently sparked renewed scholarly interest (e.g. Blumi 2013; Chatty 2013)."
^ abGruber 2008, p. 142. "Migration to Shkodra was mostly from the villages to the south-east of the city and from the cities of Podgorica and Ulcinj in Montenegro. This was connected to the independence of Montenegro from the Ottoman Empire in the year 1878 and the acquisition of additional territories, e.g. Ulcinj in 1881 (Ippen, 1907, p. 3)."
^Steinke & Ylli 2013, p. 9. "Am östlichen Ufer des Shkodrasees gibt es heute auf dem Gebiet von Vraka vier Dörfer, in denen ein Teil der Bewohner eine montenegrinische Mundart spricht. Es handelt sich dabei um die Ortschaften Boriçi i Madh (Bori? Veli), Boriçi i Vogël (Bori? Mali/Bori? Stari/Bori? Vezirov), Gril (Grilj) und Omaraj (Omara), die verwaltungstechnisch Teil der Gemeinde Gruemira in der Region Malësia e Madhe sind. Ferner zählen zu dieser Gruppe noch die Dörfer Shtoji i Ri und Shtoji i Vjetër in der Gemeinde Rrethinat und weiter nordwestlich von Koplik das Dorf Kamica (Kamenica), das zur Gemeinde Qendër in der Region Malësia e Madhe gehört. Desgleichen wohnen vereinzelt in der Stadt sowie im Kreis Shkodra weitere Sprecher der montenegrinischen Mundart. Nach ihrer Konfession unterscheidet man zwei Gruppen, d.h. orthodoxe mid muslimische Slavophone. Die erste, kleinere Gruppe wohnt in Boriçi i Vogël, Gril, Omaraj und Kamica, die zweite, größere Gruppe in Boriçi i Madh und in Shtoj. Unter den in Shkodra wohnenden Slavophonen sind beide Konfessionen vertreten... Die Muslime bezeichnen sich gemeinhin als Podgori?ani 'Zuwanderer aus Podgorica' und kommen aus Zeta, Podgorica, Tuzi usw."; p. 19. "Ohne genaue Quellenangabe bringt EPANOVI? (1991: 716-717) folgende ,,aktuelle" Zahlen:... Veliki (Mladi) Bori? 112 Familien, davon 86 podgori?anski, 6 crnogorski und 20 albanische Familien. STOPPEL (2012: 28) sagt Folgendes über die Montenegriner in Albanien: ,,hierbei handelt es sich um (nach Erhebungen des Helsinki-Komitees von 1999 geschätzt,, etwa 1800-2000 serbisch-sprachige Personen in Raum des Shkodra-Sees und im nördlichen Berggrenzland zu Montenegro, die 1989 eher symbolisch mit ca. 100 Personen angegeben und nach 1991 zunächst überwiegend nach Jugoslawien übergewechselt waren". p. 20. "Außer in Boriçi i Madh und auch in Shtoj, wo die Slavophonen eine kompakte Gruppe innerhalb des jeweiligen Ortes bilden, sind sie in anderen Dorfern zahlenmäßig bedeutunglos geworden."; p. 131. "In Shtoj i Vjetër leben heute ungefähr 30 und in Shtoj i Ri 17 muslimische Familien, d.h Podgori?aner."
^ abcDe Rapper 2002, p. 191. "It is common in Albania to say that all Albanians, whether Christian or Muslim, are brothers, and that their only religion is their common Albanian nationality. The dogma of national unity as against religious differentiation is at the core of the most widely-spread Albanian national rhetoric. However, this rhetoric is challenged when local society is underpinned by, and conceptualised in terms of, religious differentiation. This is the case in mixed areas, where Muslims and Christians live in separate villages (or in separate neighbourhoods), and both have strong identities as religious communities - as in Devoll. In this specific context, religion cannot consist of just being Albanian. On the contrary, people are very well aware of their belonging to a specific religious community, and national identity is rarely thought of outside the basic opposition between Muslims and Christians."
^ abcNitsiakos 2010, p. 209. "On their part, the Muslims believe that they are the purest Albanians, because they constituted the nucleus of the national renaissance and as great patriots resisted the Serbs, who tried to penetrate and conquer Albanian territories. In reference to Christians, they claim that the Orthodox identified with the Greeks and the Catholic with the Italians."
^ abcdeSaltmarshe 2001, p. 115."It is frequently said that how there is no difference between the religions in Albania. While it is true that there is a considerable degree of toleration, indications deriving from this study suggest that religious affiliations plays a significant part in identity formation and therefore in social relations... However the story from the Catholics was very different... there was varying mistrust of the Muslims. Many Catholics expressed resentment of the dominant position of the Muslims during communism and subsequently. Some expressed and underlying dislike of Islam and what they perceived to be its philosophy."; p. 116. "However the Muslim position was that Islam had proved to be a vital force in uniting and maintaining the independence of Albania. Without it they would have been subsumed by the Greeks, Serbs or Italians. From this perspective, they believed, Islam formed the basis of Albanian national identity and should provide the foundation upon which its state was constructed... Yet not far below the surface there was a degree of disdain for the Catholics. In Gura, Catholic migrants reported that Muslims called them kaur, a most unpleasant derogatory term used by the Turks to describe Christians."; pp. 116-117. "So whatever might be said to the contrary, tensions were observable between Catholics and Muslims. At most basic of levels Gura was segregated into Muslim and Catholics areas. The same situation existed in Shkodër where the city was broadly split into neighbourhoods defined by faith with the Roma living on the southern outskirts of town. Yet there were many in the younger generation who did not see religion as being important."
^ abNitsiakos 2010, pp. 200-201. "Traces of this historical differentiation are still evident in South Albania today between Christian and Muslim Albanians. Very often on hears Christians call Muslim Albanians "Turks"; they, in their turn, often attribute pro-Greek sentiments to Orthodox Christian Albanians."
^De Rapper 2005, p. 181. "The Muslims from Erind - the only village in Lunxhëri to be Muslim in majority - are not perceived as the descendants of migrants from other Muslim areas, but they are nonetheless definitely different, and the relations between Erind and the neighbouring villages are marked by the same stereotypes as the relations between Muslims and Christians usually are: people from Erind are said to be violent and dirty, to have no culture, and to be responsible for anything bad happening in the area."
^Bon 2008, p. 33. "According to the mainstream public opinion in Greece the Greek speaking people of Orthodox religion living in Southern Albania are called Northern Epirots (Vorioepirotes) (see Triandafyllidou and Veikou 2002: 191). According to the public opinion in Albania they are often referred to by Greeks or Greku or pejoratively Kaure (non-believers) or Kaur i derit (non-believer-pigs, i.e. Greek pigs)."; p. 57. "The locals also use pejorative names such as Turkos or Alvanos, which according to them mark the differences in language skills, religion, financial position, social status and the possibility of unrestricted crossing of the Albanian - Greek border.
^De Rapper 2010, p. 6. "We have seen for instance the case of a Muslim villager building a shrine of a Christian type in his own courtyard, in clear relation to the expectations of some of the people who visit the place before crossing the border to work in Greece. One might draw a parallel between such cases and the conversion of Muslim Albanian migrants to Orthodoxy, in order to facilitate their acceptation in Greek society.
^ abEndresen 2010, p. 237 "The Muslim leaders advocate the view that the Albanians' embracing of Islam was voluntary. The Christians, conversely, characterise the Ottoman rule as anti-Christian and oppressive."; pp. 238-239; p. 241. "In Christian narratives, by contrast, Islam represents a foreign element disrupting Albanian unity and tradition."; pp. 240-241.
^ abcEndresen 2010, p. 241. "The Christians' view that the historical conversion to Islam presents a kind of falsification of national identity has interesting similarities with Serbian nationalist interpretations of Slavic conversions to Islam, though the Albanian clergy distinguish between Islam and local Muslims and not consider their compatriots' conversion as treason to the same extent. While the Christian leaders do place Islam on the wrong side of history, its Albanian adherents are portrayed as innocent victims of the cruel polities of foreign intruders. Moreover, the Christian clergy do not exclude Albanian Muslims from the national community, and by the same token none of the Muslim leaders seem to nurture any resentment towards those who did not embrace Islam."
^ abEndresen 2010, p. 250. "Myths of martyrdom and "unjust treatment" in the sense that the national and/or the religious community is a "victim of aggression", run like a thread through the clerics' discourse. These are partly based on the historical fact that in one way or another each community is or has been under threat: since the second half of the 19th Century, Albania and Albanians in the Balkans have been in the firing line of Christian neighbours with territorial claims, which have made efforts to assimilate, expel or even kill the population in disputed areas. This is reflected in the Communities' constructions of the national community. Orthodox and Catholic identities are shaped by the fact that Christianity is a minority religion in Albania, and that the country's Christians have a long history as second class citizens under various forms of Muslim pressures, either as imperial, Islamist polity or under authoritarian leadership dominated by leaders with a Muslim background (Zogu and Hoxha). Conversely, the Muslim clerics focus on how the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire has given the Balkans's Christians the upper hand politically. Islam is also a minority religion in Europe with a historical reputation as demonic and with a modern image problem in the West related to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and global terrorist networks."
^Lederer 1994, p. 355. "This relative tolerance is tested daily by the anti-Islamic attitude of Western-minded laic democrats, various foreign Christian proselytizers, and especially by a section of the Greek Orthodox whose aggressive campaigns are often coordinated with official Greek policies."
^Konidaris 2005, pp. 80-81. "Greece's favorite candidate in these elections was clearly MR. Nano. As emerges from the interview material, he -unlike Berisha- was held in high esteem by the Greek side. It should not escape notice that Nano was by origin Orthodox Christian from Southern Albania, whereas Berisha was a northern Muslim... Greece's favour towards Nano was clearly demonstrated in June, when he was allowed to speak to a crowd of Albanian citizens at a pre-election rally in one of Athens' central squares. The police did not interfere and no arrests of illegal immigrants were made."
Endresen, Cecilie (2015). "The Nation and the Nun: Mother Teresa, Albania's Muslim Majority and the Secular State". Islam and Christian Muslim Relations. 26 (1): 53-74. doi:10.1080/09596410.2014.961765.
To?i?, Jelena (2015). "City of the 'calm': Vernacular mobility and genealogies of urbanity in a southeast European borderland". Southeast European and Black Sea Studies. 15 (3): 391-408. doi:10.1080/14683857.2015.1091182.