I believe I speak for many Albanians – Christians and Muslims alike – who are tired of the frightening assertions by some of Albania’s neighbors that “Albania is now the only Muslim country in the Balkans” and should, therefore, be feared as possibly nurturing Muslim extremists.
However, from Scanderbeg’s time in the 15th century up to the current Berisha adminstration in Albania, Albanian Christian Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Muslims were – and are – invariably included in Albania’s governments. King Zog, Fan Noli, and successive communist administrations always made it a point to include members of the three different religious faiths in Albania in their governments.
I am pleased, then, to post the following article about religion in current-day Albania that may help set the record straight.
A Frosina Infobit
Present Day Islam Religion in Albania
Albania is both a secular state and secular society. Albanian Islam has never been a strict and traditional form. The majority of Albanian Muslims are Sunnis, the branch which, in contrast to the Shi’ites, is most open to western influences such as dress and social habits. The other Muslim tradition in Albania is Bektashim, a form of Shi’ite Islam close to the Sufis (best known for the practice of the ‘whirling dervishes’). The Bektashis are one of the least dogmatic expressions of Islam and open to collaboration with other faiths. In any case, most Muslim Albanians have a long secularist tradition, being very moderate and liberal (in the sense of marrying someone of another religion, drinking alcohol, or eating pork, etc.). The long period of state atheism also had the effect of damping down religious fervour on the part of Muslims.
After the collapse of communism the religious revival has tended to favour conversions to Christianity rather than Islam, reinforced by the wish of Albanians to join the European family, which is viewed as a ‘Christian Club’. In Albania there is little evidence of Islamic fundamentalism, or even Islamization. Most young Albanians today conform to the more hedonistic and secularist life-styles of their young western counterparts.
The situation in Albania is unlike Kosovo or Macedonia where religion has been an important element of their national identity for the ethnic Albanian populations. Another specific feature is that Albania did not have a single national church, powerful and influential, as had its neighbouring countries Greece and Serbia.
Source: Page 34. Albania and the European Union, by Mirela Bogdani and John Loughlin, I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2007, London and New York, www.ibtauris.com