Albanians are the biggest Muslim nation of Europe. Located at the western part of the Balkans they are believed to be descendents of the ancient Illyrians, which inhabited Europe some 2500 years ago. While in the ancient times they were pagans, with the advent of the Christian teachings of St. Paul among Romans, they converted in Christianity. Albania’s total territory is 28,000 Sq kms. Its capital city is Tirana, founded in the 17th century by an Albanian Pasha, who, as the legend says, originally named it Teheran.
Historically, the Albanians are the only Balkan people whose national consciousness has not been shaped or identified by their religious affiliation. Instead, Albanians have defined their national identity through language. Throughout their turbulent history, Albanians have shifted with relative ease from one religion to another – being Catholic, Orthodox or Muslim according to how this best served their interests at the time. In the late Middle Ages, their lands became the battlefield between the Catholic West and the Orthodox East. Whenever the West was advancing, the Albanian feudal lords adopted Catholicism; whenever Byzantium was the victor and the West retreated, they embraced Orthodoxy.
Albania is a self-proclaimed secular state that allows freedom of religion. There are 3 main religions: Islam, Orthodox and Catholic Christianity. The percentage of Muslims remains the majority at more than 65%. More than 20% of the population are Orthodox and about 10% are Catholic. The Muslim population is further divided between the 85% who followed the Hanafi school of the Ahli-Sunnah wal Jama’ and the 15% who were affiliated with the highly syncretic Bektashi sect.
History of Islam.
The contacts of Albanians with the Islamic world are relatively new compared to other countries. Islam appeared for the first time in the old continent at the end of the first millennium (9th-10th centuries). Historically, inter-religious contacts between Christian Albanians and Islamic preachers belong to the 13th -14th century. During the 15th and 16th centuries, a number of mosques which are important Islamic culture centres were established in the main cities of Albania.
The Albanians embraced Islam nearly as a whole, which is remarkable when seen in the light of Albanian history. The rugged terrain of this region served as a natural barrier against outside invaders and greatly slowed the spread of foreign ideas, such as Christianity and linguistic borrowing. Before the outlawing of religion in 1967, Albania’s population was 75% Muslim, 15% Orthodox Christian and 10% Roman Catholic.
Albanians were the first nation who embraced Islam massively in Southeastern Europe and cooperated with the Turks for building their Islamic empire in Asia, Africa and Europe. Until 1913, the country was part of the Ottoman Empire, being more or less the last major Balkan territory to be held by the Turks. Many Albanians served the Ottoman Empire with distinction. It was part of the Ottoman tradition to recruit conquered peoples and co-opt them into government. Albanians constituted the bulk of the Osmanli armies,· and the majority of the janissari corps were manned by them.· People from Shemsedin Sami, who contributed to the modernization of the Ottoman state during the 19th century, most of the bodyguards of sultan Abdülhamid II, as well as the grand vizier of sultan Selim one, were Albanians.
Mosques in Albania.
However the mosque building process did not manage to recover the country’s thirst for rediscovering their prohibited religion. If until 1967 in Albania some 1666 mosques existed, nowadays, after the communist destruction, Albanians have managed to rebuild only around 500 mosques throughout the country, even that some Christian fundamentalist organizations in the United States claim that the country has over 3000 mosques.· At present the country has around 350 imams and 500 mosques around the country, which means 1 imam for 10,000 people and 1 mosque for 70000 people. Turkey currently is building 18 large Islamic religious centers around the world. The projects include a mosque in Tirana, Albania which will hold more than 4,000 worshippers.
#albanian #poet ervin hatibi
@defensearchitecture Bed & Bunker (Albania)
On April 7, 1939 in a foggy morning fascist Italy began the 6 days annexation of Albania.
1st photo: festivities in Rome in honour of the Italian mission in Albania.
2nd one: an Albanian talking to two Italian soldiers.
Both photos were taken by Giuseppe Massani.
For more than a decade, #Erdogan invested heavily in spreading his influence amid Albanians, through building mosques, schools, funding media, religious institutions & the political parties controlled by his close associates which dramatically increased his influence in #Albania.
Old postcard. Albanian muslim women in Kastoria (now in Greece).
Turkey playing on the card of Islam in Albania?
By – Katarina Anđelković
In the years following the demise of communism in Albania, Turkey emerged as an important factor to shape Albania’s transition from a totalitarian regime to a pluralistic democratic one. The aim of Turkey’s foreign policy towards the Balkans, apart from securing the stability and security of the region, was to establish and strengthen economic and cultural ties.
Building on the “common culture with the Balkans” rhetoric, Turkey, under the rule of Tayyip Erdogan markedly increased its presence in the Balkans, especially in the regions with the predominantly Muslim population, nurturing thus the Muslim sentiments of the people who had been stripped of their religious identity during communism. The flourishing of religious identities and one’s strong identification with certain religion might contradict with a non-religious national identity of the Albanians.
An example of this contradiction was the recent celebration of Kurban Bajram at the central Skanderbeg square in Tirana, during which the monument of the Albanian national hero was encircled by giant screens placed by the Albanian Islamic Community, thus covering the monument of a man that, according to some of the Muslim Albanians, symbolizes not only the struggle against the Ottomans but the ruthless fight against Islam as such. Interestingly, only a day before the event, Albanian Prime Minister, Edi Rama, had announced that 2018 would be celebrated as the “Year of Skanderbeg”, marking the 550th anniversary of the death of the Albanian national hero.
Apart from Turkey’s continuous economic involvement in Albania and its growing strategic interest in the tiny country on the shores of the Adriatic– one of its latest projects consists of building an airport in the town of Vlora, the second largest in the country – Turkey’s cultural penetration deserves particular scrutiny.
At the beginning of the new millennia, Turkey’s foreign policy faced a considerable shift under the auspices of the ruling AK Party. The then chief foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Erdogan, Ahmet Davutoglu designed a new approach in the contemplation of Turkey’s foreign policy and outlined his ideas in the so-called ‘Strategic Depth’ Doctrine. Owing to its history and geographic position, Turkey, according to Davutoglu, possessed ‘strategic depth’, which renders Turkey a particular central power, aspiring to play a leading role in several regions, including the Balkans. Capitalizing on this asset, Turkey was shifting to a pro-active policy, using its soft power potential.
Although the classification of the AKP agenda as neo-Ottoman widely spread, the shift in foreign policy was considerably influenced by pure pragmatism. The AKP has sought the way to counterbalance Turkey’s dependencies on the West by fostering new alliances, balancing its relationship so as to maintain optimal independence and a considerable dose of political leverage.
Turkish cooperation and coordination agency (TIKA) was founded in 1992 with the aim to assist the newly independent countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus in the fields of industry, agriculture, infrastructure, finance, healthcare and education. TIKA opened its offices in almost all the countries in the Balkans, aimed at offering help and assistance during the turbulent period of the transition to democracies, establishing and nurturing the connections between the peoples, and preserving the cultural heritage dating back to the Ottoman Empire. Following the coming of the AKP to power, the number and the scope of the projects in the Balkans has increased, reflecting thus the re-shaped foreign policy of Turkey towards the region.
For instance, according to TIKA annual reports, between 2011 and 2014 there were 95 projects in Albania being carried out owing to the assistance provided by TIKA, which makes up more than one-third of all the projects completed ever since the agency was established in Albania in 1996.
Religion, nevertheless, played a key asset that Turkey capitalized on in shaping the renewed foreign policy approach towards the region. As a country that had suppressed the practice of religion for almost half a century, Albania was, from the moment it had “opened up” to the world, perceived as a fertile ground for a myriad of organizations from the Arab peninsula and Northern Africa with an Islamic overtone. The attempt to re-shape the country along religious lines intensified following Albania’s admission into the Organization of Islamic cooperation in 1992. Turkish presidency of religious affairs (Diyanet) began to engage with numerous Muslim communities in the Balkans during the 1990s, providing the religious education and constructing and/or renovating the mosques, among other things, thus contesting the growing Arab influence and assuming the role of the “leader” of Muslim communities both in Albania and the region.
Capitalizing on Islam and the cultural affinity, Turkey remains one of the most influential factors in Albania, along with the US and the EU. A number of Albanian intellectuals have been concerned with the increasing Turkish influence in the region.
For instance, Pirro Misha notes that the overarching Turkish influence might be an element of Ankara’s ever-increasing political and economic ambitions in the Balkans, which might damage the European aspirations of the region. Although it is not likely that the growing influence of Turkey and the increase of religious affiliations would divide the nation on religious grounds, some indicators should be taken into account. An example of a possible bone to contention was the aforementioned religious festivity in the Albanian capital.
List of mosques in Albania
740 mosques were destroyed by communist authorities in 1967 when state atheism was first introduced in the country.
This is a list of the main mosques and tekkes in Albania.
IslamSymbol.svg Ottoman mosques
# Name Location Year Builder
1 Et’hem Bey Mosque
Xhamia e Et’hem Beut Tirana
41°19′40″N 19°49′9″E 1819-21 Molla Bey Tirana, Ethem-beyova mešita I
2 Mirahori Mosque
Xhamia e Mirahorit Korçë
40°36′57″N 20°36′41″E 1494 Ilyas Bey Korçë – Mirahor-Moschee
3 Muradie Mosque
Xhamia e Muradies Vlorë
40.46904°N 19.49093°E 1542 Moschee Vlora.
4 Lead Mosque
Xhamia e Plumbit Berat
40.7045°N 19.9554°E 1554 Ahmet Uzgurliu
5 Bachelors’ Mosque
Xhamia e Beqarëve Berat
40.70468°N 19.95005°E 1828 Berat – Beqar Moschee
6 Bazaar Mosque
Xhamia e Pazarit Gjirokastër
40°4′26″N 20°8′17″E 1757 Memi Pasha Gjirokastër Mosque – Mosques in Albania
7 King Mosque
Xhamia Mbret Elbasan
41°06′50″N 20°04′52″E 1482-85 Bayezid II Elbasan – Mbret-Moschee 1 Minarett.
8 Naziresha Mosque
Xhamia e Nazireshës Elbasan
41°06′19″N 20°05′11″E 1599 Naziresha Elbasan – Naziresha Mosque (by Pudelek)
9 Lead Mosque
Xhamia e Plumbit Shkodër
42.0465°N 19.4995°E 1773 Mehmed Bushati 2013-10-03 Lead Mosque, Shkodër
10 Gjin Aleksi Mosque
Xhamia e Gjin Aleksit Delvinë
39.9518°N 20.0764°E 15th century Moschee Rusan.
The regime also destroyed 530 tekkes, tombs and mausoleums.
IslamSymbol.svg Sufi tekkes
# Name Location Year Builder Image
1 Halveti Tekke
Teqeja e Helvetive Berat 1782 Ahmet Kurt Pasha Halveti Teqe Berat
2 Dollma Tekke
Teqeja e Dollmës Krujë 1789 Dollma Family Pamje e jashtme nga Teqeja e Dollmes, Kruje
3 Frashër Tekke
Teqeja e Frashërit Përmet 1815 Nasibi Tahir Babai Teqe of Frashër – Mapillary (xBfC8aYNkqSGJl5Wg2Avng)
4 Martanesh Tekke
Teqeja e Martaneshit Bulqizë 1779 Adem Aga Toptani
5 Backë Tekke
Teqeja e Backës Skrapar 1870 Builders were from
Gostivisht and Kolonjë.
6 Melan Tekke
Teqeja e Melanit Libohovë 1800 Baba Aliu Teqeja e Melanit.
7 Qesarakë Tekke
Teqeja e Qesarakës Ersekë 1620 Haxhi Baba Horosani
8 Turan Tekke
Teqeja e Turanit Korçë 1827
9 Zall Tekke
Teqeja e Zallit Gjirokastër 1780 Sejid Asim Babai
10 Kapaj Tekke
Teqeja e Kapajt Mallakastër 1901 Baba Selmani