Competing for the Albanian Soul

I found this very interesting article and wanted to share with you. Here are some excerpts:

“Albanians have been Muslims for more than 500 years and they do not need outsiders [Arabs] to tell them what is the proper way to practice Islam.” – Rexhep Boja, Mufti of Kosova

Albanians often state that their faith was never the determining factor in defining their identity. Albanians assumed they shared a common cultural, political and, ultimately, spiritual place vis-à-vis the outside world that transcended their sectarian differences. Despite this encompassing viewpoint, Albanians today are widely considered “Muslims” and part of the “Islamic world” in the most general of terms. While on a statistical basis this may be true, identifying Albanians as “Muslim” does not help us appreciate how Albanians have attempted to interact with the outside world. Even more importantly, it has proven misleading to assume that events taking place in other parts of the vast and diverse “Islamic” world had any immediate significance in the Albanian-speaking world. Simply put, what accounts for the regional distinctions between the many ways in which Albanian-speakers practice their various faiths has rarely been considered worthy of consideration. This neglect may prove over the next ten years to be fatal to any hope of long term stability in the region.

A number of illuminating incidents that have pitted Saudi, Greek Orthodox and Evangelical organizations and local Muslim community leaders against each other make the point that local proclivities are not those of outside organizations. These differences are slowly being eroded however. The genuine love local Albanians feel for Americans for instance, is slowly being destroyed by the effects of Arab proselytizing strategies, in particular, among the youth whose family structures were devastated by Communism and war. Unless immediate attention is paid to provide an alternative for rural communities in Kosova, Macedonia and Albania, the spectacle of outside powers manipulating internal sectarian differences – as in Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s – is a distinct possibility. It would be yet another tragic demonstration of Western shortsightedness if its failure to provide a few million dollars to rebuild the lives of hundreds of thousands of human beings would result in decades of conflict and instability.

Two hundred years ago, it was the Albanian ruler of Egypt, Muhammad Ali of Kavala who defeated the spread of Wahabbism in Western Arabia during his campaign of 1811-1818. Today it is the Wahabbis who are asserting their control over Albanian souls. The difference today is that it is economic destitution that has provided the pretext for invasion. Tragically, this is an invasion that is made possible by the very neglect of the secular, wealthy Western nations to address the basic needs of hundreds of thousands of their fellow Europeans. The economic stinginess and the cultural chauvinism that produces this neglect may come back to haunt Europe, ending any illusion that things have been made right in the Balkans.

– See more at: Competing-for-the-Albanian-soul-are-Islamic-missionaries-making-another-Lebanon

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