Remarks to Second Kosova Interfaith Conference, Prizren, Kosova Republic
Selamalejkum warahmetallahuh wabarakatuh,
Bismillah ir-rahman ir-rahim,
Even in the Balkan area, there is not “one Islam.” The Slavic Islam of Bosnians, and some Montenegrin and Macedonian Muslims, is not identical to Albanian Islam. Some Turkish-speaking communities continue in Kosova and Macedonia, which is why street and shop signs here in Prizren are written in Albanian, Serbian, and Turkish, as well as English. Spiritual Sufism is a much more vital movement among Albanians than among Bosnians. In addition, Albanians include the heterodox Bektashi sect, which resembles but has no direct link to the Alevi movement. Bektashis and Alevis (the latter in European Turkey and Bulgaria) are the sole indigenous community of Shia Muslims in Europe.I believe, therefore, that the “template” for European Muslims is one of acceptance of pluralism in Islam.
In conclusion, I have, since I first encountered it in 1990, admired the “template” of Albanian Islam, particularly in Albania proper, which rejects radicalism and promotes acceptance of the Sunni Sufis and Bektashis, with full respect for the other Albanian religious communities, Roman Catholics, Albanian Orthodox Christians, and the small Jewish representation. Albanian Islam is a model for Islam throughout Europe in its internal relations and dealing with other faiths.
I believe that the saying of the 19th century Albanian patriot, Ottoman official, and Catholic worshipper Pashko Vasa, “the religion of the Albanian is Albanianism,” accords exactly with the teachings of Qur’an and of Prophet Muhammad sallallahualeyhisalem. This attitude is especially praiseworthy because it arises from the national tradition rather than from external or internal imposition.
We should not be afraid to say we are Albanian, Bosnian, Macedonian, and American Muslims, with an emphasis on our national identities. For immigrants and their offspring in Western Europe, this affirmation is often more difficult, mainly for economic reasons, but its absence may be exploited by radicals to promote the fiction of “one Islam.” Still, loyalty to the non-Muslim state in Western Europe should be an unarguable Islamic principle.
Thank you for your attention, selamalejkum warahmetallahuh wabarakatuh.