German Alevi Muslims Vs. Wahhabis at Macedonian Bektashi Shrine

This note is excerpted by the Center for Islamic Pluralism from a reportage on a visit by German Turkish and Kurdish Alevi-Bektashi youth to the Harabati Baba Beltashi teqe on April 18, 2014.
The original reportage, in Turkish, appears here: http://www.ntvmsnbc.com/id/25514552/.

The Harabati Baba Bektashi Sufi teqe, Tetova, Macedonia, 2007 — Photograph by Stephen Sylejman Schwartz.

The Harabati Baba teqe/Dergah (shrine) of the Bektashi Sufi order is located in Tetova, western Macedonia. It was established in 1538 at the türbe (tomb) of the dervish Sersem Ali Baba. According to historical record, Sersem Ali was a vizier of the Ottoman Sultan Süleyman Kanuni (the Lawgiver, often called the Magnificent, lived 1494-1566) and brother of Mahidevran Sultan, the concubine of Süleyman Kanuni. Sersem Ali Baba abandoned his office after an illuminating dream and took to the path of the Sufism. The sultan reacted furiously, saying “If he wants to be a fool, he should go.” In Tetova, Sersem Ali Baba gathered many mystics around himself, including Harabati Baba, who built the türbe on the site of today’s teqe.
In 1945, with the establishment of the Tito Communist regime in the former Yugoslavia, the teqe was closed. It was set afire in 1948. Converted for tourist use, it housed at various times a hotel, a restaurant, and a.discothèque. After the collapse of Yugoslavia the teqe was revived by the Bektashis. At present they are fighting to preserve this special place. Currently the sole dervish Abdylmytalip Beqiri maintains the teqe and receives guests. Dr. Arben Sulejmani looks after diplomatic matters. The Bektashis in 1993 sought recognition as a religious community, but this status has been refused by the Macedonian state.
“The Macedonian government as well as Islamists are interested in the property on which the Dergah is located,” according to Dr. Sulejmani. A group of armed members of the Islamic Religious Community of the Republic of Macedonia invaded the Harabati Baba teqe in 2002. They claim to represent all Muslims in Macedonia. They converted one of the buildings for use as a mosque. The loudspeaker from which the prayer call (ezan) sounds is directed specifically toward the building in which the dervish lives.
A disagreeable surprise awaits his guests at the entrance of the Dergah: an armed “Salafi” radical, with a long beard and typical Wahhabi costume, intercepts them at the entrance and harasses them. This happened to a group from Germany that insisted on visiting the dervish. Apart from their initial fear, the stay was pleasant because dervish Abdylmytalip Beqiri was pleasant and generous. The evening ended with a common meal and deyişler (recitations) in Albanian.
Beqiri told the visitors he is a poor dervish, who receives no salary for administering the teqe. The teqe is open 24 hours a day. He said, “regardless of religion, race, or creed, we accept everyone without distinction. We look at 72 nations with one eye. The Islamic Religious Community of the Republic of Macedonia acts as if we’re not Muslims. The teqe has considerable assets. They want a share of the pie. Turkey claims to seek a solution to this problem. We met twice with the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his representatives. They promised to help, but did nothing.
“In 2010, a portion of the teqe was set afire again; they want to destroy the archives. I wish to reach a solution. We are one Brotherhood.”

Radical Islamist destruction at Harabati Baba teqe, 2010 — Photograph by Bektashi Community of the Republic of Macedonia.

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A protest has been sent by the German Alevi visitors to Teuta Arifi, mayor of Tetova, including the following demands:
“We are shocked that a radical Muslim group has asserted a claim on the Bektashi site… This is a provocation! We cannot accept this religious intolerance!
“We ask that you act consequentially on this matter! We ask you to return the Harabati shrine to the Bektashi community in Macedonia. We demand religious tolerance! At the Harabati teqe there is no place for extremists, no place for intolerance!
“Please assure that extremists who intimidate visitors and spread false statements about the Bektashis are removed from the teqe.
“We hope for your support, we hope that justice will prevail!”

The municipal shield of the city of Tetova, depicting the Harabati Baba teqe around which the town was built. The municipal authorities have failed to assist the Bektashis at the teqe against the Wahhabi interlopers.

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