TOP Analysis, Prognoses and News about Greek - Albanian Relations and the Region.
Monday, July 23, 2012
Albania: growing Islamisation causing tension
By: John Newton
Radical Islam is being imported into Albania leading to growing tensions in the country, according to an expert on the region.
“In Albania, young imams propagate a different form of Islam from
what is customary there. This is leading to tensions,” said Peter
Rettig, head of the South-East Europe section of Aid to the Church in
Mr Rettig, who has just returned from a project assessment trip to
the country, described how the growth of extremist Islam is leading to
tensions not only within Muslim congregations but also with some
He said: “They are scholars who have been trained inTurkey and Saudi
Arabiaand demand a ‘pure’, stricter Islam. The number of events shows a
He said that when he visited the country two years ago he received no
reports of radical Islam, but during his recent visit he was not only
told about such incidents, he witnessed one himself.
Mr Rettig described how he was sitting next to a priest of Tirana
Archdiocese during a public screening of the Euro 2012 match
betweenGermany and Netherlands when the minister was approached by two
young teenagers – who he estimated to be 12 and 13 years old – who tried
to convert the cleric. He said: “He was wearing clerical clothes, they
would have immediately seen that he was a priest.” He also described
receiving a report about a Protestant pastor near the Greek border who
was beaten by an imam for distributing children’s gifts despite having
the permission of the local school.
Another report told of Muslim children near Lake Shkoder refusing
sweets from religious Sisters because of their Christian faith.
Mr Rettig added: “A priest in charge of education told me that they
are happy that ethics courses are taught instead of religious studies in
state schools as they fear the infiltration of radical Islam.”
But Mr Rettig stressed that while there were growing tensions with
Christians, primarily the growth of radicalism affected Islam.
He said: “This conflict is first of all a conflict in the Muslim
community between the local open-minded easy-going Islamic tradition and
the new fundamentalist purified version.”
He pointed out that the vast majority of people in Albania live together in peace.
According to Mr Rettig there are no reliable statistics about religious affiliations in Albania.
But it is estimated that some 60 percent of the 3.2 million Albanians
belong to Sunni Islam. Some eight percent are Bektashi, an Islamic sect
which was influenced by Sufism.
Orthodox Christians make up 20 percent of the population and Catholics about 10 percent.