Albanians are the biggest Muslim nation of Europe. It is believed that they derive from the ancient Illyrian tribes which inhabited Europe 2000 years before. With the advent of Pax Islamica in Europe under the Osmanlis, they were the first Balkanic nation to be integrated in the Ottoman Empire and massively convert in Islam. Albanians found many benefits and careers with the Osmanlis. They for example, constituted the bulk of the Osmanli armies,[1] as most of the janissary corps were manned by them.[2] People like the Shemsedin Sami who contributed to the modernization of the Ottoman state during the 19th century were Albanians. Mehmet Ali Pasha who established Egypt as an independent state in the 19th century was also an Albanian. Shaikh Nasirudin Albani of the 20th century Salafi School was also Albanian. Albanians were detrimental on saving the Ottoman Empire from its chaos of 1653 – 1656 and putting it under control from 1656 – 1702 by five famous Albanian Koprülü grand viziers.[3] One of the most important generals which Sultan Mehmet Al-Fâtih had during his 15th century capture of Constantinople (Istanbul) and Italian ports[4] was an Albanian named Gedik Ahmed Pasha, a descendant of the Albanian tribe of Skura.[5]

At our present days, Albanians live scattered in three Balkanic countries; in Albania, Kosova and Macedonia. Their countries were created after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First Balkanic War of 1913 from the Balkanic Alliance of Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Montenegro. While Kosova and Macedonia were incorporated into Yugoslavia after the First Balkanic War, Albania for its part was projected to be a ‘buffer state’ from Austria and Italy against any Slavic expansion in the Adriatic Sea.[6]

The Albanian post-Ottoman state has gone through many difficult moments after its creation. It has witnessed two World Wars, many existential threats from its neighbors, ethnic cleansings, invasions, famines and anarchies.

Albania’s present population is 3 million and half. Its main ethnic group consist of Albanians. Other minorities living in the country include Greeks, Vlachs, Serbs, Gypsies and Bulgarians. According to Albania’s 1967 census, 73% of its population is Muslim (70% are Sunni, while the rest are suffi and Bektashi followers), 14% Orthodox and 10% Catholics. Albania’s total territory is 28.000 km2. Its capital city is Tirana, founded in the 17th century by an Albanian Pasha who originally named it Teheran.






Albania’s history after the fall of the Ottoman Empire has seen, as with many other Muslim minorities in the world unending inquisitions and crusades. In different times of its modern history, its Muslim population has suffered many persecutions. The worst persecution of Albanian Muslims came in 1967 when its communist regime decided to abolish any religious freedom in the country and declared Albania atheist state. During the decades of communist horrors which lasted until 1991, many Albanian Hojas (Imams) and Dervishes were assassinated, imprisoned or exiled by the regime. Their temples demolished, and religious literature banned and destroyed. Communist’s massacres against Albanian Muslims sent its – after 1990 Muslim generation – to wake up in total jahiliyah about its Islamic past. The Muslims majority of pre-1967 Albania had by 1991 a very vague idea about its Islamic identity.

The communist state sponsored propaganda and ideology which developed in Albania during the years of communism, had its main scope the de-Islamization of Albanians. For this reason a process of historical manipulation of Albania’s Islamic past was put in action by communists. Communist historians portrayed Albania’s history under the Ottomans and Pax Islamica in pan-Christian and Marxist[7] terms. They treated the pax Osmanica in Albania as an era of butchery, ignorance, backwardness, conquest, Asiatic yoke and feudal exploitation.[8] The Albanian official historiography and state propaganda refused and still refuses to – in any possible way appreciate or, at least, recognize any achievement whatsoever of the Pax Islamica in the Balkans. In order of making Albania’s new generation as terrified and appalled with its Islamic origin the official Albanian historiography and mythmakers have openly ignored the positive role that the Ottoman Empire had towards Albanians in their development and integration in history.[9] The communist regime portrayed Albania and Albanians’ history under the Osmanli Devlet as an era of continuous conflicts between the so-called “Albanian Christian freedom-fighters” and the “Ottoman imperial invaders”. The process of mass-islamization of Albanians was painted as result of Turkish yoke and violence against Christian loving Albanians. Christians figures like those of Scanderbeg, Pjeter Bogdani and Millosh Kopili which in many cases were of a dubious Albanian origin were mythified by the official anti-Muslim communist propaganda, while real Albanian national figures like Ali Pashë Tepelena or the Bushati Pashas of Northern Albania, which constituted important figures in the Albanian history have been left in dark and de-glorified, since the latter were found to be Muslim-like heroes by the communist Brahmans.


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With the advent of democracy after 1990 in Eastern Europe, the religious freedoms were constituted back even in Albania. Albanians were allowed to re-practice their religions again. This made its Muslims feel that they could recover their lost identity. The new democratic regime which was installed in Albania in 1991 allowed Albanian Muslims to start some re-Islamizing steps. In this time Albania become member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. An Arab-Albanian Islamic Bank was established in Tirana and around 20 Arab Islamic Foundations and organizations opened their branches in the country. Those shortly lived organizations were engaged from 1991 until 1996 in a process of Islamic education and mosque buildings. Apart from their shortcomings they managed to print and distribute good volumes of Muslim literature in Albanian and build dozens of mosques in the country. However the coup d’etat which happened in Albania in 1997 with the interference of Greece against the democratic regime of Sali Berisha, brought the ex-communists in power again. They in return started a second crusade against Islam in the country, which sent most of the Arab - Islamic organizations operating in the country to be closed. Albania’s newly established communist government had West’s consent and backing on demolishing the newly established Islamic organizations in the country and slowing the process of re-Islamization of Albanians.

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The Muslims of Albania are represented by The Albanian Muslim Community (Komuniteti Musliman Shqiptar) led by Hafiz Sabri Koçi. This NGO which has a loose – but state recognized – control over the mosques of the country is focused in the maintenance of the present Muslim religious infrastructure. Its religious/cultural activities are dependent entirely on foreign help. The few madrasas which the Albanian Muslim Community (AMC) has, run in very poor conditions. Their staff is often very poorly educated, its madrasas are often without running water, cleanness, necessary cloth for students and books. Since its establishment in 1991 the Albanian Muslim Community did not manage to constitute a real “Moslem Church” for the revival of Islam in Albania. It has been a policy of the Albanian state since 1991 and more strongly after 1997, to impose its own people as leading staff of the AMC. Many SHIK agents (Albanian Secret Service) are believed to work in the structures of AMC.

Albania’s new generation of believers has risen many times in rebellions against AMC tactics’ and uneducated leadership and has requested a democratic representation in it. Albanian Muslims want to see the AMC be a real representative and defender of their needs. However their requests have been futile since the state has continuously sabotaged Albanian Muslims’ desire to create a democratic all-representing ‘Muslim Church’ for their community.

Part of AMC’s weakness comes partly from the financial poverty on which this NGO runs. Even that the Albanian Muslim Community inherits many WAKF lands and estates from pre-communist Albania, it has not managed to recover those properties for its own use. The hand of the state mafia and inner sabotage, which many believe to exist in the AMC, has sent many of its WAKF properties to be sold or stolen by powerful businessmen and Mafiosi. Many other WAKF properties of the Albanian Muslim Community have not been returned to AMC from the state, which confiscated them during the era of communism. In addition to the above mentioned problems, AMC’s economical bankruptcy has sent it, in many cases, to sell its WAKF estates in very low prices in order of receiving money for fulfilling its urgent needs.

The economical poverty which AMC inherits at present has sent its authority to be very much degraded. The Imams which work for AMC in its mosques around the country get as low salaries as 50 US$ a month. AMC’s higher staff itself gets 150US$ a month. With this kind of income in Albania, which is one of the most expensive countries of Balkans, the AMC staff is the poorest paid religious staff of the country. In comparison to other religious workers operating in the country, Albanian Muslims are the poorest of them all. The poverty of AMC and its staff needs to be readdressed by the Muslims of Albania, if they want to really create a Moslem Church for their community. However Albania’s overall poverty and backwardness is making such a step almost impossible.




Besides the Islamic Community, two other major religious entities exist in Albania: the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Their influence and role is spread all over the country, on the political stage, as well as in the media. The geographical positioning of Muslim Albania, between the Christian Constantinople and Rome has historically turned it into a clashing zone between the Oriental Orthodoxy and Occidental Catholicism. The historical crusades, from those of Pope Urban II in the 11th century, continued by others in the Ottoman’s days, have distinguished Albania as a major kulturkampf zone between the hordes of Orient and Occident for domination and forced evangelization.

Since Albanians are a small nation, surrounded by mighty powers, their fate has always been to be divided into different quarrelling blocks of foreign interests. Albania’s (Byzantine) national flag of the two-headed eagles is a living witness of its fragile duality in history. Christianity, Islâm, political ideologies like: communism / capitalism, imperialism / socialism, Orientalism / Occidentalism, have historically divorced and clashed upon Albania. Yet Albania’s religious duality witnessed a time of longing peace after the day when the Christian Constantinople became Istanbul of Islâm in 1453 by the Ottomans under Sultan Mehmed Al-Fâtih. With the fall of Constantinople the Osmanli authority was established in Albania as well. With it the intra Christian quarrellings of Albania were terminated as Islam established itself in the country for five following centuries.

Nevertheless the retreat of the Ottoman Empire from Balkans in 1913 incited the old Christian imperialism against Albania again. Their intervention in Albanian politics was tremendous after 1913. However the Christian imperialism found better grounds for grabbing Albanians into their camps after 1990. The impoverished and vague – understanding of Albanians about their Islamic past, made the renegadization of Albanians much simpler than before. The Christian investments in post 1990 Albania were tremendously great. In this point the Catholic Church is one of the most powerful institutions. With the strong backing of the West, and especially Italy and Vatican it is probably one of the most powerful institutions of Albania. The Catholic propaganda on proselyting Albanians has been very aggressive in the past years. Their activities in the country are uncountable but here we may mention the visit of the Pope in Albania, the establishment of a great Catholic Cathedral in the heart of Tirana, the opening of a Catholic University in the country, establishment of numerous institutions, newspapers, radios and even a political party. Even that Albanian Catholics officially constitute only 10% of the population, they have managed to build modern churches, religious schools and kindergartens, children villages, hospitals etc. At present they are at the last steps of opening of their Catholic University in Durrës. Apart from all the above, the Catholic Church has managed in many times to becomes a shadow of the Albanian overall politics in the west. Apart from the religious activity the Church has opened many centers for recruiting Albanian intellectuals in its ideology and indoctrination. Vatican and Italy sponsor the Demochristian Party of Albania which is run by Catholic fundamentalists who claim that Albanian’s future remains in Europe with conversion into Catholicism. With the powerful financial backing of Vatican, Austria and Italy the DemoChristians have opened branches of their party in all corners of Albania. They run two powerful local newspapers: Koha Jone and Albania, as well as sponsor Gazeta 55, Shqiperia Etnike, magazines like Phoenix, and institutes like the Albanian Institute for Strategic Studies, Don Bosco etc.

The Orthodox Church is also a very powerful Church operating in present Albania and according to the popular belief of many Albanians is the real state which runs the country. It has the open support of Greece and Serbia. After the 1997 coup in Albania, Greece managed to install almost all the state apparatus of Albania with its people. From the prime-minister Fatos Nano, ex-Foreign Minister Paskal Milo, as well as many other ministers, politicians and government officials who run Albanian politics at present are Orthodox or at least anti-Islamists. Like the Catholics, the Orthodox Church runs many institutions in Albania, like church hospitals, public schools, companies, institutes, radios and newspapers. The leader of the Albanian Orthodox Church is a Greek citizen, Anastas Yanulatos. This Church, beside the religious conversion, makes the national assimilation of Albanians as well. They have great influence upon Albanian immigrants in Greece, whose number is more than 500.000. [10] Since amongst Orthodox Albanians, many are not Albanians by origin but Vlachs, Greek propaganda of the past 10 years has tried to reorganize and empower them economically in the country and remind them about their ethnic background. At present, Vlachs are in very powerful controlling positions in Albania’s institutions. From the mayor of Tirana, to the director of Academy of Sciences, the publisher of Albania’s biggest daily newspaper, deans of faculties of economics, history, psychology and literature in Tirana University, the director of Sorros, minister of defense and many more are Vlachs by origin and close friends and supporters of archbishop Yanulatos and Greece. Vlachs and Greeks of Albania have great influence in the ruling Socialist Party of Albania. Apart from it, they have also their political party as well, the Party for the Defense of Human Rights (known with its previous name as Omonia). In the last 6 years it has managed to take 4 – 6 ministries from the ruling Socialist Party, which needs to appease them in order of having Greece’s blessings on its smooth running.


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A great number of Protestant, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness and other alien churches operate in Albania, apart from the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. They have been planted in the country after 1991 and have managed to convert into their sects many impoverished Albanians. Their activities are massively supported by Christian countries. USA, Austria, Italy, Greece, Serbia as the well as the whole Christian world support hundreds of Christian organizations, NGO-s, Churches and missionary orders operating in Albania. In their tactics of proselyting Albanian Muslims, they often go in open attacks against the Islamic character of the majority of Albanians. If the present Albanian Muslim Community has only two old cars for transport, the Churches operating in Albania have in many cases even helicopters. They are like states within a state. With their economic superiority they organize massive exhibitions, conferences, TV proselyting emissions and publications targeting Albanian Muslims. Many of the protestant Christian Churches and organizations which operate in Albania at present, run schools, foundations, institutes, orphanages and clinics. They operate four radios as well, even that the Albanian legislation prohibits the existence of religious radios when it comes to Muslims. Many of the Churches operation in Albania, are believed by common Albanians to be involved in espionage activities against the country. This suspicion has been verified in many cases, when local Albanian newspapers have openly admitted that many religious missionaries operating in Albania have been CIA operatives.

Since the number of the Christian NGO’s and Centers operating in Albania is too great, tracing them all is almost impossible. However the following list can bring some light to the extent of the crusade which Albania faces at present:

SJAA (St. John Ambulance Association); SSJE (Society of St. John Evangelist); SPSM (Society for the Sacred Mission); SCM (Student Christian Movement); UCCD (United Christian Council for Democracy); VAT (Voluntary Aid Detachment); YMFS (Young Men’s Friendly Society); PSCE (People’s Society for Christian Endeavor); C.O.S. (Charity Organization Society); FANY (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry); BSC - Bethany Christian Services (“Shërbimet Kristiane Bethany”,); CF - Cross Foundation (“Fondacioni i Kryqit”); FPEC - Foundation Program for Evangelization of Children (“Fondacioni Program për Ungjillizimin e Fëmijëve”); Power of Light (“Fuqia e Dritës”); International Professional Development (“Zhvillimi Ndërkombëtar Profesional”); Humanitarian Foundation for Protection of Women and Children (“Fondacioni humanitar i mbrojtjes së gruas dhe fëmijës”); Adams’ Humanitarian Foundation (“Fondacioni Humanitar Adams”); “Word of Life” Foundation (“Fondacioni ‘Fjala e Jetës’”); God Loves Albania (“Zoti e do Shqipërinë”); Way of Peace (“Rruga e Paqes”); Austria for Albania Foundation (“Fondacioni Austria për Shqipërinë”); Church of Christ Tirana (“Kisha e Krishtit Tiranë”); Siloah Fellowship International; Albanian Encouragement Project (“Projekti për inkurajimin e Shqipërisë”); Norsk Nordhjelp; International Christian Foundation (“Fondacioni Kristian Ndërkombëtar”); Nostra Signora del Buon Consiglio; Orthodox Clinic of Evangelization (“Klinika Ortodokse e Ungjillizimit”); Bethany Fellowship Albania; Christian Center Victory (“Qendra Kristiane ‘Fitorja’”); Mission Emanuel for Albania Foundation (“Fondacioni Misioni Emanuel për Shqipërinë”); Contribute for Education Mission (“Misioni Kontribut për Edukimin”); Orthodox Union “Friends of St. Cosmo” (Lidhja Ortodokse ‘Miqtë e Sh. Kozmait’”); Christian Aid Service (“Shërbesa e Ndihmesës Kristiane”); Jehova’s Witnesses (“Dëshmitarët e Jehovait”); Christian and Evangelist Union (“Enti i Bashkimit Kristian dhe Evangjelist”); Adventistic Church (“Kisha Adventiste”); Christian Evangelistic Church (“Kisha Kristiane Evangjeliste”); Charity Mission “Mother Theresa” (Misioni Bamirës ‘Nëna Tereza’”); Selessian Association (“Shoqata Seleziane”); World Baptist Foundation (“Fondacioni Botëror Baptist”); Yürgen Walman Foundation (“Fondacioni ‘Jürgen Walman’”); Contro Informazione Terzo Mondo; Humanitarian Foundation for Albanian Christian Culture (“Fondacioni Humanitar për Kulturën Kristiane Shqiptare”); Colping Family (“Familja Kolping”); European Baptist Federation (“Federata Baptiste Evropiane”); Youth for a Mission (“Të Rinjtë për një mision”); “Don Bosco” Social Center (“Qendra Sociale ‘Don Bosco’”); Charity Missionaries – Sister M. Ancilla (“Misionaret e Bamirësisë – Motra M. Ancilla”); “Jesus’ Pupils” Society (“Bashkësia ‘Nxënësit e Jezusit’”); Adventistic Church of the Seventh Day (“Kisha Adventiste e Ditës së Shtatë”); Mother Theresa Mission (“Misioni Nëna Tereza); Nehemiyah (“Nehemia”,); Free Finish Mission (“Misioni i Lirë Finlandez); Liahona; International Protestant Assembly (“Asambleja Protestante Ndërkombëtare”); Adra Albania – Agency for Adventistic and Spiritual Development – Albania (“Agjencia për Zhvillimin Adventist dhe Shpirtëror në Shqipëri”); Oklahoma – World Institute of English for Albania (“Oklahoma – Instituti Botëror i Anglishtes për Shqipërinë”); Hope for Albania (“Shpresë për Shqipërinë”); Gjerasim Qiriazi Foundation (“Fondacioni Gjerasim Qiriazi”); Estafier.[11]




The Albanian Muslim Community has witnessed a tremendous shock in its identity after the new realities of after 9 / 11. In line with the global hysteria against Islam, even the Albanian state apparatus was in many cases involved in open crusades against Muslims of Albania. For example: in January 13, 2003 the AMC’s general secretary was assassinated in his office. This enigmatic killing sent the state apparatus and secret services of Albania to go in an open rampage against Muslims of the country. The state backed press accused them of being fundamentalist. The offices of the Albanian Muslim Community were raided in many occasions and their staff taken into custody without any court order. Common believers and imams were taken from their mosques having their fingerprints and pictures taken as suspects, even that until today no single proof has been found to incriminate Albanian Muslims in this heinous crime.

This kind of undeclared official apartheid and discrimination was never seen by the new generation of Albanian Muslims before. They could not understand why the press had to accuse them for being fundamentalists while they were simple believers like their forefathers? The Muslims of Albania could not understand why the press had to see them as some kind of criminals. They could not understand why SHIK (the Albanian Secrete Service) had to plant bugs in the offices of AMC and their mosques, and later remove them by causing false bomb alarms in AMC’s offices.

The present economical and education status of AMC’s staff is very poor indeed. The absence of well educated people in the body of AMC and its economical poverty are very heartbreaking for the Muslims of Albania who aspire to have their own ‘Church’ for spiritual guidance in those hard times which they face. Muslims of Albania need to build their own institutions, schools, foundations and medias for protecting their identity and surviving. But they have no resources for doing that. They have not even enough mosques where they can pray their Jummah prayers. At present Tirana, the capital of the country has only 6 Masjids, and in the days of Jummah, Albanian Muslims are forced to pray outside Et’hem Beg Mosque in Central Square of Tirana since the Old Ottoman Masjid can not keep them all inside. The same goes in other mosques.

The Albanian Muslims of Tirana do not have any private college where they can send their covered daughters, when they get fired from the state schools for keeping their Islamic headscarf. Albanian Muslims, unlike the Christians do not have any radio for their community, neither any newspaper. The only Muslim newspaper which was created in the country after 1991 (Drita Islame), at present is not being sold and put in circulation by the AMC. Even that Albanian’s past history is full with remarkable events, their present situation is very desperate. They do not have even any Institute for Islamic Studies in the country, which will preserve and document their Ottoman – Islamic past, and will teach people the history and religion of their grandfathers under the Ottomans.

Even that they constitute the majority of the population, the Muslims of Albania do not have any political party to represent them and defend their rights in the front of state’s crusades against their identity. The absence of political parties, radios, newspapers, schools, institutions, foundations etc among the Muslims of Albania is not because their community does not have staff for managing itself. The main problem which Albanian Muslims of today faces is part of the larger problem of the Albanian society itself. The miserable economic conditions which post-communist Albania has inherited from the communist past and the fake promises of the era of democracy are the main factor. Albanian Muslims at the same way as their non-religious Albanians do suffer from the huge economic misery which the country is experiencing at present. In a country with the unemployment marking 50% of the population, which is being ruined since many years by IMF colonial economic policies, the future of the Albanian Muslim community seems very grim.

Their only hope for revival remains on the Huge Ocean of the sleepy Muslims World. By seeing thousands of Christian Missionaries, businessmen, officials, institutions and organization invading their country, they keep on hoping that someday, some rich Muslim ‘sheikhs’ will be reminded that there are some Muslims living between Italy and Greece. Probably when this day comes, Albanian Muslims might find in their doors again some Muslim brothers willing to help them to exist, as the Ottomans did centuries back, on building their Islamic institutions. But per sure, the Muslims who will dare and care for them will be not organization of bureaucrats like those working for the Islamic Development Bank or OIC which invest in Albania for building Water Supply Systems costing millions of dollars for the Catholic towns of the country and forget to help even on opening an Islamic College in Tirana. Those who might help the Muslims of Albania survive in the future must be people with faith in God, like the mighty sultan Fâtih who incorporated the oppressed Albanian tribes into his mighty empire, for making them later rulers of the mighty Orient. Until the Muslim World gets reminded about the presence of their European looking – Muslims in Albania, they (the Albanian Muslims) will have to struggle for survival in the unfriendly region in which they happen to be; far away from the Ocean of the Islamic World, in the very mouth of the aggressive historical Christianity.

[1] M. Gleny, The Balkans 1804 – 1999, NY, 2000, p. 23

[2] B. Jelavich, Historia e Ballkanit, Tirana, 1999, Pp. 87

[3] S. Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, Vol I, p. 207

[4] F. Babinger, Mehmed the Conqueror and His Time, Princeton, 1978, p. 390-391

[5] Ibid, p. 273

[6] O. Jazexhi, KRYENGRITJA POPULLORE SHQIPTARE E 1912 – 1915, Kuala Lumpur, 2001

[7] Marx’s opinion for the people of Orient was that: “They cannot represent themselves but they must be represented “, quoted by E. Said in: Orientalism, p. 21

[8] Historia e Shqiperise, Tirana, 1959, p. 340

[9] Armin Hetzer, Geschichte und Gegenwart. Probleme der Geschichreinbung Albaniens, Balkan Archiv, nr. 6, Bremen, 1981


[11] Ibid

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