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I vjetėr 4.3.2008, 07:41   1
Anėtarėsuar: 6.2001

Shkrim i cituar North Albania in terms of nationalism vs religion - by Konrad Clewing


Contrary to the illusions harboured by the international community operating there, however, the state of Kosovo is not primarily a multi-ethnic country and the state project that is "Kosovo" certainly cannot be properly understood as anything other than an Albanian national project.

In paragraph 2 of its independence declaration, this state is already referring to itself not only as "democratic," but also as "secular".


The scene does point to something fundamental, however. It is not just the case that Kosovo Muslims are generally and rightly regarded as not being particularly religious, or that strict observance of Muslim beliefs and practices is a rarity in the country, or that the mosques are usually to be found deserted, with hardly a visitor in sight.

No, it is also the case that since in its earliest beginnings in the late Ottoman period, modern Albanian nation-building has been based to a very large extent, both within and beyond Albanian national territory, on the idea that the nation must take precedence over religious belief.

One of the foundations of this nation-building, that has taken place in a religious environment around eighty per cent Muslim (Sunni and various Sufi groups) and twenty per cent Christian (orthodox in the south, Catholic in the north of the Albanian language area), was, and is, that there is no Muslim core to the nation, no fringe of non-Muslim minorities that are at best tolerated.

Whenever religious loyalty has endangered or shown signs of endangering national loyalty, the defenders of national Albanianhood and the Albanian societies have taken to the barricades to ensure that religion knows its proper place. In this sense the Albanians are not a "Muslim" nation at all, that is to say, not a nation dominated by the religion.

It is much more the case that all three (or four) traditional confessions are seen as equally national Albanian (or during the period of the atheist communist dictatorship as equally anti-national).

Organised Albanian religion

The representatives of organised Albanian Islam, which is spread over Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia, express themselves in national rather than religious terms when referring to Kosovo.

On his first visit to the new Kosovo, or more precisely to the Islamic community of the new neighbouring state, Reis ul Ulema of Macedonia, Sulejman Rexhepi, passed on his congratulations on the independence of the "new Albanian state", which he praised as the realisation of a "centuries old dream whose fulfilment the Albanian nation deserved". No mention here of Islam or Muslims.

And although, since 1999, Arab money has been increasingly in evidence as a source of pressure or incentive towards the promulgation of "Middle East" style Muslim attitudes in Kosovo, it is unlikely that this will make any serious inroads against the dominance of nationalism in the coming years.

Looking ahead

Reassuring for "Europe". At the same time, however, the role model function attributed to an "Islamic" community that is hardly discernible as such, is unlikely to be of any significance. And whether the American support for Kosovo will do anything to improve the standing of the US with Muslims in the rest of the world must also remain doubtful. The Muslim component of the Kosovo question, then, remains marginal.

(Konrad Clewing is deputy director of the Südost-Institut of Regensburg University. His main research interests include nationalism, Muslim history in the Balkans, the history of the Hapsburg monarchy, and the Kosovo conflict.
- Translated from the German by Ron Walker)

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