Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Muslims of Kosovo

When Albanians, wherever they were located in the world, were once asked about their religion, a common response had traditionally been, "The religion of Albania is Albanian." Although the majority of Albanians in southeastern Europe are Muslim, it is a little known fact that in the 17th century, they were all Christian - the northern regions were Roman Catholic and the southern, Orthodox Christian.

After the Ottomans subjugated southeastern Europe in the 15th century, there began a slow conversion of its Albanian populations to the Muslim faith - not, necessarily, out of religious belief, but mostly because of the perks Albanians would receive by converting - less taxes, less military serve, ability to advance in government, etc.

After Albania, for example, finally achieved its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912, the majority of its population had converted to Islam, but King Zog, a Muslim, insisted that all religions - Muslim, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox Christian - serve in his royal cabinet. After King Zog's brief ouster from Albania in 1924, the new Prime Minister, Orthodox Christian Bishop Fan S. Noli, also appointed representatives of the three faiths to his cabinet, This practice continued under communist dictator, Enver Hoxha. even though he eventually outlawed religion in Albania in 1967. Representation of the three faiths continues to this day in the current Berisha government of Albania.

Attempts to radicalize Albanian members of the Muslim faith in southeastern Europe by outside influences have invariably failed because Albanians - of all faiths - prefer, instead, to emphasize the secularist structure of government.

For a close look at religion in Kosovo, an informative article titled "The really moderate muslims of Kosovo" by independent foreign correspondent, Michael J. Totten, should be must reading. Here's where you can read it:


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