“Albania: Focus – Islam A Non-Issue In EU Bid, Says Expert,” from AKI, with thanks to Anthony:
Thessaloniki, 4 July (AKI) – The spotlight on Europe’s southern flank, for many months focused on Turkey’s laboured attempts to join the European Union, has shifted briefly to Albania – where parliamentary elections went off relatively smoothly on Sunday.
Despite its difficulties in emerging from decades of Communist isolation and fears that it might be an Islamic powderkeg, some analysts argue Albania may eventually be better placed than Turkey to become the EU’s first, mostly Muslim member. “That’s because Islam is not an issue in Albania’s relations with the rest of Europe,” Eleftheria Manta, an expert at the Thessaloniki-based Institute of Balkan Studies, told AKI.
“Albanian Muslims have coexisted peacefully with Christians for centuries,” said Manta adding that the brand of Islam practiced in Albania, where 84 percent of the population is Muslim is “far more moderate” than in many other countries, including Turkey. Tirana’s EU chances hinge far more on democractic progress than on misgivings about the country’s religious composition, according to Manta.
In blithe disregard of this, reported by the Washington Post in April:
In recent years, thousands of young men wanting to learn more about Islam have traveled to religious schools abroad, most attending month-long crash courses in the Salafi branch of Islam, which promotes a strict, traditional interpretation of Islamic doctrine.
When they return, young Salafist preachers are known to clash with the Muslim leadership over its practices, build new mosques and deliver hard-line sermons….