The Muslim Forum of Albania apeals to OSCE to help fighting Islamophobia and racism in Albania
To : His Excellency,
Based on the declaration of the Head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Mr. Miguel Angel Moratinos, dating October 10th, 2007, on the Declaration of Cordova, and on the resolutions of the Council of Ministers of the OSCE as well as on a number of other conferences, where your organization has clearly voiced its concern regarding the intolerance and discrimination against Muslims, we are writing this letter as we hope to direct your attention as ambassador as well as your organization’s attention to some of the latest developments in Albania that have sparked tensions and arguments in the printed and electronic media.
As you may know, the printed and the electronic media of Albania have been involved in the past weeks in a series of arguments sparked by a novel written by one of the prominent members of the Socialist Party, Mr. Ben Blushi. The novel entitled “Living in an island”, reviewed by Mr. Piro Misha and published by TOENA publishing house, portrays Islam as well as the identity of the Albanian Muslims in strongly negative colors. In this novel the Muslims of Albania, Asians, Muslim people in general, Turks, Egyptians (Ashkali), the Prophet Mohammed and the principles of Islam are narrated in dark overtones. Muslims are portrayed as being violent, immoral, traitors to Christianity and their religion is depicted in insulting words, all in an effort to negatively impact their free exercise of their religious rights and freedoms. In the novel, the Turks are depicted as savages and violent Asian criminals. The Egyptians are shown as filthy uncivilized people. Islam and Muslims, who constitute the majority of the population of Albania, are treated as undesirable elements, by aiming in this way to undermine the religious harmony that exists in our country.
The artificial media hype that accompanied the marketing of this novel was followed by a number of comments both in the printed as well as in the electronic media, where some commentators depicted Islam as a religion imposed violently upon Albanians and called on them to convert back to Christianity, in order to become part of the Western Civilization. Some have gone even further by suggesting that Islam hinders our efforts to become an integral part of the European Union.
Even though our Forum respects the freedom of expression and art, we are concerned when this freedom is being abused and might have negative consequences on the future religious harmony and tolerance of Albania. What is more concerning for us is that we saw a number of high ranking politicians and media owners who instead of supporting the religious harmony and co-existence in our country, did the opposite by justifying the contents of the novel as “just a literary creation”.
What concerns our Forum the most are the many comments that have been made in Albania during these recent years where Islam has been depicted as a religion that goes contrary to Europe and the myth which claims that it was imposed upon the Albanians by Turkey. Comments that belittle the Muslims, Turkey and depict the Albanians as Christians converted by force in Islam have unfortunately found their way even in the Albanian school textbooks in the recent years. Our Forum is concerned that these attacks are justified in our society in the name of Europe. We are deeply concerned by the fact that in a democratic society like ours, the name, the morals and values of Europe are being misused in such a way. While the Muslims of Albania have historically shown themselves to be believers in European values and morals, some analysts and politicians are trying to make them feel strangers in their continent and portray Europe as a continent that accepts Christians only.
Since the Muslims of Albania feel themselves Europeans, part of the larger cultural mosaic of our common civilization and given that the OSCE shares the same concerns regarding racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia as we do, the Muslim Forum of Albania appeals through this letter to His Excellency, the OSCE Ambassador as well as the organization that you represent, to closely monitor the expressions of Islamophobia and racism in our country and to make the appropriate recommendations in order to prevent insults, discrimination and psychological abuse that a group of people does against the Muslim community of this country on periodical bases.
We hope that your organization will assist and undertake appropriate measures in connection with these serious concerns, in light of your continuing efforts to promote human rights and freedoms and to prevent all forms of discrimination.
Thanking you in advance,
Note for Editors:
The Muslim Forum of Albania is an NGO, part of the Albanian Civil Society whose aim is the fight against racism, discrimination and Islamophobia. For having more information on us please visit: www.forumimusliman.org
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