Skip to main content

Islam and Democracy at the Fringes of Europe: The Role of Useful Historical Legacies

  • Arolda Elbasani (a1)

This article analyzes how the Muslim majority has engaged with, and contributed to parallel processes of democratization and European integration in post-Communist Albania. The assessment of Muslims' choices focuses on the Central organization, the Albanian Muslim Community, which is recognized by the state as the only authority in charge of all the administrative and spiritual issues pertinent to the community of Sunni believers, and serves as the main hub of respective religious activities in the country. The analysis of democratization, and Muslims' respective choices, are divided into two different periods, namely democratic transition (1990–1998) and democratic consolidation (1998–2013), each facing democratizing actors, including Muslim groups, with different challenges and issues. We argue that the existence of a useful pool of arguments from the past, the so-called Albanian tradition, has enabled Muslims to contravene controversial foreign influences and recast Islam in line with the democratic and European ideals of the Albanian post-communist polity. This set of historical legacies and arguments explain Muslims' similar positioning toward democracy throughout different stages marked by different institutional restrictions and state policies.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Arolda Elbasani, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, Via delle Fontanelle 19, I-50014 San Domenico di Fiesole, Florence, Italy. E-mail:
Hide All
Albanian Muslim Community. 2013. “Universiteti Hena e Plote – Bedër.” (Accessed on December 15, 2013).
Bellin, Eva. 2008. “Faith in Politics: New Trends in the Study of Religion and Politics.” World Politics 60:315347.
BTI. 2014. “Albania Country Report.” (Accessed on June 15, 2014).
Clayer, Nathalie. 2003. “God in the ‘Land of the Mercedes.’ The Religious Communities in Albania since 1990.” In Österreischiche Osthefte, ed. Jordan, Peter. Wien: Peter Lang, 277314.
Clayer, Nathalie. 2009a. Ne Fillimet e Nacionalizmit Shqiptar: Lindja e nje Kombi me Shumice Myslimane ne Evrope (The Beginning of Albanian Nationalism: The Birth of a Muslim- Majority State in Europe). Tirana: Botime Perpjekja.
Clayer, Nathalie. 2009b. “The Tiyaniyya: Reformism and Islamic Revival in Interwar Albania.” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 29:483493.
Deliso, Christopher. 2007. The Coming Balkan Caliphate: The Threat of Radical Islam to Europe and the West. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Security International.
Della Rocca, M. Roberto. 1994. Kombi dhe Feja ne Shqiperi 1920–1944 (Nation and Faith in Albania). Tirana: Elena Gjika.
Della Rocca, Roberto. 2000. Shqiperia dhe Rrenjet e Krizes (Albania and the Roots of the Crisis). Tirana: House of Books and Communication.
Dizdari, Islam, and Luli, Faik. 2003. “Hafiz Sabri Koci Pishtar i ringjalljes Islame ne Shqiperi (Hafiz Sabri Koci-the Torch of Islamic Revival in Albania).” (Accessed on June 15, 2014).
Duffy, Terence. 2000. “Albania: Beyond the Hoxha's Legacy.” In Transformations of Post-Communist States, eds. Kostecki, Wojciech, Zukrowska, Katarzyna, and Goralczyk, Bogdan. London: Macmillan Press Ltd.
Elbasani, Arolda, ed. 2013. European Integration and Transformation in the Western Balkans: Europeanization or Business as Usual? Abingdon: Routledge.
Elbasani, Arolda. 2004. “Albania in Transition: Manipulation or Appropriation of International Norms.” Southeast European Politics 5:2444.
Elbasani, Arolda. 2007. “The Impact of EU Conditionality Upon Democratization: Comparing Electoral Competition and Civil Service Reforms in Post-Communist Albania.” Ph.D. diss. European University Institute.
Endresen, Cecilie. 2012. Is the Albanian's Religion Really “Albanianism”? Religion and Nation According to Muslim and Christian Leaders in Albania. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
Jazexhi, Olsi. 2011b. “Albania.” In Yearbook of Muslims in Europe, eds. Nielsen, Jorgen S., Akgönül, Samim, Alibašić, Ahmet, Račius, Egdūnas, and Scharbrodt, Oliver. Leiden: Brill.
Jazexhi, Olsi. 2011a. “The Muslim Community of Albania from the Turkish Caliphate to the Turkish Djemat.” Presented at the Conference on Dealing with Change: Islamic Leadership in the Balkans and the Baltic, Sofia.
Kalyvas, Stathis. 2000. “Commitment Problems in Emerging Democracies: The Case of Religious Parties.” Comparative Politics 22:379397.
Kuru, Ahmet. 2007. “Passive and Assertive Secularism: Historical Conditions, Ideological Struggles and State Policies towards Religion.” World Politics 59:568594.
Lakshman-Lepain, Rajwantee. 2002. “Albanian Islam—Development and Disruptions.” In Albania —A Country in Transition, eds. Kasser, Karl, and Kressing, Frank. Baden Baden: Nomos Verlag, 3465.
Moisiu, Alfred. 2005. “Inter-religious Tolerance in Tradition of Albanian People.” (Accessed on June 15, 2014).
Muslim Forum of Albania. 2008a. “The Muslim Forum of Albania Appeals to OSCE to Help Fighting Islamophobia and Racism in Albania.” (Accessed on June 15, 2014).
Muslim Forum of Albania. 2008b. “Miranda Vickers is Mistaken about Islam in Albania.” (Accessed on June 15, 2014).
Muslim Forum of Albania. 2009. “A Call for Albanian Government Institutions to Safeguard the Right to Religious Belief.” (Accessed on June 15, 2014).
Philpott, Daniel. 2007. “Explaining the Political Ambivalence of Religion.” The American Political Science Review 101:505525.
Popovic, Alexander. 2006. Islami Ballkanik (Islam in the Balkans). Tirana: Toena.
Poulton, Hugh, and Taji-Farouki, Suha. eds. 1997. Muslim Identity and the Balkan State. London: Hurst.
Prifti, Peter. 1978. Socialist Albania since 1944: Domestic and Foreign Developments. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Prifti, Peter. 1999. Remote Albania: The Politics of Isolation. Tirana: Onufri Publishing House.
Raxhimi, Altin. 2010. “Turkish Brand of Islam Now Dominates the Country's Religious Institutions.” Balkan Insight, December 1, 2010.
Ruli, Genc. 2003. “Albania: The Weakness of the State.” In Prospects and Risks Beyond EU Enlargement, Southeastern Europe: Weak States and Strong International Support, ed. Van Meurs, Wim. Leske Budrich: Opladen.
Schwedler, Jillian. 2011. “Can Islamists Become Moderates? Rethinking the Inclusion-Moderation Hypothesis.” World Politics 63:347376
Shekulli. 2005. “Deklaratë e përbashkët e komuniteteve fetare shqiptare (Common Declaration of Albanian Religious Communities).” (Accessed on June 15, 2014).
Sinani, Besnik. 2005. “Fundi I Sekularizmit te Shtetit Shqiptar (The End of Albanian State's Secularism).” Shekulli, November 14, 2005.
Sinani, Besnik. 2010. “Transnational Islam in Post-Communist Albania.” MA thesis, New York University.
Sulstarova, Enis. 2006a. “Europa e Ngurte e Kadarese (The Static Europe of Karade).” Perpjekja 23:3452.
Sulstarova, Enis. 2006b. Arratisje nga Lindja: Orientalizmi Shqiptar nga Naimi te Kadareja (Escaping East: Albanian Orientalisms from Naim to Kadare). Tirana: Dudaj.
Sytari, Muhamed. 2011. Faik Hoxha. Para Pasqyres Se Nje Jete (Faik Hoxha: A Life Story). Shkup: Logos.
Tezcür, Gunes M. 2010. “The Moderation Theory Revisited: The Case of Islamic Political Actors,” Party Politics 16:6088.
The Albanian Parliament. 1993. “Changed Law on Major Constitutional Provisions.” (Accessed on June 15, 2014).
The Albanian Parliament. 2009. “Law on the Ratification of the Agreement of good understanding between the Council of Ministers and the Albanian Muslim Community.” (Accessed on June 15, 2014).
The Albanian Parliament. 1991. “Albanian Constitution.” (Accessed on November 15, 2013).
The Albanian Parliament. 1998. “Albanian Constitution.” (Accessed on November 15, 2013).
University of Oslo. 2013. “Survey Conducted in the Framework of the Project: Strategies of Symbolic Nation-Building in West Balkan States—Intents and Results.” (Accessed on June 15, 2014).
Vaughan-Whitehead, Daniel. 1999. Albania in Crisis: The Predictable Fall of the Shining Star. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
Vickers, Miranda, and Pettifer, James. 2000. Albania from Anarchy to a Balkan Identity. London: Hurst and Company.
Vickers, Miranda. 2008. “Islam in Albania. London: Defense Academy of the United Kingdom.” (Accessed on Month Day, Year).
Wickham, Carrie R. 2004. “The Path to Moderation: Strategy and Learning in the Formation of Egypt's Wasat Party.” Comparative Politics 36:205228.
Young, Antonia. 1997. Religion and Society in Present Day Albania. Brussels: Institute for European Studies.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Politics and Religion
  • ISSN: 1755-0483
  • EISSN: 1755-0491
  • URL: /core/journals/politics-and-religion
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed