On the verge of the Muslim Holiday, Eid, the public opinion has turned a debate into an open conflict which might have critical consequences if it is not kept under control. Muslim clerics during a ceremony put a screen which partially blocked the view of the national hero’s statue in the capital city of Tirana main square. The act did not sit well with the public, and has sparked fierce reactions.
Albania was an atheist country during the dictatorial period where religious beliefs were punishable by law. After the democratic changes took place in 1990 and based on the constitutional amendments, religious practice became legal. Shortly after, the three dominant religions Islam, Catholic and Greek Orthodox sent their missionaries to open up churches and mosques in order to serve the people.
The Albanian Constitution clearly states that Albania does not have an official religion. Yet, in the last 26 years the religious rhetoric has been the center of the public debate on holidays, exhibiting low religious tolerance, totally the opposite of what the Albanian government officials sustain. The Islamic radicals already have strong holds in Kosovo, and many young men are fighting aside the terrorists groups in Syria. This is very problematic not only for Kosovo, but for Albania as well.
Until now, religious rhetoric has been all about the image, and the symbolism. The Muslim clergy in the midst of the debate has added fuel to the fire by segregating the Albanian people based on their religious affiliation. Despite the peaceful coexistence rhetoric, Muslin Clergy has entirely bypassed the Albanian people by violating their national symbols.
On the other hand, the orthodox clergy plays the political game of the southern neighbors by associating and identifying the Albanian orthodox population as Greek. The same scenario applies to the Catholic clergy who identifies with the Vatican.
In conclusion, the Albanian state has remained neutral and aloof completely ignoring the individual freedom clause by bypassing the institutional secularism of the Albanian Constitution. Under the same constitution, religious subjects can administer their own property and are not allowed to use public (places) squares for religious services and purposes. This is a fiasco that can have detrimental consequences in the future if the state fails to handle it properly.