Sufis Under Fire in Macedonia

Damage from an arson at the Harabati Baba teqe, a Sufi Muslim religious complex in Tetova, Macedonia. Photo: Bektashi Community of Macedonia

Stephen Suleyman Schwartz is author of The Two Faces of Islam: Saudi Fundamentalism and Its Role in Terrorism (2002) and The Other Islam: Sufism and the Road to Global Harmony (2008). He is the Executive Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism.

As an informed global media audience should know, traditions of pluralism that were long established in Islamic statecraft, law, and public institutions today face a mortal threat from adherents to radical, fundamentalist interpretations of Sunni Islam. The latter mainly comprise Saudi-financed Wahhabis, who masquerade as “Salafis,” and South Asian Deobandis, who support the Taliban. In the Balkans, the front line between Sufism and Wahhabism runs through the Albanian- and Muslim-majority – and in the past, Sufi-identified – city of Tetova in eastern Macedonia.

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Majority-Muslim Albania and the Holocaust

On October 29, 1944, Jewish refugees protected by Albanians pose for a photo following the liberation of the country. Photo: Refik Veseli

Albania was the only European country that ended World War II with more Jews living in it than before the war started. According to the International School for Holocaust Studies, every one of the 200 Jews living in Albania before the war was saved by their local countrymen and women, and over 2,000 Jews in total were hidden, housed, and provided for by Albanians. In 1943, Nazi Germany ordered the Albanian authorities to turn over government census data on Jews in the country. The Albanians refused. In fact, not a single Jew was ever turned over by Albanians to the Italian fascists and Nazis in Albania.

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