Turkey, Saudi Arabia promoting stricter Islam in Albania

Skopje, Albania, Jul 20, 2012 / 01:52 am (CNA).- Other countries’ propagation of a stricter form of Islam in Albania is causing tensions with Christians and with other Muslims, a charity leader says.

Peter Rettig, head of the South-East Europe Section of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, said that young imams trained in Turkey and Saudi Arabia are spreading “a different form of Islam from what is customary” in Albania. The countries are strongly promoting the building of Islamic schools.

“This is leading to tensions,” he told Aid to the Church in Need.

The Catholic charity’s project partners have reported incidents that are “not dramatic” but their number “shows a worrying trend,” Rettig said.

He noted other problems in the country, such as long-term development being threatened by widespread corruption and unclear property rights.

These problems affect Catholic Church projects. Chapels, churches and parish facilities cannot be built because of the unclear situation.

Albania has a variety of religions but statistics are unreliable and many individuals lack a basic knowledge of their faith.

About 60 percent of the 3.2 million people in Albania belong to Sunni Islam, while eight percent are Bektashi, a religion similar to Islamic Sufism.

Orthodox Christians comprise about 20 percent of the population while Catholics make up 10 percent.

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