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Macedonia: Analyst Discusses Albanian Muslims' Pro-European Orientation

EUP20070111113008 Skopje Hena e Re in Albanian 20 Jul 06 - 15 Aug 06 pp 33-37

[Interview with Xhavit Shala, director of the Albanian Institute for National Security Studies, by Avni Halimi, in Tirana, Albania; date not given: "No One in Europe Is Asking Us To Rid Ourselves of Muslim Religion"]

We interviewed Xhavit Shala, a former high-ranking officer in the Ministry of Public Order and current director of the Albanian Institute for National Security Studies based in Tirane [Tirana], at the Sheraton Hotel in Tirane and under the careful supervision of security officers. He is known to the Albanian elite as an expert on the war against organized crime, the "Albanian underworld," and as an expert on the different religious currents operating in Albania. In an exclusive interview with Hena e Re, Xhavit Shala talks about a number of issues that are currently of great concern to the Albanians in all ethnic Albanian areas.

[Halimi] We would like to begin this interview with a brief analysis of one of the most heated debates ever conducted in Albanian society: the debate between [Ismail] Kadare and [Rexhep] Qosja on the issue of our national identity. Others who joined the debate caused quite a divergence of opinions by concluding that we are dealing with two different tendencies here: the tendency to European-Albanize the Eastern culture and the tendency to give a Turkish-Arabic hue to the European-Albanianism. What was the essence of this debate, and would you agree that its purpose was to demythologize these issues and to make it clear that there is no room for taboo topics in Albanian society?

[Shala] The Kadare-Qosja debate on our national identity came as a result of this great concern that the Albanians have, namely that of integration into the European-Atlantic structures. This is due to the fact that the identity is closely linked to civilization, and civilizations in general have been the pillar for the integration of states and have remained the basic foundation on which various political, economic, and military alliances are built.

Although the European Union [EU] proclaimed itself to be an organization that groups states on the basis of their democratic values and market economy, it has been widely said that it is an organization that has only embraced countries that belong to Western civilization, which are in essence of the Christian faith. The integration of the Albanians into the political and security structures, alongside the civilized countries of the West, is an old dream. The EU is now facing a difficult challenge, since states with entirely Muslim populations, such as Turkey, or with a partly Muslim population, such as Albania, are not only aspiring, but are in fact taking active steps to become members of the Christian club.

Consequently, political and intellectual circles in Europe and beyond have engaged themselves in a debate, especially after launching the hypothesis that Turkey and the countries of the Western Balkans should be denied access to the EU. This debate was reproduced on a national level, as well, following a silent conviction that civilization and religious affiliation play a significant role in becoming an EU member. The debate on our civilization and the role of religious beliefs has also absorbed our political and intellectual circles. The debate between Kadare and Qosja only contributed to this situation, although there were moments when their debate crossed the limits of the academic and became personal, causing an unnecessary loss of energy.

Like it or not, the long Ottoman occupation left traces in our country's social culture. The effects of the Ottoman occupation and, later, of the communist influence can still be easily perceived in many elements of our social and political behavior. However, despite their efforts to redefine Albanian civilization and orientate it toward the East, the Turks did not succeed, because the Albanians had their roots deeply embedded in the western civilization. Moreover, with the declaration of independence, the identity of the Albanian civilization could not remain static, just as it had been left by the Turks. It was an identity in motion.

The Albanians are going through a process of redefining the identity of their civilization based on the Western model, from which they were forcibly separated centuries ago. However, according to Professor Samuel P Huntington, director of Harvard University's Strategic Studies Institute in the United States, in order to redetermine the identity of its civilization, a country must fulfill three preconditions: First, its political and economic elite must fully support the movement; second, the public must be prepared to accept the redetermination in silence; and, third, the dominant groups of the target civilization must be prepared to welcome the redetermination.

The Albanian political and economic elite have generally had a Western European orientation, especially since the declaration of independence. The Albanian patriots were determined to rebuild the state pursuant to the Western model. During King [Leka] Zog's rule, the [Albanian] state resembled a Western state. Criminal and civil laws were drafted pursuant to the French model. Even Zog's marriage to Countess Geraldina Apony, who was a Catholic, symbolized an alliance with the West. Following World War II and despite being listed among the winners in the war, Albania remained part of the communist camp and subsequently became isolated from both the East and the West.

Later, after the fall of communism, a pro-Western and European orientation was clearly expressed in the political platforms of each and every political entity and the entire Albanian political class. Even the economic elite, which started to form during the 1990s, supported the pro-Western orientation of Albanian politics.

The second precondition, which is very important for redetermining our Western civilization identity, has been publicly accepted and accomplished. On the whole, the Albanian people have been ready to accept European civilization openly, rather than in silence, because of their early roots, which are the same as those of Western civilization. "The Albanian people are perhaps the only people in the region who unanimously strive to integrate into the European and Atlantic structures. This is an indisputable fact," British Ambassador David Landsman said years earlier in Tirana. The desire of the Albanian people to be part of Western civilization has been long-standing. It dates back to precisely the period when this civilization was being formed. This is linked to the support that the Albanians extended to their leader Skenderbeu against the Ottoman occupation.

The Albanian people and their predecessors have produced personalities who have made a valuable contribution to Western Christian civilization. Emperors of Illyrian origin in the Roman Empire played an important role in the triumph of Christianity, among them Constantine the Great, who is known as the first emperor who proclaimed Christianity as the official religion of the empire by virtue of his authority.

Following the Turk occupation, personalities of Albanian origin governed the Ottoman Empire for many years, and they were the authors of reforms and the pro-Western orientation. Among them are Mehmet Ali Pasha [Muhammad Ali of Egypt], the king of Egypt, also known as the "armed supporter of European civilization in Arab countries," his son Ibrahim, who predicted and applied religious tolerance of a European level, and even Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.

Even the communist regime failed to plant the spirit of anti-Western values among the crowd, despite its propaganda aimed at creating the "new man." The dream to [join] the West was manifested in the most peculiar forms, from copying fashion and secretly watching television programs to everyone's goal of moving to the West whenever the opportunity arose, a goal that concluded with great exoduses during the agony of the communist regime.

The third important factor in redetermining the identity of Albanian civilization does not depend solely on the Albanians. The readiness of the dominant groups in Western civilizations to represent the redetermination of the Albanians plays more into the hands of West European citizens and politics. Our task is to work to achieve the goals and fulfill the conditions imposed by the recipient -- to produce security, but not export crime. After that, the West European politicians and citizens will have the final say.

Eventually, the 500 year-long Turk occupation temporarily separated the Albanians from Western civilization. Nevertheless, it did not completely attach them to the Eastern one. The identity of Albanian civilization is dynamic, and it is being redetermined according to the Western one. The political and the economic elite, as well as the entire Albanian people, openly support this redetermination. The support that Europe and America extended to Albania following the start of democratic processes, the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement, and the promise of NATO membership in 2008, show that the dominant groups of Western civilization are prepared to embrace the Albanians' redetermination toward their [Western] civilization.

[Halimi] During another recent debate in Tirana, Father Zef Pellumbi appealed for the protection of the Albanian religious identity. Among other things, he stated that the "Albanian Islamism" is one of the most precious values of our society and Europe. Father Pellumbi is well aware of the fact that there cannot possibly be a national Islamism, since the Islam is a universal religion. Speaking of this, what risks are involved if one society faces tendencies of national assimilation in the name of "religious universalism"?

[Shala] Father Zef Pellumbi's appeal comes at the right time. It is true that Islam, as the dominant religious faith of the Albanians, has played a significant role in the creation of religious tolerance as one of the most important values of the Albanian nation and society. Our religious tolerance has been commended by the West as a value that will facilitate the Albanians' integration into Europe. Islam is indeed a universal religion; however, the nations that have been connected to this religious faith throughout history have also managed to give Islam its specific traits. By being present in Albania, as a European country, for 500 years, Islam has acquired the characteristics of European Islamism and is not a complete copy of the Arab Islamism. This does not mean that Islam has been nationalized. It is still a universal religion but with certain indigenous characteristics, which, as you put it, are acceptable for the Europeans, as well.

[Halimi] Let us be more specific: It seems that Father Pellumbi is expressing his concerns in the face of ever-growing attempts to change the Albanian's external image by appealing for the protection of the autochthonic Islam in our society. What are the different attempts to detach the Albanians from their Western image?

[Shala] Father Pellumbi's appeal to protect the autochthonous Islam reflects the occasional concerns that have been published in the Albanian press, as well regarding various attempts of extremist currents, such as Wahhabism and Salafism, to penetrate the Islam of the Balkans and that of the Albanians. This fundamentalist religious current is unacceptable even for many states with a majority Muslim population. Father Pellumbi's appeal accompanies the reaction of many Albanian intellectuals on this issue. It is not an appeal for the Albanians to abandon their religion, rather for them to protect it from foreign influence.

In fact, to protect autochthonous Islam in a way means to try and improve the image of Albania. We should bear in mind the attempts of our Slavic-orthodox neighbors who have tried for decades to represent the Albanians in the same light as the Muslims in Arabia, as well as a foreign entity in the Balkans and Europe. This appeal is especially valuable now that the anti-Albanian propaganda has intensified at the threshold of the resolution of the Kosova's [Kosovo] final status. The purpose of [Vojislav] Kostunica's visit to Gazimestan on the 28 June, on precisely the day of the anniversary of the war against the Turks, was to remind Europe of the alleged sacrifice that the Serbs made in order to protect Christianity from the Muslims. Well, Kostunica seems to have forgotten that Europe today has new parameters to assess Serbia's "dedication" to its [European] civilization.

[Halimi] Nevertheless, one should accept the fact that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance, a religion for any people, at any time, and at any place. Albanian canons are very similar to Islamic codes, especially in the domain of ethics and the difference between right and wrong. The Albanian Muslim certainly disseminates positive energy for Western society. Consequently, why so much persistence to formally demonstrate the spiritual?

[Shala] Just like other principal religions, Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. However, the image of Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance is running the risk of being seriously harmed by violent activities that are being carried out or provoked in recent years by individuals, terrorist organizations, and even states acting on behalf of Islam, as a religion. On the other hand, the absence of a single spiritual and official center for a unified interpretation of disputable issues within the Islamic philosophy itself has left room for false interpretations and violations designed to achieve a specific goal. The vacuum that has been created in this respect since the fall of the Ottoman Empire has created room for misinterpretation and abuse of this religion for certain groups to achieve their specific political interests.

Usama Bin Ladin also speaks on behalf of Islam. Al-Zarqawi, too, has killed thousands of Muslims, including children, in the name of Islam.

It is first and foremost the duty of the Islamic community states to think about how to protect their own religion from being abused, to draft the necessary strategies, and to find ways and methods to protect the Islamic religion from being held hostage. When it comes to the Albanians, who are of three different religious faiths, it is the duty of the entire society, not only the Muslims, to do this. Only in this way can the Albanian Muslims, the Albanians of other religions, and the entire society disseminate an undisputed, positive energy toward Western society. This is not because it is the preference of the West, which we want to join, but simply because it is in the interest of the Albanian nation, its integration, and national security.

[Halimi] You are a renowned researcher of religious sects, in particular the Wahhabi sect. What is the connection between the Albanians and this philosophical and religious doctrine? What are the characteristics of this doctrine, and where can one find a common point between Wahhabism and Albanianism?

[Shala] Many scholars have written on Wahhabism to date. I have tried to look at the risk that this current represents for Albanian national security and democracy from a different angle. Wahhabism was founded by Muhammad Ibn Abd-al-Wahhab, who was born in 1703 near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism is precisely the religious current that promotes religious values above national ones. There is nothing that connects Wahhabism to the Albanians. On the contrary, these days they have turned traditional Albanian Islamism into a target. They exclude not only other religious faiths, such as Christianity, but also the variant of the Islamic faith practiced by the Albanians. They do not recognize any symbols or national holidays that are incompatible with religious ones. For them, religion comes first, and then the nation.

From their early beginnings, the Wahhabi opposed every novelty in the Islamic religion. They turned the movement of learning the Islamic religion directly from the Book of God and the Prophet's tradition into a real war. According to them, one can achieve victory only by uniting sword and thought; people who do not comply with God's orders should be fought, but not asked for explanations. In essence, this is also the position of contemporary Wahhabism, but with certain minor changes due to the times in which we live. Their occupation of sacred places and the discovery of huge oil resources have subsequently resulted in continuous Wahhabi expansion throughout the world.

Parts of the Ottoman Empire, namely Albania, continued to apply the Islamic tradition introduced by the Turks, which was far more tolerant than what the Wahhabi were trying to spread, by merely being situated far from the area of Wahhabi influence. In the meantime, in the history of Islam, the Albanians have contributed greatly to attacking this current, which is dangerous to Islam itself. It suffices to mention the defeat that the Wahhabi suffered at the hands of Ibrahim Pasha, an Albanian and son of the ruler of Egypt. After 1990, some 260 years later, the ambitions of the Wahhabi movement were directed at the European Muslims, whom they thought had long abandoned the Prophet's tradition. Their determination to penetrate Albanian Islam and their savage behavior seems to be revenge for what Ibrahim Pasha did to them centuries ago.

Wahhabism, as a religious movement, is not only a phenomenon in Albania. With the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, this organization began to expand among Muslims in Bulgaria, Bosnia, Albania, Macedonia, and also in Kosova after 1999 through nongovernmental organizations from the Gulf countries. The goal of this movement is the Arabization of Balkan Islam. Allowing this current some space for action in the Islamic religion and in the Albanian territories indirectly means lending support to anti-Albanian propaganda launched by the darkest Slavic-Orthodox circles. By narrowing their space for action, one could not only greatly contribute to the traditional Albanian Islam, but also to the European-Atlantic integration of the Albanians and our national security.

[Halimi] Let us talk about other religious sects that are encountered in Albania, in particular. If one could conclude that the number of Islamic religious sects is increasing, then there are other religious sects that, although cautious, have caused a lot of headaches for the Albanians. There were suicides in the name of those sects, as well as other ugly occurrences that culminated in acts of pedophilia.

[Shala] Despite the tradition of tolerating religious issues after 1990, Albanian society found itself unprepared and was immediately exposed not only to new forms of Islam and Christianity that had been unknown to it before, but also to a number of foreign sects and influences. Moreover, the emergence onto the scene of religious beliefs in Albania was followed by jealousy among our traditional beliefs and by a series of suicides among minors at the beginning of 2005. The media accused the religious education preached by the Jehovah Witnesses for the suicides; nevertheless, there has not been any evidence to prove this allegation to date. On several occasions, the authorities of the official religious beliefs in our country themselves denounce the presence of foreign religious missionaries, who were allegedly operating on their own behalf, although it remains a mystery whom they really represented.

The crisis and the political, social, economic, and financial instability that our country suffered during the transition years (1991, 1992, January-March 1997, and September 1998); the absence of a legal state and serious violations of law and order; the lack of financial support from the state and the hope of getting support from abroad; the absence of a law on religious communities; the favorable geographical position of Albania, as a country situated between the East and the West and the dominating Muslim majority; and the absence of efficient state structures that would manage legal relations and reciprocal obligations between the state and the religious communities, are only some of the factors that created space for the arrival of various religious sects and movements in Albania, whose activities were prohibited by law in many other countries.

[Halimi] There is a limit to freedom of thought and action! The Albanian state, faced with the enormous need to prove itself as a democratic society, leaves the impression that it lacks a platform on the preservation of spiritual values that have historically been the attributes of the Albanian citizen, whether he is a Christian or a Muslim. Or is this already a case of an "extremist religious community" toward which the state is trying to behave very carefully?

[Shala] Throughout their history, the Albanian people have been through many wars and challenges, but there have never been internal religious conflicts. The following are some of the factors that have protected religious beliefs from religious fanaticism, extremism, and fundamentalism and that have strengthened religious tolerance among the Albanians: having language, tradition, and culture, but not religion, as the foundation for the Albanian national identity; the presence of the Islamic religion as a religion for all people, moderated by the Bektashi; hatred and war against intolerant currents in Islam, such as Wahhabism; the imposed indifference of the young Albanian generations toward religion during communist era; efforts to prevent economic and social conflicts from turning into religious ones; and the tradition of political entities that have historically never attempted to create an electorate on religious grounds.

However, religious tolerance is now endangered by currents "imported" from abroad. The uncontrolled import of a series of religious currents, which violate the Albanians' right to practice their traditional religious beliefs and which are even feared by countries with consolidated democracies, require an increased role by the law enforcement agencies. It is their duty to respect the freedom of religious beliefs, but also to prevent these freedoms from being abused and turning into a threat to national security. The creation of what you call an "extremist religious community" should not be allowed; otherwise, national security would be in serious danger.

Passive neutralism toward religious issues has caused Albania some problems in recent years. Therefore, the state has to move from passive neutralism to active secularism. The Albanian Institute for National Security Studies has continuously argued that "active secularism" would be the most appropriate position for the Albanian state vis-a-vis religious faiths. Through studies and articles, it has tried to make state authorities, religious authorities, and civil society see how important this problem is to national security.

[Halimi] Nowhere in the world do religious symbols represent religious cults. There was a time in Albania when crosses flourished. They were built on a high ground in order to be visible even from a distance of several kilometers. The Muslim community began to respond to these provocations by "denying" Skenderbeu, Mother Theresa, and certain other prominent national figures of the Christian faith. The Community's secretary general, Sali Tivari, was killed, and this murder has not yet been solved. You, as an uncompromised fighter against those who manipulate in the name of Islam, miraculously escaped an assassination attempt. Who has been encouraging these dangerous polarizations of Albanian society and who, in fact, needs them?

[Shala] It is true that there was a time when certain segments of non-Muslim traditional religious communities made an effort to show a greater presence by building religious symbols in noticeable locations and outside the buildings of their cult, which was never part of the Albanian tradition. This occurred in December of last year, when huge crosses -- symbols of the Catholic religious faith -- were constructed without authorization on public property on three hills in the Bushat area. According to this area's muftiate, Muslim inhabitants in this area filed a complaint and demanded that the crosses be placed inside the religious buildings. In fact, this clash was more on a media level.

It seemed that someone was more interested in the noise that this problem caused. The aim of these intentional clashes ov3er religious symbols is to represent the Christian religious faiths in Albania as being at risk. In March, based on the analysis of cases of unauthorized placing and damaging of crosses in Elbasan and Xare, in the Saranda area, the Albanian Institute for National Security Studies warned of the danger and the consequences of disputes over religious symbols.

In addition to the irresponsibility of the local government structures that allowed the unauthorized placing of religious symbols on public property and the irresponsibility and occasional protagonist tendencies on the part of certain segments of the local religious community structures, there were external factors, too, that were interested in violating religious tolerance in our country.

Regarding the crosses in Bushat and by referring to Albanian Secret Service sources, the media reported on two occasions that it is possible that "secret service cells of our northern neighbors are trying to create hotbeds of tension in order to divert attention from situations that are of great importance for the future of the region." Even in the past, confidential sources from our law enforcement services have reported cases when Serb secret services incited radical actions in our religious beliefs. They have been inciting radicalism and propagating the danger from radical Islam among the Albanians in the Balkans for years. Their aim is to compromise Kosova's efforts for independence and to deny the option of independence as a possible solution for stability in Europe. It seems that the Serbs have conceived a strategy to fulfill this goal, and this strategy includes both the engagement of secret services and propaganda through the media.

[Halimi] In our national history, the Albanian Orthodox community has a very important and a well-deserved place. Macedonians allege that currently there are more than 300,000 Orthodox Macedonians living in Albania, and so do the Greeks. There are various aspirations, including territorial ones, claimed on behalf of the Orthodoxy, which can be harmful for Albania. For Fan Noli's the sake, the Albanians and the Albanian state, in particular, are obliged to return the splendor and national value to this religious community. Various orthodox secret services are constantly seeking to destabilize any part of Albania by using the orthodox religious community as a device.

[Shala] It is true that the Albanian Orthodox community is a very significant part of the Albanian religious diversity. Following the establishment of the Albanian independent state, the Albanian patriots' elite, consisting of personalities from the three main religious faiths, had always strived to promote the idea that religious faiths should feel equal and be treated and represented equally, regardless of their weight in numbers. Thus, no religious community should feel inferior. This was the pillar on which the interreligious dialogue and religious tolerance in our state was based.

The Albanian patriots, headed by Noli, succeeded in breaking away from the Greek Orthodox Church. They proclaimed the establishment of the Albanian Autocephaly Church in September 1922. This church was recognized as such by sister churches in 1937. With the fall of communism, the Greek Orthodox Church assisted the Albanian Orthodox community in Albania in the reconstruction of its infrastructure and with religious cadres. This gave rise to many debates, because a Greek citizen was appointed head of this church, which was contrary to the status and the practice of the Albanian Orthodox community. Years passed, and despite serious efforts to create a local clergy, the problem of primacy remains unsolved. The autocephaly of this church has been disputed on many occasions by domestic public opinion. The latest case is the involvement of local segments of this church in the scandal over the exhumation of the remains of Greek soldiers in Kosine, in the Permet area. Of course, Albanian Orthodox believers will know how to resolve the issue of their church's "identity crisis" and return the splendor of the Noli era.

[Halimi] Do you think and do you expect that, in cooperation with the relevant state authorities, the Albanian Muslim communities will one day publicly demand the protection of our religious associations from the tendencies of questionable elements that seek to infiltrate in the name of religion!

[Shala] At present, not only the state structures, but also the religious communities themselves, intellectuals, as well as civil society in general, are becoming more and more aware of reported cases of threats to religious tolerance and the tendencies of questionable elements to infiltrate themselves in the name of religion.

[Halimi] Let us go back to the beginning of our conversation. There is no doubt that forcing Albanians to rid themselves of Islam in favor of Europeanism, whether it is voluntary or from within, is viewed by the West as a shameful act and as spiritual suicide. Hence, what is the origin of these attempts to move the Albanians, as Christians or atheists, toward Europe? There are millions of Muslim Albanians who coexist perfectly with Westerners in many Western countries today.

[Shala] No one in Europe is asking the Albanians to rid themselves of Islam and become Christians in order to be part of the European Union. For Europe, our religious tolerance and diversity is a positive value that will help us join the common European family. Therefore, it is necessary that this value be cultivated and promoted.

[Halimi] How powerful are our religious institutions in protecting the genuine religious values and their respective religious communities from different influences that pretend to be religions?

[Shala] Our religious institutions are becoming aware of the need to protect their respective religious values and communities from different influences that are threatening our religious tradition. It is necessary for these institutions to become more independent through economic support from abroad. This can be achieved in two ways: by returning to them the property that was confiscated during the communist regime and by securing partial financial support for them from the state until they recover economically.

[Halimi] To what extent could the state help those institutions that are not strong enough, particularly in the financial aspect, to fight against individuals or groups seeking to institutionalize themselves, even by penetrating higher into the state authorities, in order to accomplish their nebulous if not suspicious goals?

[Shala] As I mentioned earlier, it is necessary for our religious institutions to gain more independence. This is a problem that has an important impact on our national security. Experience has shown that financial assistance from abroad has always been conditioned. The Wahhabi began to penetrate Albania precisely because of the financial support they enjoy from the Arab NGOs and because of the dire economic situation of the Muslim community in Albania. Similarly, other religious sects could have increased their presence in Albanian regions because they enjoyed strong and suspicious economic support.

It is precisely here that the hand of the state needs to intervene. The state should not play the role of a bystander. It should find a way to provide traditional religious communities with financial support. At the same time, it should filter suspicious funds from individuals and groups seeking to institutionalize themselves. This does not violate religious freedom. On the contrary, it guarantees this freedom. A long time ago, after the declaration of independence, Albanian patriots considered these problems very important and of significant impact on the future of the state they were building.

In order to prevent these religious beliefs from coming under the control of foreigners at that time, the statesmen created the necessary legal infrastructure, and as early as 1923, they legally defined that the religious clergy was to be partially financed by the state treasury in proportion with the number of residents belonging to each religion. The legislative bodies at the time were convinced that it was necessary for the clergy to be independent of foreign funds. This is an example that statesmen nowadays should follow. Traditional religious communities in Albania have faith in Prime Minister [Sali] Berisha's promise that their properties that were confiscated during the communist regime will be returned to them or, alternatively, that they will receive compensation.

[Halimi] You are the head of a non-profit institution that has carried out considerable and thorough studies of phenomena that are not only harmful to the Albanian national identity, but also to the religious identity of the Albanians. Have you thought about organizing a congress one day with all the Albanian clergy, Muslim clergymen, and priests together? Should such a congress be convened, tell us what would be the three main items on the agenda that our clergy would urgently have to discuss?

[Shala] The Albanian Institute for National Security Studies is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to study and record factors that constitute a threat to territorial integrity, sovereignty, and national identity; promote human and minority rights; protect and develop democratic and constitutional institutions; contribute to the new architecture of regional security; and support Albania's international obligations and agreements, which at the same time are the objectives of our national security. Moreover, the mission of this institute is to study and record political, social, psychological, and other factors that facilitate the spreading of phenomena that are a danger to national security, such as organized crime, illegal trafficking in general and human trafficking in particular, blood feuds, and the crime of terrorism in general. These are studies that need to be carried out both on a national and regional level.

Our institute is particularly engaged in studying and recording the national values and factors that made religious tolerance possible in our country and in the region, as well as the security dangers involved if this tolerance is threatened. Through its experts, the Albanian Institute for National Security Studies suggests solutions to problems of great concern. It drafts policies and strategies regarding methods to be applied so as to prevent occurrences that can threaten national security. It cooperates with legislative structures in drafting and introducing bills with the aim of making both the state bodies and civil society more aware of these problems.

The Albanian Institute for National Security Studies has contributed to solving the aforementioned problems, and it is a voice which is listened to. The institute will open its branch in Prishtine [Prishtina] and it will soon be introduced in Shkup [Skopje] pursuant to the laws of the Macedonian state, as well as in Montenegro at a later stage.



[Description of Source: Skopje Hena e Re in Albanian -- Islamic informative newspaper]
Attachments:
(See attached file EUP20070111113008001.GIF) xhavitshala_1.GIF
(See attached file EUP20070111113008002.GIF) xhavitshala_11.GIF
(See attached file EUP20070111113008003.GIF) xhavitshala_12.GIF
(See attached file EUP20070111113008004.GIF) xhavitshala_13.GIF
(See attached file EUP20070111113008005.GIF) xhavitshala_14.GIF