Bruçaj: It is unfortunate that the Et'hem Bey Mosque was used for the political agenda of a foreign state
Former President of the Muslim Community in Albania, Dr. Skënder Bruçaj says that it is unfortunate that the Et'hem Bey Mosque was used for the political agenda of a foreign state, referring to its inauguration during the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdogan.
Mr. Bruçaj told VOA that the fact that no representatives from the Muslim Community of Albania were invited was "an ugly act." He added that the autonomy of the Albanian mosque should be part of the national strategy of the Albanian state. Mr. Bruçaj, who is in the United States as part of the prestigious Fullbright program, made the comments in an interview with the head of the Albanian service of VOA, Arben Xhixho.
VOA: Mr. Bruçaj, before we dwell on the situation of the Muslim community in Albania, can you tell us a little about the Fullbright program that you are in the United States for?
Skënder Bruçaj: It is a special pleasure for me to be part of the Fullbright program. It is a postgraduate study program that enables researchers to engage with prestigious universities in America. I am engaged with Georgetown University. It gives you the opportunity to exchange experiences, to study, to meet academics of different profiles. It is a good opportunity to get an experience at prestigious American universities that is worthwhile, to be a concrete example and to transmit it in Albania, to the university where I am engaged.
VOA: Mr. Bruçaj, this week the President of Turkey Erdogan was on an official visit to Albania, where, among other things, he inaugurated the restoration of the Et'hem Bey Mosque in Tirana. But what stood out was that the Albanian Muslim Community was not invited to the event. How do you explain such a thing?
Skënder Bruçaj:To be honest, every Albanian is grateful to Turkey for the investments it has made in Albania, which has been close in difficult times and this is a fact that no one denies. We are grateful for that. The fact that the President of the Muslim Community of Turkey was present at the inauguration of the Et'hem Bey Mosque and there was no representative from the Muslim Community (of Albania), is normally an ugly act. I say that it is a shame of the protocol of the Albanian state in the first place. I think of it that way. But I think that the Prime Minister of Albania, Mr. Edi Rama, felt more difficult. Imagine a house where you are the owner of a house and a guest comes to your aid. You will make fun of him, but he has a lot of whims and whims. And you tolerate it, you manage it, and make a sacrifice in order to convey the guest in this format. But this time it was chosen that the sacrifice be made at the expense of the Muslim Community of Albania. However, I think it was better that the Muslim Community of Albania was not present at that kind of inauguration. Just a mosque inauguration could not be called. Rather it was a political rally organized by Erdogan's party. The way, the format of how the guests had come from Kosovo, from Macedonia. The slogans there were from the same hand. It is unfortunate when a religious symbolism, such as the inauguration of a mosque, is used for the political agenda of a foreign state. The Muslim Community of Albania was present at that kind of inauguration. Just a mosque inauguration could not be called. Rather it was a political rally organized by Erdogan's party. The way, the format of how the guests had come from Kosovo, from Macedonia. The slogans there were from the same hand. It is unfortunate when a religious symbolism, such as the inauguration of a mosque, is used for the political agenda of a foreign state. The Muslim Community of Albania was present at that kind of inauguration. Just a mosque inauguration could not be called. Rather it was a political rally organized by Erdogan's party. The way, the format of how the guests had come from Kosovo, from Macedonia. The slogans there were from the same hand. It is unfortunate when a religious symbolism, such as the inauguration of a mosque, is used for the political agenda of a foreign state.
VOA: What has the Albanian Muslim Community got to do with Turkey's religious institutions?
Skënder Bruçaj:At the moment, de facto I do not think there is a genuine institutional communication. This has never been clarified. But we clearly see that the Turkish state institutions ..., this is not the first incident. There are various incidents that take place in formats to create a destabilization of the Islamic community in Albania, and to reduce the credibility of the institution of the Albanian Muslim Community. When we think that we are on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the founding, that the Muslim community is preparing to celebrate the founding of the Muslim Community of Albania. And that the autonomy of the Albanian mosque should be part of the national strategy of the Albanian state. We now discuss how we should protect the Muslim Community from foreign influences. This is a constitutional obligation from the Albanian state, to do its best to protect not only the autonomy of the Muslim Community of Albania, but of every religious community, because it is for the benefit of the stability of the Albanian society, for the benefit of inter-religious harmony and religious coexistence. And it is unfortunate that something like this is imposed on him. In this case e.g. it's something not pleasant, not sleek that happened.
VOA: Mr. Erdogan asked the Albanian authorities to declare war, he at least spoke emphatically about that, those members of the FETO organization, whom Ankara describes as terrorists, and responsible for the 2016 coup. He stated that Gulenists are present today in several fields, such as education, health, and in religious institutions. How do you think the truth stands?
Skënder Bruçaj:If I will make a connection with the spirit of autonomy of a nation, it is the parliament of Albania, as we have with those representatives. There President Erdogan set the surrender of the Gulenists as a precondition for his friendship and brotherhood. This is a form of pressure on the parliament in Albania to hand over the Gulenists. Imagine the pressure exerted by Erdogan and his associates on associations, foundations and the press financially supported by those civil societies, bringing to the Albanians, his friends or loved ones a Turkish quarrel for which we do not know what happened. . I have some sort of parameter in terms of the Gülen Movement, or that Feto, an imaginary organization that I think President Erdogan uses to defeat all his opponents in Turkey. The United States and European Union countries do not see the Gülen Movement as a terrorist movement. A good part of the members of the Gülen Movement receive quick asylum, are accepted in society, are given the opportunity to give their contribution in those respective societies. For me and all Albanians this is a very open issue. Which European country and the United States would like members of a terrorist organization to be part of society, to protect, support and enable them to integrate into society. This is a personal struggle of the President of Turkey with something imaginary that anyone who opposes him puts in this kind of category. No Turk works in the Muslim community of Albania. They are all Albanians. They fight and work to increase their contribution to society, kindness and to influence the inter-religious coexistence to increase, as well as they want to be close to the Albanian believers in their spiritual services. Therefore, since they represent something spiritual, they are silent on all these topics, in which they are trying to include members of the Muslim community in Albania.
VOA: One last question. What is happening with the Namazgja mosque. The works have been stopped. Is this a form of pressure that Ankara is again exerting on the Muslim community?
Skënder Bruçaj:The work began when I was in office as head of the Muslim community. During a visit to Turkey, I told the former head of the Muslim community in Turkey, Gyrmez, that you should start the construction of the Namazgja mosque because I myself have contributed. Either return the money to me or start the works. Calls have been made several times in Turkey. The Namazgja Mosque is not built with the funds of the Turkish government but with the help of the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood. The mosque was to be completed in two years. But it has been going on for almost seven years and it is not over. I believe that the contract of the Muslim community of Turkey for the construction of the mosque expires this summer. If the works are not completed, the Muslim community of Albania has the necessary forces and opportunities to complete the Namazgja mosque. The mosque is a cult object. It can not be part of any political bargain. It can not become part of any national strategy of a foreign state to increase influence. It is a cult object, where prayers to God are made, it is an object that should be away from these controversies. I am sorry that the Namazgja mosque, which has been a dream of all Albanians for many decades, has become part of these controversies. No one has the right to postpone or use this dream for their own political purposes. / VOA / No one has the right to postpone or use this dream for their own political purposes. / VOA / No one has the right to postpone or use this dream for their own political purposes. / VOA /