KOSOVO 2.0 PEOPLE/POLITICS/SOCIETY/ARTS/CULTURE #3 SPRING/SUMMER/2012
RELIGION ISLAM’S BALKAN BLUES KOSOVO’S FAITHFUL, FAITHLESS MODERATES’ HOLY WAR RIGHTS TAKE JESUS A LA CARTE CALCUTTA FOR HEDONISTS SWEET MEMORIES OF HOME
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Editor-in-chief Besa Luci Deputy Editor Nate Tabak Photography Editor Atdhe Mulla Deputy Photography Editor Majlinda Hoxha Design Bardhi Haliti, Prishtina Van Lennep, Amsterdam Managing Editor Hana Marku Copy Editor Tim O’Rourke Editorial Assistant Hana Ahmeti Staff Writers Mirjana Radovanovic Dardan Zhegrova
Contributing Editors Bojana Barlovac Matthew Brunwasser Conor Creighton Cyrus Farivar Enver Robelli Andrew Testa Contributors David Boyk Artrit Bytyci Pablo Camacho Jenna Hand Robin Holmes Blair Kilpatrick Yulia Medvedeva Laura Moth Veton Nurkollari Shengjyl Osmani Grif Peterson Teresa Reiter Julian Schmidli Danijela Simrak Shant Shahrigian Paul Thorton Isak Vorgucic Dafina Zherka
Photographers Uros Abram Jetmir Idrizi Jodi Hilton Petar Mate Petrit Rrahmani Andy Spyra Vlora Ymeri Illustratons Driton Selmani Adea Batusha Zgjim Elshani Vigan Nimani Yll Xhaferi cover photo Atdhe Mulla
Translators Dren Gjonbalaj Trim Haliti Publisher Kosovo Glocal The Board Chairman Joan de Boer Members Anna Di Lellio Aliriza Arenliu Printing House Raster
Kosovo 2.0 magazine is available in English, Albanian and Serbian. Online: www. kosovotwopointzero.com E-mail: magazine@ kosovotwopointzero.com Letters to the editor: letters@kosovotwo pointzero.com
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Business Manager Sokol Loshi Project Coordinator Irmin van der Meijden Interns Isotta Ricci Bicci Feodora Hamza Sarah Littisha Jansen
#3 RELIGION SPRING/SUMMER 2012
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR BESA LUCI
— I wasn’t raised in a religious family. I associate religion mainly with childhood memories of Bajram — baklava and early morning visits with my father to close relatives. At lunchtime, we’d return home for a feast as some of the best meals and drinks were enjoyed on that day. Today in Kosovo, whenever we talk among friends of Bajram, the Albanian name for the Muslim holiday Eid, it turns into a reminiscence of a sense of home and food. Our experience wasn’t necessarily about religiosity, though it was an expression rooted in it. More so, it might hold true only to one particular group, because for others it evokes other memories and sentiments. But that religion has moved to the public sphere is evident in the newly found force it has to shape and challenge ideas on the role of religion in society, culture, ethics, morality, gender, politics and identity. Throughout this magazine, we don’t profess to provide an answer or solution to religious claims and assertions. What we bring with this issue is a collection of articles and stories that speak to the experiences and narratives shaping belief systems, while exploring the complexity of the political, economic and social life that no longer can refuse the inf luence that religion plays on them. By looking at issues of how religion is present and functions in the public and private sphere, how it interacts or clashes with the state, how it places itself on the market and how it communicates with the media, we unravel how religion continues to inform the identity of people, particularly in politics. So, the point is not the gradual vanishing of religion from the modern world, rather its ongoing transformation. As we began putting together this issue, we discovered the prevalence of religion has to do with the extent there is participation — whether as access to state services and institutions, social inclusion or the creation of economic resources. Today, more than ever, as politics of identity and the nation-state are failing to make the individual the primary principle of identity, alternative communities are emerging through new forms of religious assertion and display. Talal Asad, a prominent thinker on the failures and achievements of secularism, in his “Formations of the Secular,” argues that people are feeling less and less represented and need a moral dimension to secularism. As such, they embrace references of their religious identity to challenge current political and social agendas, whatever they might be. We’ve found such experiences serving as either a polarizing
factor or a binding one, as responses have taken different shapes, depending on where they are located. Our cover story, “Faith led astray” (page 38), by Enver Robelli, explores such effects in post-communist, post-war, economically reforming Balkan countries. He speaks of a religion at a crossroads of extremism and moderation, where after years of Islam practiced “as a cultural value,” as the governments of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo are failing to remedy economic hardship and provide for political projects in a post-socialist and post-9/11 world, religion is re-emerging through troubling affirmations of politics of religion in the public sphere. But he makes a more important call to the need for an Albanian Muslim clergy that could serve as an example of interfaith tolerance, within Kosovo and abroad. In Switzerland, they might be doing just that. In a country that once served as the economic backbone to Kosovar Albanian immigrants and a continuing Kosovar-remittance economy, a group of Albanian imams has united their voice through a moderate Muslim platform. The Union of Albanian Imams, comprised of Albanians from Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania, is seeking to combat extremism and fundamentalism by strengthening their role in society; the tool they have chosen is classes on language, culture and politics (see "Switzerland, moderate Islam digs in for fight," Page 78). Their voice, though, is struggling to be heard, which is typical when alternative platforms emerge in response to strong, pre-existing conservative sentiments. So the Union of Albanian Imams partly emerged as a response and counter-initiative to the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (IZRS), who, themselves, believe and propagate a more radical form of Islam. In return, the IZRS sees its creation as a response to growing European right-wing rhetoric on Islamophobia, as Christian symbols are returning to politics and right-wing rhetoric is calling to a cultural, social and moral platform that is exclusive to those different from them. (“Europe’s conceptual Christians,” Page 92). Trying to pinpoint a start and finish line, as mainstream media often do, is the wrong type of reading, because it excludes the complex history of religious practice and institutions. However, the above examples in this issue demonstrate the sensitivity and vulnerability of language and communication. And when used as references for defining and differentiating between a sense of “us” and “them,” “good” and “evil,” “right and “wrong,”
— Ultimately, the common thread to our magazine is that religion is not vanishing — whether it’s an entry point to social relations, serves to distance ourselves from it, a reason for oppression or inequality, or a way of evoking memories, people everywhere have stories to share, and they’re using and engaging with different means and instruments to make their calls heard.
religion not only becomes a tool of manipulation, but is left, right and center for sources of conf lict. That is something we’ve witnessed ourselves in this region. Although not the primary cause, in the wars that came to characterize the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, religion was used to determine and gather support, but also to draw lines among the ethnic groups. Photographer Andrew Testa places the blame on journalists just as much, as by differentiating only the Bosnians through their religion as “Bosnian Muslims,” it ended up reinforcing the assumption that “the conf luence of Catholicism, Islam and Orthodox Christianity must be the source of all conf licts” (see “A Question of Faith,” Page 62). Examples from this region are not alone; they hold up in different countries just as well. In “Central Asia’s religious crossroads,” (Page 105) Grif Peterson speaks to a different post-communist trajectory, as governments in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are using legislation to hinder religious groups from association. Meanwhile, in “Baha’i lessons in hardship,” (Page 96) Jenna Hand looks into how Iran’s government oppression of the country’s largest religious minority has extended into the classrooms, by trying to exclude the community from a right to education. Choosing to oppress educational opportunities is no coincidence, and it’s something we’re well aware of in Kosovo from the 1990s Serbian regime, as not only does it repress participation in public space, it also shrinks people’s space to question and make calls against their inequality. That is why, when we heard that a new initiative by religious #3 RELIGION SPRING/SUMMER 2012
authorities in Turkey is working toward making Istanbul’s 3,100 mosques more accessible and fitting for female worshippers, we were drawn to the story because it shows how through public request new spaces are being formed (see "I am a woman, hear me pray," Page 52). We’ve included other stories along these lines, such as Robin Holmes’ personal essay on breaking away from his family and community as a Jehovah’s Witness in “Choosing my confession.” (Page 88). His breaking point came when he began questioning the overf low of religious literature in his family’s home library. Our profile of Albin Kllokoqi, who through rock music is interpreting Christianity, Yll Rugova who through social networks has established Kosovo’s first organized atheist and agnostic community, and our reviews of books and films, show the new cultural dimensions of religion through literature, art, entertainment and social media. ( Pages 110, 112 and 127). Ultimately, the common thread to our magazine is that religion is not vanishing — whether it’s an entry point to social relations, serves to distance ourselves from it, a reason for oppression or inequality, or a way of evoking memories, people everywhere have stories to share, and they’re using and engaging with different means and instruments to make their calls heard. Our magazine cover is a collection of products bought at shops around mosques and churches in Kosovo. As we found them, we were intrigued and drawn to the commercial, moral and political significance they were assigned — D&G and Armani perfumes produced in Saudi Arabia, the “Secret Man” alcohol-free perfume from the United Arab Emirates, a bracelet depicting some of the key Christian figures and saints, and the Orthodox cross carrying the four Ss for “Only Unity Saves the Serbs,” which became a sign of state oppression during the 1990s. These things come to us in the form of commodities, political symbols and moral messages as they locate themselves in the market and become a part of culture. I remember how I used to look forward to Bajram visits with my father, as my relatives would give me money to mark Bajram celebrations and show generosity. Today, it seems that more than ever this kind of giving and the purchase of goods require a form of singular loyalty and assertion of religious belonging. And as long as the expectation of return is followed by advice on appropriate conduct and imposes indebtedness or moral and ethical restraint, our experiences and memories will shape new identities in this post-secular world. — K 5
KOSOVOTWOPOINTZERO MAGAZINE RELIGION — #3 2012
POLITICAL HEADCOVERING. A religious symbol becomes a weapon in a war over national identity. By Dafina Zherka
RELIGION ON THE WORLD STAGE. Seven commentaries, from Saudi Arabia to South America, explore how faith is shaping people and politics across the globe.
THE THREE LIVES OF VESELINKA ZASTAVNIKOVIC.
The ex-wife of Serbian leader Boris Tadic was once a rebel and is now a nun who goes by Sister Irina. By Mirjana Radovanovic
Muslims in the Balkans could follow the road to extremism, but moderation offers a way forward. By Enver Robelli
Striking images explore the misunderstood role of religion in confl icts in the Balkans. By Andrew Testa
COVER STORY: ISLAM'S CROSSROADS.
MANIPULATIONS OF FAITH.
THE IMAMS OF SWITZERLAND.
FAMILIAR BEDFELLOWS. In Europe, political parties mix Christianity with politics. By Teresa Reiter
Group combats Islamophobia by preaching moderation. By Julian Schmidli
A WEB OF ISLAM. Online sites cater to Muslims, but the road is rocky. By Cyrus Farivar
A STUDY IN INEQUALITY.
Iran targets the Baha'i, starting in the classroom. By Jenna Hand
Growing up in a fringe religion isn't all it's said to be. By Robin Holmes
Missionaries let their faith guide them through development projects in Kosovo, while leaving the soul rescuing to others. By Irmin van der Meijden
WITNESS TO WITNESSES.
#3 RELIGION SPRING/SUMMER 2012
THE MORMON WAY.
FAITH CENTRAL ASIA.
NOTES FROM ABOVE.
Time of growth or time of suppression? By Grif Peterson
Prishtina musician brings inspiration from Christianity and Africa into his songs. By Dardan Zhegrova
Five movies that will refocus your lens on the world. By Veton Nurkollari
Get the 2.0 perspective on five powerful books. By Hana Marku
THE TORCH PASSED.
Yll Rugova wants you to believe him about not believing. By Isotta Ricci Bicci
Son's emergence from father's shadow has changed order of Kosovar Sufis. By Nate Tabak
THROUGH THE PAGES.
THE MYTHS OF KOSOVO.
ROOTS IN THE KITCHEN.
A lucky crypt? UFOs? Legends die hard in this part of the world. By Kosovo 2.0
For one American, understanding family can be a matter of many tastes. By Blair Kilpatrick KOSOVO 2.0
AND MORE... 4
THE DECALOGUE 2.0
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR. Besa Luci explains the thread of faith running through this issue's 150 pages.
MARRIAGE OF INCONVENIENCE. Interfaith marriages shed light on legacy of secularization. By Shengjyl Osmani
GOD IS NOT DEAD IN ARMENIA. A summer spent at church headquarters can prove quite convincing. By Shant Shahrigian
THE CROSS IN COLOMBIA. Catholics are living in a time of contradiction in this South American country. By Pablo Camacho
CATHOLIC CONUNDRUM. Not everyone wants to put their hands together and support the church. By Danijela Simrak
WHERE IS THE CULTURAL BAPTISM? The Vatican has invested in Kosovo, but its dedication is questionable. By Hana Marku
PUNK AND POWERFUL. Pussy Riot make a stand in Putin's Russia. By Yulia Medvedeva
FEMALE SAUDIS FIGHT TO BE FREE. Life for women in Riyadh isn't as regulated as many think. By Laura Moth
THE FLIGHT OF FERVOR IN U.S. POLITICS.
FAIRER CONDITIONS FOR THE FAIRER SEX.
143 THE (NEW) TEN COMMANDMENTS. C'mon, the decalogue needed a makeover. By Conor Creighton
#3 RELIGION SPRING/SUMMER 2012
In America, the 2012 election shows Christian right's grip has loosened. By Paul Thornton Religious authorities in Istanbul make mosques more female-friendly. By Matthew Brunwasser
UNORTHODOX SPECTACLE. Serbian Orthodox Church's problems aired in public. By Isak Vorgucic
CALCUTTA IN 20 HOURS.
BACK INSIDE KOSOVO.
From fish frys to College Street, diversity is a common thread. By David Boyk Sometimes the most life-changing vacation happens at home. By Artrit Bytyci 9
IT'S COMPLICATED: ALBANIA'S MESSY RELATIONSHIP WITH RELIGION TEXT BY SHENGJYL OSMANI / PHOTOS BY MAJLINDA HOXHA
— IN 1976, ALBANIA BECAME THE WORLD’S FIRST OFFICIAL ATHEIST COUNTRY. Article 37 of the Albanian constitution announced: “The state recognizes no religion.” The national ban on religion was not lifted until 1990. Elona Jegeni, 40, was born into a traditional Catholic family and is married to my second-cousin Altin. They live in Tirana, have known each other since university and have been married for almost 19 years. Religion didn’t cross Elona’s and Altin's minds when they wed. Elona’s grandfather, however, wasn't so thrilled that his oldest grandchild was marrying a non-Catholic. “Back in the days when I told my family that I was in love with a guy who wasn’t Catholic, my grandfather got mad at me. He didn’t talk to me for weeks, not a single word,” Elona says. Persecuted by Enver Hoxha's communist regime, her parents were forced to move again and again on “assignments” 10
to poor regions of Albania. It was common practice to send political “undesirables” to desolate locations where they could live and work without causing trouble. Like the rest of Albania, Elona's family was never allowed to practice religious rituals. Both of Elona's parents are Roman Catholic and are from the traditionally Catholic region of Shkodra in northern Albania. They were never able to attend Mass. They also were never able to baptize their children — finding a priest was too difficult and the act of baptism was punishable by incarceration, as were all other religious rituals. After years of private belief, Elona felt the need to complete one official Roman Catholic rite of passage. She was baptized at age 33. When Elona and her Muslim boyfriend, Altin Jegeni, decided to get married, they didn’t see their differing religions as a problem. They married in 1993 without religious ceremony, right after KOSOVO 2.0
the fall of communism in Albania. Their families weren’t bothered, either. “I do respect my husband’s parents, who never asked me if I want to convert to Islam, as I have my religion and they do respect that,” Elona says. She has a 15-year-old daughter, who is free to choose her religious beliefs. SECULARIZATION IMPOSED BY STATE Albania's relationship with religion can at best be described as complicated. According to political scientist Fatlum Sadiku, before Albania’s independence families of mixed faith were uncommon: “Religions coexisted among Albanians, but as far as mixed marriages were concerned, i.e. the creation of religiously mixed families, they were a clear taboo — of course with exceptions) — until after the independence of Albania in 1912.” In the 20th century, Albania went through a succession of governments: an international protec-
ERMIRA VITO, 31, AN ASSISTANT IN THE DEPARTMENT OF ELECTRONICS AND ENGINEERING AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TIRANA, WAS BORN INTO A MUSLIM FAMILY AND IS MARRIED TO AN ORTHODOX ALBANIAN MAN FROM TIRANA. “WE DIDN'T HAVE A WEDDING WITH RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS, AS IN ALBANIA THERE ARE NO RELIGIOUS DIVISIONS, WE HAVE RESPECT FOR ALL THE RELIGIONS,” SHE SAYS.
#3 RELIGION SPRING/SUMMER 2012
ELONA JEGENI, 40, WAS BORN INTO A TRADITIONAL CATHOLIC FAMILY AND IS MARRIED TO A MUSLIM ALBANIAN. “BACK IN THE DAYS WHEN I TOLD MY FAMILY THAT I WAS IN LOVE WITH A GUY WHO WASN’T CATHOLIC, MY GRANDFATHER GOT MAD AT ME. HE DIDN’T TALK TO ME FOR WEEKS, NOT A SINGLE WORD,” SHE SAYS.
— The communist regime was the harshest and most violent opponent of organized religion, confiscating 2,169 mosques, churches, cloisters and shrines as well as imprisoning, banishing or executing hundreds of clerics.
torate led by the German prince Wied, a short-lived parliamentary republic under Fan Noli, the rule of self-proclaimed monarch King Zog, followed by a 45-year stint of communism under Enver Hoxha. Each government continued a staggered but steady process of secularization through national education and mass media. The communist regime was the harshest and most violent opponent of organized religion, confiscating 2,169 mosques, churches, cloisters and shrines as well as imprisoning, banishing or executing hundreds of clerics. “For 45 years, religion was absolutely forbidden and was considered a criminal act. Anyone caught practicing a religion during communism was sentenced to prison,” says ethnologist Amanda Hysa of Tirana’s Institute for Cultural Anthropology. According to Hysa, before the advent of communism, religiously mixed marriages in Albania were rare, and most Albanian children were educated in mosques or churches, in the absence of secular schools. Communism changed this state of affairs in a dras-
tic way, transforming the national understanding and conception of religion. Religion became reactionary, old-fashioned, a threat to social harmony. Interfaith marriages were strongly supported and sometimes even forced by the regime. But not everyone sees Hoxha’s approach to religion as repressive. Ermira, a 31-year-old assistant in the Department of Electronics and Engineering at the University of Tirana, was born a Muslim and is married to an Orthodox Albanian man from Tirana. “My husband is Orthodox and we have no problems from being of different religions,” Ermia says. “We didn't have a wedding with religious traditions, as in Albania there are no religious divisions, we have respect for all the religions.” According to Ermira, the ban on religion in communist Albania made all Albanians equal, regardless of their religious origins. It reversed the old-fashioned clan system in society and broke down the barriers among Muslim, Orthodox and Catholic Albanians that were in place after 500 years of occupation by the Ottoman Empire.
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HARMONY FROM UNIVERSAL INTOLERANCE Agim Lami, a 55-year-old photographer from Tirana, recalls the regime’s approach to religion much differently. Lami was born into a Muslim family and celebrated religious holidays secretly in his childhood. During the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, Lami remembers that his grandmother never knew when to stop fasting — the mosques were afraid of lighting a candle as a signal to end the day’s fast, with good reason. Being caught performing religious rituals meant an indefinite jail sentence. Paradoxically, Lami says the intolerance of all religions and strengthening of a national identity during Hoxha’s regime contributed to interfaith harmony after communism. “We respect, both, mosques and churches,” Lami says. I was born and raised in a traditional Muslim family in southern Macedonia. In our community, religion played a big role in marriage and matchmaking, and it always seemed that religion didn’t have the same meaning for my relatives in Ti13