Eastern Europe Muslims Crave for Attention: Activist

05/02/2005

A library photo of Ukrainian Muslims (Courtesy FIOE)

By Radwa Hassan, IOL Staff

CAIRO, February 5 (IslamOnline.net) – A Europe-based Muslim activist has called for according due attention to the sizable Muslim community in Eastern Europe, which has broken loose from the Communist yoke.

“In East European countries like Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia Muslims make up the majority of populace,” Ayman Sayed Ahmad, director of Eastern Europe Department at the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE), told IslamOnline.net’s visitors in a live dialogue on Thursday, February 3.

He added that in other countries such as Bulgaria, Ukraine and federal Russia Muslims are considered “influential minority communities”.

Ahmad put the number of Muslims in Eastern Europe at some 35 million, most of them natives.

Russia comes first with 21 million Muslims, followed by Bulgaria with 2.6 million, Albania with 2.4 million, Bosnia with 2.2 million and Ukraine with 2 million Muslims.

“It is incumbent upon Muslims to help beef up this strong presence in such counties and raise the awareness of Muslims there about their religion in practice and in theory,” Ahmad added.

The FIOE is a non-profitable European organization, which provides a framework for its member organizations and institutions.

With 28 chapters across the continent, it aims to maintain the Muslim presence in Europe and to enhance and develop that presence so that Islam is properly and accurately introduced.

The FIOE also established affiliate bodies like the European Institute for Human Science, which has branches in France and Britain, the European Council for Fatwa and Research and the Association of Muslim Schools in Europe.

Muslim Identity

Ahmad said Muslim scholars and imams are duty-bound to help preserve the Muslim identity in Eastern Europe.

He urged them to regularly visit East European countries and pass on their experience to Islamic activists there.

“It is very important to cater for their needs and qualify them to live up to the daunting challenges ahead” Ahmad said.

“The FIOE has championed the call for launching Web sites and publishing books in languages spoken in Eastern Europe to reach out to non-Arabic speakers there.”

He continued: “Holding Islamic conferences there are a necessity to bring Muslims together from the four corners of Europe, though security fears from authorities in such countries constitute a stumbling bloc given the crackdown on Muslim activities in the post-9/11 era.”

The Muslim activist also underlined the importance of encouraging Muslims in Eastern Europe to fully engage in their respective societies.

Ahmad further called for supporting the Muslim bodies in Eastern Europe and lobbying for restoring religious endowment lands (Waqfs) confiscated by the authorities.

Albanian Muslims reacted angrily last week to a law ratified by the parliament allowing land swap or compensation for Muslim bodies which had their Waqfs confiscated during the Communist era.