Monday, December 7, 2009

Albanian Guest Blogger

I found this on the comments page of an NYTimes article. signed simply "David, New Jersey". I really liked it, and present it without comment.

Mr. Douthat, as an American of Albanian descent who happens to be Orthodox Christian, I am deeply offended by your simplistic, myopic portrayals of Europe's Muslim communities, but I am not surprised. Your writing on this subject, as with many others before this, is rife with Fox Network-inspired talking points and glitzy, contrived mots justes ('Eurabia', 'Clash of Civilizations' and 'dhimmitude'). This piece could have been written by any wide-eyed, fearful Evangelical Christian who's never left the deep south, and frankly, Mr. Douthat, it already has been - many, many times over. You paint with an extra-wide brush here about yet another large segment of humanity of which you seem to know next to nothing, and with which it would appear you have had zero meaningful contact. Europe is not now, nor has it ever been all Christian, all Western, all the time. Get to know Europe's indigenous Muslims in their countries of origin, Mr. Douthat, and have your eyes opened for you. Albania had more Jews in it after World War Two than it did before. I used to attend Albanian school on Fridays at the Albanian Islamic Center in Waterbury, Connecticut. My father used to drive me there - it was about forty-five minutes from our home. Like me, he felt it was important to maintain a connection to Albanian language and culture. After my language class was over, and patriotic songs sung, I used to sit in on the religion class, so that I could learn about Islam. I would even go up into the mosque to pray alongside my classmates - all American-born teenagers and children. The Imam was a wise older man who was aware that I was an Orthodox Christian (my Godparents were known and loved by many in this community). He always made me know that I was welcome to pray, in my own way, right alongside the other kids. I would watch their motions and prostrations as I silently said the Lord's Prayer, and made the sign of the cross. I enjoyed hearing the call to prayer, and listened attentively to the sermon (hutbe), which was always about loving and helping one another, forgiveness - much the same things as I'd hear in church on Sunday. In short, I understood from a very young age that Muslims weren't any different from Christians or Jews. The only time I ever saw any women with headscarves on was when they walked into the mosque to pray. Otherwise, once they were outside, the headscarves went into purses, the kids went into the car, and everyone went off to have pizza. Visit Albania and you will see the situation is identical there today. Because Albanians have suffered together through the ages, and share an ancient, unique language which binds them together, we have always felt ourselves to be Albanians first. Our people intermarry across religious lines, and have a strong tradition of the separation of church and state. Albania: statistically 65% Muslim and 35% Christian and 100% European and proud of it.

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