ISSN 2330-717X

Macedonia: New Mosque Causes Ethnic Rift In Southwest


By Goran Trajkov

A village mosque that is to be built in Lazec, near Bitola, in southwestern Macedonia, has been creating tension for years in the ethnically mixed village, where 120 Macedonians and 80 Albanians live. The two groups cannot agree on the location of the new mosque.

Lazec Macedonians said the original planned location that the Islamic community wants to build coincide with the foundations of the St George Orthodox Church.

Tensions further escalated after the municipality council of Bitola decided to approve the mosque at the village entrance. Macedonians from Lazec said that they are not against the construction of religious buildings, but they oppose the planned location.

“We want the mosque to be built next to the church, which will satisfy the request of the Macedonian people from the village, and will send a message that the village is multi-ethnic, where Macedonians and Albanians live together. Albanian residents again asked that the mosque be located at the village entrance, which hurts the Macedonians who say that if the mosque is built at the entrance to the village it will signal that only Albanians live here,” Orce Dandushevski, Lazec community president, told SETimes

The representative of the Islamic religious community from Bitola, Mufti Plumi Veliu, said that the community is waiting for a suitable moment to start the mosque construction.

“The technical documentation is complete and sent to competent authorities, so the construction work should start soon. Reactions as always will be present, but everything is ready to start the construction work. We hope there will be no problems, because the location is determined by the state,” Veliu told SETimes.

Meanwhile, multi-ethnic co-existence in Lazec has significantly diminished. Both communities cut contact with each other — even in everyday needs. The village now has two shops, one so-called Macedonian, the other Albanian.

“The mosque … started damaging interethnic relations in Lazec six years ago …. Now everyone abides by the rule that everyone shops in their own store, even for bread. … The residents of Lazani blame politics for the situation,” Orthodox priest Father Oliver told SETimes.

“It’s nice to have a religious object in this village, no matter where the location because we will have a place in the village to pray and to bury our dead. Until now we were going to the village Kisava, 5km away,” Lirim Rusidoski, an Albanian Lazec villager, told SETimes.

Macedonian residents of Lazec say that they will either move out of the village and leave everything behind, or go abroad.

Vasco Despotovski, a village resident, said that half the village is already planning to emigrate.

“Another family left the village two days ago. We knew the family and we lived [side by side], but because of the mosque dispute they left. The pressure is huge,” Despotovski told SETimes.

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The Southeast European Times Web site is a central source of news and information about Southeastern Europe in ten languages: Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, English, Greek, Macedonian, Romanian, Serbian and Turkish. The Southeast European Times is sponsored by the US European Command, the joint military command responsible for US operations in 52 countries. EUCOM is committed to promoting stability, co-operation and prosperity in the region.

3 thoughts on “Macedonia: New Mosque Causes Ethnic Rift In Southwest

  • June 12, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    everyone has right to their relgion

    • June 12, 2012 at 1:14 pm

      Except in Greece and Albania where the Macedonians are not allowed to worship in their own language.
      Macedonians are not even recognized as Macedonians in both these countries.
      In Macedonia all ethnicities are recognized,they are free to practice religion in their own languages.

  • June 13, 2012 at 1:23 am

    FYROM is not so free the ethnic Slavs have strong opposition to Muslims. Please don’t try to think the Slavs of FYROM are better than anyone else.

    Our Albanian people have been persecuted many times by the Yugoslavs of FYROM and other Yugoslav lands.


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