Albania: Muslims Give Anti-US Protests A Miss


By Besar Likmeta

Dismssing rumours to the contrary, Albania’s League of Imams said they had no plans to stage any public protests against the notorious film that has caused such unrest in the Islamic world.

Masked Palestinians throw stones towards Israeli security forces, during clashes that erupted after a demonstration against an anti-Islam film called “Innocence of Muslims” that ridicules Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, in Shuafat refuge | Photo by : AP Photo/Bernat Armangue


“We never planned to hold a rally and never even thought of organizing one,” the Chairman of the League of Imams, Justinian Topulli, told Balkan Insight on Thursday.

“We are only holding a symposium on the role of the Prophet Muhammad in Islam and any other claim is a misunderstanding,” Topulli added.

In a recent travel warning for its citizens, the US embassy in Tirana cautioned that the league had applied for a permit to hold a demonstration against the controversial film, which has the potential to lead to additional rallies or demonstrations in other locations around the city or country.

“Demonstrations such as this can turn confrontational and escalate into violence,” the embassy warned, reminding American citizens to “maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security”.

Roughly 70 per cent of Albania’s 2.8 million population come from a Muslim background, but the number of practicing believers is smaller.

Albania is home to a large number of Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians, and the country has a tradition of religious tolerance and cohabitation between different faiths.

In a statement on their website the League of Imams described the event as an indoor symposium, which aims to show “the exalted position and personality of the Prophet Muhammad”.

Topulli told Balkan Insight that he had been in touch with the local organizers and they had done their best to explain the nature of the event to the police and local authorities.

“There has never been a request filed with local authorities for a rally,” he continued.

The brief, low-budget film at the centre of the controversy,”The Innocence of Muslims”, believed to have been produced in California and uploaded onto Youtube, has led to violent anti-US protests in the Middle East and North Africa,

Four US officials, including the ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, died in an assault on September 11 on the US consulate in Benghazi, in eastern Libya, following the publication of the film.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (formerly the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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