Tuesday 29 January 2019

Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries: Romania

Islam in a strictly dominant Orthodox Catholics is a tale of resilience and of survival.  The Orthodox Catholics is a branch of Christianity that has the least tolerance toward other religions even towards other Christian denominations such as Catholicism Needless to mention that regarding Islam and Muslims, eastern Christianity and it’s adherents have an even narrower view.

Although Islam had once thrived for almost five centuries in what is called the Northern Dobruja part of Romania (lying between the lower Danube river and the Black Sea, bordered in the south by Southern Dobruja, which is part of Bulgaria) till as late as 1878, it now accounts for mere 0.3 percent of the total population (or mere 64,337 Muslims as per 2011 census). Most Muslims are of Tatar and Turkish origin, following the Sunni doctrine. The Islam is one of the 16 rites awarded state recognition.

Esmahan Sultan Mosque is the oldest mosque in Romania 1525 [Photo: Wikipedia]

At present there are as many as eighty mosques in Romania. The city of Constanța, with its Carol I Mosque and the location of the Muftiyat, is the center of Romanian Islam; Mangalia, near Constanța, is the site of a monumental mosque, built in 1525.  The oldest madrasah in Romania was set up in Babadag, on orders from Bayezid II in 1484. From the same period onward, groups of Muslim Tatars and Oghuz Turks from Anatolia were settled into Dobruja.

The Dobrujan Muslim community was exposed to cultural repression during Communist Romania. After 1948, all property of the Islamic institutions became state-owned. As a consequence, education in Tatar dialects and Turkish was eliminated in stages after 1959, becoming optional, while the madrasah in Medgidia was shut down in the 1960s. At the same time, Sufi tradition was frowned upon by Communist officials—as a result of their policies, the Sufi groups became almost completely inactive.

It was not after the Romanian Revolution of 1989 that the  Tatar and Turkish were again added to the curriculum for members of the respective communities, and, in 1993, the Medgidia madrasah was reopened as a Theological and Pedagogic High School. The school was later elevated to National College status, and is known in Romanian as Colegiul Național Kemal Atatürk. Since the 1990s, the official representatives of the Muslim community maintain close relations with international non-governmental organizations such as the Muslim World League.

In a country where Islam is only 0.3% of the total population, it is least understood and almost resented for whatever has been known is through stories of the Ottoman Empire incursions and myth of forced conversion.That was the general picture from the history books and specialty literature. In the modern era, Islam is viewed and understood in Romania through the western media and the global propaganda-war on terror scenario.Their unilateral way of portraying Islam and Muslims only helped to consolidate an already existing image and resentment. [2]

In order to mesh the Muslims with the locals, the concept of interfaith-inter-cultural marriages trend began to grow specially after the communism regime fell in 1989. However the concept was badly doomed as a lot of these marriages ended up in bitter break ups.The brides usually moved to their spouse place of origin, but within a few short years they would end up back home with heartbreaking stories to tell. Some of them were forced to convert,some beaten,some locked up,some lost their children,some had to escape,some lived in poverty and conditions worse than those in their own country. [2]

A majority of common Romanians feel that Muslims are primitive, culturally backward and that Islam is violent and cruel, and that Muslims worship a pagan deity, and oppress their women and that we are blood thirsty criminals bend on world domination through Islamization. In fact a lot of hatred and resentment toward Islam. Being a Muslimah ( a female Muslim) in Romania is no walk in park especially for those who wear hijab or the veil. You think that Muslim women have it difficult at times in the west? Think again and pay a short visit to orthodox eastern Europe. Within a month time you will be called every name in the book, in plain sight on the street, malls, stores, public transportation,etc. You will feel like locking yourself up in the house out of your own free will and never stepping foot outside again. [2]

In 2016, Romania’s largest political party nominated a woman from the country’s Tatar minority for prime minister on Wednesday. She would have been both the first Muslim and the first woman to hold the post - I don't have to tell details that follow except that the the Romanian president rejected her nomination, giving "no reasons" for the rejection!!

A mega mosque was to built in Bucharest with the assistance of Turkey in 2016. But it drew a huge public outcry against its construction and a lawsuit was launched to stop the project from taking place. Of the many arguments against its construction, one was "Once Islam enters a land, that land becomes Islamic and Muslims have the duty to liberate it someday." [3] Former president Traian Băsescu argued that Romania doesn't need "an accelerated Islamization process" and that the Muslims of Dobruja already have the mosques they need. The project was finally shelved in 2018 and the land earmarked for it was returned to the government. [7]

Dobromir village in Constanta County, is the only locality in Romania where the majority population is Islamic. "Allah hu Akbar" has been heard here every day, for hundreds of years. The Muslims are reasonably law-abiding and loyal to the country. Romanian Muslims consider themselves and are in all respects except ethnicity Romanians. [4]

I would like my readers from Romania to provide me feedback on the life of  Muslims in Romania to add to personal experiences of Muslims living there and how well do they enjoy their lives.
Watch a video about life of Muslims in Romania and their religious activities:
Author's Note: The data above has been collected from the references as given below. IF any one differs with the material contained in this post, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make the post all encompassing.

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7
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