ISLAM and MUSLIMS IN MONTENEGRO

      

General Information

National name: Republike Crne Gore

Land area: 5,333 sq mi (13,812 sq km); total area: 5,415 sq mi (14,026 sq km)

Population (2007 est.): 684,736

Capital (1991 est.): Podgorica (administrative capital), 117,875; Cetinje (capital city), 14,700

Other large cities (1991): Nikšić, 56,141; Kotor, 5,620

Monetary unit: Euro

Languages: Serbian/Montenegrin (Ijekavian dialect—official)

Ethnicity/race: Montenegrin 43%, Serbian 32%, Bosniak 8%, Albanian 5%, other (Muslims, Croats, Roma) 12%

Religions: Orthodox, Muslim, Roman Catholic

Literacy rate: 96.4% (2002 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007est.): $5.918 billion; per capita $3,800. Real growth rate: 7.5%. Inflation: 3.4%.

Montenegro, a jumbled mass of mountains, with a small coastline along the Adriatic, borders Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. It is roughly the size of Connecticut.

The first inhabitants on the Balkan peninsula were the ancient people known as the Illyrians. The Slavic people followed in the 6th and 7th centuries. What is now Montenegro was the Serbian principality of Zeta in the 14th century. The principality was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire from the 14th to the 19th century, though this mountainous region managed to evade tight Ottoman control. It then became a principality within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and in 1878 achieved independence. In 1910, Prince Nicholas I proclaimed himself king. During World War I, Montenegro fought on the side of the Allies and was defeated by Austro-German forces. Nicholas was forced to flee the country and Montenegro was annexed to Serbia, then called the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, and renamed Yugoslavia in 1929. After World War II, Yugoslavia became a Communist republic under Josip Tito. Tito's tight rein kept ethnic tensions in check until his death in 1980. Without his pan-Slavic influence, ethnic and nationalist differences began to flare, and by the 1990s Yugoslavia started to disintegrate in a brutal ten-year civil war. In its aftermath, Serbia and Montenegro were the only two remaining republics of rump Yugoslavia, and in Feb. 2003, they formed a new state, a loose federation called Serbia and Montenegro. The arrangement was made to placate Montenegro's restive stirrings for independence and stipulated that Montenegro could hold a referendum on independence after three years. In May 2003, Filip Vujanovic, a strong advocate of Montenegrin independence, was elected Montenegro's president.

In May 2006, Montenegro held a referendum on independence, which narrowly passed. On June 3 it declared independence, and on June 26, it became the 192nd member of the United Nations. Prime Minister Zeljko Sturanovic resigned in January 2008 to undergo treatment for a rare form of lung cancer. He was replaced by Milo Djukanovic, who has already served four terms as prime minister. He had been in power as either president or prime minister of Montenegro from 1991 to 2006 and had led the country's drive for independence.

On April 6, 2008, incumbent Filip Vujanovic won the presidential election with approximately 51% of the vote. Voter turnout was about 69%.

Islamic History and Muslims

Islam in Montenegro is the largest minority religion. Montenegro's 110,000 Muslims make up 17.74% of the total population. They are divided into these main groups: Slavic Muslims split among Bosniaks, who speak Bosnian, Muslims by nationality, who prefer Serbian, Montenegrins who speak Montenegrin, and ethnic Albanians. Albanians are a separate ethnic group, speaking their own language, Albanian (5.26%) and living mostly in the south-east, especially in Ulcinj, where they form the vast majority of the both municipality's and town's population. Bosniaks are Slavic Muslims speaking the Bosnian language and living mostly in the northeast. Montenegro's Muslims belong to the Sunni branch.

Islam is the dominant religion in the northern municipalities, which are part of the Sandžak geographical region, and in municipalities where Albanians form a majority. Islam is the majority religion in Plav, Rožaje and Ulcinj, and is the dominant religion among Albanians, Bosniaks and Muslims by nationality.

In the 15th century the Ottoman Empire had conquered much of Montenegro's territory and introduced Islam, which was not uncommon to the Crnojević Montenegrin ruling dynasty. In 1704 the Montenegrins conducted a massacre of its Muslims known as the "Investigation of the Turks" on Christmas' Eve.

The Bosniaks and many Albanians of Montenegro are Muslim by faith but also declared Montenegrins of Bosniak and/or Albanian blood (They see themselves as assimilated Montenegrins with Islam as their religion) The Muslims can be mostly found in the Sandžak region in Montenegro.

Ethnic composition according to the 2003 census: Of the total 110,034 Muslims:

48,184 Bosniacs (43.79%)
24,625 Muslims by nationality (22.38%)
22,834 Albanians (20.75%)
11,710 Montenegrins (10.64%)
2,681 others (mostly Romany) (2.44%)

Montenegro Gets Islamic School

By Hany Salah, IOL Correspondent
 

The foundation stone was laid in 2000, but the dearth of donations after 9/11 put a brake on the construction. (IOL photo)

PODGORICA — After more than a 90-year wait, Muslims in the Republic of Montenegro will have the first secondary school to accommodate students aspiring for Islamic education.

"We are finally done with the school construction and will enroll students for the 2008/09 school year," Omer Halil Kajshaj, head of the foreign relations department at the Islamic Sheikdom of Montenegro, told IslamOnline.net.

The four-storey school, which will have a 16-room dorm, will open its doors on August 20 in the capital Podgorica.

It will have facilities such as a library, a computer lab, a gym and a theatre.

"Students from municipalities across the republic can enroll," said Kajshaj, adding that only male students will be accepted this year.

"The school will enroll girls starting from the next year."

The foundation stone for the school was laid in 2000, but the dearth of donations from charities and Arab courtiers, especially after the 9/11 attacks, put a brake on the construction.

The building of the 300-square-meter school has cost 2 million, some €1.5 million of which donated by a Turkish governmental institution.

The Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank and a number of charities in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates donated the remaining 500,000.

Montenegro's 140,000 Muslims make up 20 percent of the total 650,000 population.

There are 26 mosques in Ulcinj, southernmost city at Montenegrin coast.

Needed

The school comes to meet the needs of the Muslim minority in Montenegro, where no Islamic school has been established in the past 90 years.

"During the Turkish rule of Montenegro, there were few Islamic schools, but they gradually died out in subsequent decades," notes Kajshaj.

"The last Islamic school in the republic was closed down in the northern municipality of Pljevlja in 1918."

In the post World War II period, students aspiring for Islamic education had to enroll in Islamic schools in neighboring Kosovo, Bosnia or Macedonia.

Kajshaj says that two classes, each catering for 20 students, were initially scheduled to open for students of the first year.

"But with the growing demand for enrollment, a third class will open this year."

Two classes will be dedicated for Bosniaks students, who speak Bosnian language and who constitute the majority of applicants, while the third will be for ethnic Albanians.

Muslims played a pivotal role in the independence of Montenegro, voting in favor of a separation from Serbia in the 2006 referendum.

Since independence, the government has kept a cordial relations with them.

"The authorities allow us into jails to lead Muslim prisoners in Eid prayer," said Enis Burxheviq, the imam of the Islamic society in the northern town of Bijelo Polje.

"I lead 60 prisoners into prayer."

He also cites a recent law allowing Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims to retrieve endowments confiscated during the Yugoslav rule if they provide the needed documentation.

"We will do this." ( http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1216208188704&pagename=Zone-English-News/NWELayout )

 

Qur'an Lights Montenegro's Ramadan

By Hany Salah, IOL Correspondent
 

PODGORICA, Montenegro — Montenegrin Muslims huddle together around mosque imams twice a day during the holy fasting month of Ramadan to hear their music-to-the-ear recitation of the Qur'an and learn more about their holy book. "Muslims gather twice a day to listen to the imam recite verses from Qur'an, especially that most of them do not know Arabic," Senad Makovic of the Islamic Sheikhdom told IslamOnline.net.
One of the recitation circles is held quarter of an hour before the Fajr prayer while the second follows `Asr prayers and runs through to Maghrib when Muslims break their fast. "Such meetings with mosque imams have for years been a major feature of Ramadan in Montenegrin," Makovic said. "What is new this Ramadan is that an increasing number of Muslims is joining in and that the meetings are held twice a day not just once as it used to be."
During Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain during daylight hours from food, drink, smoking and sex. It is customary for Muslims during Ramadan, the ninth month on the Islamic lunar calendar, to spend most of the day studying the Qur'an. The first verses of Qur'an were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) in Ramadan. Imams Exchange. Montenegrin Muslims also swap imams during the holy fasting month to make the

A file photo of a Macedonian Muslim.

 best of their experiences.

"Imams deliver sermons at their mosques during the first days of the holy month," said Makovic. "Then, they start moving to other mosques to benefit more Muslims with their religious knowledge," he added.

The Islamic Sheikhdom organizes a series of seminars and forums at Islamic centers in predominantly Muslim areas across the country on the virtues and rewards of fasting.
It has also resumed the publication of an Islamic monthly, ELIF, to answer questions about fasting, Qur'an recitation, i`tikaf (spiritual retreat in the mosque), zakat and other similar issues.
The Southeastern European republic of Montenegro has a population of 630,500, nearly a quarter of them are Muslims.
Televised Ramadan
In neighboring Macedonia, Muslims are flocking to mosques not only to perform prayers but also tune in for sermons and lectures.
"Large numbers of Macedonian Muslims are attending religious lessons after the Tarawih," Afrim Alija, the media officer of the Islamic Sheikhdom in Macedonia. He said many foreign Muslim scholars have been invited to Macedonia to lead the Tarawih prayers and serve the Muslim minority during the holy fasting month.
The Sheikhdom has also organized a committee to help strengthen the bonds among the Macedonian Muslims. The high-profile committee tours mosques across the country, estimated at some 590, to coordinate religious and humanitarian activities.
"We also organize seminars on medical aspects related to the fasting," Alija added. Ramadan programs have a solid foothold on the map of TV and radio channels during Ramadan. Local newspapers and even website are extensively reporting on the Ramadan activities in the country. Muslims make up nearly a third of Macedonia's two million population, according to the CIA Fact book. But other estimates suggest Muslims make up half of the country's population.  (http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2006-10/16/04.shtml)
 

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References
Islam in Montenegro ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_Montenegro  , October, 2008).
Info please ( http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0933809.html ,  October, 2008).
Islam Finder ( http://www.islamicfinder.org/cityPrayerNew.php?country=xx  , October, 2008).
World Religions Statistics ( http://www.adherents.com/adhloc/xx , October, 2008).
Anonymous, Documents from Representatives of Islamic Organizations in Montenegro, October 2008.