September 16, 2019
 In Radicalization & Violent Extremism in Prisons

Country: Albania
Delegate Name: William Moore

While most of the media’s attention has been on acts of systematic terror committed by groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram and Al Qaeda in the name of Islam, it is important to note that the growth in extremist violence is not limited to one religion. Even in the Middle East, crimes have been committed in defense of Judaism, and Christian militias exist in many parts of the world. In Asia, groups have committed violations in the name of Hinduism and Buddhism, and in other parts of the world, political ideologies have led groups to take up arms.
The Bektashi Order or Bektashism is an Islamic Sufi mystic movement originating in the 13th-century. It is named after the Anatolian saint Haji Bektash Veli. The community is currently led by Baba Mondi, the eighth Bektashi Dedebaba and headquartered in Tirana, Albania. Today sympathy for the order is generally widespread in Albania where approximately 20% of Muslims identify themselves as having some connection to Bektashism. The ethnic distribution in Albania is Muslim 56.7%, Roman Catholic 10%, Orthodox 6.8%, atheist 2.5%, Bektashi (a Sufi order) 2.1%, other 5.7%, unspecified 16.2%. In 2002, a group of armed members of the Islamic Religious Community of Macedonia (ICM), a Sunni group that is the legally recognized organization which claims to represent all Muslims in North Macedonia, invaded the Shiʻi Bektashi Order’s Arabati Baba Teḱe in an attempt to reclaim this tekke as a mosque although the facility has never functioned as such. Subsequently, the Bektashi Order of North Macedonia sued the government for failing to restore the tekke to the Bektashis, pursuant to a law passed in the early 1990s returning properties previously nationalized under the Yugoslav government. The law, however, deals with restitution to private citizens, rather than religious communities. The ICM claim to the tekke is based upon their contention to represent all Muslims in the Republic of Macedonia; and indeed, they are one of two Muslim organizations recognized by the government, both Sunni. The Bektashi community filed for recognition as a separate religious community with the Macedonian government in 1993, but the Macedonian government has refused to recognize them.
In recent years, Albania has taken steps to identify and expel foreign Islamic extremists from the country. Many of them sought out Albania as a safe haven for their operations in the mid-1990s due to the lax government and security measures in place at that time. Albanian Foreign Minister Paskal Milo said that Tirana did not support any kind of extremism among ethnic Albanians in F.Y.R. Macedonia. In response to prominent radicalization in prisons in the Western Balkans, the Council of Europe implemental a Regional Action in coordination with Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia, which included a diverse selection of other national stakeholders and civil society organizations active in the penitentiary field and countering violent extremism and radicalisation in prisons. The main aim of the Action was to enhance regional security by improving the inter-institutional exchange of knowledge and good practices in the region in respect of radicalization in prisons, with a view on providing penitentiary system staff with necessary standards, tools and instruments needed to respond appropriately. Another important goal was to empower in-county multi-agency coordination to counter radicalization in prison and to provide adequate post-penal support to released violent extremist offenders. Albania is aware of these issues, are addressing them the best we can intrinsically, but plan to work with international members of the UN to help diminish this radicalization and violent extremism in not only prisons, but in general.