How religious are Albanian and Bosnian Muslims?

By Razib Khan | April 16, 2009 11:29 am

There are some really weird comments about Albania below. Part of these confusions have to do with ambiguities as to the religious identity of Albania, traditionally majority Muslim, but after decades of Communism very secular. What exactly are the religious breakdowns? How religious are Albanians? Additionally some of the same questions are thrown toward the Bosnian Muslims. Are Balkan Muslims true religious moderates, or, are they simply secular Europeans whose ancestors practiced the Muslim religion?
The World Values Survey can help answer these questions, or least put some numbers on them. In addition to Bosnia & Albania, I also present data from Poland and Turkey, as points of comparison. Poland being one of the more Christian European countries, and Turkey being a secular, of not ex-communist, Muslim one.
Below are the data….

  Albania Bosnia Poland Turkey
  Atheist 8.3 12 2.7 1.9
  Not Atheist 91.7 88 97.3 98.1
           
    Albania Bosnia Poland Turkey
  A religious person 68.3 74.3 94.4 80.6
  Not religious 26.2 20.0 4.4 18.4
  Convinced atheist 5.5 5.7 1.2 1.0
           
  Albania Bosnia Poland Turkey
  No Religion 13 24.7 4.3 1.9
  Belong to Religion 87 75.3 95.7 98.1
           
    Albania Bosnia Poland Turkey
  Muslim 66.9 54.5 99.4
  Orthodox 20.8 27.8 0.3
  Catholic 10.1 17.3 98.3 0.4
           
Attendance At Religious Services Albania Bosnia Poland Turkey
  More than once a week 3.8 11.8 8.6 18.4
  Once a week 16.5 15.9 50.4 19.2
  Once a month 9.1 17.5 19.2 1.9
  Only on special holy days 32.4 29.4 9.3 16
  Once a year 5 4.6 1.6 5.8
  Less often 9.9 7.1 3.2 3.3
  Never 23 13.8 5.3 35.3
           
Politicians Who Don’t Believe In God Are Unfit For Public Office
      Albania     Bosnia     Poland Turkey
      Muslim Orthodox Catholic Muslim Orthodox Catholic Catholic Muslim
Agree strongly 17 9.4 19.7 5.4 5.6 5.3 7.4 31.2
Agree 29.9 27.6 27.6 12.3 13.0 4.7 9.9 30.2
Neither agree or disagree 27.2 27.1 27.6 37.5 30.2 40 19.6 12.3
Disagree 18.9 24.1 21.1 25.6 37.7 26 45.1 17.9
Disagree Strongly 7 11.8 3.9 19.2 13.5 24 19 8.4
                 
How Important Is God In Your Life?
      Albania     Bosnia     Poland Turkey
      Muslim Orthodox Catholic Muslim Orthodox Catholic Catholic Muslim
Not Important 4.4 4.4 2.3 3.5 5.3 2.6 0.5 1.5
2 2.8 2.8 1.1 0.2 2 1.9 0.6 0.4
3 4 6.7 1.1 0.6 2.8 1.9 0.7 0.9
4 4.4 6.7 1.1 1 1.2 5.2 1.8 0.5
5 5.7 12.2 2.3 7.2 13.8 7.8 7 2.8
6 4.5 3.9 3.4 4.8 5.3 7.1 5.2 1.2
7 12.9 13.3 5.7 6.8 13 8.4 8.7 1.7
8 11 9.4 10.2 9.1 18 9.7 11.3 4.6
9 15.2 13.9 18.2 10.3 11 4.5 10.3 6.4
Very Important 35.2 26.7 54.5 56.4 27.2 50.6 53.8 79.9
                 

Some notes:
1) The data are probably best as comparisons across countries. They don’t match up with other data from other surveys, probably because of the way wording influences people.
2) Even within the sample wording matters; some of those who don’t believe in God would rather define themselves as “Not Religious” than “Convinced Atheists.”
3) Despite decades of Communism most Albanians retain some sort of religious identity. Only about 10% are atheists or agnostics in that they don’t believe in God. Nevertheless, 10% is not a trivial number, the equivalent in the United States, a far wealthier nation, is 2%. A large minority of the remaining 90% presumably do not believe in a personal God.
4) Interestingly, despite Albanian state atheism being far more militant than that of the former Yugoslavia, a much larger proportion of Bosnians claim that they have no religious affiliation. Bosnia has (obviously) had religiously motivated conflicts in the recent past, while Albania has not. Nevertheless, looking into the age breakdowns, younger Bosnians are more religiously affiliated and more likely to believe than the old, while Albania is the opposite.
5) In both Albania and Bosnia Muslims and Catholics seem to resemble each other in religiosity more than they do the Orthodox, who are more secularized. I do know that traditionally Bosnia was dominated by Catholics and Muslims, the latter presumably converts from the former, while the Orthodox have only been emigrating into the region in the past few centuries. So there might be some latent cultural variables which aren’t discernible because of the historically closer relationship between Catholics & Muslims.
6) Turks are big on talk & belief, but not so much in action. They seem to be more strident believers in the basic tenets of religion, but large numbers aren’t too involved with regular religious attendance.
7) Cultural attachment to religious holidays seems strong in both Albania and Bosnia, where only attendance during holy days is the mode.
Addendum: Please do not make up strange facts in the comments as occurred in the previous thread.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, History
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  • Besim

    A religious person is an individual who is personally registered with a religious group. Most of the albanians are not registered to any religous group therefore can not affiliated with any religion. Besides to be a religious person you have to regularly attend the religios site for prayer and follow instructions from religios leaders in everyday life. If you look the religious registers in Albania i doubt if you find that more than 10% of the population are registered to any religious group. Most of the people follow regional cultural backgrounds rather than religious.

  • diana

    Anecdotal evidence. I worked with some Bosnian refugees in the mid-late 90s and they were more or less religious. This should be defined carefully. They all looked like secular Europeans. The women wore makeup, no scarves, trousers, etc. The men were clean-shaven and wore Western clothes. But, contrary to pro-Bosnian propaganda about what rotten Muslims they were, yeah, they were Muslim. They could all read the Koran in Arabic. (Perhaps better than many Arabs can read the Koran?) Let’s say they were analogous to American Jews in the conservadox wing, who were fully modern but also fully in their religious tradition.
    At least for one generation…..

  • http://scienceblogs.com/clock Coturnix

    Very interesting data. I can only add my personal observations which are not data-supported, but may help explain the age difference in religiosity in Bosnia.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    besim, you don’t get to determine who a religious person is.

  • Jack

    The author obviously has no idea about Albanian history and it surely looks like a person that feels very proud to have fellow Muslims in Europe.
    “Part of these confusions have to do with ambiguities as to the religious identity of Albania, traditionally majority Muslim, but after decades of Communism very secular” is total BULLSHIT !
    Would you like to tell me dear author what you mean by “traditional”? Cause as far as I know, being an Albanian, we have traditionally been against being Muslim, in fact, we fought for 500 years against the Turks, eventhough their religion still remained.
    I cannot speak for any other nationality in the Balkans, but as for the Albanians, there is no great affinity to a religion brought by an oppressor, nor for any other religion for that matter. This is the product of communism, and great it is !

  • blerina

    I’d talk myself, but found this article below, gives the whole picture on Albania, historically and currently:
    “The majority of Albanians today are atheists, implicit or explicit. According to the IRF Report, and other sources, up to 75% of the population in Albania declare no religious affiliation.[1][2][3][4][5]”
    http://vargmal.org/dan1628

  • Koray

    I expected christians in Turkey to be largely orthodox, not catholic. Interesting.
    Most Turks can’t read any Arabic. I’d be surprised if Bosnians did.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    I cannot speak for any other nationality in the Balkans, but as for the Albanians, there is no great affinity to a religion brought by an oppressor, nor for any other religion for that matter. This is the product of communism, and great it is !
    saying it won’t make it so. btw, i’m an atheist dumbass.
    I expected christians in Turkey to be largely orthodox, not catholic. Interesting.
    Most Turks can’t read any Arabic. I’d be surprised if Bosnians did.

    the sample size for non-muslims was small. i wouldn’t trust it.

  • olaf

    I would like to start my comment with two questions: why and how have you conducted this survey?
    The reason why I ask these two questions is because I happen to know the Balkan region fairly well and it just happens so that most of the data I see here does not correspond to the realities I have experienced on the ground.
    It is an absolute inexactitude to consider the Orthodox population of Turkey nonexistent as this survey does. In fact, there is a sizable Orthodox population in Turkey and the vivid proof for that is the Rum (Greek) community still active in this country; not to mention the Armenian Apostolic and the Syriac Orthodox Churches, which have never ceased to exist in Turkey.
    It is also a fact that the Catholic community in Turkey continues to be present, but by no means does that mean that the latter is greater in number than the Orthodox ones.
    In fact, it suffices only this very data to call your survey quite a few names. As for myself, I would only choose to call it unprofessional.

  • olaf

    One more little appendix for the Albanian Jack, who claims to know his country’s reality.
    I have been to his country also on Fridays and I can assure him that I have seen all of the four mosques in Tirana fully packed. As a matter of fact, people complain that there is not enough room in the mosques to house all the believers who go there for the Friday community prayers.
    And for the Albanian Jack’s info, they did not look “Turkish” to me. Many of them happen to be tall, blue eyed and fair skinned Albanians,just like the rest of the Europeans do.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    wow, the morons are coming out of the wood work! this is what i really hate when i talk about primitive countries & societies….
    In fact, there is a sizable Orthodox population in Turkey and the vivid proof for that is the Rum (Greek) community still active in this country; not to mention the Armenian Apostolic and the Syriac Orthodox Churches, which have never ceased to exist in Turkey.
    and aren’t you exact!

  • John Emerson

    Syrian “Orthodox” and Russian / Greek “Orthodox” are not related. Each calls the other heterodox.
    Besides Western Churches and Eastern Orthodox Churches, there are a number of sects of Eastern Churches in various places. They’re sometimes called “Orthodox” but that’s inaccurate if you think that there’s a relationship to “Eastern Prthodox” (Russian, Greek, etc.)

  • http://Doci Ariold

    albanians they dont care aboute religion more than 75 percent are atheist and they are native european so it mean most albanian muslims they dont care they are atheist the rest are catholic and orthodocs

  • Ilir

    The catholics and orthodoxs in Albania are trying very hard to bring down the muslim faith in Albania.They will always bring propoganda against islam and how the albanians been under turk occupation for 500 years.Yet they dont realize how they became catholic or orthodox and are uneducated when it comes to religious history but always seem to open there mouth when they dont know any better.Islam will grow in Albania and there to stay so please disregard what you read in here about albanians not caring for religion or not practicing because when they here anything about muslim albanians they jump fast to respond in any way saying we are not religious yet they seem to have a problem with islam.

  • http://fountain.blogspot.com Ross

    I wonder if the relative secularity of the Orthodox groups is down to the fact that they have national churches. When Yugoslavia & Albania were communist and atheist the Orthodox churches had to make their accomodations with the state in a way that their Catholic and Muslim counterparts did not did not.

  • blerina

    “When Yugoslavia & Albania were communist and atheist the Orthodox churches had to make their accomodations with the state in a way that their Catholic and Muslim counterparts did not did not.”
    Ross, the Orthodox Church in Albania didn’t make any accomodations with the state. It was totally abolished, just like all organized religion. The foremost problem Greeks, Italians, Americans and Arabs had with the installation of religion from zero in Albania, after the fall of totalitarian regime, was the fact that there was absolutely no clergy in the country to take over the organization of any religious community. I mean don’t group Albania with some other state, just for the sake of making an argument about another state seem common. Albania has been the only state in the world ever to declare itself officially atheist. That speaks volumes for itself, because if people would be “religious”, like they were elsewhere, this move would not have happened.
    Antireligious activity in the country was thus of an organic nature, it didn’t happen “suddenly”, or because of “communism”. Monarchy walked the same path, the National Renaissance movement walked the same path, etc. Most Albanians have seen and see religions as antagonist to the national culture, that’s always been the case, in stark contrast with other nations.
    As British author Edith Durham once said during the early 1900s: “Some nations have a genius for religion. The Albanians, as a race, are singularly devoid of it.”

  • kucedra

    There are believers in Albania, however there are no recent statistics to prove polarisations of religions. Reality is that Albanian baby boomer’s faith was eradicated in their early years of their life and has not been inherited to younger generations. My mother just made red eggs for Easter, I do not think she did it because she is religious it’s just a traditional trend more than anything else.
    This is nonsense I am writing only because I read these columns and I feel obliged to give an opinion. Faith is great, all people should be respected if they found a way of believing in something greater than themselves.

  • Albania

    When they say Muslim they mean that they have Muslim names and that their family converted to Islam 150-300 years ago. However, it was not a conversion out of the love for Islam, but a survival tool during the Ottoman times. Oh, traditionally they were all Catholics. Albanians weren’t good Catholics either as local laws always took precedence over everything.
    Lastly, converting (to be able to open a store, trade with the Turks, carry guns, pay less taxes etc) didn’t make the Albanians lose the national identity since the langauge, customs etc were kept. Also many were “Catholics in hiding” also known as ‘Laraman’ (mixed) with Islam outside the house and Catholicism inside or a combination of both.
    You also need to define ‘Muslim’: What is a Muslim, one that goes to mosque when a child is born or one that dresses and acts like they do in Pakistan? They are different aspects of “religious,” from praying to a god to willing to kill everyone who doesn’t believe in that god.

  • erion

    In mountain sites in Albania people are mostly ( 98%) katholic, and people close to the seas are muslims because Turks could access those sites and converted many. I think 60%-80% of albanians are atheists. i believe that a believer is more “succesfull” in life than an atheist, but doesnt make the atheist “less cappable” or “stupid”. there is no free will. we should just take responsability in order to survive as humans. i personally believe in technology and intellegente life on other planets. Religion ( chrisianity and islam) doesnt make sense and has so many holes in its philosophy. atheism is spreadning very fast nowadays. I am very pessimist on the fate of the world. we are alone. and we can help ourselve if we are smart enough.

  • village-bey

    It is interesting here that the most Albanian commentators in here try to deny Albanian Muslim heritage. For most part this layer of society represents a subculture indicative of all that when wrong with Albania for nearly 50 years. These people are a by-product of severe oppression and spiritual desolation. As a result they have a severe inferiority complex, and want to be anything other than Albanian. Thanks god they are not representative of all Albanian people. Albanians of Muslim communion are proud to be Muslim, Albanian, European, and in my case villagers.

  • Ment

    village-bey
    I’m Albanian and quite proud to be so. I’m also an atheist and I believe if there’s one positive thing that came out of communism, it was that it got rid of religion for as long as it did.
    Today Albanians can choose to believe or not based on what their hearts and minds tell them. Before communism, they never had that choice due to the rampant ignorance and lack of education. You say Albania went through a spiritual desolation in the past 50 years…I say Albania was saved from a spiritual armpit.

  • Ermir Ismaili

    Ment
    village-bey is from Kosovo and comes from a family mixed with Turks, so his comment about us denying of being muslim is just ranting.
    I don’t have to deny anything since my surname is muslim, a version of a jewish name (Ishmael), but my family is comprised of people from all 4 main religions.
    I don’t have to deny anything…my ancestors were of all religions…today my family belongs to none…and we’re all very happy.
    I advise village-bey to keep his ottoman heritage to himself and leave the Albanians out of his business.
    Kudos to ancestors being of all religions while being fervently patriotical. We should follow in their footsteps.
    I am sorry Razib, but your facts are totally wrong. Perhaps it’s better for you to visit these countries to realize how wrong these ‘data’ are, for all 3 of them.
    We know ourselves better than you or anyone else could ever know us, so I wouldn’t call our comments ‘weird’…
    Good luck on your studies.

  • ElamBend

    The Albanian standard is a remnant of its Catholic, western Roman heritage. Interestingly enough, both the Serbian eagle AND the popular Serbian symbol that looks like a tic-tac-toe board with funny looking ‘E’s at the corners is directly from the Greco-Roman empire of Byzantium.
    I only mention it as an illustration of how the lines between ancient empires still exist in many ways.

  • diana

    “Most Turks can’t read any Arabic. I’d be surprised if Bosnians did.”
    I prefaced my statement with the proviso that it was anecdotal. But yes, some Bosnian Muslims do read Arabic. My impression is that the more prosperous, the more religious/culturally Islamic.
    The entire Bosnian political elite was/is made up of educated Bosnians, fully European while fully Islamic and yes, Arabic reading. Izetbegovic was a good example. He was a hardcore fundamentalist in a western suit.
    By the way, I was surprised when one of the Bosnians told me he read Arabic. I’d been led to believe that none of them did.

  • Bosnjak

    Im a Bosnian, a Bosniak, and I could care less about religion, and no I can’t read Arabic LOL WHoever said that either met some tiny group of hardcore Muslims, or is lying cuz never in my whole life have I met one of my fellow countrymen who could read Arabic.
    Maybe you got confused cuz they knew a few of the popular muslims arabic verses or phrases like the one on the Saudi flag.

  • village-bey

    Hi Ment,
    I wasn’t questioning anyone’s Albanianism or their right to be atheist, agnostic or whatever. With all due respect you fall into a logical fallacy here by claiming that atheism is better than religiosity. I do not dream to claim the opposite. On the contrary I do believe that the best thing about post communist Albania is the freedom, not enough if you ask me. Freedom to choose to believe whatever you heart desires. You might worship aliens for all I care. Problem is the old way of thinking of people like jack or ermir, they might be young boys but they want to speak for the old. Imposing your will on others has been always an Albanian problem. Hoxha thrived on it; bottom line is that because of this striking feature we remain a divided country, divided in north and south, religious non religious, communist non-communist,,,, should I go on?

  • blerina

    Why is the guy above impersonating an Albanian. I don’t really understand.

  • village-bey

    Exactly what I meant Blerina, you choose to disagree with me but you won’t or can’t argue like any normal person would do, instead you question and threaten me with sanctions.
    Pretending to be an Albanian, well that would be a first.
    Let me ask you this Blerina, Is an Albanian everyone who agrees with you girl, or do you use any other criteria?

  • CuniTirones

    I wish i could find more statistics about this stuff, i’m really curious.
    I’m muslim myself and proud to be so, from Albania, but i never got some of my countrymen views, trying to speak in the name of all albanians.
    Most of them though are youngster, maybe of Malsor-American origins who are famous in internet chit-cahtting and cursing all around the web.
    Preparations are being made right now for the new Mosque in Tirana as far as i know, because from 19 mosques of pre-communist 200k ppl Tirana, only six are left.

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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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