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Albanians Open a Mosque Here

NY Times Article


About the only things missing yesterday were the rugged mountains of their native land and a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer from a minaret when Albanian Moslems of New York and New Jersey opened their first mosque here.

The mosque is at 1325 Albemarle Road, in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and though the converted mansion in the predominantly Jewish and Italian community does not have minarets, the devout were joyous as the Albanian Grand Mufti in the Free World, 80‐year‐old Salih Myftiu, cut the ribbon. It was explained that mosques do not have to have minarets, that “the worship area is enough.”

For after years of worshiping in Arab mosques in the city and giving religious and cultural instruction to their children in rooms at the University Settlement on the Lower East Side, the 8,000 Moslem Albanians of the metropolitan area had a center like those of their fellow countrymen in Chicago, Taylor, Mich., and Waterbury, Conn.

It was not that the religion practiced by people of Arabian descent was different, explained Imam Isa Hoxha, the religious leader of the new Albanian‐American Islamic Center of New YorkNew Jersey.

“The reason for building our mosque is to bring the Albanian people together and to show Enver Hoxha [the head of Albania] that the people still desire to keep their religion alive,” the Imam said.

The Imam said that the Communists, after years of persecuting the faithful, had closed all religious institutions in 1967 and had declared Albania “the world's first atheistic state.” His words were translated into English by his son, Sami, a 22‐year‐old engineering student at City College.

“We are a tough, deeply religious people,” said Phil Caushaj, 18, a sophomore in premedicine at New York University. “We had to be to survive as a people through 500 years of Ottoman domination and 30 years of Communist rule.”

There is an Albanian Roman Catholic Church on Park Avenue in the Bronx and an Albanian Orthodox Church in Jamaica Estates in Queens.

Though some Albanians began to migrate to the United States during the wars in the Balkans before World War I, the majority began to arrive after the Communists took over the country in 1945. Most of these more‐recent arrivals were admitted under the liberalized immigration quotas of the John F. Kennedy Administration.

The metropolitan area has an estimated total of 20,000 Albanians, and a total of 80,000 in the United States, according to Michael Dibra, the head of the Free Albania Committee.

Most of the Albanian men, who were farmers in their native land, work as janitors or at other unskilled jobs, or as building superintendents. Some in’ the second generation go to college, but most do not.

“My people are very hard workers and sometimes they consider college an excuse to avoid work,” said Remzi Barolli, controller of an industrial company, who helped raise the $122,000 to buy the mosque.

The opening was marked with a banquet in the McAlpin Hotel in Manhattan. The bowling alley in the basement of the mansion has not yet, as planned, been converted into a dining room.


Ben Miftari