Albanian Scholar Runs on Catholic Slate

Demonstrating Muslim-Christian harmony in the southeastern European country, Albanian scholar Tomor Ballabani is running for mayor on a ticket of a Catholic party.

Albanian Scholar Runs on Catholic Slate

"The program of the Christian Democratic Party is closer to the immediate needs of the people, that's why I liked it," Ballabani told Reuters in an interview.

"They see the family as the healthy nucleus of society; that is also how the Islamic faith sees it."

Fielded on the slate of the Christian Democratic Party Catholic Democrats, the 30-year-old scholar is running for the post of mayor in the town of Rrogozhine in the country's local elections on February 18.

"I think it is better to have a mayor who believes in God than one who believes in other things," he said.

Attending a madrassah (Islamic school) in the Albanian town of Kavaje, Ballabani studied theology and Arabic in Egypt for seven years.

Returning to Albania in 2001, Ballabani took up the post of mufti in the largely Catholic area of Lezhe.

"Religion for me never interfered with politics," he said.

"I won't change my faith for anything."

Muslims make up 70 percent of Albania's 3.3 million population, according to the CIA Fact Book.

Intermarriage between Muslims and Orthodox and Catholic Christians is common in the secular state.

Debate

Ballabani's unprecedented bid has sparked a heated debate in the country and stirred up the local election race.

A forum of Muslim scholars has called on parliament and President Alfred Moisiu to ban the Christian Democrats because they would "create problems for Albania's future".

But the ban is unlikely to succeed as the group has little support among politicians and the Christian Democrats are a member of the ruling Democratic Party coalition.

The issue has further sparked a hot debate on online chat rooms.

"I think it's wrong for the mufti to run for the Christian Democratic Party," wrote someone signing SB.

But many others said that the move was a clear example on Muslim-Christian harmony, but many others disagree.

"Ballabani ... has cultivated with other priests a religious harmony unrivalled anywhere else in the world," said Prec Zogaj, an MP for the ruling Democratic Party.

After overcoming initial doubts, Ballabani's father Shaban has turned into a staunch supporter of his son.

He said that his son "was born a Muslim and will die a Muslim".

"He has not changed his faith, he is just trying to bring religions closer," he added.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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