Between Occident and Islam
by Olsi Jazexhi
1. Antonomastice Illyricum limes
Albania, with its geographical position in Europe, has always been a conflict zone between Occident and Orient, between Occidental Christian Catholicism and the Oriental "heresies" of Christian Orthodoxy and Islam. For Albania, being such a conflict zone between these important religions and cultures of mankind, a battlefield has been perpetually created, even for the intellectual followers of these given religions, who have always clashed, fought, manipulated, created and justified facts and myths upon Albanian realities in order to prove the superiority and legitimacy of their own cultural/civilizational block. Indeed, since the ancient times, the Via Egnatia that passed through Albania sent the ancient Romans clashing with the Macedonians, the Byzantines with the Papal Europe, Islâm with the Christendom. Even the Cold War did not ignore Albania as a kulturkampf zone, between two different and antagonist worlds.
Since Albania is a small nation, surrounded by mighty powers, Albanians have always been divided into two major quarrelling blocks throughout their history. They rarely managed to have an independent identity in the history. More powerful imperial neighbors overshadowed them and they did not have much choice on deciding their does and don'ts. Albania’s (Byzantine) national flag of the two-headed eagles is a living witness of its fragile duality in history. Christianity, Islam, political ideologies like: communism / capitalism, imperialism / socialism, Orientalism / Occidentalism, have historically divorced and clashed upon Albania.
When Sultan Mehmed II Fatih liberated Constantinople for Islam, an awful civilizational clash reoccurred in Europe between Christianity and Islam. The religious clash between the Oriental Islam and the Occidental Christianity, which appeared in Europe since the days when Sultan Orhan Ghazi created the Osmanli Devlet, was very detrimental for Albania’s future.
The kulturkampf between the Occidental Christianity and the Oriental Islam witnessed its peak when the Christian Constantinople became the Istanbul of Islam in 1453. The man who changed this reality that was going to shape Albania’s future was Sultan Mehmed II, who after invading the said city took the title "Fatih" (the Opener, the Conqueror). After taking Constantinople he reinforced Ottoman authority over Albania, many parts of which were then under the Venetian control. After ousting the foreign rulers and their puppets, he installed Albanians to rule over the land like in the case of Shkodra in 883 AH / 1478 CE .
In pursuit of his dreams of taking the second capital of Christianity, Rome, Sultan Fatih sent his brave Albanian Muslim general, Gedik Ahmed Pasha (a descendant of the Albanian tribe of Skura) to invade Brindisi in Italy a few years after making Albania an integral part of the Osmanli Devlet. Sultan Mehmed II’s successes, and the earlier advances of Osmanli Islm in Balkans, made the Western Christendom feel very threatened indeed. In the same way as present day Palestinians and Arabs feel oppressed and horrified about their future in the face of the West’s "Crusade" against "terror," Western Christendom of that time was in desperate need of a hero, a solution that could save it from the jihad against terror that Orient was waging against the bankrupt Occident. The day when Pope Sixtus IV (1471-1484) learned of Sultan Mehmed II Fatih’s death (1481), Christendom celebrated much more happily than Albanians did when NATO troops bombed Serbia in 1999. Western Christendom was in need for heroes and solutions, so much so that heroes, in some cases, had to be created and planted in the Albanian buffer zone even if they were not really as such.