Live and Let Live

During my recent visit to the Balkans (see my previous blog entry) I learned of a peculiar fact about World War II. The Nazis were able to mount a native SS Division in Kosovo but not in Albania even though the majority population in both places was Albanian. Why were the Nazis able to organize Kosovon Albanians but not Albanian Albanians?

One commentator on my blog, Auron Tare, suggests that the reason is to be found in religion. The Albanian Muslims of Kosovo were apparently far stricter than those in Albania. I have no knowledge of the Albanians in Kosovo, but from my brief experience with those in Albania, I can certainly see what Mr. Tare is driving at. In Tirana I didn’t see a single woman in a burka and only one school child wearing a headscarf. That was in the National Museum. She was in a group of about twenty school children. She chatted easily with her classmates. I remember thinking how nice it was that the other children didn’t seem to care one way or the other that her head was covered.

I asked our guide, Kela, what it what like being a Muslim in Albania. She said people were pretty laid back about it, that in Albania everyone drinks and smokes, Muslim or no. My correspondent, Auron Tare, seems to concur, “Albanians have been very relaxed when it comes to religion.”

Perhaps Mr. Tare is right. Perhaps in World War II the stricter one was religiously, the more likely one was to respond to the call to join a Nazi SS Division. At any rate things don't seemed to have changed much in Albania. I am told that Al Quaeda tried for three years to recruit Albanians for its jihad against America. They were forced to throw in the towel. The Albanians preferred a cigarette and another beer to, say, an exploding vest.

In the just released (and first rate) Belgian film by the Dardenne Brothers, Lorna’s Silence, the heroine is faced with a tough moral choice. In the end she opts for “live and let live.” It is not surprising that in the script she is from Albania.