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Passion Islam I January 2010 SPECIAL FEATURE I 23
Carol I Mosque in ConstanţaIslam Roma minority are colloquially known Pechenegs and Cumans. Around
in Romania is followed by only 0.3 as “Turkish Romani”. Traditionally, 1061, when the Pechenegs ruled in
percent of population, but has 700 they are less religious then Wallachia and Moldavia, there was a
years of tradition in Northern Dobruja, people belonging to other Islamic Muslim minority among them, as was
a region on the Black Sea coast which communities, and their culture mixes among the Cumans. The Cumans
was part of the Ottoman Empire Islamic customs with Roma social followed the Pechenegs in 1171,
for almost five centuries (ca. 1420- norms. while the Hungarian kings settled the
1878). In present-day Romania, most Ninety-seven percent of the Pechenegs in Transylvania and other
adherents to Islam belong to the Tatar Romanian Muslims are residents of parts of their kingdom.
and Turkish ethnic communities and the two counties forming Northern
follow the Sunni doctrine. The Islamic Dobruja: eighty-five percent live Muslim presence is traditional in
religion is one of the 16 rites awarded in Constanţa County, and twelve Dobruja, and partly predates both
state recognition. percent in Tulcea County. The rest Ottoman rule and the creation of the
According to tradition, Islam was mainly inhabit urban centers such as neighboring Danubian Principalities.
first established locally around Sufi Bucharest, Brăila, Călăraşi, Galaţi, Both the Pechengs and Cumans
leader Sari Saltik during the Byzantine Giurgiu, and Drobeta-Turnu Severin. were present in the area, where they
epoch. The Islamic presence in In all, Romania has as many as probably established a number of
Northern Dobruja was expanded by eighty mosques,or, according to small communities. Around 1260,
Ottoman overseeing and successive records kept by the Romanian Ministry two Rûm Seljuq community leaders,
immigration, but has been in steady of Culture and Religious Affairs, the deposed Sultan Kaykaus II and
decline since the late 19th century. seventy-seven.The city of Constanţa, the mystic Sari Saltik, were allowed
In Wallachia and Moldavia, the with its Carol I Mosque and the to settle the region during the reign
two Danubian Principalities, the location of the Muftiyat, is the center of Michael VIII Palaiologos, ruler of
era of Ottoman suzerainty was not of Romanian Islam; Mangalia, near the Byzantine Empire. Kaykaus, who
accompanied by a growth in the Constanţa, is the site of a monumental arrived in Dobruja with his brother and
number of Muslims, whose presence mosque, built in 1525 (see Mangalia co-ruler Kilij Arslan IV, was reportedly
there was always marginal. Also Mosque). The two mosques are state- followed by as many as 12,000 of
linked to the Ottoman Empire, groups recognized historical monuments, as his subjects. Researchers such as
of Islamic colonists in other parts of are the ones in Hârşova, Amzacea, Franz Babinger and Gheorghe I.
present-day Romania were relocated Babadag and Tulcea, together with Brătianu endorse the view that Saltuk
by the Habsburg expansion or by the Babadag tombs of two popularly and his followers were in fact crypto-
various other political changes. revered Sufi sheikhs—the supposed Shiite Alevis who were regarded as
After Northern Dobruja became tomb of dervish Sari Saltik and that apostates by the dominant Sunni
part of Romania following the of Gazi Ali Paşa. There are also 108 group of central Anatolia, and who
Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878, Islamic cemeteries in Romania. sought refuge from persecution.
the community preserved its self- The nation-wide Islamic The exact location of their earliest
determining status. This changed community is internally divided into area of settlement is disputed: a group
during the communist regime, when 50 local groups of Muslims, each of historians proposes that the group
Romanian Muslims were subject to a of whom elects its own leadership was probably tasked with defending
measure of supervision by the state, committee. Members provide funding the Byzantine border to the north,
but the group again emancipated for the religious institution, which is and settled in and around what later
itself after the Romanian Revolution supplemented by state donations and became known as Babadag, while
of 1989. Its interests are represented subsidies, as well by assistance from another one centers this presence
by the Muftiyat (Muftiyatul Cultului international Islamic organizations. on the Southern Dobrujan strip of
Musulman din România), which was The Muslim clergy in Romania land known as Kaliakra (presently
created as the reunion of two separate includes imams, imam-hatips, in Bulgaria). In addition, various
such institutions. and muezzins. As of 2008, the historians argue that this Seljuq
Ministry of Culture and Religious migration was the decisive contributor
Demographics and organization Affairs recognizes 35 imams.[5] to the ethnogenesis of the Gagauz
According to the 2002 census, The Constanţa Mufti, who is the people, which, some of them believe,
67,566 people, approx. 0.3 of the community’s main representative, could also have involved the Cumans,
total population, indicated that their is elected by a secret ballot from Pechenegs, Oghuz and other Turkic
religion was Islam.The vast majority among the imams. He is assisted by peoples. The Gagauz, few of whom
of Romania’s believers in Islam are a synodal body, the Sura Islam, which have endured in Dobruja, are majority
Sunnis who adhere to the Hanafi comprises 23 members and offers Eastern Orthodox, a fact which was
school. Ethnically, they are mostly advice on matters of administration attributed to a process of religious
Tatars (Crimean Tatars and a number and discipline. The current Mufti is conversion from Islam.
of Nogais), followed by Turks, as well Murat Iusuf. The presence of Tatars was
as Muslim Roma (as much as 15,000 notably attested through the works
people in one estimate), Albanians History of Berber traveler Ibn Battuta, who
(as many as 3,000), and groups of Early presence passed through the area in 1334.[3]
Middle Eastern immigrants. Members The first significant numbers of In Ibn Battuta’s time, the region
of the Muslim community inside the Muslims arrived in Romania with the was regarded as a westernmost
continued next month
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