• Agata Rogoś

‘Is this a house or a mosque?’

As a part of my fieldwork I research Albanian Muslim community in Berlin. I was trying to figure out the Albanian mosques in Berlin, among 80 mosques existing in the city, some of them are hidden or camouflaged as Islamic Culture Centers or placed in an apartment building. The growing number of Albanian Muslim community makes it a very dynamic landscape of architectures and growing institution building.


During an interview with Servet (Albanian from around Tetovo) I heard about the multiplicity of Albanian mosques in Berlin, and as a Muslim he explained to me the nature of this community. Most of me interviewees, coming from the villages or small towns, seemed to become more religious here in germany, than they would have been in Kosovo or North Macedonia.


I took a chance to check it out and one Friday in June 2022, I took my way to the Neukölln-Süd, where one of the oldest Albanian Muslim Centres is located (since 18 years now). As it was a xhuma day, meaning the day of Muslim prayer, I thought it's a good time to go there. Isa Beu Moschee is located near Neukölln S-bahn station. Nearby there is an Albanian restaurant run by Fatmir from Deçan, Kosovo. All that seemed to me as an interesting social situation. Typical for my fieldwork. As it was coming towards a prayer hour (1:09 PM) more and more Albanian male started to gather at the Albi Restaurant, drinking coffee and refreshing drinks, getting ready to go to the mosque. Slowly the place got empty and I decided to take my chance too, and go to the mosque. After being interviewed at the entrance I was informed that it's too crowded and I should rather wait till the end of a prayer and come back within one hour, when Imam will have some time for me.


I came back to the Albi Restaurant. It was completely empty. I looked around. No Albanian signs hanging on the walls, as in other Albanian bars and restaurants. Just a silver shining writings from Qur'an, and a big 'Halal' sign anticipating it.




After 1 hour of waiting, the restaurant started to fill up again. Getting noisy and hectic of the believers coming out from a prayer and gathering again. I found it very interesting the way this place was functioning more in social terms, than religious ones. Or let it be a religious stimuli to enhance the social and transnational networks of the Albanian community.


I went back to the mosque as I was expected to meet the Imam there. The place was still full of Albanians, coming out fro the prayer, among them also some other ethnicities of Muslims, but random. Even if I was trying to be invisible, covering my body in a traditional way, I was present there more than I imagined. Whisperings of the Muslim males leaving the space went all over my ears, I was an intruder, especially there was no place for women in the service of this mosque. Finally Imam appeared. I felt relieved.


He took my interests seriously, even though he got surprised I'm not from Albanian community. I left the place, still hearing in my ears the whispers of the believers observing my presence in the mosque: "What is this girl looking here? She must be really lost to look up for Imam"...


I thought about 'Visibilities counter Invisibilities', about the mosque in the street, as an apartment building, I thought to myself, "Is it a house or a mosque?", I thought about my visibility, and the the determined strategy of Albanian Muslims to remain invisible...

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