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IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
Vol. 14    Issue 05   01 - 31 October 2019

The Muslims of Romania

Professor A. R. MOMIN

Romania is located at the crossroads of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. It has a population of over 20 million.

The presence of Muslims in Romania dates back to the mid-11 century. Ibn Battuta, the famous Berber traveller who pass through Romania in 1334, has written about the presence of Muslims in the region. Ada Kale, a small island in the Danube, was conquered by the Ottomans in the late 14th century. The first Muslim communities in Romania were formed in northern Dobrudja and along the lower Danube in the 14th century in the wake of the establishment of Ottoman rule. Dobrudja was part of the Ottoman Empire for five centuries. Following the Russian-Romanian-Ottoman War (1877), Romania became independent.

The population of Muslims in Romania is estimated to be 64,337, making up about 0.3% of the country’s population. The majority of Romanian Muslims are of ethnic Turkish and Tatar descent. In addition, there is a sizeable community of Roma Muslims and Albanians. According to the 2002 census, the Muslim population comprises 31,118 ethnic Turks, 23,641 Tatars and 3,310 Romanians. The Tatars are descendants of Crimean Tatars who fled the Crimean peninsula after its annexation by Russia in 1783.

Ethnic Turks and Tatars speak variants of Turkic languages. There are frequent intermarriages between ethnic Turks and Tatars. In the early 20th century, there was an exodus of ethnic Turks and Tatars from Romania to Turkey.

The majority of Romanian Muslims are concentrated in Constanta County and in Tulcea County. Bucharest, Romania’s capital, has a 10,000 strong Muslim community, which includes, in addition to ethnic Turks and Tatars, foreign nationals and converts.

The 1923 Romanian law on religious denominations recognises Islam as one of the ‘historical faiths.’ Historically, Romanian Muslims have enjoyed substantial religious, legal and cultural autonomy. However, during Communist rule (1948-1989), Muslims faced prosecution. The Communist regime sought to place religion, including Islam, under state control. Turkish and Tatar schools were closed down. Islamic publications were banned and travel restrictions imposed by the government made the Hajj pilgrimage almost impossible. Following the end of Communist rule in 1989 and greater contact with Muslim countries, the religious, legal and cultural freedom of Romanian Muslims was restored. Now Romania is a secular state, though the more than 81% of people follow Orthodox Christianity.

There are about 80 mosques in the country and Turkish-style domes and minarets are a part of the landscape in many Romanian towns and villages. One of the earliest mosques in Romania was built in 1525 in Mongolia near Constanta. The Muftiate, which regulates the religious and ritual life of Romanian Muslims, is recognised by the state. Halal slaughterhouses are certified by the Muftiate. In general, Romanian Muslims are well integrated into Romanian society. In villages that have a large or substantial Muslim population, Romanian women are often seen in the traditional Islamic headscarf. Romania was relatively free from the surge of Islamophobia that swept across many parts of Europe in the wake of influx of millions of refugees from Syria and other Muslim countries in 2015.

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