Translator: Bi’ Dünya Haber
Poland, a country that is popular among Erasmus students due to its affordability compared to many other European countries, is a place I had the opportunity to experience through the Erasmus student exchange program. As someone who spent a semester in Gdansk, located in the northern part of Poland, I had limited but valuable encounters with Islam through the local mosque and the people I met there. In this article, which I have prepared by answering five questions, I hope to provide useful insights about Islam in Poland, just like other articles about Islam around the world. Enjoy reading!
How large is the Muslim population in Poland?
Although the exact number of Muslims in Poland is not known, it is estimated to be around 30,000 according to Islamic organizations. This number accounts for approximately 0.1% of the total population of the country. While Tatars make up the majority of the Muslim population in Poland, immigrants from many countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkey, and Syria are also part of the Muslim community. The Lipka Tatars, who form the majority of the Muslim population, are concentrated in specific cities in the country. These cities include Białystok, Sokółka, Bohoniki, Krynki, Kruszyniany, Krynki, and Supraśl, and this region is known as the “Tatar Trail.”
When and how did Islam reach Poland?
Islam first arrived in Poland with the migration of the Lipka Tatars to the region in the 13th century due to the Mongol invasions. However, this initial encounter with Islam did not have a significant impact until the 14th century. The Lipka Tatars, who came to Poland and settled there, and would continue their presence for six centuries, are considered the true introduction of Islam to the country.
The settlement of the Tatars in the region was a result of the search for a safe haven by those who had to leave their own communities due to political exile. Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania offered them asylum in the country to appreciate their military services during the war with the Teutonic Knights, and as a result, the beginning of the 600-year history of Tatars and Muslims in Europe started in the region.
Until the 16th century, the Lipka Tatars did not face significant problems in the region and were able to maintain their religion and language without difficulty. However, after the 15th century, with the Catholic rule and the division of Poland and its incorporation into the Russian Empire in the 18th century, Tatar Muslims started to leave the region and initiate migration to other places, especially the Ottoman Empire. After World War I, Poland regained its independence and provided an opportunity for Muslims to reunite, institutionalize, and organize.
In fact, the Muslim Union of Warsaw was established in 1923, and the first mufti was elected in 1925. However, during World War II, Soviet domination in the region caused difficulties for Muslims, and the mosques in the area were damaged and used for various purposes. After the end of this period, Muslims started their efforts to institutionalize again, and the mosques, prayer centers, and other places of worship were made accessible to the public through the work of Muslim organizations in the region.
What are the famous mosques of Poland?
The Muslim population in Poland largely resides in Warsaw, making Warsaw Mosque expected to be the most famous mosque. However, despite being located in the capital, it does not have a complete appearance despite its size. The Polish Mufti expressed his wish for the construction of a beautiful and magnificent mosque representing Islam in Warsaw, and he expects support from Turkey in this regard. On the other hand, Kruszyniany Mosque, which is considered the oldest mosque in Poland dating back to the 18th century, holds the distinction of being the country’s most famous mosque.
Located in Kruszyniany Village, this mosque is the only wooden mosque in the country. It was restored in 2022 with the support of the Muslim Union of Poland and the Historic Heritage Conservation Office in the Odlaise province. You can read the news about this lovely mosque on our website by clicking here.
Who are the prominent figures working for Islam in Poland?
There are 11 organizations working for Islam in Poland. The most important ones among them are the Muslim Religious Association (MZR) and the Muslim League (LM-Sunni Muslim Association). These two communities lead the opening of worship areas and Islamic cultural centers in the country. MZR plays a significant role in Islam in the country. As a result of discussions with the Polish Government over several years, Islam was officially recognized by the Polish Parliament on April 21, 1936.
One prominent figure actively engaged in work and having good relations with Turkey is Polish Mufti Tomasz Miskiewicz.
The associations and unions established by Tatars, who work for Islam in Poland, as well as the support provided by Turkey through TİKA in the restoration and landscaping of mosques in the country, should not be underestimated.
During his visit to Turkey in 2017, Polish Mufti Tomasz Miskiewicz expressed his gratitude to TİKA and the Turkish government for not leaving them alone, saying, “Turkey has never left Poland’s Muslim community and Tatars alone. TİKA provided great support in renovating our mosques and cemeteries. I believe our cooperation will continue for years.”
What are the difficulties faced by Muslims in Poland?
According to academic sources, Poles generally refer to Tatars as “Our Muslims” and approach them with tolerance. Even Islamophobia, which has become a general trend in Europe, has not changed the attitude of Poles towards Lipka Tatars. Therefore, it cannot be said that Muslims in Poland face significant difficulties. However, the Polish Mufti points out two main issues: the availability of halal meat and the absence of a significant mosque representing Islam.
Finding halal meat is the most common problem faced by Muslims here. This issue is more prevalent in small cities in Poland. Warsaw is more fortunate in terms of access to halal food, as it is the capital and where Muslims are predominantly concentrated.
In addition to these two mentioned problems, occasional news regarding Islamophobia in Poland also appears in the media. Although this attitude does not encompass the entire population, it can occur due to certain government policies and individual examples.
Based on my own experience, I can say that the younger generation generally shows respect for different religions, including Islam. They even warn us about products that may contain suspicious ingredients related to Muslim dietary habits. However, I must also mention that the older generation is less open to differences, and I often receive strange looks from them. This could be attributed to Poland having a weaker cultural diversity compared to other European countries and their unfamiliarity with seeing people wearing headscarves, not being accustomed to such situations.
It is up to us to familiarize them and show them the beauty of Islam. Therefore, I respond to any kind of gaze with a smile and try to maintain a more compassionate attitude, especially towards the elderly. When faced with negative and Islamophobic attitudes institutionally, instead of reacting in the moment, I prefer to publish a comment containing my criticism for everyone to see.
May our Lord grant us the ability to be good representatives of this beautiful religion, to repel evil with goodness, as mentioned in Verses 34-35 of Surah Fussilat:
Good and evil cannot be equal. Respond ˹to evil˺ with what is best, then the one you are in a feud with will be like a close friend. But this cannot be attained except by those who are patient and who are truly fortunate.Surah Fussilat, 41:34-35