Islam in Greece

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Islam in Greece is represented by two distinct communities; Muslims that have lived in Greece since the times of the Ottoman Empire (primarily in East Macedonia and Thrace) and Muslim immigrants that began arriving in the last quarter of the 20th century, mainly in Athens and Thessaloniki.

Muslims in Greece[edit]

"Young Greeks at the Mosque" (Jean-Léon Gérôme, oil on canvas, 1865); this oil painting portrays Greek Muslims at prayer in a mosque).

The Muslim population in Greece is not homogeneous, since it consists of different ethnic, linguistic and social backgrounds which often overlap. The Muslim faith is the creed of several ethnic groups living in the present territory of Greece, namely the Pomaks, ethnic Turks, certain Romani groups, and Greek Muslims particularly of Crete, Epirus, and western Greek Macedonia who converted mainly in the 17th and 18th centuries. The country's Muslim population decreased significantly as a result of the 1923 population exchange agreement between Greece and the new Turkish Republic, which also uprooted approximately 1.5 million Greeks from Asia Minor. Many of the Muslims of Northern Greece were actually ethnic Greek Muslims from Epirus and Greek Macedonia, whereas the Muslims of Pomak and ethnic Turkish origin (the Western Thrace Turks) from Western Thrace were exempt from the terms of the population exchange. Successive Greek governments and officials consider the Turkish-speaking Muslims of Western Thrace as part of the Greek Muslims minority and not as a separate Turkish minority. This policy is aimed to give the impression that the Muslims of the region are the descendants of Ottoman-era ethnic Greek converts to Islam like the Vallahades of pre-1923 Greek Macedonia and so thereby avoid a possible future situation in which Western Thrace is ceded to Turkey on the basis of the ethnic origin of its Muslim inhabitants.[1]

The term Muslim minority (Μουσουλμανική μειονότητα Musulmanikí mionótita) refers to an Islamic religious, linguistic and ethnic minority in western Thrace, which is part of the Greek administrative region of East Macedonia and Thrace. In 1923, under the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne, the Greek Muslims of Epirus, Greek Macedonia, and elsewhere in mainly Northern Greece were required to immigrate to Turkey; whereas, the Christians living in Turkey were required to immigrate to Greece in an "Exchange of Populations". The Muslims of western Thrace and the Christians of Istanbul and the islands of Gökçeada and Bozcaada (Imvros and Tenedos) were the only populations not exchanged. For more information on this community, see Muslim minority of Greece.

There is also a small Muslim community in some of the Dodecanese islands (Turks of the Dodecanese) which, as part of the Italian Dodecanese of the Kingdom of Italy between 1911 and 1947, were not subjected to the exchange of the population between Turkey and Greece in 1923. They number about 3,000, some of whom espouse a Turkish identity and speak Turkish, while others are the Greek-speaking descendants of Cretan Muslims. The community is strongest in the city of Rhodes and on the island of Kos (in particular the village of Platanos).[2]

The Pomaks are mainly located in compact villages in Western Thrace's Rhodope Mountains. While the Greek Roma community is predominantly Greek Orthodox, the Roma in Thrace are mainly Muslim.

Estimates of the recognized Muslim minority, which is mostly located in Thrace, range from 98,000 to 140,000 (between 0.9% and 1.2%), while the illegal immigrant Muslim community numbers between 200,000 and 500,000., predominantly in the area of Asea[3] Albanian immigrants to Greece are usually associated with the Muslim faith, although most are secular in orientation.[4]

Immigrant Muslims in Greece[edit]

Muslims pray at a Mosque in Thrace.

The first immigrants of Islamic faith, mostly Egyptian, arrived in the early 1950s from Egypt, and are concentrated in the country's two main urban centres, Athens and Thessaloniki. Since 1990, there has been an increase in the numbers of immigrant Muslims from various countries of the Middle East, North Africa, as well as from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Somalia and Muslim Southeast Asia. However, the bulk of the immigrant Muslim community has come from the Balkans, specifically from Albania and Albanian communities in the Republic of Macedonia, and other former Yugoslav republics. Since the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in the early 1990s, Albanian workers started immigrating to Greece, taking low wage jobs in search of economic opportunity, and bringing over their families to settle in cities like Athens and Thessaloniki.

The majority of the immigrant Muslim community resides in Athens. In recognition of their religious rights, the Greek government approved the building of a mosque in July 2006. In addition, the Greek Orthodox Church has donated 300,000 square feet (28,000 m2), worth an estimated $20 million, in west Athens for the purpose of a Muslim cemetery.[5][6] However, both commitments continued to remain dead letters by 2017. In 2010, an unofficial mosque on the island of Crete was targeted in the night without any casualties, likely as a result of anti-Muslim sentiments in the Greek far right[7], but no suspects had been identified.[8]

There has been anti-Muslim rhetoric from certain right-wing circles, including the Golden Dawn party.[9][10][11]



See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Antoniou, Dimitris A. (July 2003). "Muslim Immigrants in Greece: Religious Organization and Local Responses". Immigrants and Minorities. 22 (2–3): 155–174. doi:10.1080/0261928042000244808. 
  • D. Christopoulos and M. Pavlou (eds). "The Greece of migration." Kritiki Centre for the Research of Minority Groups (KEMO), Athens, pp. 267–302.[1]
  • K. Tsitselikis. “Religious freedom of immigrants: The case of the Muslims”, (in Greek), 2004.
  • K. Tsitselikis. "The legal status of Islam in Greece," 44/3 Die Welt des Islams, pp. 402–431, 2004.

External links[edit]