Islam in Greece

Islam in Greece

Islam in Greece is represented by a number of autochthonous and immigrant communities.


Autochthonous Muslims in Greece

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

The indigenous 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 autochthonous ethnic groups living in the present territory of Greece, namely the Pomaks, ethnic Turks, certain Roma groups, and Greek Muslims, 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.

The term Muslim minority (Μουσουλμανική μειονότητα Musulmanikí mionótita) refers to an Islamic religious, linguistic and ethnic minority in western Thrace, a part of north-east Greece. In 1923, under the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne, the Muslims living in 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 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.

According to most estimates,[1][2] about half of the autochthonous Greek Muslims consider themselves ethnically Turkish. The rest are Slavic speaking Pomaks and Roma. Relics of the Ottoman Empire, this community resides mainly in Western Thrace, where they were allowed to remain under the terms of the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. In the town of Komotini, it makes up almost 40 percent of the total population, whereas in the town of Xanthi it makes up 23 percent of the population.

There is also a small Muslim community in some of the Dodecanese islands 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, most of whom espouse a Turkish identity and speak Turkish. The community is strongest in the city of Rhodes and on the island of Kos (in particular the village of Platanos).[3]

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 immigrant Muslim community numbers between 200,000 and 500,000.[4] Albanian immigrants to Greece are usually associated with the Muslim faith, although most are secular in orientation.[5]

Illegal Immigrant Muslims in Greece

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 and Somalia. 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. An official 2001 census listed 443,550 Albanian nationals [1] residing in Greece; not counting undocumented residents and Albanians from the Republic of Macedonia.

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.[1][6] However, both commitments continued to remain dead letters by 2010. Recently, a mosque on Crete was bombed, likely as a result of anti-Muslim bigotry, but no suspects have yet been identified.[7]

There has been anti-Muslim rhetoric from certain right-wing circles in recent years.[8][9]


See also


Further reading

  • 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.[2]
  • 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

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