General Information

Hellenic Republic

National name: Elliniki Dimokratia

Land area: 50,502 sq mi (130,800 sq km); total area: 50,942 sq mi (131,940 sq km)

Population (2008 est.): 10,722,816

Capital (2003 est.): Athens, 3,247,000 (metro. area), 747,300 (city proper)

Other large cities: Thessaloníki, 361,200; Piraeus, 179,300; Patras, 167,000

Monetary unit: Euro (formerly drachma)

Languages: Greek 99% (official), English, French

Ethnicity/race: Greek 98%, other 2%; note: the Greek government states there are no ethnic divisions in Greece

Religions: Greek Orthodox 98%, Islam 1%, other 1%

Literacy rate: 98% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $324.6 billion; per capita $29,200. Real growth rate: 4%. Inflation: 3%.

Located in southern Europe, Greece forms an irregular-shaped peninsula in the Mediterranean with two additional large peninsulas projecting from it: the Chalcidice and the Peloponnese. The Greek islands are generally subdivided into two groups, according to location: the Ionian islands (including Corfu, Cephalonia, and Leucas) west of the mainland and the Aegean islands (including Euboea, Samos, Chios, Lesbos, and Crete) to the east and south. North-central Greece, Epirus, and western Macedonia are all mountainous. The main chain of the Pindus Mountains extends from northwest Greece to the Peloponnese. Mount Olympus, rising to 9,570 ft (2,909 m), is the highest point in the country.

Indo-European peoples, including the Mycenaeans, began entering Greece about 2000 B.C. and set up sophisticated civilizations. About 1200 B.C., the Dorians, another Indo-European people, invaded Greece, and a dark age followed, known mostly through the Homeric epics. At the end of this time, classical Greece began to emerge (c. 750 B.C.) as a loose composite of city-states with a heavy involvement in maritime trade and a devotion to art, literature, politics, and philosophy. Greece reached the peak of its glory in the 5th century B.C., but the Peloponnesian War (431–404 B.C.) weakened the nation, and it was conquered by Philip II and his son Alexander the Great of Macedonia, who considered themselves Greek. By the middle of the 2nd century B.C., Greece had declined to the status of a Roman province. It remained within the eastern Roman Empire until Constantinople fell to the Crusaders in 1204. In 1453, the Turks took Constantinople and by 1460, Greece was a province in the Ottoman Empire. The Greek war of independence began in 1821, and by 1827 Greece won independence with sovereignty guaranteed by Britain, France, and Russia.

The protecting powers chose Prince Otto of Bavaria as the first king of modern Greece in 1832 to reign over an area only slightly larger than the Peloponnese peninsula. Chiefly under the next king, George I, chosen by the protecting powers in 1863, Greece acquired much of its present territory. During his 57-year reign, a period in which he encouraged parliamentary democracy, Thessaly, Epirus, Macedonia, Crete, and most of the Aegean islands were added from the disintegrating Turkish empire. Unfavorable economic conditions forced about one-sixth of the entire Greek population to emigrate (mostly to the U.S.) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. An unsuccessful war against Turkey after World War I brought down the monarchy, which was replaced by a republic in 1923.

Two military dictatorships and a financial crisis brought back the exiled king, George II, but only until 1941, when Italian and German invaders overcame tough Greek resistance. After British and Greek troops liberated the country in Oct. 1944, Communist guerrillas staged a long military campaign against the government; the Greek civil war, infamous for its brutality, began in Dec. 1944 and continued until Oct. 16, 1949, when the Communist guerrillas conceded defeat. The Greek government received U.S. aid under the Truman Doctrine, the predecessor of the Marshall Plan, to fight against the Communists.

Greece was a charter member of the UN and became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1951. A military junta seized power in April 1967, sending young King Constantine II into exile. Col. George Papadopoulos, a leader of the junta, gradually attempted to modify his hard-line right-wing image. A coup ousted Papadopoulos in Nov. 1973.

A referendum in Dec. 1974, five months after the demise of the military dictatorship, ended the Greek monarchy and established a republic. Former premier Karamanlis returned from exile to become premier of Greece's first civilian government since 1967. Greece has continued to be ruled by freely elected civilian governments ever since. On Jan. 1, 1981, Greece became the 10th member of the European Union. Andreas Papandreou, son of former premier George Papandreou, founded the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and became Greece's first Socialist premier (1981–1989).

Greece continued to experience tensions with Turkey over a disputed, unpopulated 10-acre island and over Cyprus, which is divided into Greek and Turkish sectors.

The pro-Western Socialist prime minister Kostas Simitis (1996–2004) was credited with reviving the Greek economy. Still, The Economist magazine estimated in 2001 that it would be at least another 15 years before the per capita GDP in Greece comes close to the current EU average.

In the summer of 2002, the government was finally able to crack down on the 17 November (17N) terrorist organization, which had eluded the Greek authorities for the previous 27 years. The radical leftist group was responsible for more than 20 murders of diplomats and businessmen. In parliamentary elections in March 2004, the conservative New Democracy Party swept to power, defeating Pasok, the ruling Socialist Party. The new prime minister, Kostas Karamanlis, vowed to deliver a successful and safe Olympics (Greece had been criticized for being lax on terrorism), and, in spite of last-minute construction, the Athens Olympics was widely hailed as a triumph.

Some 220 separate fires ravaged the Greek countryside and threatened ancient Olympic sites around Athens in late August 2007. At least 60 people died and more than half a million acres were destroyed in the blazes. Prime Minister Karamantis faced criticism over the country's response to the devastating blazes. The anger did not carry over to the polls, however, as Karamantis was reelected to a second term in September. His center-right party, New Democracy, won 42.6% of the vote in parliamentary elections, defeating the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), headed by George Papandreou.

On June 3, 2008, the mayor of the island of Tilos, Anastassios Aliferis, performed the marriage of two same-sex couples. They were the first same-sex marriages in Greece's history.

Islamic History and Muslims

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

Autochthonous Muslims in Greece
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 embraced the Muslim faith 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) 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.

According to most estimates, 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 Italy between 1912 and 1947 were not subjected to the exchange of the population between Turkey and Greece in 1923. They number about 4,000, most of whom espouse a Turkish identity and speak Turkish. The community is strongest on the island of Kos, and in particular the village of Platanos. 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.

Immigrant Muslims in Greece
The first immigrants of Islamic faith, mostly Palestinian Arabs, arrived in the early 1970s from the Middle East, 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, as well as from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. 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 90s, 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 residing in Greece; not counting undocumented residents and Albanians from the former Yugoslav 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.

Islam in Greece

by Pamela Roberson

Most people know that the Parthenon in Athens was a pagan temple. Fewer know that it was also, at one time, a mosque.The mosque was built many centuries ago—after the Ottoman Turks carried the banner of Islam into Greece in 1354. And although some old prints show a minaret rising from one corner of the Parthenon there is only one trace of the mosque left today: a rough staircase inside the ruins.

But that's the Parthenon. Elsewhere in Greece—in eastern Macedonia and particularly in Thrace—the stamp of Islam is plainly visible in the minarets and the soaring cry of the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer five times a day.

Islam came to Greece at the invitation of the Byzantine Empire. Although initially a mortal enemy of the Byzantines, the Muslims agreed to help Byzantium tame the troublesome Serbs—and stayed five and a half centuries. Even as late as 1913 Muslims formed nearly 40 percent of the population of Macedonia. Ten years later, however, when the First World War's Treaty of Lausanne rearranged frontiers and populations, nearly 350,000 Greek Muslims had to leave in exchange for nearly 600,000 Greek Orthodox Christians living elsewhere. When the exchange was completed the Muslim presence was reduced to those living in Thrace, an enclave that today numbers about 108,000 Muslims.

Thrace is a region of great natural beauty, with the sharp peaks and steep ridges of the Rodopi range interspersed with little valleys and the Drama-Serres plain. It is also a prosperous region that grows cotton, cereals and, in the foothills around Kavala, Xanthi, Drama and Komotini, tobacco—Greece's major earner of foreign exchange. There are six principal varieties of the leaf: Basma, Bachi Bagli, Kaba Koulak, Trebezonde, Samsoun and Smyrna. As the names imply, the last three were brought in by the refugees of Asia Minor in 1923.

In the villages and towns of the lowlands the Muslims all speak Turkish, and in some outlying villages not a person can be found who understands Greek. But in the towns they are usually bilingual and freely intermingle with their Greek Orthodox neighbors. Children play together, mothers compare baby formulas on the street corner and both Muslim and Christian men retire to all-male tavernas for the evening. They play backgammon, twirl worry beads and sip sweet coffee.

In the highlands and mountains lives a completely different group of Greek Muslims: the Pomaks, a Serbian-speaking people from Bulgaria. The Pomaks are Slavs who accepted Islam after exposure to the Ottomans. Their name is generally believed to derive from pomagaci, or "helper," for they often served as auxiliary troops for the Turks after their conversion in the 14th century.

In costume and custom the Slavic past still exists among the Pomaks. But there are strong elements of the Middle East as well: long white dresses, ankle-length black cloaks and jewelry, the bangle bracelets, the necklaces and the earrings. Pomak women are also more conservative than their Muslim counterparts in the lowlands. They modestly turn their faces aside or turn in the opposite direction to avoid being looked at. On the other hand, the Turkish-speaking Muslims greet strangers and welcome them into their homes. But whether lowland or highland, all Greek Muslims live by the law of Islam and accept the decisions of the traditional Muslim arbiter: the mufti.

In Greece the mufti is a civil servant whose basic salary is paid by the Greek government. To qualify for the position a man must graduate from a madrasah, essentially a religious school, and in three districts—Xanthi, Komotini and Didymotichion—he is elected by those registered as Muslims. As in wholly Islamic countries, the mufti's authority is supreme in religious matters, but also extends to matters of "personal status"—family problems, marriage, divorce, tutelage and coming of age.

In Komotini the mufti, Hussein Mustapha, permitted me to observe a typical case. It involved a young Pomak boy and his girl who wished to marry, but had been forbidden to do so by one of the grandfathers. The girl and the boy told their stories separately while an elderly scribe in a gold brocade fez leisurely recorded their answers in an enormous ledger; he wrote in Turkish, but in Arabic script. When the mufti learned that the girl had run away from home five days before—to plead her case—he frowned with displeasure. But then, convinced they were in love and did wish to marry, he rendered a swift decision: marry tomorrow.

I didn't attend that wedding but observed others elsewhere. They were, like wedding celebrations in the Middle East, community gatherings with hours of talk, food, laughter and endless cups of black coffee. At one of them, which took place in a village called Volkion, I noted that the bride's house was a fine example of Greek-Islamic architecture.

In Greece, Muslim villages are readily, distinguishable from those of the Christians by the high walls around houses. As in Arab villages, each house is built around a compound which usually contains a well, a garden and shelter for the farm animals. The houses are usually one-story stone structures with balconies and everything is whitewashed, giving the villages a sparkling appearance against green fields and dark mountains stretching off into the distance.

In Greece, as in the Middle East, Muslims lavish great expenditures on their carpets. Furniture is kept to a minimum—some low sofas and big overstuffed cushions—and the only other decoration in the rooms is quotations from the Koran in Arabic, which few people read but all know by heart.

Mosques, of course, are the primary sign of the Muslim presence and in the countryside the interiors of the mosques are a stunning contrast to the plain exteriors. Open the door, and you see a rainbow of color: pink, orange, green, turquoise and yellow bands of paint wind their way up the walls, into the mihrab, or prayer niche, over the minbar, or pulpit, across the ceiling and around the columns supporting the women's gallery, while, simultaneously, rainbow shafts of light filter through the stained-glass windows and make dazzling designs on the oriental carpets. They are lovely, simple and reverent—fitting monuments to the centuries of a faith that endures and flourishes far from its homeland.


Muslim school, The Thrace region has some Muslim schools to accommodate children of this religion. Muslims are the only minority recognized by the Greek government and constitute about half of the population in the Xanthi and Rodopi prefectures.

Chania mosque, In 1922 the last Muslims were forced to leave Crete as part of the population exchange in which 585,000 Muslims left Greece and 1.3 million Greeks left Turkey.


Rotonta Mosque. Thessaloniki, Greece

Mosque in the islamic quarters of chania, crete


Mosque Fetihe, Part of the interior of eastern citadel at the city of Ioannina in Greece.

The mosque at Eleftherias square framed between the arches at Kos, Greece.

Aslan Pasha's mosque in the fortress at Ioannin


Tzisdarakis Mosque in Monastiraki, The mosque overlooking Monastiraki Square was built in 1759 under Ottoman rule. After the liberation of Athens, it was transformed into a museum, where a collection of traditional Greek handicrafts was exhibited. Nowadays, the Tzami, as it is known by the Athenians, houses the Pottery Collection of the Museum of Greek Folk Art. The collection, donated by V. Kyriazopoulos, consists of splendid works by contemporary artists but also includes everyday ceramic objects, as well as tourist souvenirs.


Fethiye Djami in the Roman Agora, The Turkish mosque lies on the north side of the Roman Agora. It was constructed in 1456 A.D. on the ruins of an Early Christian basilica.



Olympic city to build first mosque

   Athens' first mosque has generated controversy

By Zoe Cacanas in Athens

Athens is to have its first official mosque by the 2004 Olympics, the Greek government has announced. The city is still the only capital city in the European Union (EU) without an official place of worship for Muslims, who make up over 100,000 of its inhabitants. But Muslims in the city say the location of the mosque, 20 kilometres east of Athens in the suburb of Peania, will make it unusable for most of them.

Most of the city's Muslims - largely first-generation immigrants from Albania, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan - live in the central Omonia Square and its network of back streets, and in the port of Piraeus. But the Greek Government has defended the decision to build the mosque in Peania.

Mixed response

Ghulam Maula, president of the Bangladeshi Community of Athens, said: "The new mosque will be too far out. We pray five times a day, and we need a central mosque near to where we live." Panayote Dimitras of the Greek Helsinki Monitor, an NGO, agrees: "This is not a solution. It takes two hours by public transport, and that's the only option for most Muslims in Athens." But a spokesperson from the ruling Pasok party, Christos Papoutsis, said the location was "absolutely sufficient and satisfactory". But some Muslims, at least officially, have welcomed the move.

Palestinian Ambassador Abdallah Abdallah said: "Everybody would like to have a mosque near their home, but it's not feasible at this time. The paperwork will be finished by the end of the year and we will try our utmost to have the mosque completed as soon as possible."

Crackdown fears

The project will be funded by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, responsible for the building of 200 Islamic centres and 1,500 mosques worldwide. Plans for the mosque will include a library, information centre and recreation ground. But observant Muslims in Athens already worship unofficially, renting a room or a basement in the city centre for prayer. Over a dozen unofficial mosques exist. But Mr Dimitras said that the provision of an official mosque in 2004 may prompt a crackdown on unlicensed worship. "Many Muslims in the city fear a backlash if they apply for a licence for their downtown mosques, but we're urging them to apply soon, before the official mosque is built."


There are other concerns that the visible presence of a large mosque, even outside the city centre, will cause anti-Muslim feelings in the city. There have also been charges that the mosque is an Olympic showpiece, with its location near the new international airport. Syed Mohammed Jamil, president of the Pakistani Cultural Association, said: "This is just for the Olympics, not for Muslims who live in Athens. Nobody will go there."

The first calls for a mosque for Athens came from Arab embassies over 25 years ago, but stumbled on objections from the Greek Orthodox Church. The Archbishop of Greece, Christodoulos, has since given his support to the building of a mosque, with the proviso that it is not in the city centre. He is not alone in his reservations. In a street poll conducted last week, local newspaper Athens News reported a cool response to the idea of a downtown mosque. Licensed mosques exist in Thrace and on the islands of Kos and Rhodes. But Muslims remain a tiny minority in a country where 98% of the people claim to be members of the Greek Orthodox Church. ( )

  Islamic Centers and Organizations

Al Salam Mosque, Athens
Phone: +30210-9216639

Arab-Hellenic center for culture &civilization member of Federation of Islamic Organization in Euro, Athens, Moshato
Phone: 0030-210-6910492

Simon Riding, Athen, GREECE
Phone: 00301-210-8542550
Phone: 00306993017150
Muslim Seminary of Komotini, Komotini
Phone: +0531-033093
the 7th of April arabic school in Athens, Athens, Athens
Phone: +30 -210 6742120
Palaistine Community of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki
Phone: +302310534489
Mufti in Komotene, Komotene
Phone: +3-2531 026771
Mufti of Didimotichon, Didymotichon
Phone: +0553-022266
Mufti in Xanthi, Xanthi
Phone: +0541-023288, 067858

  Al Salam Mosque, Athens
  AL-GORABAA ISLAMIC SOCIETY-GREECE جمعية الغرباء الإسلامية- اليونان, Athens
  Altawheed Islamic Society, Athens
  Arab-Hellenic center for culture &civilization member of Federation of Islamic Organization in Euro, Athens
  Greek Muslims, Athens
  Majgid El Rahman, Athens
  Masjed AL-NOOR, Iraklion
  Masjed Athina (gouthih ), Athens
  Masjid Al Jabbar, Athens
  Masjid al-Andalus, Piraeus
  Masjid Sounnah mahalla, Xanthi
  Mufti in Komotene, Komotene
  Mufti in Xanthi, Xanthi
  Mufti of Didimotichon, Didymotichon
  Muslims association in Creteرابطة المسلمين في كريت, Iraklion
  Mustapha Mosque, Rhodes
  Simon Riding, Athen
  مسجد التقوى, Athens
  جمعية البر والتقوى – مسجد التقوى, Peiraias

Association of Muslims in Greece, Athens
  Batý Trakya Camileri Din Görevlileri Derneði, Komotini
  Gefyra Politismon (Civilizations Bridge) , Athens
  Hellenic Society for Child Help and Care, Athens
  Manasik hajji, Megara
  Mufti Office Komotini, Komotini
  Muslim Seminary of Komotini, Komotini
  Palaistine Community of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki
  The Hellenic Center For Arabic & Islamic Studies, Athens
  موقع الاسلام باليونانية, Athens

IQRA, Elefsina
  the 7th of April arabic school in Athens, Athens
  مدرسة الغرباء التعليمية, Athens

    Muslim Owned Business

   Dr. I. Nasser, Thessaloniki
  Dr. Nasser Imad, Salonica
  Essa Supermarket, Iraklion
  Graphic Arts, Athens
  Hellenic eagle, Athens
نورما للسياحة و السفر, Athens

Islam in Greece ( , October, 2008).
Info please ( ,  October, 2008).
Islam Finder (  , October, 2008).
Islam in Greece  (  , October, 2008).
Anonymous, Documents from Representatives of Islamic Organizations in Greece, October 2008.