ISLAM and MUSLIMS IN GREECE
National name: Elliniki Dimokratia
area: 50,502 sq mi (130,800 sq km); total area: 50,942 sq mi (131,940
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,
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%.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
continued to experience tensions with Turkey over a disputed, unpopulated
10-acre island and over Cyprus, which is divided into Greek and Turkish sectors.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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."
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
Arab-Hellenic center for culture &civilization member of Federation of Islamic
Organization in Euro, Athens, Moshato
Riding, Athen, GREECE
QIBAA, Chania, CHANIA
Seminary of Komotini, Komotini
the 7th of
April arabic school in Athens, Athens, Athens
Phone: +30 -210 6742120
Community of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki
Phone: +3-2531 026771
Phone: +0541-023288, 067858
ISLAMIC SOCIETY-GREECE جمعية الغرباء الإسلامية- اليونان, Athens
Islamic Society, Athens
Arab-Hellenic center for culture &civilization member of Federation of Islamic
Organization in Euro, Athens
Athina (gouthih ), Athens
Sounnah mahalla, Xanthi
association in Creteرابطة المسلمين في كريت, Iraklion
SALLAHADIN AIUBI, Athens
البر والتقوى – مسجد التقوى, Peiraias
of Muslims in Greece, Athens
Trakya Camileri Din Görevlileri Derneði, Komotini
Politismon (Civilizations Bridge) , Athens
Society for Child Help and Care, Athens
Office Komotini, Komotini
Seminary of Komotini, Komotini
Palaistine Community of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki
Hellenic Center For Arabic & Islamic Studies, Athens
الاسلام باليونانية www.islam.gr, Athens
of April arabic school in Athens, Athens
الغرباء التعليمية, Athens
Muslim Owned Business
Nasser Imad, Salonica
نورما للسياحة و السفر, Athens
Islam in Greece (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_Greece , October, 2008).
Info please (
http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107588.html , October, 2008).
Islam Finder (
Islam in Greece (
Anonymous, Documents from Representatives of Islamic Organizations in Greece,