Athens is a city where a large Muslim population lives. Muslims of all kinds: indigenous Greek Muslims coming from smaller towns and islands with Muslim population – as the big city offers more chances in studies and career – local Athenians and Muslim immigrants with their second and third generation offspring that is born and raised in Greece. Those immigrants mostly came from the Arab World starting 40 years ago because their rich countries had wars and oppressive regimes that gave them no hope. They achieved a lot and they integrated harmoniously in the society. They were equal to almost everything, to education, health, welfare, entrepreneurship, but not to their religious practices, still they did not have a mosque and a cemetery. They created some unofficial places to pray, and they buried their dead to the area of Komotini. The governments always promised to solve this as it is an essential human right issue as we are talking about it now.
After NATO launching wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an uncontrolled refugee and immigrative stream flooded Greece. At the same time Greece signs a destructive agreement with EU (Dublin II) where Greece is ordered to keep those refugees and immigrants (most of them Muslims) away from the rest of EU. The Muslim population that lived here was not prepared to live what happened after this.
The governments did not take any serious measures to control this flow, either they drew an effective immigrant policy; they were just observing the phenomenon. The result is that today we have hundreds of thousands of wandering souls, people that cannot go back or forth, cannot have a work permit, do not want to stay in Greece, and a Muslim community that is being accused just for being Muslims. The major issues of the Muslims in Greece instantly became part of the immigration problem without any second thought.
Several political parties in order to attract more votes decided to mix two different issues into one: Suddenly the permanent Muslim population has to pay the consequences of the non-existing immigrant policy of Greece. Why really the permanent residents of Athens must go through this? Seems like a collective punishment simply because the uncontrolled refugee stream has Muslim religion. Additionally the populist political parties started to spread Islamophobic threats to the public although Greece has never faced any extreme incident coming from Muslims.
Islam is a religion of 1,8 billion worshippers and was always respectful to the other religions, especially the Greeks should recognize that, since all Christian Orthodox Patriarchs are established and located safely in Muslim Countries since ever. Greece’s human policy on the contrary, is trying to become intolerant of the Muslim residents because the voted governments failed to face the uncontrolled refugee wave that was caused by the NATO wars. A vicious circle with humans in the middle. Humans with values, hopes and success in all walks of life in Greece.
The Muslims of Greece have always offered voluntarily to support the efforts of each government to draw an effective immigration policy. This is not a matter that can be solved by a community alone, especially when this community did not participated in generating this matter. Our country cannot solve this without the full support of EU that is also responsible for this situation. The immigration policy of Greece needs solidarity and common efforts if we really need to have a solution. So far the political world did not work towards the solution, only used vote attracting tricks.
The Muslims of Athens have the right to pray, to marry, to be buried in dignity, as citizens according to our constitution. The effort of the Muslim Association of Greece is the establishment of a public – official Athens mosque, belonging to the Hellenic democracy with an official academic imam and a Muslim Cemetery that will ensure that the Muslim citizens of Athens, a city of five million people will consider Muslims as equal citizens of this society in all aspects.
Anna Stamou is responsible for Public Relations at the Muslim Association of Greece and wife of head of the Muslim Association. She studied business administration at Mediterranean College