News

Greek Government caves in to pressure to build a mega-mosque in Athens

A CONTROVERSIAL plan to build a mega-mosque in Athens – at taxpayers’ expense – was given approval last week

The move, according to this report, was driven by the fear of an uprising by thousands of Muslim residents of the city. Rather than face a violent situation, the Greek Parliament voted on September 7 to meet Muslim demands for the mosque. The vote as supported by 198 out of 300 deputies from the left, right and centre.

Angry Muslims pictured at a protest in Athens

The plan commits the Greek government (by way of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs) to pay for the construction of a temporary mosque which will be built within the next six months. A larger 1,000 square meter (3,300 square feet) mosque with enough space for 500 worshipers at a time will be built in the same area by the end of 2012, at an estimated cost of around €16 million ($21 million).

Analysts say the Papandreou government is pushing the mosque project out of fear that Muslim demands will become violent sooner rather than later.

Like many other European cities, Athens has experienced Muslim-related violence in recent years. In May 2009, for example, more than 1,000 Muslims clashed with police in downtown Athens after Muslims accused a police officer stepping on a Koran at a coffee shop during a police check.

Nearly 50 protesters were arrested during the uprising, while seven Muslim immigrants and seven policemen were hospitalized. More than 70 cars were torched and around a dozen businesses were destroyed in the clashes. A day earlier, an even larger crowd of around 1,500 Muslim immigrants rallied before the march degenerated into violence. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowds.

Muslims say the violence proves they need an official mosque. But recent polls show that more than half of Greeks are opposed to the mosque plan and say their government should not be financing religious institutions.

The announcement comes as massively indebted Greece battles a growing recession that has left nearly one million Greeks out of work. Greece recently needed a €110 billion ($146 billion) three-year bail-out package to rescue the embattled economy from bankruptcy.

Officially, Greece has a Muslim population of around 500,000, mostly of Turkish origin. But in recent years, tens of thousands of Muslims have migrated to Greece from Africa, the Maghreb [North Africa], the Middle East and Central and Southeast Asia.

Many of the estimated 200,000 Muslims living in Athens are illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Nigeria and Pakistan.

 

44 Responses to “Greek Government caves in to pressure to build a mega-mosque in Athens”

  1. tony e says:

    Muslim’s upset? Whatever next!

    It’s got to the point where muslim’s have only to threaten to cause violence and governments cave in. Can’t politicians realise the more they give in, the more extreme the demands of these 6th century barbarians will get?

    If Greece keeps capitulating so easily, it will quickly find it is no longer the birthplace of democracy.

  2. chrsbol says:

    You may want to check the sums Barry 1000 sq m = 10,763 sq ft.
    Just sayin.That means they’re demanding even more!

  3. annabel says:

    Ah yes – the religion of peace …..

  4. Daz says:

    We want freedom to worship, and we want you to pay for it!

    An observation: They have a “Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs”? What a horrible combination!

  5. If this is the kind of thing they are at, it’s no wonder they can’t reign in their public spending.

  6. AgentCormac says:

    Angry Muslims pictured at a protest in Athens

    They seem to spend their entire lives being angry, feeling insulted and demanding we all tip-toe around their sensibilities. When will someone finally have the balls to say enough is enough?

  7. barriejohn says:

    Here we go again: militant atheists demanding their so-called “rights” and threatening violence if they don’t get their way! Oh – I may have got that a bit wrong.

  8. Broga says:

    Greece is broke, in danger of defaulting on government loans, in hock to other European countries and they choose to spend money on furthering superstition.

  9. tony e says:

    AgentCormac,

    People like Geert Wilders are making a difference and saying enough is enough.

    However, lazy, pc driven media in the UK, esp the BBC, are busy painting the man as a fascist, as it’s far easier to do that than see the real enemy at the door.

    Personally, I find myself agreeing more and more with what he says, which I would not have done a decade ago.

  10. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    Greece is broke, it’s bankrupt, it’s only being held together by the generosity of other countries. So why do they think it’s a good idea to subsidise the building of a place of worship? I have no objection to the actual building of the mosque, if these deluded idiots want somewhere to pray, fine, no problem. What is totally wrong is the government being coerced into paying for it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a mosque, a church, a temple, it’s not the governments responsibility to pay for it.

    I wonder how news of this will go down in Germany? After all, they are the ones propping the Greek government up so they, ultimately, will be paying for this.

  11. The Woggler says:

    barriejohn – you really must try to separate fact from fiction. Oh, you’re an atheist. You already have.

    Anyhow, as we in Britain are likely to be contributing to any future Greek bailout, shouldn’t we be able to demand that any money we give is not spent on such absurd friviolities?

  12. AngieRS says:

    Seems to me that the Greeks would better spend their time protesting about this than about the spending cuts their country is trying to make.

  13. AgentCormac says:

    tony e

    I don’t know a great deal about Geert Wilders, other than the obvious highlights like when he got banned from Britain for a while and he was cleared of inciting hatred in the Netherlands.

    A quick glance at Wiki is a bit more enlightening – he is worried about being linked to the ‘wrong rightist fascist groups’ (is there a right rightist fascist group?), and his political idol is Thatcher. Neither of which facts endear him to me very much.

    I just think that society as a whole needs to stop pandering to people of all faiths who keep behaving like spoiled children and playing the victim card to get their own way all the time. I’m sick to death of these people bleating on about having their religion belittled or ignored. Perhaps if we really did ignore them they would go away and sulk somewhere else.

  14. elainek123 says:

    Saw an item on News on tv stating that the church owns most of the land in Greece and do not pay any taxes and that is one of the reasons why Greece is in the state it is in. I supose Europe will bail them out.
    Why are governments so weak. We all take it and therefore it will continue. Still I suppose their god will see them alright no doubt if they pray in their expensive mosques enough as the Muslims join the Church so that they have all the power they wish for..

  15. dogon says:

    “Muslims say the violence proves they need an official mosque.”

    So as I understand this line of reasoning…if I demonstrate and threaten violence I can have pretty much whatever I want.

    Think I will speak to the authorities here in Canada soon to see if I can get a free house …Tired of the current one….

  16. Broga says:

    @Graham Martin-Royle: I think Germany is getting more restless by the day. They are increasingly agitated that while many of their own people are struggling they should not be forced to be the “saviour” of Europe.

    But what about the voices of governments or the heads of other religions. Silence reigns. However, the runners are moving to the starting gate for the Next Archbishop of Canterbury Stakes. Some have been edging forward for some time and none mouths off more than the egregious John Sentenamu. (Spelling?) I think his gathering supporters see him as defending christianity and taking on these pesky militant atheists.

    In fact, atheists of whatever stripe are pussy cats compared to the Muslim fundies whom I suggest would make a better target. I suppose that would transgress the christian principles of oecumentalism.

  17. Newspaniard says:

    Thank you for building that nice mega-mosque. Now, would you please mind building another… and another… and another… or we’ll burn cars and accuse you of islamophobia.

  18. AgentCormac says:

    Broga

    I think his gathering supporters see him as defending christianity and taking on these pesky militant atheists.

    PZ Myers has the following couple of links on his Pharyngula blog. The excellent articles they lead to articulate very well indeed why many religiots think atheism is dangerous, why their prejudices are, as ever, misinformed or just plain dumb, and how best to respond to their accusations.

    http://www.alternet.org/story/152395/10_myths_many_religious_people_hold_about_atheists,_debunked
    http://www.iamanatheist.com/16_things.html

  19. remigius says:

    So the Greek government are sending a strong message to the muslims. We will be intimidated by your threats of violence. Here, have whatever you want.

    …Analysts say the Papandreou government is pushing the mosque project out of fear that Muslim demands will become violent sooner rather than later.

    That sentence rings more true if you change the word that to a full stop.

    chrsbol. I see what Barry did there. If 1 metre is about 3.3 feet then…

    Muppet.

  20. Rodney says:

    Most of the world is awaking from the enslavement of religious myth.
    But there is one religion that (in spite of scientific facts) is still holding onto the minds of it’s victims, much better than the rest.

    We really need to ram science down these peoples throats, the way they ram their religion down ours!!!

  21. Erp says:

    I have a strong suspicion that the Greek government provides a lot of support for the Orthodox Church (such as paying clergy salaries) so in effect the Muslim residents’ taxes are paying for the Orthodox religion without much in return for their own religion.

    Ideally the state should not be supporting any religion but since that isn’t going to happen soon in Greece I can certainly see a justification for something for the Muslims (and for the non-religious such as a secular burial areas). Note also the government hasn’t given permission for Muslims to build their own mosques with their own money (mosques do exist but illegally) so the choice is between no mosque or a state built (or partially built) mosque.

  22. Stephen says:

    While I clearly disagree with what the Greek goverment is doing, I wonder if the decision to build a Christian Church would have caused a similar uproar. A first century delusion has no more merit than a sixth century delusion….

  23. Broga says:

    AgentCormac: Many thanks for the links. The assumptions about atheists are just so contrary to the experience of myself, many of my friends and my family. The “No atheists in foxholes” is such nonsense. If a christian believes his god will protect him why does he have to dive into a foxhole for god to do this?

    I know I face death with an easier mind as an atheist than many christians who have the prospect of hell before them.

  24. Binky says:

    The obvious next step is for Muslims in Athens to agitate for a second mega-mosque so that Sunni and Shia may pray separately. A unified demonstration of public sectarian violence between the groups should do the trick. Fearing more internecine violence the Greek government will no doubt capitulate.

    Never give in to extortion. If you do, you will continue to be extorted.

  25. Angela_K says:

    The way the religious mark their territory is rather like the way dogs mark theirs. There is a disgusting triumphalism among the religious every time craven governments concede.

    I fear the Greeks even when building mosques. Sorry I’ll get me coat…

  26. tony e says:

    Broga,

    Don’t worry about John Sentamu. Like that other h(z)ero of yours, Prince Charles, he thinks he is an intellectual giant. Again, like Charles, he is woefully short.

    Hitch, even in the seriously ill state he is in, would tear him apart.

    Looking on the internet at some of the stupid stuff this bloke has came up with, he might actually work in our favour.

  27. barriejohn says:

    I think that a big clue to what is really wrong here lies in these words:

    Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs

  28. AgentCormac says:

    Broga

    Completely agree about the foxhole argument – what a crock of shit! Belief in a sky fairy is no measure of patriotism, loyalty or courage. In fact, being an atheist can often be the opposite of the ‘easy option’ – especially in countries like the US where these days being anything other than a god-bothering religiot sadly seems to equate to being a borderline traitor.

    And, of course, every army since the beginning of time has believed that some ‘god’ or other is on their side. And quite often both armies have believed that the same god is waving his magic wand to ensure they get their own way.

    The same nonsense is true of modern-day sportsmen and women – especially in football where over-paid ‘stars’ can often be seen crossing themselves as they run out onto the pitch, or raising their eyes to the heavens in thanks when they score. While it is all incomprehensible to the likes of you and me, these idiots really do believe that their god has somehow helped them overcome a foe. A foe who has, presumably, been praying to precisely the same god for precisely the opposite result.

    WTF?

    Anyway, my favourite couple of points from those two links are:

    Please understand that “You’re such a nice person! I can’t believe you’re an atheist!” is not a compliment. More importantly, please understand that we understand that. Believe me, every single one of us has considered replying, “And you’re so smart – I can’t believe you’re a Christian!” How about we all agree to not go there?

    and

    9) Atheists have no way to cope after losing loved ones without the belief in an afterlife. The belief that religion has sole ownership over death is so ingrained that it often causes believers to behave in inappropriate ways toward grieving atheists, using the occasion of a loved one’s death to try to coax us into taking up religion. Some believers who do this are openly predatory, but some mean well, and simply can’t imagine how atheists cope without telling ourselves pretty stories about an afterlife. Atheists have every right to be skeptical of the argument that belief in the afterlife quiets the pain of grief. After all, many religions teach that the dead person could be burning forever in hell, which can cause far more anxiety than relief.

    I imagine the nothingness of death is much like the nothingness that existed before birth. Believing in the afterlife seems to have more to do with the egos of the living than concerns about the dead, and by letting go of the need to make the end of someone else’s life about your own fears of death, many atheists can focus on working through the grief in a healthy way. So please, believers, don’t use the death of loved ones as an opportunity to proselytize.

  29. john c says:

    Can we the general public withhold the portion of our taxes that are bailing out the greeks? I want that choice.

  30. sailor1031 says:

    @dogon:
    “Think I will speak to the authorities here in Canada soon to see if I can get a free house …Tired of the current one….”

    Well, really, if you’re muslim you’ll probably get one…….

  31. sailor1031 says:

    http://europenews.dk/en/node/47282

    Looks like it’s too late in Denmark.

  32. Daz says:

    Here’s some good news. I’m not exactly one of Google’s greatest fans, but they do get the occasional thing right.

  33. barriejohn says:

    Daz: Did you read my response to your comment on the previous thread?

  34. Tozza says:

    Political correctness and equal rights for all, even if those claiming their rights hold extreme beliefs and are driven by a desire to replace the culture of the host nation with their own narrow vision of how life should be lived.

    Christianity and Judaism are bad enough, but Islam seems to have been designed to instil extreme views in its followers. Less extreme Muslims claim that the Qu’ran does not condone violence against non-believers but, like the Bible, there are plenty of opportunities to interpret it as holy instructions to commit acts of violence. Ignorance, indoctrination and fanaticism combine in a dangerous cocktail.

  35. Daz says:

    Angela_K

    *groan*

    Don’t worry, I’ve perpetrated much worse puns.

  36. Broga says:

    Agent Cormac and tony e. About 4 years ago I thought I might be going to drop of the perch myself. I had to wait for a week for a further opinion. This included an examination by a consultant. Turned out my GP had identified some symptoms which did not lead to what he assumed. I can’t say I was in any way a hero. On the contrary I was extremely worried. However, it never occured to me to pray, think about god or be concerned about an after life. What did comfort me was reading, or re reading, what the ancient philosophers had to say about life and death e.g. Cicero, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Epicurus and others.

    My wife, who didn’t accept the original diagnosis anyway, made the point that if I had prayed, promised to be a good christian in future, would I not then assume my prayers had been answered once the diagnosis mistake became apparent. I suppose that is the way it goes for believers. If they get a result then god has answered there prayers. If they don’t then they haven’t been praying properly or god wants them for a sunbeam or whatever.

  37. Sam says:

    As quoted in the article: “Muslims say the violence proves they need an official mosque. But recent polls show that more than half of Greeks are opposed to the mosque plan and say their government should not be financing religious institutions.”

    Hitchens makes a claim that appears to be consistent with such behavior (back then and in the present): “They claim a special right and they claim it at gunpoint and by force.”

    I encourage you to watch the YouTube video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7aS7m3odqI

  38. barriejohn says:

    Broga: Answered prayers = happy coincidences. Many Christians realize this, deep down, as well. Many moons ago now I was staying at a large Christian guest house in Teignmouth (Charterhouse – now sheltered accommodation), and several other people from Swindon were there at the same time. One evening as we all returned from our daily excursions into the beautiful Devon countryside I heard one of them – Barry by name – exclaiming: “In’t ‘e wonderful! In’t ‘e wonderful!”. Our curiosity as to who this “wonderful” person was didn’t last long, as it turned out that it was none other than Jesus! Barry & Co had been following a vehicle laden with freshly caught mackerel, and Barry had said to his family: “I’d love some of those.” Upon stopping somewere, he got into conversation with the driver, who told him that they had plenty of fish to spare, so would Barry like some? That was God’s doing, evidently. I was already saying to myself: “These people are loony!”.

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  40. peter kay says:

    There is a Muslim minority who are Greek citizens living in Thrace, concentrated in the Rhodope and Xanthi Prefectures. From the 1991 census, the official position of the Greek government is that there are 98,000 Muslims in western Thrace, and that 50% are of Turkish ethnic origin, the rest being 35% Pomaks and 15% Roma.[42][43] The Muslim minority has been estimated to number 140,000 or 1.24% of the total population of Greece. Aside from the indigenous Muslim minority in Greece, the Muslim immigrant population in the rest of the country was estimated at 200,000 to 300,000.[44]

    A Turkish community currently live in Western Thrace which is located in the north-eastern part of Greece. According to the Greek government, in 1991 there were approximately 50,000 Turks, out of the approximately 98,000 Muslim minority of Greece[43] But the Turkish community has traditionally been estimated to number between 120,000 and 130,000.[45][46] Recent estimates of the “Culture and Education Foundation” of the Turkish minority suggest that it numbers 150,000 people.[47] The Turks of Thrace descend from Turkish populations living in the area during the Ottoman period. Like the Greeks of Istanbul, Imbros and Tenedos, they were exempted from the 1923 population exchange.[48] The Greek government continues to deliver Turkish language and there are two Islamic theological seminaries, one in Komotini and one in Ehinos.

    Discrimination of the Turks has been criticized by the US and the European Parliament.[49]In 1922, Turks owned 84% of the land in Western Thrace, but now the minority estimates this figure to be between 20–40%. This stems from various practices of the Greek administration whereby ethnic Greeks are encouraged to purchase Turkish land with soft loans granted by the state.[50][51] The Greek government refers to the Turkish community as Greek Muslims or Hellenic Muslims, and does not recognise a Turkish minority in Western Thrace.[45] Greek courts have also outlawed the use of the word ‘Turkish’ to describe the Turkish community. In 1988, the Greek High Court affirmed a 1986 decision of the Court of Appeals of Thrace in which the Union of Turkish Associations of Western Thrace was ordered closed. The court held that the use of the word ‘Turkish’ referred to citizens of Turkey, and could not be used to describe citizens of Greece; the use of the word ‘Turkish’ to describe ‘Greek Muslims’ was held to endanger public order.[52]

  41. peter kay says:

    Human rights issues

    Citizenship – According to the former Article 19 of the 1955 Citizenship Law (No. 3370), a person of non-Greek ethnic origin leaving Greece without the intention of returning may be declared as having lost Greek nationality. According to the Greek government, between 1955 and 1998, approximately 60,000 Greek Muslim individuals, predominantly Turkish, were deprived of their citizenship under Article 19. Of these 60,000, approximately 7,182 lost their citizenship between 1981 and 1997.[26] Article 19 was repealed in 1998, though not retroactively.[26]

    Ethnic identity – Since the Treaty of Lausanne used the criterion of religion to refer to the ethnic communities, Greek Government spokesmen have usually insisted that the basis of identification is religious and not ethnic (or national).[27] Thus Greek officials refer to the Muslim minority in Greece, but deny the existence of a Turkish minority.[28][29][30] Greek courts have also outlawed the use of the word ‘Turkish’ to describe the Turkish community. In 1988, the Greek High Court affirmed a 1986 decision of the Court of Appeals of Thrace in which the Union of Turkish Associations of Western Thrace was ordered closed. The court held that the use of the word ‘Turkish’ referred to citizens of Turkey, and could not be used to describe citizens of Greece; the use of the word ‘Turkish’ to describe Greek Muslims was held to endanger public order.[31] This led to about 10,000 people demonstrating against the decision in Western Thrace. According to members of the Turkish minority, it was the first time ethnic Turks had taken to the streets.[32]

    Freedom of expression – More than 10 newspapers are issued in the Turkish language. According to some sources, newspapers, magazines and books published in Turkey are not allowed entry into Western Thrace,[33] and Turkish television and radio stations are sometimes jammed.[34] According to other sources the minority has full and independent access to its own newspapers radio, television, and other written media coming from Turkey, regardless of their content.[35]

    Ownership of land – In 1922, Turks owned 84% of the land in Western Thrace, but now the minority estimates this figure to be between 20–40%. This stems from various practices of the Greek administration whereby ethnic Greeks are encouraged to purchase Turkish land with soft loans granted by the state.[9][36]

    Religious freedom – According to the Lausanne Treaty, the Turkish minority is entitled to freedom of religion and to the right to control charitable and religious institutions. However, the Turkish community believes that these international law guarantees have been violated by the Greek government[37] by denying permission to repair or rebuild old mosques or to build new mosques, by denying the right to choose the muftis (this chief religious officers), and by efforts to control the Turkish communities charitable foundations.[38] According to another source, more than 5 new mosques are being built in the prefecture of Xanthi alone and 19 new mosques are being built in the prefecture of Rhodope alone, while in the same prefecture the number of mosques exceeds 160.[39]

  42. peter kay says:

    THE CONSTITUTION OF GREECE
    SECTION II
    Relations of Church and State
    Article 3
    1. The prevailing religion in Greece is that
    of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ. The
    Orthodox Church of Greece, acknowledging
    our Lord Jesus Christ as its head, is inseparably
    united in doctrine with the Great Church
    of Christ in Constantinople and with every other
    Church of Christ of the same doctrine,
    observing unwaveringly, as they do, the holy
    apostolic and synodal canons and sacred traditions.
    It is autocephalous and is administered
    by the Holy Synod of serving Bishops and the
    Permanent Holy Synod originating thereof and
    assembled as specified by the Statutory Charter
    of the Church in compliance with the provisions
    of the Patriarchal Tome of June 29,
    1850 and the Synodal Act of September 4,
    1928.
    2. The ecclesiastical regime existing in certain
    districts of the State shall not be deemed
    contrary to the provisions of the preceding paragraph.
    3. The text of the Holy Scripture shall be
    20
    001-156 Syntagma uk new 12-03-09 12:19 ™ÂÏ›‰·20
    maintained unaltered. Official translation of the
    text into any other form of language, without
    prior sanction by the Autocephalous Church of
    Greece and the Great Church of Christ in Constantinople,
    is prohibited.

  43. peter kay says:

    Greek Orthodox Church structure – State religion with 10,500 priests and 10,000 theologians, paid government salaries similar to those earned by high-school teachers. Its 81 bishops are far more powerful, earning tax-free salaries similar to those of cabinet ministers and at least twice again that much from fees for weddings, baptisms and funerals, from the rental of burial plots and from the construction and renting of apartments on church property.

    The Church of Greece, one of the country’s biggest owners of prime real estate, has until now been largely exempt from taxes even though the state pays priests’ salaries.

  44. peter kay says:

    The Muslim minority enjoys full equality with the Greek majority, and prohibition against discrimination and freedom of religion are provided for in Article 5 and Article 13 of the Greek constitution.[6]

    In Thrace today there are 3 muftis, approximately 270 imams and approximately 300 mosques.[7]

    Education
    Pomak village in Xanthi Prefecture.In Thrace today there are 235 minority primary schools, where education is in the Greek and Turkish languages,[3] and there are also two minority secondary schools, one in Xanthi and one in Komotini, where most of the minority is concentrated.[3] In the remote mountainous areas of Xanthi where the Pomak element is dominant, the Greek government has set up Greek language secondary education schools in which religious studies is taught in Turkish and the Koran is taught in Arabic.[3] The Pomak language (which is essentially considered a dialect of Bulgarian), however, is not taught at any level of the education system.[8] The government finances the transportation to and from the schools for students who live in remote areas, and in the academic year 1997-98, approximately 195,000 USD was spent on transportation.[3]

    There are two Islamic theological seminaries, one in Komotini, and one in Echinos (a small town in Xanthi Prefecture inhabited almost exclusively by Pomaks), and under Law 2621/1998, the qualification awarded by these institutions has been recognized as equal to that of the Greek Orthodox seminaries in the country.[3]

    Finally, 0.5% of places in Greek higher education institutions are reserved for members of the minority.[7]

    All the aforementioned institutions are funded by the state.[9]

    Grievances – The main minority grievance regards the appointment of muftis. The Greek government started appointing muftis instead of holding elections after the death of Mufti of Komotini in 1985 (which is a failure to implement Law 2345/1920 according to Cultural Survival[10]), although the Greek government maintained that as the practice of state-appointed muftis is widespread (including in Turkey), this practice should be adhered to in Greece, and as the muftis perform certain judicial functions in matters of family and inheritance law, the state ought to appoint them.[3] Human Rights Watch alleges that this is against Lausanne Treaty which grants the Muslim minority the right to organize and conduct religious affairs free from government interference[11] (although it is unclear whether issues such as inheritance law are religious matters). As such, there are two muftis for each post, one elected by the participating faithful, and one appointed by Presidential Decree. The elected Mufti of Xanthi is Mr Aga and the government recognized one is Mr SinikoÄŸlu; the elected Mufti of Komotini is Mr Åžerif and the government recognized one is Mr Cemali. According to the Greek government, the elections by which Mr Aga and Mr Åžerif were appointed were rigged and involved very little participation from the minority.[3] As pretension of (religious) authority is a criminal offence against the lawful muftis under the Greek Penal Code, both elected muftis were prosecuted and on conviction, both were imprisoned and fined. When, however, the case was taken to the European Court of Human Rights, the Greek government was found to have violated the right to religious freedom of Mr Aga and Mr Åžerif.[12]

    Another controversial issue was Article 19 of the Greek Citizenship Code, which allowed the government to revoke the citizenship of non-ethnic Greeks who left the country. According to official statistics 46,638 Muslims (most of them being of Turkish origin) from Thrace and the Dodecanese islands lost their citizenships from 1955 to 1998, until the law was non-retroactively abolished in 1998.[13].

    The final grievance is the Greek government’s restrictions on the usage of the terms “Turk” and “Turkish” when describing the minority as a whole. A number of organizations, including the “Turkish Union of Xanthi”, have been banned for using those terms in their title.[6] In 2008 after a decision of the European Court of Human Rights ruled the re-legalization of the association and convicted Greece of violating the freedom of association, however, the Greek authorities refused to re-legalize it.[14]