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THE LONG HISTORY OF ISLAM IN GREECE



Being home to around 370 thousand Muslims or 3.5 percent of the population, Greece has a long history of Islam and adherents of this message of Muhammad SAW. The Muslim population in Greece is not homogeneous as it consists of different ethnic, linguistic and social backgrounds.

Most of them come from Albania. However, there are also those from the Turkish Pomaks, certain Romani groups, and Greek Muslims, especially from Crete, Epirus, and western Macedonian Greece. In particular, in the 17th and 18th centuries. However, the indigenous Muslim community in Thrace numbered about 120 thousand people.

The existence of Muslim entities in Greece cannot be separated from the dynamics that emerged from the Lausanne Agreement in 1923. See Hugh Poulton in The Balkans: minorities and states in conflict, Minority Rights Publications explains, this agreement provides two sides of the coin at once, positive and negative.

On the one hand, the agreement which principally consisted of a population exchange between Greece and the new Turkish Republic was the first form of recognition of the mufti institution in several aspects of civil law in Thrace. This provision has been respected by the Government of Greece.

Reporting from euro-islam.info, in Lausanne, Greece recognizes the mufti as a religious authority in Thrace with various civil and legal privileges. Thus, even though they officially represent only a certain minority, muftis can assume some leadership role for the Muslim community at large.

Regarding Islamic religious education, the Lausanne Agreement stated that schools should be established for children from the Muslim community in West Thrace. However, in general these schools are considered unable to optimize the abilities of Muslim students, so they cannot compete in the world of work.


Islam in Greece Two Sides of the Lausanne Agreement

Recently, the Government of Greece has been working to increase educational opportunities for members of the Muslim minority in Western Thrace, providing financial incentives, access to university admissions, and employment opportunities.

However, these schools are still not able to catch up with the quality. Thus, many Muslim families send their children to public schools.

Public schools in Thrace also teach Islamic education. However, this does not apply to Muslim communities outside Thrace.

Western Thrace also maintains two high schools to prepare Muslim students for higher level studies in Islamic theology. Poulton continued, as a result of the agreement, the Muslim population in Greece decreased significantly.


Under the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne, Muslim Greek Epirus, Macedonian Greeks and Northern Greeks were required to immigrate to Turkey. Meanwhile, Christians living in Turkey were asked to immigrate to Greece.

As for the Muslim and Christian communities of West Thrace from Istanbul and the islands of Gokceada and Bozcaada (Imvros and Tenedos) are the only non-exchangeable populations. As a result, the Greek Government at that time defined Turkish-speaking Muslims in East Macedonia and Thrace as Greek Muslims and did not recognize the existence of a Turkic minority in Northern Greece.

The Lausanne Treaty that the government signed gave language, religious rights, and education to the Thracian people. Meanwhile, those outside Thrace are not covered by the agreement. As such, Muslims in other parts of the country are forced to travel to Thrace for state recognition, such as weddings and funerals.


Greek Muslims Struggle to Overcome Inequality

The impact of the agreement is a real imbalance in a number of issues. As for mosques, for example, in Western Thrace and the islands of Rhodes and Kos, about 290 mosques operate.

Meanwhile, there are no mosques for around 200,000 Muslims in Athens. The permission to build the mosque was granted by the Greek government in 2000 after decades of long lobbying. The mosque is planned to be funded by Saudi Arabia.

However, construction of the mosque, which will be built on the outskirts of Peania, has yet to start due to the influence of the Greek Orthodox Church. They are not ready to accept a mosque in the middle of an Orthodox Christian country.

Rejection also came from the mayor and local residents. They claim that the mosque will be one of the first buildings seen from the airport, thus damaging the image and character of Greece as the Orthodox majority. They also claim that Muslims object to the remote location. About one hour from downtown Athens for Zhuhur or Friday prayers.

The Lausanne Agreement also had an impact on cemeteries. The only Muslim cemetery is located in Western Thrace. However, some Muslims claim to object to this policy. In particular, those who do not have enough money to travel to Thrace or other countries for funerals.

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