How Greece gets away with its war on Muslims

Mahmoud Ahmed Shaikh

Rabi' al-Thani 12, 1418 1997-08-16

World

by Mahmoud Ahmed Shaikh (World, Crescent International Vol. 26, No. 12, Rabi' al-Thani, 1418)

Greece not only persecutes its own Muslims but also plays a conspicuous role in the programme of obliteration directed at the presence of Islam in the Balkans. Yet its western allies, the United Nations and the west’s human rights brigades remain silent on Athens’s crimes, enabling it to disguise them as part of its nationalist face-off with Turkey rather than the vicious religious persecution it actually is.

Muslims in Greece belong to several ethnic groups, including Greek, Albanian, Bulgarian, Macedonian and Turkish. During the centuries long Othmania khilafat, most people had learnt to speak Turkish simply because it was the official language. Later, under Greek rule, all Turkish speakers were lumped together as ‘Turks’, with most of them deported, and those remaining subjected to religious and social persecution. The expulsions and persecution continue to this day.

It must be a considerable PR coup for Greece to succeed in presenting this horrendous attack on Muslims of such diverse ethnic backgrounds in the context of its nationalist stand off with Turkey. But despite the backing it has received from its western allies and the United Nations, Athens could not have pulled this off without the disgraceful acquiescence of Muslim countries including Turkey and organizations, such as the OIC.

Although The Turkish Islamic movements chronicle the religious persecution of Greek Muslims, the secular establishment, which calls the tune in Turkey prefers to confront Greece on the basis of nationalism rather than religion. Other Muslim countries - perhaps taking the cue from Turkey - are content to view the issue in the context of the national rivalries between Athens and Ankara.

This suits Greece well as it has considerable economic interests in the Arab world - interests that could be harmed if the anti-Islamic thrust of its policies were fully exposed and challenged.

It also suits the secular dictatorships in Muslim countries which prefer the exclusive concept of a nation State to the all-embracing notion of the Muslim Ummah. Most of them are at war with the Islamic movements in their fiefdoms, and fear the consequences of promoting the idea of global Islamic interests. In any case, they prefer not to run the risk of upsetting Uncle Sam, their master and protector, by rallying to the Muslim victims of Hellenic chauvinism.

This failure to confront Athens is both tragic and criminal in view of the scale and audacity of the persecution, which is designed not only to hurt but to humiliate as well. The outrages vary from unfettered street attacks and illegal detention to the systemic destruction of mosques and the desecration of graves. If the Jewish community in Greece were subjected to a tiny fraction of these abuses, there would be an international uproar and clamour for redress.

Most of the abuses are on official level. For instance, when Muslims complain to the authorities about the desecration of graves, they are told that any graveyard that does not have a fence cannot be protected. But when they apply for planning permission to construct fences or compound walls, their request is turned down. The desecration or destruction of Muslim graves are of common occurrence throughout Greece - a practice engaged in by Greek thugs and officials alike to humiliate.

The authorities also often withhold planning permission for repairs to mosques, and when Muslims set up the necessary grounds that the structures are a risk to public safety.

In the cases where permission is granted to build a new mosque or repair an old one, extremist groups send out demolition gangs as soon as work starts, prompting the authorities to intervene. The matter is then referred to the Islamic Affairs Directorate, which invariably issues an order banning construction or repairs on the basis of a law which prohibits worship on Greek soil.

But this pales before the systematic destruction of mosques or their conversion into churches, with the minarets sometimes deliberately left standing to demonstrate the church used to be a mosque. The demolition programme also covered other Islamic monuments such as libraries, schools, bridges and waterways of great architectural, cultural and engineering significance.

In their time, Muslims erected in Greece 3771 Islamic structures, including 2336 mosques, thousands of which have been demolished. Those mosques which have not been destroyed are numbered only in tens. Many of those are in a serious state of disrepair for the reasons given above.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), whose duty is to protect such heritage, has been conspicuously silent on this horrendous decimation of Islamic civilization. By contrast, UNESCO spares no effort in preserving Greek monuments.

Worshippers are often arrested in mosques, with security police entering them with their shoes on just to humiliate and provoke. As part of the programme of humiliation and provocation Muslim women are attacked in the streets in broad daylight. The incident on November 3, 1996 in which a gang of six motorcyclists assaulted two Muslimahs, one of them 56 years old, is not untypical.

Men are also frequently set upon. On November 15, of the same year, 30 Greek thugs assaulted five Muslim men, whose only crime was to stroll through a municipal park. The police did not intervene to stop the onslaught.

Indeed, no Muslim is immune to attack or arrest no matter how exalted he or she might be, or how trivial the misdeeds they are accused of as two members of parliament who visited Istanbul, Turkey, found out on their return to Greece on November 3. Ismail Rodoble and Ridhwan Khateeb were promptly arrested and interrogated by four members of the Greek police.

Athens’s assault on Muslims is not confined to Greece or Cyprus, and extends well into the Balkans. Greece openly sided with Serbia during the Bosnian war, playing a high-profile role in busting the United Nations arms embargo. The UN and the west turned a blind eye, instead blaming Iran for smuggling arms to the Bosnian Muslims, who were the victims of ‘ethnic cleansing’ by Serbs and Croats alike.

This obviously anti-Muslim crusade is being dismissed by almost everyone including Muslims, as an aspect of the Greek-Turkish struggle over Cyprus, the Aegean and the Balkans. And Athens is clearly encouraged to wage its religious war because of the acquiescence of Muslim countries. Israel has demonstrated that it can get away with almost any crime against Palestinians and Islam because Arab and Muslim regimes do not have the stomach to stand up to it and its US supporter.

Muslimedia - August 16-31, 1997

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