UPDATE: From the Gulf Times. Marginalised Muslims in Greece are a ‘timebomb’
Also this via the SE Times
Muslim associations in Athens have filed a lawsuit against a policeman who allegedly desecrated a copy of the Koran last week, media reported on Monday (May 25th). Last Thursday, the policeman allegedly took a Koran from a customer during a police check at an Athens coffee shop, ripped it apart, threw it on the floor and stomped on it. Police say the officer did not know it was Islam’s holy book. The Pakistani community in Greece called on the government to assume responsibility for the incident and demanded an apology from authorities. The incident prompted two days of protests by hundreds of Muslims in central Athens. Violent clashes with police on Friday injured at least 14 people and damage several businesses; 46 people were arrested
It has been a tense time in Athens over the past few weeks. At the beginning of May, the far-right group Chryssi Avgi staged a demonstration downtown and took the opportunity to hurl abuse (and stones etc) at immigrants squatting in a building near Ommonia.
Read this article at Athens Plus for the full story
In the last few weeks, Athens took a serious fall down the slippery slope of xenophobia and intolerance. Not that it was unexpected: For over a year, anyone who cared about the capital city and its center – as well as anyone who cared about the fate of illegal immigrants – warned that abandoning migrants to their own devices would lead to trouble. And so, last Saturday, members of the extreme right-wing Chryssi Avgi group (Golden Dawn) gathered to hurl abuse and objects at migrants squatting in the former appeals court building on Socratous Street, a block away from Omonia Square. Chryssi Avgi has been around a lot longer than the immigrants and its members need no excuse for vile and violent outbursts. But the immigration problem has become so serious that we run the risk of Chryssi Avgi’s message of hatred gaining a foothold in the mainstream
As I have said over and over again on this blog, the authorities complete lack of will to do anything at all to face the reality of the immigrant population in Greece, could never lead to anything positive. Ignoring them has not made them go away and the lack of support and respect (for example there is no official mosque in Athens) has only led to resentment and anger. Well, sadly my predictions (and those of many others who have followed the issue) are starting to come true.
Last Friday, members of the Muslim community in Athens held demonstrations following the alleged destruction of a copy of the Qur’an by a police officer. The protests led to clashes with the police and vandalism of cars and shops. Two immigrants were injured and 46 arrested.
Muslim organizations held another, more peaceful protest in Omonia Square on Saturday. In an open letter published yesterday, the Muslim Union of Greece said that any Muslims involved in violence or looting brought shame upon their community.
On Saturday, there was an arson attack on a makeshift mosque
Police said that assailants broke a window to a basement in the neighborhood of Aghios Panteleimonas, near central Athens, at 2.45 a.m. on Saturday and then set fire to the room, which was used as a place of worship by migrants living in the area.
Five Bangladeshis who were in the room had to be rescued by the 12 firefighters who arrived at the scene and were then taken to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries
The far-right must be overjoyed at this turn of events. What better way to incite fear and anti-immigrant feeling than to point to rioting Muslims in the centre of town ? The images were relayed all over the media and those “talking heads” discussions blared on most channels. This was in sharp contrast to past reporting on any of the issues affecting immigrant communities. Anti-immigrant and especially anti-Muslim sentiment has reached boiling point.
If you go to the downtown area around Ommonia, you can clearly see that there is a problem.
A serious policy would have allowed long-term migrants to be absorbed into Greek society while keeping control over new arrivals through registration and the provision of food and lodging until they either received asylum, were absorbed into the work force through a need for labor or were deported. Instead, hundreds of thousands of people have been abandoned to their own devices in a society woefully unequipped to deal with them. The fact that hardworking, law-abiding migrants have been denied rights creates a gray area ideal for new arrivals and people prone to crime into which they can slip. In limbo, migrants fall victim to exploitation by unscrupulous Greeks and fellow migrants – from slumlords to ethnic gangsters.
From the Washington Times
Unrest in Greece’s community of Muslim immigrants is something new, analysts say.
“For so many years, they’ve been scared and defensive,” said Takis Geros, a lecturer of anthropology of the Middle East at Panteion University. “To suddenly come out in broad daylight with their faces exposed and trash 75 cars indicates a massive change in attitude.”
Muslim community organisations have appealed for calm but there needs to be some serious examination and the authorities on ALL sides need to come up with some real and long-term solutions starting with the basics of food and housing.
I will keep you updated on any developments.