The only thing necessary for the persistence of evil is for enough good people to do nothing

Muslims in Athens

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.

Via Kathimerini

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.

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  1. Michael Scowcroft
    May 26, 2009    

    the authorities complete lack of will to do anything at all to face the reality of the immigrant population in Greece

    It will be interesting to find out how many immigrants are coming into Greece.
    DD, you live in Greece so you may be able to answer this question. Do you know how many immigrants are coming into Greece every month/year?

    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

    It’s clear that Greece needs financial assistance to improve it’s infrastructure to cope with a serious immigration problem. It’s OK blaming cash-strapped Greek authorities for the immigrants’ plight but unless they can stump-up some funding out of thin-air during this global recession for accomodation, food, sanitation, medical services for immigrant newcomers, it’s hard to see what else the authorities can do.
    To me, the much larger crime are those societies like my own who lack for nothing financially but exude xenophobia nonetheless. We have a bad record in accepting immigrants from countries in which we instigated wars like Afghanistan and Iraq, and we expect poor countries to pick up the pieces of our wars by taking-in immigrants from these countries.

    In Britain, we don’t lack funding or infrastructure but most of us hate immigrants with a passion (even legal immigrants). In Britain, the only things we lack are tolerance and hospitality, something which the southern Europeans have an abundance of, so let’s get a sense of perspective when pointing our accusatory fingers at poorer countries.

    In Southern Europe, a local will invite a stranger into their home and offer him something to eat or drink (even though they don’t speak a word of our language). In Britain, we don’t even allow a stranger through our front door, never mind offer him something to eat. Let’s not mention if the stranger was black or Asian, let’s not even go there. Xenophobia and Islamophobia is rife in British society. It’s in our blood.

  2. maria yorgakopoulou
    May 27, 2009    

    I have been following your blog for some time- I think you serve an important job- but I have to
    agree with Mr Scowcroft-I do not excuse any of this,on the part of the govt-however, while I have not stayed in Athens for years- I have lived in Lakonia for almost 5 months in 2003,2007-2008- & along time before that, starting in 1977-78, when I first came for 14 months, leaving with a Greek husband- We live State-side, so I think I have a pretty god perspective on both sides.
    Greece has always had her problems, or challenges, some are internal, some historical, some created by our colonizing friends-did you know that we are still paying back loans to the Great Powers that go back to Independence?
    As for the byzantine system of citizenship, I , of Greek parentage, and duly married in Greece, but living abroad for 31 years, still have not been able to obtain it. Tis is not a problem to Greece, solely;my husband likewise can not obtain US citizenship, for reasons arcane & probably a violation of Human Rights. Note, the US is not signatory to a lot of those treaties, & certainly under our last Resident chose to ignore the World Court. Likewise, we hardly process any refugee/asylum applications, especially for those from Iraq who are our victims. As for sex trafficking & other crimes associated with the illegal trade, we are huge on this- all this, including education for Romas, & all other minorities riddled by poverty – have been put aside, while we recruit model minorities from Asia-did I mention our atrocious reservations, how the Indians of Oklahoma are sitting on oil, which is somehow given in cheap leases to white “others”,not to mention the victims of Katrina. Why, here at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst, a lot of our students are not returning for lack of money- this is after they have been saddled in debt-
    It seems to me expat-blogs are a great way to see, view the society. Just remember, you have only a small part of the story. Most of you writing on these blogs have such priviledge- We as Greeks returning can only dream as such- if we return, we will be on National Health Care, suc as it is-& I have experienced that system way ,too many times- but I can assure you at least you have a basis, a presumption of care, which is lacking in the US-
    As for the migrants, our church, is doing her best,thousands of meals given monthly in Patesia alone, with the need being greater, of course-
    Please do not judge us,because we are Greek, or wanting to remain( those who aspire)Orthodox.
    As for our treatment abroad, remember that in Istanbul, our Patriachate is fire bombed regularly,the elderly Armenian Patriach was almost killed recently, the discrimination and state organized pogroms,has almost eliminated the Christian community , including the Ancient Surianis-this is repeated throughout the Near & Middle East-however, there are no voices in outrage.
    Regards to your family. Again we thank you for your work & concern.

  3. May 27, 2009    

    @Michael Scowcroft
    Yes, Greece has some serious infrastructure problems that affect ALL its citizens. Most state schools and hospitals are in a terrible state. There are serious problems of unemployment. Pensions and state benefits are appallingly low or non-existent. The amount of citizens living below the poverty line is astronomical.There is little or no support for people living with disabilities. Many, many issues that affect almost everyone living here. The only way most people survive is because of the tight family network. With relatives helping each other get by.

    So yes, Greece does need serious financial and logistic support in coping with spiraling immigration. Unfortunately, there has been much burying heads in sand when dealing with this issue. There has yet to be any comprehensive policy developed and from what I can see there has been very little willingness from the government to face up to the challenge. They seem to think that ignoring it will make it go away and we are now seeing where that leads. From what I understand, some of the European organisations that could help Greece cope are reluctant to when there is no concrete policy and while the country recognises less than 1% of ALL asylum applications (the lowest in Europe). It is quite difficult for someone who doesn’t live here to understand the complicated bureaucracy (and endemic corruption) that makes it difficult for ANYONE to get anything done here, let alone trying to obtain residency permits etc of you are an immigrant. This is not me being a snobby expat. We hear stories everyday from Greek friends who are struggling to get jobs (when they don’t have someone on the inside!), good state health care, a decent education for their children. It’s tough for people to think about someone else’s plight, when they don’t have some of these basics themselves.

    Greece needs help immediately but before that assistance can happen, the country needs a policy. You can’t ask for money for a vague idea of not being able to cope. You need to be able to identify the problems, have a plan for what you will do with that money and then do it. The amount of money for all kinds of infrastructure projects that has “disappeared” into people’s pockets is astounding and makes the EU reluctant to give more.

    [btw I don’t have actual immigration numbers but there are some readers here who would probably know]

    @maria yorgakopoulou
    Thank you for taking the time to comment. It’s always good when someone who has been reading for a while takes the plunge.It also gives me a chance to personally welcome you to my place. So, welcome and I hope you will comment again in the future.

    Much of the above is in reply to your comment too. I do blame the government and those corrupt and unscrupulous individuals and organisations for these problems NOT the Greek people as a whole. I am saddened whenever anyone gets the impression that I am judging the whole population. That is not me and not my intention or desire. Words have such power and although I am very careful in deciding what to write and how I write about it, I am sure that individual interpretation can give rise to misunderstanding. What I hear in my head when I read back my words is not necessarily what anyone else hears. Anyway, there’s always room for examination and improvement.

    I am fully aware (and written about) that there are countless people here who are doing their utmost to relive the situation in their communities. And I have experienced first-hand the generosity and kindness of the Greek people throughout my life here. I will certainly try to write more about them in the future on this blog. It is easy to forget the positive when writing about issues like human rights. Thanks.

  4. Westernist
    May 27, 2009    

    Mr Scowcroft, there’s no need to beat yourself up like that. Britain, along with most other North European countries are one of the most tolerant countries on Earth when it comes to different religion or colour. Immigrants can live on decent state handouts, there are some 1,300 mosques across the UK as well as many Hindu and Budhist temples and there are plenty of Asian MPs and mayors, even deputy secretaries. It has been dubbed ‘Untied Kingdumb’, ‘United Kaliphate’ and what have you due to the high tolerance of immigrants, especially Muslim immigrants, accommodating absurd demands made by so-called ‘Muslim leaders’, and putting well-known terrorist supporters on the dole, to name a few.

    It’s just that we in Greece can afford to be less politically correct since we don’t yet have enough ‘hate laws’ to be reprimanded with if we dare disapprove of aspects of someone else’s lifestyle.

    Whenever anyone claims that it’s all the West’s fault and the chicken just comes home to roost I always point them to the European countries that have never had colonies in their entire history yet they are flooded with immigrants. What guilt does Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and my country, Greece, have in the colonial project? We owe these people eff all, yet they flock into Europe and when they don’t get the things they think for some reason we owe them, we are racists!

  5. Nemesist
    May 30, 2009    

    The least responsible for all these are of course the muslim immigrants.

    The MOST responsible are the Greek governments of the last 10 years and MOST OF ALL the last government of center-right, New Democracy. This party, kings of corruption have allowed millions of ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS to enter the country. The issue is multidimensinal. The pathetic ANTI-HELLENIC center-right Greek government does not guard the country’s borders. Greece has too many coasts around which makes it probably impossible for all the length of the coasts to be guarded against illegal immigrants. THIS IS WHY the Greek and Turkish government came to some kind of arrangement, in order for Turkey to STOP illegal immigrants arriving with boats to the shores of Greece. Turkey DID NOT do its part in that deal, it is actually beneficial for Turkey to throw all those immigrants to Greek shores. This is one side of the problem. Another side of the problem: the pathetic anti-hellenic center-right economical oligarchs of the government, of course do NEED the cheapest of labour. THIS IS WHY they do not reacet sufficiently against illegal immigration. Their buddies, in large corporations who need a workforce of SLAVES and not a workforce of knowledgable Greeks that demand work rights, take good advantage of the masses of illegal immigrants who will do anything for a minimum wage. Another side of the problem: Greek society, infused with left-wing propaganda for the last 50 years, after the communists terribly LOST in the civil war, developed reflexes that immediately react to anything even remotely refering to issues such as ..”immigration policy”. What is COMMON FCUKING SENSE everywhere in the world, is something that a far-right party asks for in the parliament while all other parties regard it as “fascist”! What we are talking about is an accepted percentage of immigrants. Should the country accept 5%? 10%? How much? The issue is NOT EVEN DISCUSSED in the worthless Greek parliament, because it is a “fascist” issue!!!! This is the point left-wing propaganda has led things into, in Greece today. Let us get to the root side of the story: why do these people come? Pakistanis, Aphgans, Iraqis, Congolese, Nigerians. Because their countries are devastated by wars waged there by the west, or because of economic hardship imposed directly or indirectly on these countries, by the west. Right. Greece of course is not what we would call the mainstream “west”. Maybe we take about 1% part in the west’s bad doings. That’s it. WHY THEN SHOULD WE PAY for what the western countries are doing around the world in their arrogance and power-trip? This happened historically again and again. Greece has been the European shoutheasternmost Rock that Asian waves crushed upon, for millenia. Either in wars, or in immigration waves like we see today. These people of course should stay and try to fix THEIR OWN countries, Greece should accept only those we asked for, in number and in quality. Simple as that.
    Lastly, an issue concerning the muslim immigrants. I don’t think these people have had the time or the will to learn the history of their host country. It is less than 200 years that Greek warriors of the 1821 Revolution, proudly beheaded the hordes of muslim Ottomans, following a horrible occupation and suppression of about 400 years. Don’t you see this is WHY a mosque has not been built yet in Greece? Don’t you THINK it will be more than likely for things to turn ugly if such incidents involving muslims start to occur in Greece now? As i said the immigrants themselves are the least responsible for all of these, nevertheless they are the tools that will make things happen. The real problem lies with the traitors inside the parliament and their plutocratic big buddies, in industry and commerce…