Muslims in Greece: The challenges Balkan Muslims face (part 4)
Balkan Muslims in Greece
The world still remembers the Greek’s systematic massacre of the Balkan Muslims Cham community known as the Chameria Genocide. Nobody can forget the sufferings of Muslims in Greece. Though, Greece denies the atrocities they committed during the Chameria Genocide which took place after world war II. Most of the military and court-related documentary proofs have been destroyed after and during the massacre to distort history.
After world war II, 30,000 ethnic Albanians were banished from the Chameria Northern Greece region through forced migration to Albania. Many died on the Greek-Albanian border while fleeing.
Even the Cham Muslims were not integrated into the Greek state after the Balkan Wars. They were counted separately from their Christian generations. Muslim Chams were placed along with Muslim Turks residing in Greece. Therefore, they were transferred to Turkey during the Greek-Turkish population exchange in 1923.
The threat for Muslims in Greece
Today more than half a million Albanians in the Chameria area of Greece live under a great threat of assimilation. The Cham community in Albania demand compensation for the property they left behind in Greece. They also demand a state apology for the ethnic cleansing against them.
Greece joined the EU in 1981 and it is also a member of NATO. It has the worst economic conditions as compared to its past when it joined the EU. Turkey can support the educational, religious, and cultural advancement of Balkan Muslims living in Greece as a minority.
Balkan Muslims and Bulgaria
The population of Muslims in Bulgaria has increased from 7.8 % as per the 2011 Census to 15% in 2017. Muslims are in minority after Christians and the Balkan Muslims ethnic groups are Turks, Roma, and Bulgarians.
The Bulgarian constitution doesn’t clearly mention minorities; it only says “citizens whose mother tongue is not Bulgarian” (article 36). It further says that everyone has the right to “develop their own culture in accordance with their ethnic affiliation, which is endorsed and guaranteed by the law” (article 54). Therefore, the constitution of Bulgaria which was adopted in 1991 has no reference to minorities.
Due to its communist background, traditionally, Bulgaria has been suppressing Muslims. It has never respected the Pomaks and Muslim Turks. The Bulgarian parliament has termed the wearing of Burqa illegal for women. Muslims complain of certain discriminations based on religion while other people protest against the Islamization of Bulgaria.
Bulgaria is a member of both NATO and the EU. The EU minority’s values can assist Muslims in Bulgaria but religious organizations can help save Muslims from religious and cultural assimilation.
Balkan Muslims and North Macedonia
Macedonia came into existence after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. It had the least developed economy as compared to the other states. It also inherited some problems with its neighbors like naming issue with Greece and church issue with Serbia and language and nationality dispute with Bulgaria. The country name has already been changed to North Macedonia and is trying to develop its own identity.
Muslims constitute one-third of the country’s total population as per the 2002 Census which has been reportedly increased. They consist of Albanians, Turks, Bosniaks, and Romania ethnic groups in North-Macedonia.
As new mosques and Islamic institutes have not been constructed, so there is a danger of Muslim cultural erosion in the country. The Islamic Community of North Macedonia criticizes the government for providing funding, and free property for the construction of churches but not such facilities are available for the construction of mosques.
(To be continued)
(Written by Ijaz Ali, a freelance journalist from Pakistan. He holds a Master Degree in European Studies from Germany and can be reached at [email protected])