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Alhamdulillah, we have officially moved to our new and improved website, www.greeksrethink.com so if you are reading this right now, that means that you have visitied www.greekmuslim.wordpress.com.

At our new site, you will easily be able to connect with others in our community through our online forum.  We still our running our blog but on a much larger scale.  Also, you can download our free e-book plus find other resources in English and Greek.

What are you waiting for?

Come meet up with everyone at www.GreeksRethink.com.

 

p.s. This site will no longer be updated so please post your comments on the new site.

 

Source:  International Herald Tribune 

Published Date:  October 2, 2008

 

ATHENS: About 80,000 migrants have traveled to Greece this year and decided to stay illegally, according to the authorities, who say the country can no longer handle the task of guarding the European Union’s southeast flank.

While initial problems with the flood of migrants from Africa and the Middle East who are desperate to enter Europe centered on the Aegean islands, migrants are now wreaking havoc in the capital.

The historic center of Athens has been riven by several street battles in recent months, involving what the police characterize as rival groups, often involved in dealing drugs, from Afghanistan, Iraq and war-torn African countries wielding swords, axes and machetes.

After 11 people were hurt in one such brawl in late August, the police began 24-hour patrolling of the area. Store owners and residents are leaving the busy central shopping and restaurant district.

According to a residents’ group, dozens of people renting in the area have left their homes in the past year, and several stores have closed, chiefly small but long-established neighborhood conveniences like bakeries, hardware stores or delicatessens.

“People are scared and depressed, it’s getting worse and worse,” said Vassiliki Nikolakopoulou of the group, Panathinaia.

The top policy adviser for immigration issues at the Interior Ministry, which also oversees public order, blames the influx of about 80,000 migrants this year.

“Because of this phenomenon, we see more and more immigrants in central Athens trying to survive, often through illicit activities,” the official, Patroklos Georgiadis, said in a telephone interview. “This unpleasant situation – for the migrants and for us as an EU country – has become unbearable.”

Georgiadis said that Greece supported the stricter line on immigration being promoted by the bloc’s French presidency. “There will not be another wave of legalization of immigrants in Greece in the near future,” Georgiadis said, referring to the three programs that have granted work and residence permits to some 500,000 migrants, most of them undocumented foreigners – at least half from Albania – since 1997.

The unrest in Athens has triggered a backlash from the far-right party Laos, whose popularity has jumped to 5.4 percent in opinion polls from 3.5 percent when it entered Parliament a year ago.

“The city center has been taken hostage by gangs of illegal immigrants with knives – isn’t it about time we asked ourselves if we have too many of them?” a Laos legislator, Antonis Georgiadis, said during a recent television debate. He is not related to the immigration official.

Although some on the Greek left have warned against demonizing migrants, the Athens prefect, Yiannis Sgouros, who belongs to the main opposition Socialist party, Pasok, refers to an “explosive problem” in the heart of the capital, where thousands of migrants living in cheap hotels and derelict houses struggle to find work.

“Illegal immigrants are becoming pawns to local drug barons and are forming gangs,” Sgouros wrote last week in a letter to Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis. He added: “Something has to change or the area will become an arena for race clashes and gang wars.”

Thomas Hammarberg, a Swede who is human rights commissioner at the Council of Europe, has criticized Greece and other EU states for “criminalizing the irregular entry and presence of migrants as part of a policy of so-called migration management.”

“Political decision-makers should not lose the human rights perspective in migration,” Hammarberg wrote in an e-mail message when asked to comment for this article. “Migrants coming from war-torn states should be given refuge.”

The government says that Greece grants protection to all refugees, as long as their status can be proven. But UN refugee agency statistics show that Greece approves less than one percent of asylum applications, compared with a European Union average of 20 percent.

According to minority groups, the treatment of migrants from war-torn states as “illegals” rather than refugees requiring protection forces them to eke out a life on the fringes of society.

“Most don’t get asylum or social support and have to find other ways to survive,” Adam Ziat, leader of the Union of Sudanese Refugees, said in a dingy café behind central Omonia Square that serves as his office.

According to Ahmed Mowias, coordinator of the Greek Migrants’ Forum, newly-arrived refugees from conflict zones are being exploited by rackets run by Nigerians, Moroccans and Algerians established in the area for many years. “Refugees are the smallest links in the dealing chain,” Mowias, a longtime resident of Athens who is from Sudan, said.

Police figures show that most immigrants arrested on drug-related charges in central Athens this year were from war-torn states like Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

For most of these migrants, their first stop in Greece was one of the Aegean islands where reception centers are overcrowded and the local authorities are losing their patience.

On Patmos, in the eastern Aegean, the authorities this month blocked their ports to boats carrying passengers from Turkey, saying the number of unwanted visitors on their island had exceeded its 3,000 permanent residents.

The popular islands of Lesbos and Samos, which report getting boatloads of migrants almost daily, are calling on the government to take action.

But, according to Mowias, the government’s failure to create a comprehensive immigration and asylum system is the root of the problem. “When a group of people has no social support and cannot solve its problems, this leads to a crisis,” he said.

Alhamduilillah, we’ve been working very hard to get the new Greeks Rethink website up and running very soon insha Allah!  This is a heads up that once we launch the new website www.greeksrethink.com, the current blog here will no longer be updated.

Don’t worry though, I’ve copied over all of our blog posts and comments, as well as our pages over to the new site.  PLUS, we have some more cool things for you to make it easier for you to connect with others in our community, but I won’t give it away just yet.

Stay tuned…

Q.  I’m simply curious as to why a Greek would choose a religion that is so antithetical to his or her own culture. Beyond that, there are more general questions about Islam and its treatment of non-believers that I, as a non-believer, would like answered. Perhaps you can help.

A.  Thank you for asking about our religion and coming forth with your question.  I will answer the question based on my own experience as a Greek convert.  I know this is a really long post, but please bear with me.

(Special note to the questioner: Before we start, I have a special request, actually two.  First, I need you to forget about your culture for just a few minutes and think openmindely and objectively.  Second, I would like you to make a prayer.  I know you wouldn’t normally agree to this since you are an agnostic, but please, just try it.  It’s not going to hurt.  Turn to the one who created the heavens and the earth (whoever you think that is and even if it’s ‘unknown’) and say, ‘The one who created the heavens and the earth, if you have the power, strength and knowledge to create these, then you surely have the power to show me the truth. If you are out there, guide me to the truth, whatever that may be’  I know this might sound insane to you, but please trust me on this one. )

I’m serious, just try it.

For me, it all started when I was very young (about 7 years old, actually!) when I first started to contemplate on what the purpose of life is.  I’ve never really understood it but growing up, it would sometimes become a burning question that I did not have an answer to.  Without an answer, I would then often drift into “go with the flow” mode, where the purpose of life is the ol’ get a good education, get a good paying job, get married, by a house and a nice car…. and then, well, die.

I first met Muslims in my university classes.  Before that, they were always around me but I just never noticed.  I honestly naively thought that the entire world was full of Christians only! Can you believe it?  I thought it was a really strange thing that anyone would believe in some wierd god, oppress their women and speak some wierd language but I was still respectful to them because I felt sorry for them.

Later our discussions transformed into full-fledge debates at the student cafeteria.  I was their staunch opponent.  I started becoming more and more practising as a Greek Orthodox and going back to the church, perhaps because I felt that I had to defend my religion – everything that I was raised with. 

Without that much knowledge about Islam, it was harder to convince them that they were dead wrong, so when no one was looking, I would sneak into the library and try to find some books about Islam.  What I found were some books that looked like they were published 1000 years ago – they were so ancient, it seemed!  So, then I started to search online as well.  I needed some substantial evidence to prove that they were wrong.

Then everything changed.  I made a prayer that God show me the truth.   I wanted to know and I was so sincere in that prayer. 

I was absolutely sure that the truth would be Christianity and that the Muslims will soon find out but God had another plan for me. 

When no one was looking, I started to step back from my preconceived notions and started to think objectively for the first time in my life.  Why are Muslims so strict about not associating Jesus (peace be upon him) as God?  Don’t they know that we need Jesus to be a salvation for our sins?

I went to visit our local priest and asked him a lot of questions, especially about the trinity.  I finally had the guts to nonchalantly bring up the word ‘Islam’ (for all those Greeks out there, you know how hard that would be!) but as soon as I uttered that word, his eyes immediately bulged out of his head and he strongly suggested that I stay away from those bad people.  However, the problem was that he didn’t answer my questions with proper answers.  It was all a big run-around.

That just left me on my own to find out.  Slowly, with more and more research and evidence, my heart was realizing the truth of one God without partners but my mind was opposing it with all its might.  I just couldn’t even dream of leaving everything known to me – my religion, my culture, my family, my rituals and celebrations- behind.

Then it happened in my bedroom.  I was finishing up some more reading on the subject and contemplating heavily if Jesus is really God or not.  All of a sudden, within a few seconds, I felt something go through me very quickly, as if it was some fresh air or spirit washing out my heart and then BOOM (!), automatically, I felt this massive, I mean massive, sense of tranquility and almost said outoud, ‘Jesus is not God!’. 

Then immediately after that, I thought, ‘How in the world am I going to tell my parents that I am Muslim?’

I know what I am writing is going to be extremely difficult for some to believe.  No, I was not possessed by some devil or spirit.  Actually, I found when speaking to other converts that some of them related the same thing to me (before I even mentioned my story to them).  Now, after knowing more about Islam, I do believe that it was God answering my initial prayer and it was, perhaps, an angel, under the instruction of God, who cleansed my soul of the prior disbelief.

So, this is a super long post – sorry for that- so to conclude, I would like to answer your question, why would a Greek choose a religion so antithetical to his or her own culture?  Well, for a few reasons. 

First, it wasn’t my intention to do so.  In fact, it was the complete opposite but in my search for the truth, I found that it was that God is one without any partners.  I later found the answer to my question of what the purpose of life is explicitly mentioned beautifully in the Qur’an.

Second, after seeing all this truth, my priorties in life changed drastically.  I no longer was going with the flow for worldly success only.  I now had (and have) a primary goal of reaching paradise so whatever I can do to take me there, I will do.  If that is to leave some of my cultural aspects that contradict worshipping one God without associating partners, then I will do so. 

Third, becoming a Muslim does not mean I forfeit my culture.  In fact, Islam embraces diversity of all cultures.  For example, I have lots of friends who are Pakistani, Somalian, Arab, Greek, Bosnian, Canadian, British, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Spanish, etc who are Muslim.  Islam embraces culture and actually Islamic law is very dynamic in the sense that it changes with the people, culture, customs, generations, technology etc.

This is why we say we are Greek Muslim.  I hope that I have answered your question fully and that it has given you greater understanding of us.  I pray that the creator of the heavens and the earth show you the truth. 

I hope that we can create a discussion based on sincerity, honesty and respect.  I look forward to receiving your top 3-5 questions about the other aspects of Islam you have.

Shia Islam

Recently, we’ve been having some discussions about Shia Islam so I wanted to start this thread to organize all the comments. 

I’m going to move all of the comments over to this post so we can continue the discussion here so please post below.

Don’t be sad

I thought this was a nice reminder.

 

(Translated loosely as ‘Wishing you well being every year’)

 

I just got confirmation from our local community that tomorrow,

Tuesday, September 30 is Eid day

Things have been a little crazy in preparation for the big day so that’s why I haven’t been posting as much. 

I pray that Allah has accepted our fast, prayers, dua and good deeds.  Ameen.

May Allah give you a joyous Eid celebration. 

Taqqabal Allah mina wa minkum.  (May Allah accept from us and from you all.)

 

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Oh, and for those of you who gave feedback about me using Arabic phrases (that for the most part are common knowledge to Muslims around the world regardless of the dozens of languages that they speak), here is an Islamic phrase glossary to help you out.  Hope that helps! ;)

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