Migration and Struggle in Greece

“Muslim immigrants in Greece: Is there a potential for violent radicalization?”

Posted by clandestina on 1 June 2009

This is how ELIAMEP’s researchers (see here some info about this Greek foreign policy “think tank”) pose the question… The text of course assumes and adheres to the main ideology of the post 9/11 era: that what governments in the west – the Greek one included – are indeed against is [the potential of] islamic fundamentalism, and thus it makes sense to appeal to them for doing their duty concerning tolerance to prevent it from gaining ground.  Despite this, the text describes accurately although in blurry terms the state strategy under which collective and violent sociopolitical – or sociopolitically motivated, so to speak – radicalisation is the threat and the [promise for more] religious tolerance is the tool for silencing  conscience and discontent.    There are two more “interesting” points about the Left, the Police and how things “work” in Greece, whihc we highlight in bold fonts.  Source: here.



Muslim immigrants in Greece: Is there a potential for violent radicalization?

June 1, 2009 | Anna Triandafyllidou 

About a year and a half ago, my colleague Thanos Maroukis and I conducted a study on Greece’s Muslim immigrants and their potential for turning to radicalism and violence. We found no signs of radicalisation. And no violent radicalization for that matter either. We did note though that Muslim immigrant communities in Greece are ‘growing’ and developing their own social spaces. According to police data, the informal mosques only in Athens were estimated in early 2008 to be at least 55. Journalists we interviewed raised this number up to 70 or 140 prayer rooms. Severe anti-American and anti-Western rhetoric is indeed heard in mosques. However, anti-Americanism is nothing uncommon in Greece, and much of the mosque talk might seem outrageous to the average U.S. citizen but quite ‘normal’ to the average Greek citizen.

In our study on Muslim immigrants we asked questions that are sadly topical these days: How is Muslim social exclusion linked to radicalization and to a violent one at that? What is the role of religion in this relationship? Are socio-economic realities on the ground pushing Muslim migrants in Greece towards radicalization? And what does the Greek state do to prevent this from happening?

To start with, treating religion as the decisive factor towards the potential radicalization of the Muslim immigrant communities in Greece is misleading. Religion is intertwined with real life situations. Whether radicalization processes will be developed or not is a question of socio-economic realities in which migrants are immersed. The majority of Muslims immigrants come from southeast Asia (Pakistan and Bangladesh, Afghanistan) and to a lesser extent Africa (Egypt, Somalia), are recent arrivals, do not speak Greek and usually work in construction, as street vendors, or in agriculture where language skills are not a first priority and informal economic activity thrives. In addition, most of them have found employment with the help of the illicit networks that brought them into Greece. Some are indebted to these network/people that facilitated their entry to Greece and work where they are told in order to pay off their trip. In other words, due to the particularities of the networks and paths towards employment that the recently arrived Muslim migrants have, they are very quickly confined to the margins of Greek society rather than following a path of normalization and inclusion. Their marginalization is first and foremost economic and social. Religion is only a secondary issue in this process.

Second, immigrant communities have their own internal politics which may have nothing to do with religion. A good example is the case of the Pakistani immigrants’ ‘kidnapping’ by the Greek authorities before the 2004 Olympic Games. The Chairman of the Pakistani Community in Greece found a good opportunity to mobilize the local community against the Musharaf regime. The Greek Left lined-up with the Pakistani Chairman against their common ‘enemies’: the Greek right-wing government, the Americans and their accomplices (Musharaf). Indicative is part of their joint press announcement “the government of Greece, and also that of general Musharaf, sticks to Bush, with army in Afghanistan, with provisions facilitating the occupation of Iraq, with full tolerance and understanding in the slaughters of Palestinians in Gaza, with Souda functioning as a base of imperialist operations” (Athens daily, Eleftherotypia 21.07.06). Indeed in this case the motivation for protest was not religious but political. The Pakistani immigrant community (including religious leaders) rallied in support of their Chairman’s stance against the Pakistani ambassador and the Greek authorities (Athens daily Eleftherotypia 13.11.2006).

In this example but also during the more recent protests and episodes between Muslim immigrants and the police forces near Omonoia and Ag. Panteleimonas, the role of the Greek Left has been paradoxically crucial in preventing Muslim immigrant radicalization. The Greek left takes under its arms immigrant protest and engages it into a parliamentary democratic context that although deeply shaken by the events of December 2008 is still functioning. Indeed, this close relationship of immigrants with the Greek radical Left functions as a space that diffuses discontent and constitutes a unique point of bonding between the immigrant communities and the host society.

What are the policies however that the Greek government adopts for preventing possible radicalization phenomena? Police surveillance tactics is the closer one gets to Greek State policies relevant to the prevention of Muslim violent radicalization phenomena. They consist of two practices. First, sending ‘under cover’ agents to local prayer rooms in poor neighbourhoods where migrants concentrate in order to “check that everything is alright” and make it clear to the Muslims that they are under surveillance. And second recruiting informers among the longer established immigrants from these communities that are also involved (with police toleration) into the smuggling of people or goods. Their illegal activities are tolerated as long as they accept to give insider information about what happens in their local community or prayer room. Both of these methods are highly problematic. The lack of linguistic skills (no Greek police officer understands Urdu, Bangla, or Arabic for that matter) denotes that the purpose of surveying these spaces cannot be really met. Secondly, the blunt security approach that the authorities adopt and their informers within the Muslim communities risks causing more frictions and problems than those it is meant to solve.

The only measure promoted so far as a sign of recognition and respect of Muslim identity is the building of an official mosque in Elaionas, voted as a law in late 2006. A former police officer commented: “the majority [of Muslim immigrants] will go [to the mosque]. The ones who are leading will go and that is positive. They will be controlled more easily. And there will be a common expression towards the Greek polity…it would have happened at some point, anyway. We will not be able to avoid it, so let it come this way.” Nonetheless, 2.5 years later the mosque remains on paper as the Ministry of National Defence refuses to move out of the area its storage facilities so that the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs builds the mosque. How surprising……..?

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