In2 STRATFOR : Greece,Muslims,Extremism…



Protests arranged by Muslim migrants along with migrant advocacy groups, which began in Athens on May 29 and have the potential to last throughout the weekend, bear close watching. The demonstration follows similar protests by around 2,000 Muslim immigrants, mainly from South Asian and Middle Eastern countries and in their 20s and 30s, last week in response to allegations that a Greek policeman intentionally damaged a Koran during an identity check of migrants. The demonstrations turned violent, with an estimated 100 protesters tussling with the police, who dispersed the crowd with tear gas and eventually arrested 40 of the demonstrators. 

While turnout for the fresh batch of demonstrations planned to last throughout the weekend could match or exceed numbers seen last week, STRATFOR does not expect these protests to draw the significantly expanded numbers of Muslim demonstrators anticipated by some media outlets. This can be attributed to the diversity of Greece’s Muslim community. Still, various left- and right-wing Greek groups could use the Muslim protests as cause to restart their battle against one another. Already, a radical right-wing group has staged counterdemonstrations to mark the May 29, 1453, fall of Constantinople to the Turks.

At slightly more than 800,000, Muslims make up nearly 10 percent of Greece’s population. Muslims in Greece fall into three broad categories: Albanian migrants (the largest subgroup at nearly 450,000), Thracian Muslims of varying ethnicities (numbering around 150,000 and mainly concentrated in the Thrace region of northeastern Greece near the Turkish border), and migrant Muslims from South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa (whose numbers are unknown, as many are undocumented). The Albanian migrants have been coming to Greece from Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo since the geopolitical shifts in the region of the early 1990s. The Thracian Muslims are of Turkish, Slavic or Roma ethnicity, and were left behind after population exchanges between Turkey and Greece following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1922.

 It is the third group, many of whose members are illegal immigrants, that is staging the current protests.

While the Albanian and Thracian Muslims certainly have grievances of their own against Athens, they are unlikely to join with migrant Muslims to express them. The Albanian minority in Greece (along with Albanians in general) for the most part define themselves by their ethnicity, culture and unique language; only rarely (and tangentially) do Albanians use Islam as a key identifier. Meanwhile, Thracian Muslims are either of Turkic, Slavic or Roma descent and therefore are culturally and ethnically (not to mention geographically, Thrace being far removed from Athens where most migrant Muslims live) disconnected from the protesters. It is highly unlikely that the first two groups will risk being equated by the general Greek population with radical Islam by joining protests spearheaded by the migrant Muslim population. Therefore, numbers cited in media reports of up to 700,000 Muslims in Athens protesting come May 29-31 are almost certainly blown out of proportion by conflating Albanian and Thracian Muslims with Greece’s very different migrant Muslims from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Syria and Somalia. 

The planned protests should therefore not be compared with rioting by Muslims in France, like the periodic outbursts of violence and social angst in the predominately Muslim banlieues of France. Though these Muslim-dominated French communities resemble the Athens demonstrators in that they are often disenfranchised youths, more often then not the French protesters have lived in France for years — often generations — and are French citizens. The Greek protests are more likely to resemble the protests that sprang across of Europe during the Danish cartoon controversy, where recent Muslim immigrants lashed out in response to what they perceived to be a cultural and religious discrimination.

While Greece already has faced numerous protests triggered by a December 2008 police shooting of a 15-year-old Greek youth, the underlying cause of those riots was the global economic recession and anti-government sentiment, especially by the radical left-wing and anarchist elements. Since then, left-wing, right-wing and anarchist groups have taken turns sowing violence in Greece, either through targeted attacks against each other or by various bombings against banking (a favorite target of anarchist groups) and migrant (a favorite target of the radical right groups) centers. These ideological groups represent the key social division in Greece, and while Muslims migrants may find sympathy from some left-wing groups, this is likely to be only temporary (and as a result of the left’s search for a lever to use against its right-wing opponents). If violence continues, intensifying and spreading, this most likely will be because it coalesces into right-left conflict and loses its “Muslim” character. 

A final element to consider is the potential geographic diffusion of protests, a quintessentially European phenomenon, into broader demonstrations and violence across Europe. As Europe enters a “summer of rage,” the protests could set off counter demonstrations, particularly from radical right-wing groups, not just in Greece but across the region. This is especially a possibility in countries that have only recently become migrant destinations, like Greece, Italy, or Central European states like Hungary, Slovakia and Poland. These states do not have the institutional history and experience dealing with high numbers of migrants, nor with targeted xenophobic violence that West European states — which lived through waves of anti-immigrant violence throughout the post-World War II period — have.

STRATFOR will closely monitor the situation as it develops. The key aspect to watch is whether these demonstrations coalesce into larger or more violent protests, not involving the other two Muslim subgroups in Greece, but by right- and left-wing groups — particularly radical right-wing anti-immigrant groups — in what is already a tense economic and social climate.



  1. Alfie says:

    This Washington Times piece is being used as proof that the Greek Muslims are in full revolution/jihad mode. the money shot being

    How can you control enraged 20-year-old Afghans who will hit the streets seeking to die in the name of Allah?” asked Naim al-Ghandour, president of the Muslim Union of Greece.

    If one reads the rest of the article one will come across other parts such as

    Muslim leaders in Greece have distanced themselves from the violence, but are seeking a formal apology from police while warning that they are on the verge of losing control over their communities.


    “If this situation continues as it is now, we will probably address it,” said church spokesman Gabriel Papanikolaou, “but at the moment, it is a purely social issue, and we’re hoping it will remain at that.”

    Nevertheless, Archbishop Ieronymos, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians in Greece, spoke out for freedom of religion in comments that also stressed that “any expression of violence in the name of any religion is absolutely to be condemned because it deeply transgresses the core of religion.”


    Greece’s Muslim communities have largely condemned the rioting while also warning that the situation could spiral out of control.
    “If you think that by pillaging the businesses and properties of our fellow citizens, we will react … you are terribly mistaken,” announced the Filotita group, a government-recognized body that represents Greece’s estimated indigenous Muslim minority of 100,000 people.

    Also worthy of note is the WT writers previous articles from the original source regarding the incidents.
    Anarchist attacks on the rise in Greece
    and Muslim anger ignites violent new response

  2. Carrying water for the poor ol’ “immigrants” as well I see.
    And once again, no hat tip. 🙂

    Alfie says….How exactly do you deserve a hat tip ? Oh yeah assailing my previous posting thus causing me to go out and get even more truth to post. Cool TIP. happy? 🙂

  3. Elric66 says:

    I love the childish addition to my name. Just dont get drunk with all that power. 🙂

  4. steph says:

    The portrayal of anarchists as attacking the state does rather miss the point that the Greek government is deeply unpopular and has been using the organs of state to attack anarchists, et. al., and whilst anarchists have been responsible for violence against the state in Greece; it’s retaliation against a fascist regime, and wasn’t the USA founded on violence against the state?

    On the point about Muslims, I agree. Actually I think that it’s pretty clear that Muslim minorities throughout Europe aren’t unified by Islam as a common cause because they have very different interpretations of Islam, if they are united by anything it’s Islamophobia.

  5. Alfie says:

    Thanks Steph. The linked articles at the bottom of the post have in them some interesting linkage. One called OccupiedLondon was particularly interesting.
    I was spurned more along the lines you see in the latter part of your comment.

  6. “if they are united by anything it’s Islamophobia.”

    “Islamophobia” is a made up term to disparage anyone who is critical of islam. I suggest Fray look up the term in reference on what the OIC is attempting to do through the UN.
    Alfie says:Couldn’t resist.It’s actually kind of catchy

  7. Alfie says:

    Try to jump in2reality for a second E. Throughout history anti behaviors have been great synergizers and unifiers for causes. Steph is actually right.
    As for the OIC and the anti-free speech bit. I’ve been on the right side of that all along.

  8. Elric66 says:

    Ohh they rally around “perceived” “islamophobia”. Steph just thinks “islamophobia” is real. The left are great at using made up terms to divide and to silence dissent. Looks like groups like CAIR took a page out of the Alinsky handbook.

  9. steph says:

    I can’t find that link.

  10. steph says:

    Look up the words xenophobe, bigot, chauvinist, and fanatic, and you’ll find a description of yourself. The word Islamophobia, like the word anti-Semitism, were coined to describe a particular prejudice. Yes some Muslims and Islamic organisations overuse the term but hey none compare to the ADL or Board of Deputies in playing the persecuted minority card. Islamophobia exists are its unifies different ethnic groups with very little in common except a common religion.

  11. steph says:

    Exactly, and often as pretext for some other very unpleasant objective. The truth I suspect is that most European object to Muslim illegal immigrants not because they are Muslim, but because they’re illegal immigrants.

  12. Elric66 says:

    “Look up the words xenophobe, bigot, chauvinist, and fanatic, and you’ll find a description of yourself. ”

    Funny coming from someone who loves to blame the Joooos and of course you had to bring them up like a good little Zionphobe. 🙂

    Now Im waiting for the whitewash post on the latest convert to islam that went on his own little jihad.

  13. Alfie says:

    oops ! it was in the bottom of my first comment not the post. It is in the related links section HERE It had one interesting post relative to this post that was supposedly a copy of a letter smuggled out of a jail by a member of the anarchist groups. Sorry if I caused you to go on a wild goose chace

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