Thursday, 18 November 2010

Muslims flex their muscles in Athens

I’ve translated into English the piece below by Stavros Lygeros, which originally appeared in Kathimerini, regarding Tuesday’s takeover by Muslims of squares and other landmarks in central Athens ostensibly to pray but in reality, as Lygeros points out, to demonstrate in as public and provocative a way as possible their intention to assert Islam in Greece.

Another form of ‘occupation’
It was only a matter of time before we were witness to this outcome of mass illegal immigration to Greece. Muslims publicly praying at the gateway to Athens University and other landmarks in central Athens was not just a protest at the failure to build a mosque in the capital. It was also a peaceful yet powerful show of strength. The Muslims declared that not only are they here, but that they are determined to dynamically project their cultural and religious identity in the Greek public space.

The ruling elite were happy so long as the Muslims scraped by ghettoised in the basement of society, the underpaid manpower of the black economy; but they didn’t appreciate that the collective expression of Muslims as a community was only a matter of time. And, of course, the Muslims exploited for their own purposes the post-1974 state of affairs in Greece that sanctions the occupation/abuse of the public space for any kind of protest.

The outcome was the public prayer at the gateway to the University of Athens, the place that symbolises the neo-Hellenic enlightenment; a place that, personally, it would annoy me to see the holding of a Christian liturgy.

Yesterday, the Muslims crossed the Rubicon. State and society cannot bury its head in the sand. It must establish boundaries, just like in the rest of Europe. The demand to build a mosque in Athens might be legitimate, but it is not legitimate to see such events that alter the cultural character of the city, and give an opportunity for the reactions of extreme elements.