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Poverty Bites Greek Muslim Village

Published: 24/01/2012 01:47:22 PM GMT
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KOMOTINI, Greece - A visit to Muslim-majority village of Komotini in northeastern Greece is like a journey to the past where residents still hold the f (more)

KOMOTINI, Greece - A visit to Muslim-majority village of Komotini in northeastern Greece is like a journey to the past where residents still hold the flavor of the glorious days of the Ottoman Empire.  

“This house is more than 150 years,” Recep Pacaman, a resident in Komotini village in the Thrace province, told National Public Radio (NPR).

In the village, houses and streets are still carved with Ottomanic slogans and  words.

By the collapse of the once glorious empire after the first World War, a conflict between the Greeks and Turks ended by a peace treaty which allowed about 100,000 Turks to stay in Greece.

Pacaman's family was among them.

“You can see, you can feel this. It's from Ottoman Empire,” he said, describing his home.

Not only buildings.

It is very regular to see Muslim men wearing prayer caps and women donning hijab.

The sound of Azan (prayer call) also rings out from the minarets which dot the skyline in Komotini.

The village also has its own Mufti, Cemali Metzo, who applies Islamic Shari`ah among its Muslim residents to issues related to family matters and inheritance.

Metzo studied Islamic law in Saudi Arabia and now heads the Shari`ah court in the village.

The Ottoman Empire lasted from 1299 to November 1, 1922.

At the height of its power (16th-17th century), the Ottoman Empire spanned three continents, controlling much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa.

It contained 29 provinces and numerous vassal states, some of which were later absorbed into the empire, while others gained various types of autonomy during the course of centuries.

The empire also temporarily gained authority over distant overseas lands through declarations of allegiance to the Ottoman Sultan and Caliph.

After its collapse, the Ottoman Empire was succeeded by the Republic of Turkey, which was officially proclaimed on October 29, 1923.


Yearning to the flourishing days of their village, the Muslim population of Komotini complain of biting poverty. “In the past years, we didn't have the opportunities or the education to go to a Greek university because we learned nothing,” lawyer Halil Mustafa, who went to university in Turkey, told NPR.

He said the Muslim minority of Thrace suffer from big problems as bleak job market and bad schools.

Komotini is home to a sizeable Turkish-speaking Muslim minority, which constitutes 50% of the city's population.

Muslims make about 1.3 percent of the population in overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian Greece, according to the CIA Facts Book.

Athens alone is home to an estimated 100,000 Muslims of Albanian, Egyptian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Moroccan, Syrian and Nigerian backgrounds.

Anti-Muslim tide has been on the rise in debt-hit Greece, which is battling a growing recession that has brought thousands of job layoffs, in recent months.

In November 2010, Muslims holding an open-air prayer near the city centre in Athens to celebrate `Eid Al-Adha, were harassed by local residents who threw eggs at them and blared loud music from windows.

Reproduced with permission from