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May 22, 2013
May 22, 2013

The ugly truth about the religious freedoms in Greece

Author: Anda Psarra Translator: annitagrn
Source: EfSyn  Category: Antifascism
This article is also available in: eselpt-ptfrit
The ugly truth about the religious freedoms in Greece

In State Department’s ascertainments for 2012 attention is called to Golden Dawn’s clearly anti-Semitic and racist actions.

The State Department’s scathing report of 2012 for the religious freedom in Greece has no precedent, but it seems it is going to have a bright future. This could have been a good reason for bishop Amvrosios mournfully ringing the bells of fanaticism, instead of becoming himself the cause for another humiliating report for religious tolerance next year.

Despite the report’s correct indication for the Greek Constitution’s provisions about religious tolerance, it also points out the restrictions and the societal discrimination against other, non-Orthodox, religious groups.

The report makes of course reference to Golden Dawn’s open anti-Semitic and racist conduct, along with the violent attacks against individuals. The Greek Orthodox Church’s influence in the social, political and economic sphere is also highlighted, as well as the suspicion with which non-Orthodox Greek citizens are treated, especially the members of the Muslim minority in Thrace.

Privileges

The report makes a brief description of the non-separation of Church and State stating that: “The government extends to the Orthodox Church privileges and prerogatives that are not extended routinely to other religious groups. The government pays for salaries and religious training of Orthodox clergy, partially finances the maintenance of Orthodox Church buildings and provides a tax exemption for the Orthodox Church’s property revenues. Orthodox religious instruction in primary and secondary schools, at government expense, is mandatory for all students, although non-Orthodox students may be exempted upon request”. The report also makes extensive reference to the government-appointed muftis (Islamic jurists) and their allowed services, as well as to the enforcement of Sharia law in family law.

Furthermore the report refers to the issue of blasphemy, which is selectively punishable and to the essentially inactive compliance of Greece to the right to conscientious objection. It talks about the arrest of a 27-year-old man who was charged with blasphemy and insulting religion for setting up a Facebook page using the name “Pastitsios”, as a mock of the name of a legendary Mount Athos monk.

It’s strongly emphasised the fact that Golden Dawn, an openly anti-Semitic and xenophobic political party, was elected to the national parliament for the first time with almost 7% of the vote.

“Party leader Nikos Michaloliakos publicly and repeatedly denied the Holocaust and often gave Nazi salutes at public events. Passages from the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” were read inside the Greek parliament”.

National organisations call on the authorities to do more to counter Golden Dawn’s anti-Semitic rhetoric and violent actions.

Finally, it gleans specific incidents:

  • Arsonists attacked several places of worship, including informal mosques in the city centre of Athens and Jehovah’s Witnesses houses of worship in Thessaloniki, Igounenitsa, and Serres. Police investigated all cases, but did not identify the perpetrators. 
  • There were numerous reports of anti-Muslim incidents. In March vandals painted graffiti, stating “The best Turk is the dead Turk” on the walls of a Bektashi (Islamic Sufi order) tomb in Xanthi. 
  • Golden Dawn party members on motorcycles chanted racist slogans in Muslim villages on several occasions. 
  • There were reports of harassment and increasingly violent physical attacks against individuals perceived to be immigrants and refugees, many of whom were Muslim. 
  • The Racist Violence Recording Network documented attacks against 190 victims from October 2011 to December 2012, but the total number was believed to be higher because migrants without legal status often feared reporting such incidents.

Anti-Semitism

  • Expressions of anti-Semitism increased after Golden Dawn members entered parliament. 
  • The July issue of the newspaper Eleftheri Ora, associated with the Golden Dawn party, included copies of a booklet on the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” with an introduction by Father Eustathios Kollas, honorary president of the Greek Orthodox Priests Association. 
  • The Court of Athens postponed until May 2013 the trial of journalists and Jewish community representatives sued in 2007 by author Kostas Plevris for defamation. The activists had publicly criticised the judges who vacated Plevris’ conviction for inciting hatred and racial violence with his book The Jew – The Whole Truth. (Editor’s note: the above trial is fixed for today). 
  • The ambassador and other U.S. officials met with senior government officials, including the secretary general for religions, municipal leaders and members of parliament, to promote religious tolerance and diversity and to urge the government to speak out more strongly against the anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric and violent actions of Golden Dawn.

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