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Religious identity and practice among indigenous Muslims and Muslim immigrants

Research on Muslims in Europe has highlighted the diversity of their communities and the rapid changes surrounding the issue and position of Islam in Europe. Tensions about the construction of mosques in European cities and the politics of recognizing or tolerating religious diversity are all emerging issues in the study of European Muslims. After September 11th, March 11th and July 7th, these issues have become more prominent, closely linked to questions of immigrants’ integration while also reflecting the global politics of terrorism and public expressions of islamophobia. While Western European countries received the majority of their Muslim populations between 1950-1970, Southern Europe has recently emerged as an important destination for Muslim migrants, with new ‘religious townscapes’ changing the Christian physiognomy of its cities.

Within the context of the Southern European shift towards immigration, Greece offers an interesting example since the presence of Islam in the country is not a new phenomenon solely associated with ‘new immigrations’. Western Thrace in Northern Greece is home to an indigenous Muslim population that has been officially recognized (by the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923) as ‘the Muslim minority of Greece’. Some studies have looked at the position and rights of this minority population while recently a plethora of scholarly literature has started exploring the issue of immigration in Greece, specifically looking at the position of Muslim migrants in the country. However, currently the study of Islam in Greece through the perspectives and experiences of both migrant and native Muslims is non-existent.

Islam in Greece’ is an AHRC funded project, based at CRONEM  which attempts to bridge this gap by being the first study to seek an insight into the position of Islam in Greece through a comparative exploration of the religious experiences and practices of both indigenous Muslims and Muslim migrants. The study examines the extend to which religion may be a decisive factor of collective identity (possibly among others), in ways that affect not only the self-definition of Muslim groups but also their relations with the wider Greek society. The comparison between immigrants and the national minority is particularly interesting in the case of Greece, where the Church never separated from the State, and Orthodox Christianity forms a central element of Greek national identity.