The new “Dar al-Ifta” law approved by the Greek Parliament sparked negative reactions among Greek Muslims because it was prepared without coordination with the Turkish Muslim minority in the country.
According to the Treaty of Athens signed between the Ottoman Empire and Greece in 1913, the Turkish Muslim minority there has the right to elect the Mufti of Muslims, as affirmed by the Greek Constitution in 1920.
However, in 1991 Greece revoked the mentioned treaty and proceeded to appoint a mufti for Muslims, which was rejected by the Turkish minority, who insisted on the necessity of electing the mufti through it.
The appointed mufti in Greece has the power to make decisions about Muslims on issues such as inheritance and the family, but with a new presidential decree published in June 2019, the independence of the “fatwas” on the Greek side has been restricted.
In this context, the new “Dar al-Ifta” law, which the government presented to the Greek Parliament on July 22 and entered into force on August 2, confirms the Greek government’s indifference to the demands of the Turkish minority and international treaties.
The Turkish minority in Greece views the new law as an “authoritarian tool that works to limit the religious freedoms of the Turkish minority” and “evidence that the government does not intend to solve the problem.”
Muslims in Greece say that Athens continued to violate the rights of the Turkish minority and religious freedoms, especially the provisions emanating from the Treaty of Lausanne, and seeks to continue working to transform the Dar al-Ifta institution into a governmental position of the Greek state.
The aforementioned law was criticized for its style and timing, as well as for its issuance without consulting the Turkish minority concerned with the law, its impact on basic religious freedoms, and its hasty issuance after the death of the late elected Mufti, Ahmed Matta.
Greece refuses to recognize the elected muftis from the Turkish minority and insists on appointing government officials to run the religious affairs of the minority.
Athens confirms this position with this new law, transforming the heads of fatwa houses into employees working under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Under the new law, Greece’s Ministry of Religious Affairs is working to appoint a government committee that seeks to elect a mufti for Muslims.
The latest Greek move raises the ire of the Turkish minority in the country because it is working to transform the “Dar Al Ifta” into a government administration that does not recognize any privacy for Muslims.
The Consultative Council of the Turkish Minority in Western Thrace (Northeastern Greece) issued a statement on the issue and emphasized that the will of the minority was not taken into account when preparing the said law.
The statement stressed that the law clearly contradicts the provisions of the Treaty of Lausanne, which guarantees the religious independence of Muslims in Greece, and that the Greek government insists on ignoring these provisions.
He explained that the positions of the current Greek government, like its predecessors, do not tend to address the problems of the Turkish minority in a constructive manner.
“We condemn in the strongest terms this anti-democratic and human rights approach,” the statement said.
In turn, the Dar al-Ifta in the Greek city of “Iskjah” (Xanthi) (northeast) said that the aforementioned law was “completely unacceptable.”
She added in a statement that the right of the Turkish minority to elect its mufti, a right guaranteed by international agreements.
On the other hand, the Turkish Foreign Ministry reiterated its support for the demands of representatives of the Turkish minority in Greece, expressing its rejection of Athens’ attempts to transform the “Dar Al Ifta” into an administration under the control of the Greek state.