Controversy has erupted in Thrace in recent days because of a changed sign at the Muslim seminary of Komotini.
A sign became the cause for rivalries between groups representing two different views for the Muslim minority in Thrace.
On the one hand, those who are Greek Muslims and support the decisions of the Greek State, and on the other hand those who oppose them and are close to anti-Greek circles.
But what happened?
Until recently, the sign of the Muslim Theological Seminary of Komotini had the abbreviated name of M/KO.
However, the Greek State decided to change the label, with full reference to the name “Muslim seminary of Komotini.”
Then, according to sources speaking to Sputnik Hellas, reactions erupted from people who want the seminary to be called “minority” and not “Muslim.”
It is remembered that the Theological School of Komotini, also known as “Madrasas Komotini” or “Madrasas Hajirie”, is today a secondary school for the Muslim minority in Komotini and operates in accordance with the Treaty of Lausanne.
Religious ministers receive their basic education from schools like this.
The profile of the protesters
“The beginning of the conflict was made by the well-known minority circles who were looking for an opportunity to express their reactions.
“The funny thing is that in this case we had a mix between protesters from people who are fighting the seminary and from people who are permanently reacting to every action of the Greek government, always under the pretext of the Treaty of Lausanne,” a person from area with knowledge of the situation said.
“Especially people from the very minority who want to close the seminary because it’s supposedly teaching Arabic culture instead of Turkish, suddenly found a reason to speak,” the source said.
“They allied themselves with the Turkish regime’s permanent propagandists and both went out of their way to accuse the state of distorting their Turkish conscience,” the source continued.
“Their only agony, their only aspiration, is to take society back to the old days of backwardness, to the times when the signs in schools went up and down every night according to the tastes of some factors,” he said.
“Turkey’s goal is the real estate of the seminary”
New Democracy’s MP for Rodopi and former minister Euripides Stylianidis fired direct shots at Turkey for its role over the seminary issue.
Among other things, he estimates that Turkey’s goal is to control Vakoufia, ie mainly the real estate managed by the seminary:
“The problems that have arisen from time to time come from mechanisms of Turkish foreign policy and mainly of the Turkish parastate. Turkey’s main obsession is to characterize the minority as ‘Turkish’ and not Muslim, contrary to what the Lausanne Treaty stipulates.
“But this is impossible to do. The Turks are trying to characterize it as a minority so that through this and the corresponding one in Xanthi they can take control the Vakoufia, the donations managed by the seminary”, Stylianidis said.
At the same time, he believes that Turkey will continue to instrumentalise the minority, as it does with all minorities in the Balkans in order to influence the basis of the Greek-Turkish dialogue:
“If the Turks manage to change the character of the minority, the whole base of intervention that it may have in the region will change. I find it impossible to substantiate a violation of human rights as this has not been the case, especially since 1990.
“In Thrace, there have been no problems with religious freedom. Most of the problems that have arisen from time to time are related to Turkish nationalism.
“The minority consists of moderate Muslims integrated into the Hellenic Republic, with the Greek State fully respecting on its part all the rights, original and standard.”
At the same time, he refers to what Turkey and Greece should do:
“The neighbor must respect what the Treaty of Lausanne stipulates and international law, as well as the cultural identity of the minority subgroups (Roma, Pomaks, etc.).
“Greece has a duty to protect these subgroups from violent Turkification and cannot accept the transformation of the minority into a national one from a religious one.”
The answer of the Teachers
The clergymen appointed by the Greek state, who form the Association of Teachers of the Islamic Religion, sent their own message to the challengers.
“In the last few days, we have been closely following the various announcements on the occasion of the change of the sign at the Komotini Theological Seminary.
“And we emphasize the word occasion, because from their almost identical content (which usually seems to have been dictated by the same source) it becomes clear that their authors are not interested in the seminary itself, but use it to serve other purposes,” they said.
The teachers in the same announcement outline those who would like to see the school to have a padlock:
“First of all, it is known to the minority all those who would like to see it closed.
“Those who tremble at the image of the school’s progress, its organization according to the standards of a modern religious school that will prepare religious ministers and candidates for higher Islamic studies, who away from any nationalism (as Ummah dictates in Islam) will not be controlled from well-known centers.
“It is also known to the minority all those who see the word ‘Turkish’ in the word ‘minority’. And so they spoil their narrative when they see the word ‘Muslim’ as if they are not Muslims themselves.
“Let them leave their identical quests for other places and not use the tools of a six-century-old Muslim school to play their nationalist games.”
And the announcement ends:
“We, like our parents and grandparents, will continue to support the school, which reflects the traditions of the minority and the character of Islam in Thrace, and we will try to protect it from becoming an arena of political games.”
It is worth noting that the institution of preachers of the Islamic religion, which was voted cross-party in 2014, is a turning point for the Greek state “which for the first time tried to end the unprofessional operation of mosques and seminaries” as one of the instigators of the relevant legislation.
“It is no coincidence that Turkey has fought this law to this day because it realised that in this way it would gradually lose its influence over the minority through the religious ministers it controlled with its dependent pseudo-muftis in Xanthi and Rodopi,” he added.