"Greeks Label Converts to Islam as 'Traitors,' Associating Islam with Turkish Identity"

Mon, 17 Jul 2023 21:19 GMT
Prof. Dr Stefanos Kefokeris said that Greeks identify Islam with Turkishness and therefore Greeks who are Muslims are seen as "traitors" in the country.
"Greeks Label Converts to Islam as 'Traitors,' Associating Islam with Turkish Identity"

Kefokeris talked to AA correspondent about the discrimination he faced from his environment and family when he converted to Islam and the anti-Muslim sentiment in his country.

Kefokeris, who was born in 1972 in Athens, the capital of Greece, to a devout Orthodox family and converted to Islam when he was 20 years old, said that his family showed great reaction to his conversion.

Kefokeris stated that he was interested in the history of religions at an early age and said, "While researching Orthodoxy, I had to look at the history of the Middle East and that was the first time I decided to research Islam. I started asking questions about Islam to a Lebanese Muslim friend at my school."

"My family sees Islam and Turkishness as the same"
Kefokeris mentioned that he decided to convert to Islam when he was 16 years old and that his family pressurised him for 4 years not to convert, "My family sees Islam and Turkishness as the same. According to my family, 'Turks are the main enemy' and I am a 'traitor' for choosing their religion. For 30 years, I have not been able to explain to them that this is not the case."

Kefokeris emphasised that he received negative reactions from his relatives as well as his family and stated that he was excluded in social environments and was exposed to anti-Muslim expressions.

Mentioning that he went to Germany to study at university due to the pressure and exclusion he faced in his country, Kefokeris continued as follows:

"My family threatened me when they learnt that I was Muslim. I had to leave home. They were telling me, 'You have become a Turk'. I told them, 'Not all Turks are Muslims and not all Muslims are Turks. After I left home, I went to Aachen to study. In Amsterdam, through a friend, I met my wife, who is also a Muslim, and together we became even more committed to Islam."

Kefokeris pointed out that his family had not spoken to him for 30 years and did not want to accept that he was a Muslim, and that his parents were affected by the negative propaganda about Turks and Muslims in the country.

"Greeks who discover the beauty of Islam become Muslims more quickly"
Kefokeris pointed out that young people are no longer as harshly anti-Muslim as the older generation and said that he observed an increase in the number of Greeks who converted to Islam during his recent visits to Greece.

Stefanos Kefokeris reminded that Greece had tried to prevent Islam by closing mosques and said: "At present, sermons are read in Greek and Greek in some mosques. Greeks who discover the beauty of Islam are becoming Muslims more quickly. Now, if you go out and say 'I am a Muslim', you will not get big reactions like in the past because young people do not take such things so seriously anymore."

Pointing out that the extreme right-wing and racist groups in Greece have an attitude not only against Muslims but also against everyone who is not one of them, Kefokeris made the following assessment:

"Greeks see Turkishness as Islam. The middle generation and fascist groups define Greek as Greek-Orthodox. These groups also have problems with Catholic or Protestant Greeks. For them, the idea of the Greek nation is Greek Orthodoxy. This is a problem of mentality that we must oppose. I try to explain to people in my country that Islam has nothing to do with ethnicity, skin colour or nationality."

Kefokeris said that in his country, the Ottoman conquests in Greece are described as great massacres and that the enmity from the past affects today's atmosphere.

Underlining that other countries and nations do not view Islam as politically as Greeks do, Kefokeris said, "Greek people say, 'We were slaves of the Turks, we fought and got rid of them. If you become a Muslim in Greece, it is assumed that you will be hostile to the state because it is thought that you are now co-operating with Turkey because you are Muslim. You are always suspected," he concluded.

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