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Muslim Migrants in Athens: Religion in Times of Marginalisation

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  • 1. NIA Winter School Muslim Migrants in Athens: Religion in Times of Marginalisation Myrte Hoekstra and Magdalena Boehm January 18, 2013
  • 2. Introduction- Muslim immigrants present from various ethnicities/national origins- Organizing religious life as a minority in a predominantly Christian-orthodox state- Lack of official place of worship in Athens- Increasing hostility and discrimination
  • 3. Research Questions- How have religious practices/beliefs/sense of identity changed as a result of migration?- How does not having an official place of worship impact religious practices?- How is religious life organised?- What is the relation between religious and ethnic identity/organisation?- How do Muslim migrants respond to perceived hostility?→ does it influence religious practices in the public sphere?
  • 4. Fieldwork- Semi-structured interviews * with representatives of Afghan, Bangladeshi, Libyan, and Moroccan community * with imam and female instructor of unofficial mosque- Observation and unstructured interviews * outside and inside unofficial mosques * with shopkeepers and bystanders in the area
  • 5. Findings (1/5)How have religious practices/beliefs/sense of identity changed as a result of migration?Religion as important aspect of (some) migrants lives: something that “cannot be taken away” from them.Religious places often social gathering point for Muslim migrants.Emphasis on unofficial Mosques as means of (religious and non-religious) education.Less emphasis on prayer. Temporal focus on the weekends and evening.
  • 6. Findings (2/5)How does not having an official place of worship impact religious practices?Respondents stress unofficial character of mosques and religious leaders→ however, unofficial mosques are registered by Greek authoritiesProblems with financing (communal donations and voluntary work), location, achieving gender segregation, time scheduleIntensive cooperation with (some) other religious centres
  • 7. Findings (3/5)How is religious life organised? What is the relation between religious and ethnic identity/organisation?(Mostly) multi-ethnic “mosques”, cooperation predominantly based on language similarities.→ this question could not be much explored due to time constraints
  • 8. Findings (4/5)How do Muslim migrants respond to perceived hostility?→ does it influence religious practices in the public sphere?Greek population afraid of fundamentalist/religiously orthodox influence in underground mosquesNeed to hide/tone down religious practices to avoid causing attentionPolice harasses mosque visitors and imams
  • 9. Findings (5/5)How do Muslim migrants respond to perceived hostility?→ does it influence religious practices in the public sphere?Attacks on (visibly) Muslim womenAttacks by fascists on Pakistani mosquesDuring Eid al-fitr (end of Ramadan), celebration in Attiki square was violently disturbed→ Contacts with Greek and country of origin-authorities (not fruitful)
  • 10. ConclusionMuslim migrants manage to organise themselves religiously despite lack of recognition from Greek government and discriminationNetwork of Muslim/ethnic organisations that also have contacts abroad and with government officialsNevertheless, many barriers and constraints to achieve desired religious organisation
  • 11. Limitations and Future DirectionsTarget group: people invested in religious/ethnic organisationMainly “expert” opinions, mainly males, language barriersLongitudinal observation of religious practices would be worthwhileAlso include institutional focus (embassies, Greek authorities)

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