Pushed by the European Court of Human Rights, Greece Reins in Islamic Courts

Interview with Effie Fokas –  World Politics Review, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018

On Jan. 9, Greek lawmakers voted to limit the power of Islamic courts operating in the country’s Western Thrace region, on its border with Turkey. The new law upends a system of maintaining separate legal rules for the region’s 100,000-strong Muslim minority that stretches back nearly a century. In an email interview, Effie Fokas, a senior research fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy and a research associate at the London School of Economics’ Hellenic Observatory, discusses what motivated the government to pass the new law, as well as the broader experiences of religious minorities living in Greece.

WPR: What drove the Greek parliament’s decision to limit the powers of Islamic courts operating in the Western Thrace region?

Effie Fokas: The timing of the bill’s announcement made rather conspicuous the connection to a pending case against Greece before the European Court of Human Rights. On Dec. 6, the court heard the case of Chatitze Molla Sali, a Muslim woman in Western Thrace whose husband’s will bequeathed her his estate. The will, however, was contested by the deceased’s sisters on the grounds that for members of the Muslim community in Western Thrace, Islamic law, according to which two-thirds of the estate would go to the sisters, prevails over Greek civil law in matters of inheritance. Greece’s highest court ruled in the sisters’ favor that Islamic courts had jurisdiction over their inheritance.

Western Thrace exists as an anomaly in Europe given the prevalence of Shariah courts over secular courts on matters related to family law, which is a result of a population exchange between Greece and Turkey after World War I and the terms set out in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. The Greek government has already lost several cases in the European Court of Human Rights related to the authority of Shariah in the region and is keen to avoid further embarrassment over an issue that draws significant negative attention from its European partners.

Read the full interview here.

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Religioni di minoranza tra Europa e laicità locale [Minority religions between Europe and local secularism]

Alberta Giorgi (forthcoming 2018)

Milano: Mimesis

This book concerns the place of minority religions in Italy, against the scenario of the processes that characterize contemporary societies – secularization, laicization, Europeanization, immigration – and of the tensions that they trigger or bring to light. Does the process of secularization have the same effects for the different religious communities – their internal organization, their ways of understanding and expressing the faith and the religious, how they are dealt with in the public and the political spheres? What is the configuration of secularism, in the sense of separation between religious and political institutions, in the light of the transformations of the contemporary religious?

And what is the impact of the Europeanization process? In particular, how does the redistribution of competences to supra- and sub-national governments impacts on the geometries of secularism? Does Europeanization have a secularizing effect? How the ‘religious’ dimension of immigration is dealt with, from an intersectional point of view?

These are the questions that orient the volume. In particular, specific attention is given to the complex interweaving (local, national and international) of laws, norms, regulations and jurisprudence which constitute the normative scenario of minority religions in Italy.

Drawing mainly on data collected in the framework of the ERC project “Grassrootsmobilise Directions in Religious Pluralism in Europe – Examining Grassroots Mobilisations in the Shadow of European Court of Human Rights Religious Freedom Jurisprudence” the volume is structured in five chapters.

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