US State Department’s religious freedom report voices concern over Golden Dawn

The election of extreme right Golden Dawn members to Greece’s Parliament led to an increased expression of anti-Semitism in Greece in 2012, according to the annual US State Department’s report on international religious freedom released on May 20.

The report notes that members of Golden Dawn, “a political party openly espousing anti-Semitism and racism and linked to violent attacks against individuals perceived to be immigrants, were elected to parliament.”

The Greek government publicly condemned some anti-Semitic and racist incidents, states the report, though “observers called on the authorities to do more to counter hate speech and the violent actions of Golden Dawn members.”

There were also reports of “harassment and increasingly violent physical attacks against individuals perceived to be immigrants and refugees, many of whom were Muslim,” states the report, while “expressions of anti-Semitism increased after voters elected members of Golden Dawn to parliament.”

“[Golden Dawn’s] official newspaper attacked the teaching of the Holocaust in schools and, on the occasion of a visit by the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, stated that the Jewish lobby and Zionism conspired against Greek wealth,” notes the report, adding that some members of the Greek Orthodox clergy condemned violent attacks against immigrants, while others expressed their support for Golden Dawn.

The report further notes that the Greek Orthodox Church exercised considerable influence, while some non-Orthodox citizerns complained of being treated with suspicion when they spoke of their religious affiliations.

“Members of non-Orthodox religious groups reported incidents of societal discrimination. Members of the Muslim minority in Thrace were underrepresented in public sector employment, and no Muslim military personnel advanced to officer ranks,” says the report.

The report further notes that planning for a government-funded mosque in the Greek capital continued, while some Muslim leaders had expressed their concern with regard to the lack of an Islamic cemetery in Athens, prompting members of the Muslim communities in the Greek capital and other cities to travel to Thrace for Islamic burial of deceased relatives or have the remains repatriated.