NEWS

Self-appointed imam ‘preached hate’ in Athens

self-appointed-imam-preached-hate-in-athens

A Pakistani national alleged to have “preached hate” at makeshift mosques in Attica was arrested in Athens earlier this year after members of the Pakistani community reported him to Greek authorities, Kathimerini has learned.

The leaders of the capital’s 50,000-strong Pakistani community reported the man to the Citizens’ Protection Ministry in November last year. The move came after the self-styled imam, whose identity Kathimerini is aware of but is unable to publish beyond his initials H.M.I., gave what community members described as “a lecture of hate against other Muslims and Christians” at a makeshift mosque in Aegaleo, western Athens. He is said to have given similar sermons at a prayer site in Megara, western Attica.

H.M.I. is said to have been influenced by the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group before coming to Greece. His speeches at Attica prayer sites are said to have fueled concern among fellow Pakistanis as early as 2013, when community representatives alerted the Pakistani Embassy in Athens. But it was H.M.I.’s lecture in November 2014, when he called non-radicalized Muslims and Christians “faithless” and called on the “true faithful” to “raise your swords against them,” that community leaders contacted Greek authorities.

H.M.I. had fled Greece but returned two months later and was arrested at Athens Airport before being detained and then deported.

Another five Pakistanis who community leaders had expressed concerns about are being monitored, Kathimerini understands. Meanwhile, representatives of the Pakistani community told Kathimerini H.M.I. is not the only one to call for the punishment of the “faithless.” Others have given similar speeches at mosques in Menidi and Kolonos, they said.