Debate in Greece brewing over Thrace muftis

Debate in Greece brewing over Thrace muftis

The coalition is, according to sources, poised to push through the retirement of two government-appointed muftis in the Greek border region of Western Thrace.

Muftis are Muslim legal experts who are empowered to give rulings on religious matters.

Turkey has in the past insisted that muftis should be elected from within their communities in Western Thrace and not appointed by the Greek state.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan raised the issue with his counterpart Prokopis Pavlopoulos during the former’s official visit to Greece last December.

According to reports, a bill has already been submitted by the Education Ministry which will be debated by a parliamentary committee on Wednesday and will include the provision that the muftis of Komotini, Cemali Meco, 81, and Xanthi, Mehmet Emin Sinikoglu, 78, will retire as members of the judiciary.

The mufti of Xanthi, whose term ends in 2022, has in the past refused to resign, which made it difficult for the government to also pressure his counterpart in Komotini.

Sources with knowledge of the situation in Thrace said the main concern is that replacing the two muftis – who enjoy wide respect in both the Muslim and non-Muslim communities – will be a difficult endeavor.

Sources also said their retirement will also spark a debate with an uncertain outcome regarding the role of muftis in Thrace.

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