“Shall I write your name?” “Yes write it.” “And your parents?” “Eventually they will get to know the truth. I did not fall into drugs!”
Twenty-three year old today, Elena Pouliasi is young and beautiful girl – you can see that even under her hijab. It has been less than a year since her decision to accept Islam, decision that cost her enough friends and posed the risk of rupture with her family.” This is my truth though,” says to “K”.
For the past three years, Elena is in England for studies. In her neighbourhood and university, Muslim population outclass in number. “Like most Greeks, I had too grown with the mentality that the Muslims are strict and oppressed people. I saw women with headscarves and I thought that they do not have a life. But the people I met there were quite different.” Her two best friends in London were from Saudi Arabia – she describes them as “incredibly intelligent and talented.” They naturally wore the headscarf. Elena could not understand and neither wanted to challenge their religion. Herself from a little girl believed in God. “I began to read about Islam in order to convince them, to prove that in the subject of their religion they are misguided.”
She began to read the Quran in his Greek translation. “I began to realize that I had learned it… differently. I saw, as an example, love and respect for the women and mothers. Almost unconsciously I stopped drinking and eating pork. I did not know what the truth was and until I find it, I decided to remain open at all. This process lasted roughly eight months. “I lived as a Muslim. I was careful where I go out, I was more careful with the clothes I wore; I stopped swearing, and became more generous and polite.”
On May 15th she officially became a Muslim. The subject of hijab worried her. In the beginning, she wore it outside, but used to remove the scarf when she entered her office (alongside her studies in International Business and Management, she also runs a translation office). “I did not want the behaviour of my colleagues to change towards me. But now I wear hijab all the time. Why? Because it makes me feel better. I feel secure”.
Her decision did not come without personal cost. “It was something that affected my family too. Even though I have not announced it, my mother understands that I have changed. I lost also many friends. The only consolation is that they were not real friends, or if they were they would like to be with Elena as she really is, not only with Elena that used to go out on Friday night and get drunk.”
It is not that she does not understand them. “Most people have a tendency to believe that to become a Muslim you must have been brainwashed.
However, nobody put the Quran in my hands, it was my choice.
They say to me, “but you were born Greek!” I say to them, “but I am Greek.” Becoming Muslim does not mean that my life is over and that I should devote myself in reading Quran, bear children and become fanatical. On the contrary, I get angry with the Muslims who are extremists.” Before we close,” she points out, “They will ask you for sure, if I became Muslim because I fell in love. Answer them that I did not. Most women become Muslims before they meet their prince.”
Many are baptized Christian Orthodox
In www.greeksrethink.com, the global online community of Greek Muslims, you find enough testimonies of Greek Orthodox that at some point made the conscious decision of embracing Islam. Most are Greeks of abroad and, in their narrations, describe rather with gloomy colours the way that they were faced by their families. “This is an experiential, hard road to change your religion and which in any case should be treated with respect,” says in the “K” professor of Comparative Philosophy in University of Athens Mr. Marios Begzos. In Greece, however, we are open only in words; instead there is great difficulty in the assimilation of the ‘other’. Especially Muslims, who in our conscience are acknowledged as Turks therefore there are negative records in our subconscious.
The natural routes between the two religions have two directions. Many Muslims every year are baptized Christian Orthodox in a church of our country, although as emphasized in the “K” Chairman of the Board Movement Citizens’ Coexistence and Communication in the Aegean Mr. Stratis Potha, in most cases the reason is marriage.”For Muslims especially, that is something not easy to reveal to their family.