As a nationalist group staged a beer and pork barbecue outside the migrant camp of Diavata, near Thessaloniki, on Sunday to protest against increasing numbers of migrants, the leader of the Syrian community in the country said that refugees need to respect the Greek way of life.
Anwar Bakri, the Secretary General of the Syrian Association of Greece, endorsed the controversial event and even addressed the assembled media while holding a can of beer, saying that Greece is a free country.
“Here, whoever wants to drink a beer, can do so, whoever wants to eat pork, can also do so,” he noted.
“Any woman who is my co-patriot can wear a veil if she wants to. This is the end of the story. This is freedom,” he stressed to the assembly.
Bakri sent an important, and perhaps unexpected, message to the Syrians and other migrants and asylum seekers who have been flooding the shores of Greece, saying bluntly “We are grateful to the Greek people for their hospitality. We must respect Greece and its traditions.”
“We are not living in an Islamic state. We are not in the ISIS caliphate. We must get over the Middle Ages,” he added.
The representative of the Syrian community also claimed that the migrant and refugee issue in Greece is a “huge business.”
He then launched a scathing attack against human rights-oriented NGO’s and the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, saying that “they act like gangsters,” making millions out of the misfortune of refugees.
The outdoor barbecue at Diavata, organized by a group called “Enomenoi Makedones,” or United Macedonians caused mixed reactions in Greece. Thousands took to social media to either condemn the event as provocative or to defend it as a constitutional right of the Greek people.
For Muslims, the consumption of pork and alcohol is forbidden by the Koran.
Last week Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said that it is “ill-advised to add fuel to the fire,” and called for calm. He pointed out, however, that “any Greek can do what he wants in the context of the Constitution and legality.”