Managing religious law in a secular state: The case of the Muslims of western Thrace, on the occasion of the ECHR judgment in Molla Sali v Greece

Vassiliki Koumpli, Senior EU Law & Foreign Law Expert, Hellenic Institute of International and Foreign Law; Attorney-at-Law, Athens Bar Association

ABSTRACT: Diversity in the sense of multiculturalism –as regards both nationality and religion– is currently a reality in Greece. This phenomenon has no impact on the Greek legal system, which in principle applies to all Greek citizens and all persons residing in Greece without distinction. However, the exceptional recognition of direct application of religious law and jurisdiction –i.e. application without reference by conflict of law rules–  to personal status matters of the Muslim minority of Western Thrace has given rise to important concerns as regards the applicable legal framework and its impact on the Greek legal order in the context of the current international environment, which provides enhanced protection of human rights. The paper provides a succinct illustration of the management of religious law by a secular state, Greece, as depicted in the particular case, also with reference to the ad hoc ECHR judgment in Molla Sali v Greece.


This paper is based on the Greek National Report to the 20th General Congress of the International Academy of Comparative Law (Fukuoka, July 2018) and constitutes a pre-publication version of the author’s contribution to the relevant collective volume on the topic of “Multicultural Challenges and Law” to be published by Springer.

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