Legal cases

Serif v. Greece

Legal case |
Serif v. Greece

 

(Application No. 38178/97)

31 EHRR 561

Serif was a theological graduate elected to be Mufti in a region of Greece. When the old Mufti had died, the State had appointed an interim Mufti. Five years later Muslim MPs requested that a vote should decide the Mufti post and such a vote elected Serif, who began to officiate in the traditional clothes of a Mufti. He was then charged ‘for having usurped the functions of a minister of a “known religion” and for having publicly worn the dress of such a minister without having the right to do so.’ For which he paid a fine.

The Applicant made reference to Article 11 of the Treaty of Peace of Athens (17.3.1913), a Turkish-Greek agreement that stipulated that Muslims were to elect their Muftis themselves. However, the State maintained that as Muftis had judicial functions, and judges are not elected by the people, therefore Muslims did not have this right. That the state argued that their actions were out of concern for a possible divide in the Muslim community did not in itself give the Greek State authority to remove Mr. Serif. ‘Although the Court recognises that it is possible that tension is created in situations where a religious or any other community becomes divided, it considers that this is one of the unavoidable consequences of pluralism. The role of the authorities in such circumstances is not to remove the cause of tension by eliminating pluralism, but to ensure that the competing groups tolerate each other.’ (§53) Therefore, as the interference could not be qualified as “necessary in a democratic society …, for the protection of public order” under Article 9 § 2 of the Convention, there has been a violation of Article 9 of the Convention.

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