Agence France Presse -- English
May 8, 2006 Monday 1:04 PM GMT

Muslim candidate hits back at rising Greek nationalism

ATHENS

A Muslim candidate in Greece's regional elections later this year
struck back Monday against a wave of nationalist rhetoric after her
bid was announced, insisting she was first of all Greek.

"I am Greek and I will not tire of saying it.... I am Greek and
Muslim by religion, I was born and raised in Greece, I studied at a
Greek university," Kara Hasan Gulbeyaz said in an interview with the
left-leaning newspaper Eleftherotypia.

The head of the Socialist opposition George Papandreou announced last
week that Gulbeyaz, a 28-year-old lawyer, would be a candidate in the
October elections in the northeast Xanthi-Drama-Kavala region where
there is a large Muslim minority.

Gulbeyaz is from Greece's Muslim Pomak minority, which counts some
35,000 members, primarily in the mountainous region bordering
Bulgaria.

Her candidacy has angered members of Greece's nationalist and
ultra-patriotic rightwing, who have in the media accused the
candidate of being "an agent" for Turkey.

Salonica's Orthodox Bishop Anthimos predicted Gulbeyaz's candidacy
would cause "problems" and said: "We cannot be united with those who
do not share the Orthodox religion."

"We are not going to offer Turkey co-administration of the region on
a plate!," Conservative member of parliament Stelios Papathemelis
added.

The Conservative prefect of Salonica, Panagiotis Psomiadis, said
meanwhile he "wanted to hear" Gulbeyaz recognize "the genocide of the
Pontics (the Greek minority of the Black Sea) and Armenians"
committed by troops belonging to the founder of the Turkish republic,
Mustapha Kemal-Ataturk.

The leader of the Greek far-right, George Karatzaferis, has accused
Papandreou of wanting to change the administrative map of the region.