Monday, January 09, 2006

What's Kyriakos Kyrelos doing in Mina?

Greek Haji ‘Reliving’ Ibrahim’s Experience
Siraj Wahab,
Arab News

MINA, 9 January 2006 — He has sharp features and wavy hair. You can say he has Greek features but that is because Kyriakos Kyrelos is indeed Greek. He was a little tired when Arab News met him in Mina yesterday.
“I was born in 1976,” he replied when asked for his age. “I am 30, right,” he asked shifting in his chair.
In Mina, there are pilgrims from over 160 countries. But maybe he is the only one from Greece. “Maybe,” said Kyriakos.

The son of a Greek businessman with interest in the Middle East, Kyriakos is currently doing his MBA from the University of Birmingham, UK.
“I have also done a course in physiotherapy. I come from a business family and we export olive oil to some Gulf countries,” he said. “We are based in Kalamata which is two hours drive to the south of Athens.”

So what brought him into the fold of Islam?
“I had a Yemeni friend in Greece. We were very close. He was the son of the ambassador of Yemen to Greece. I am talking about the late 1980s. At that time there was a war going on between North and South Yemen. My friend was from the south, which eventually lost. My friend had to leave Greece. Ever since we have not been able to get in touch. His name was Ahmad and it was he who brought me closer to Islam,” Kyriakos said.

“I still carry the gift that Ahmad gave me then: a copy of the Holy Qur’an with Greek translation. I was very impressed with it. Initially I would compare the Holy Qur’an and the Bible,” said Kyriakos.
“I was an Orthodox Christian. I find a lot of similarities between the two religions. Even ‘Inshallah’ and ‘Alhamdulillah’ is said in my previous religion as well. For ‘Inshallah,’ the Orthodox Christians say ‘Me tin voithia tou theou’ and for ‘Alhamdulillah,’ they say ‘Doksa to theou’. The one major difference is that we Muslims consider the Prophet Jesus a prophet and they call him the Son of God.

“When I was stepping into Mina I was reminded of the Prophet Ibrahim. He came here first and I was only following in his footsteps. I am re-living Islamic history. It is a great feeling to be here. No doubt about that,” he said.
He said there are very few Muslims in Greece. “There are many Muslims in one particular city called Thraki. But they are mostly of Turkish origin. Because the Greek government has problems with Turkey, the government has not allowed many mosques there. There are some, but they are inadequate,” he said.

Who will be in his prayers on the plains on Arafat today?
“My friends, my family members and everyone else. I will pray for their good health and their well-being,” said Kyriakos as he adjusted the two pieces of seamless clothes of his ihram.
“Being in Mina is such an overwhelming experience. I will tell my friends to come here and see for themselves the beauty and simplicity of Islam. Let them see and experience what it feels like in ihram. Ihram is a great leveler. Rich and poor, old and young everybody has to wear this to complete Haj. The biggest contribution of Islam to the world is equality. And ihram is the symbol of that equality.”

Kyriakos said that in Europe people, especially the youth, have lost their identity.
“They don’t believe in any religion anymore. There is a moral crisis there. Islam can fill the vacuum. It can give a new meaning to the European youth. Let them experience Islam and they will find spiritual solace in it,” Kyriakos added.