Lots of recent attention has been focused on Afghan Christian (and apostate) Abdul Rahman. He is now safe, but we must remember, there are many non-Muslims in the Islamic realm, condemned by Islam to a life of subjugation, discrimination, and humiliation. Here is a brief tale of one such group.
The Kalasha is a Greek tribe, only numbering 3000 people, far away from Greece in a mountainous, remote area of Pakistan near the Afghan border. For ages they have managed to survive and to keep their culture. Though there is a debate if their alleged Hellenic roots are genuine, it seems that they are indeed descendents of Alexander's soldiers from antiquity, and the last remnant of the ancient Greek-Bactria empire.
The Kalasha, having survived thousands of years, now face the double threat of Islam and tourism. Isolated no more, they are victims and targets of Muslims missionaries and of Pakistan's official Islamic intolerance. The Greek government is aware of the Kalasha and has built schools and cultural centers to help preserve this priceless relic of the past. But even with this assistance, it is not easy to protect the Kalasha, an island of Greek culture in an Islamic sea.
A recent article in the Guardian reads:
These infidels shall survive, with our help. Athanasius Lerounis, a 50-year-old schoolteacher from Athens, leads this project. He has to face the 11 madrassas that the Paki Government has opened in the Kalasha homeland--the ever-present Islamic menace. But the Kalasha have survived for 2500 years, and “insh allah” will continue to survive, with the help of us infidels, like Mr. Lerounis. If you would like to learn more about the Kalasha and their plight, follow these links: Kalasha profile—The Lost Tribe of Alexander the Great
The construction of a rocky access road across the mountains in the 1970s ended centuries of isolation, but not all of the visitors have been welcome. Muslim immigrants now outnumber the Kalasha by almost two to one. Eleven madrassas have been built. Two more are being built. Community leaders say missionaries offer money, clothes, land and educational scholarships in exchange for conversion.
"They offer money to the poor and wives to the wifeless," said hotel owner Abdul Khaliq Muhammad Salim, a shopkeeper who converted to Islam eight years ago, said he had a store of free winter clothes for distribution to the needy. "But they are only for the Kalasha who convert," he said. Many Kalasha believe the missionaries are funded by foreign zealots, but admit that the initial flood of conversions has not slowed to a trickle. Gul Bahadar, a 28-year-old mullah of a mosque in Bamboret valley, denied that serious tensions existed between the communities. "We come from the same blood," he said. Conversions to Islam were "the work of God, not man", he added.
Tourists and aid workers pose another threat. The number of British visitors has dramatically increased since the Kalasha featured last year on Michael Palin's television series Himalaya, according to Siraj ul-Mulk, a leading member of the community in nearby Chitral. But little of the extra income finds its way into Kalasha pockets. A string of small hotels has sprung up along the valley floor. Many sport garish cola advertisements and unlikely menus offering macaroni and "franch fries". Nearly all are owned by Muslims or outsiders.
More BBC photos—Kalasha spring festival
BBC article—“Non Believers struggle with change”
Jihadwatch article—Pakistan’s Tribe of Infidels
It is time for all of us to help a unique civilization, and there is not a moment to lose. If you would like to help Mr. Leronis, email fellow blogger Chris Mantas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Chris is in contact with the Greeks involved in the project to help the Kalasha, and if you would like to donate or even volunteer, please let Chris know.