Noting the under-researched nature of his topic, Katsikas offers the results of more than twenty years' work in this volume. He defines his purpose as considering "the interactions between modern Greece and its Muslim populations from the Greek War of Independence in 1821 to the entrance of Greece into World War II in October 1940," or in what the University of Chicago assistant professor dubs the "post-Ottoman period" of Greek history.
He starts by emphasizing the "massacres, atrocities, and expulsions of Muslims" in the war of independence. Out of that brutal struggle, and quite contrary to other liberation movements,
the Christian religion was widely regarded as the most significant criterion of Greek nationality, and therefore it was often given prominence over the Greek language by the overwhelming majority of Hellenes.
Local Muslims were associated with the Ottoman empire and seen as enemies in principle, though their actual treatment depended more on a Muslim's actions, whether pro- or anti- the new Greek state.
Then, in part to appease the adoring Philhellenes in western Europe, the Greek state adopted quite liberal norms towards its tiny Muslim minority. But those were more theoretical than practical in a population of 2,500 that proceeded to dwindle to nearly nothing. The town of Chalkida had 1,500 Muslims in 1832, less than 100 in 1877, and 4 in 1920. Only with the expansion of the Greek state, starting with Thessaly in 1881 and ending with Western Thrace in 1920, did many more Muslims come under Greek rule. This culminated with the great population exchange of the post-World War I period when some 500,000 Muslims left for the dying Ottoman Empire.
That empire had developed a millet system in which non-Muslim religious minorities managed their communal affairs, notably the schools, taxes, and laws. Ironically, the Greeks who had suffered under this order, then went on to apply a version of it to their own Muslim minority, signifying that Shari'a was applied in Greece. Two hundred years later, that order remains in place, despite its wholesale variance from and frequent contradiction to the laws of Greece and of the European Union. No changes, however, seem likely without Turkey's agreement, a distant prospect in an era of protracted tensions between the two governments.