Athens welcomes first mosque since Ottoman era

27th Nov 2020

Harun Nasrullah

Athens’ first mosque since the 19th century finally opened its doors to worshipers on November 2, finally escaping the mantle of the only EU capital without a mosque.
Greek daily Ekathimerini reported the mosque’s first imam is Zaki Mohammed, 49, a Greek national of Moroccan origin.

Supervised by the Greek state, the 350-capacity mosque, which has neither minaret nor dome, is situated in the industrial area of Eleonas, near a refugee camp. Greece’s secretary for religious issues, Giorgos Kalantzis, told Kathimerini newspaper the opening of the mosque “sends a clear message … of democracy, religious freedom and respect.”

Opposition from the Greek Orthodox Church had delayed the opening of the mosque since 1979. It took years even after the Government gave the go-ahead in 2006. The decision to build a mosque with a budget of $1.04m was held up by bureaucratic hurdles, protests by far-right groups, and legal challenges.

The vast majority of Greeks, 97 percent, are Orthodox Christians. However, there is a Muslim minority concentrated along the land border with Turkey, and tens of thousands of Muslim workers and refugees live in the country.

Mufti of Komotini in Western Thrace, Ibrahim Serif, told Anadolu Agency that the city’s half a million Muslim population resorted to using basements and residential locations to pray.

The first Friday prayer was held on November 6. The congregation was limited to 12 people — nine men and three women. All of them were wearing masks.The sermon, which was read in Greek, stressed the importance of mosques during the time of Prophet Muhammad, saying they also served as community centres.

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