Migration and Struggle in Greece

Muslims in Greece’s Capital Demand Mosque from the New Government

Posted by clandestina on 11 October 2009


Muslims in Greece’s Capital Demand Mosque from the New Government

8 October 2009 | Thousands of Muslims in Athens appealed for the construction of a mosque to Greece’s new government in the framework of the international congress dedicated to Muslim communities and their cultural identity.

The congress took place for the first time in the country, the national Ta Nea newspaper reported today.

Athens is the only European capital, which has neither a mosque nor a cemetery for Muslims, the representative of the Afghan Muslims residing in Greece told the publication.

He added that, for the time being, Muslims in Athens are forced to pray in improvised “mosques,” such as garages, basements and apartments.

Successive Greek governments have failed to honour their commitment to establish a mosque in Athens for the last 30 years, the Greek newspaper Eleftheros Typos wrote in the spring, also noting that there were over 100 illegal makeshift prayer halls located between Omonia Square and the poor neighbourhoods, between the capital and Piraeus.

“In the last decade, with the arrival of large numbers of illegal immigrants, the Muslim population has grown rapidly, and now more than 700,000 people have to contend with the chronic lack of facilities in which to practice their religion,” the publication noted.

Talks of building a mosque in the Greek capital started as early as 1978, when the king of Saudi Arabia, Khaled, obtained a commitment from the prime minister at the time, Constantine Karamanlis, to build a mosque in the city’s northern suburbs.

Later, in the run-up to the Olympics, the prospect of the arrival of a large contingent of Muslim athletes resulted in a plan in 2000 to build a Muslim centre and a mosque at Peania, close to the Athens airport. The project was later shelved due to objections from the Greek Orthodox Church.

The latest initiative took place in 2006, when the neighbourhood of Eleona, close to the centre of Athens, was chosen as a site for the new mosque, which was supposed to start functioning by the end of 2009. That project was frozen due to bureaucratic reasons.

Regarding the lack of a proper cemetery for Muslims in Athens, the Eleftheros Typos publication noted that many of the Muslims residing in Greece’s capital pay thousands of euros to bury their dead in Thrace or in their country of origin.

Foreign analysts, according to the publication, have criticized Greece for its failure to take proper care of Muslim immigrants. It remains to be seen whether this time the country will honour its 30-year commitment.

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