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Athens Finally Has A Mosque

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After centuries of delays prompted by excessive bureaucracy, cutbacks, and protests from religious and political factions, the first government-funded mosque in Athens welcomed worshippers on Friday, November 6, 2020, for the first time in 200 years. Athens, after it drove out the Ottomans in 1833, had developed a systematic hostility towards Muslims. Although several Muslims from Pakistan, Syria, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh have lived in the city for a fairly large amount of time, Athens hasn’t had a formal mosque in many years.

Plans to build a mosque in Athens had been tabled in 1890. But due to stiff opposition from the predominantly Christian Orthodox population and nationalists, and grave financial crisis the plans never materialized. The Greek parliament, in fact, did not approve of the construction of a mosque until 2016. Muslims in Athens had been using informal prayer rooms set up in places such as unused stores and basements, which sometimes led to tension and protests from other local residents.

While the mosque, which is located in a main industrial area in Athens holds the capacity for 300 men and 50 women, only a limited number of worshipers, wearing masks and sitting at a distance from each other due to Covid-19 restrictions, attended prayers.

"It is a historic moment for the Muslim community living in Athens, we have been waiting for this mosque for so long," said Heider Ashir, a member of the mosque's governing council. "Thanks to God, finally, we have a mosque that is open and we can pray here freely."

While the mosque is certainly a “good start”, it is far from perfect. It’s a small, gray, rectangular building with no minaret or dome. The Muslim Association of Greece, however, acknowledges the government’s effort and it is determined to push for more funding that will allow the mosque’s development, leading it to look more like the ornate European mosques.

Source: AP News