First mosque opens in Athens on June 7 following years of delays

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First mosque opens in Athens on June 7 following years of delaysIt will not start operating immediately, awaiting a committee to be appointed

ATHENS – Pushed back by bureaucracy and opposition for years, Greece’s first official – and state-funded – mosque will open June 7 in the Votanikos neighborhood but will not start operating immediately, awaiting a committee to be appointed.

Education and Religious Affairs Minister Costas Gavroglou is expected to attend the opening at noon for the facility, which has no minarets or loudspeakers for daily prayers and is designed to house only 300 men and 50 women among the city’s nearly 250,000 Muslims, said Kathimerini.

Led by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, the Parliament voted in favor of a bill speeding construction three years ago but in recent months the construction has been hit with anti-Muslim graffiti and flyers with hate messages pasted on the wall and a wooden cross put on a metal gate.

The opening has been repeatedly pushed back, with the government most recently pledging to have it ready ahead of the Holy Month of Ramadan whose timing varies around the world depending on sunrise and sunset.

Muslims living in Greece have been forced to use makeshift mosques in places such as basements and factory-type buildings, about 70 of which reportedly were in used.

The mosque has drawn fire from ultra-nationalists like the extreme-right Golden Dawn and those who feel offended the Greek capital had built a place for Muslims with 400 years of Ottoman Occupation still a critically-remembered part of Greek history.

In March,  the President of the Muslim AssociationNaim Elghandour, complained the 800,000-euro ($901,028) facility – the cost borne by Greek taxpayers – was too small and he didn’t like it.

He old Thema 104.6 radio that the grey, boxy, nearly-windowless mosque looks more like a big kiosk than a place of worship to replace the unofficial mosques Muslims have been setting up in basements and elsewhere.

“Is this the mosque they’ve been telling us about for so many years?” Greece, he claimed, has a Muslim population of around 500,000 people, which would be some 5 percent of the country’s population.

The government is bearing the cost during a crushing economic crisis as it’s been cutting pension benefits and education and health care budgets.

The 1,000-square meter facility will include a worship area for men and women, auxiliary rooms, an office for the imam and an office for the muezzin.

Officials from the ultra-extreme right Golden Dawn charged with using neo-Nazi techniques earlier protested the mosque and warned there would be violence over it.

The mosque won’t be allowed, Golden Dawn said in an ominous warning earlier from Ilias Panagiotaros, one of the most strident of the party’s lawmakers, all of whom are on trial on charges of running a criminal gang.

He said, “With the help of God – I repeat that – this mosque will not have a good end,” the news agency Reuters reported he said at the time.

While Greece is building and paying for the mosque, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has talked about turning the venerable Hagia Sophia Church into a mosque. It has minarets around it.

Read more at thenationalherald.com

RELATED TOPICS: GreeceGreek tourism newsTourism in GreeceGreek islandsHotels in GreeceTravel to GreeceGreek destinations Greek travel marketGreek tourism statisticsGreek tourism report

 

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