Athens: The European capital with no mosque

With the year being 2015, Athens is the only European capital without a mosque. Greek Muslims are fighting to have their own Greek public mosque funded by the Greek state.

Athens: The European capital with no mosque

World Bulletin / News Desk

It's estimated that there are over 300,000 Muslims that live in and around Athens. Up to now there is no official mosque. Like Muslims in Italy, Muslims here pray in converted garages or makeshift buildings. Several years ago a petrol barrel set fire to a mosque two years ago which has now left the city as the only European capital without a mosque.

Muslims in Greece fear for their lives as the the converted garages, basements garages are used for prayers are illegal as legal building for of which during the financial crisis became targets of violence. Despite applications for building of a mosque, no contractor has agreed to the building refused to take part in any bidding process.

The rise of the rightwing Golden Dawn party has perpetrated the attacks. In one incident more than 100 people had protested outside a makeshift mosque, leaving a note threatening to slaughter the congregation.

A Pakistani father explained how his son Shahzad Luqman went to Greece in search of work to support his family.Working as a labourer on an 3am shift he was  ambushed and killed by  members of Golden Dawn who vowed that they would murder the first foreigner they saw. Shahzad Luqman death is one of nearly 800 racially motivated attacks since 2012. The perpetrators of Shahzad were sentenced to life in prison which was the firsr time  in Greek history a racist motive was considered in a murder trial. According to an article in MintPress news, Golden Dawn party leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos has been charged with murder and extortion, among other crimes. 

Members of Golden Dawn have said that they will actively object to the construction of any mosque, a view that is also supported by the Greek Orthodox church. In a report to the BBC, it was said that although the Greek Church warmed to the mosque idea  some senior figures remain opposed.

According to Bishop Seraphim, Greece must preserve its identity "Greece suffered five centuries of Islamic tyranny under Turkish rule and building a mosque would offend the martyrs who freed us"

His stance was beyond Islamophobia, saying that "We are not a multicultural country," the Greek bishop says. "We are one Greek nation and everything else is an invention of the 'new order' and of Zionism. They are trying to corrupt our character."

Although plans were made to turn a makeshift navy barracks to be converted into a mosque, with a builder prepared to construct it, the plans were put on hold.

Closest Muslim 800km away

Mosque aside, the Muslim population also do not have single Muslim cemetery, so thosse who live and die in Greece are generally sent back to their own countries or buried in Western Thrace where there are many Muslim cemeteries, nearly 800km away, which is difficult and expensive.

A report in Todays Zaman explains how the the imam who oversees congregational prayers at a prayer room, Imam Abdelrahim Abdel-Sayed, said that, “I can say prayers for people everywhere, in homes, in the mescit, on the road, but I cannot bury a dead Muslim just anywhere.”

“Of course, this is a difficult and expensive journey. Sending a body to Western Thrace, to the cemetery in Gümülcine, costs around 1,400 euros. And most of the Muslims who live here are people who have fled war and don't have that kind of money. So mostly we gather money amongst ourselves to help out. There's no other solution,” says Abdel-Sayed.

The final washing procedures needed for a pious Muslim who has died are generally taken care of in a prayer room in Athens, after which the trip to Gümülcine begins. The eight hour drive ends at the Kahveci Cemetery in Gumulcine where the muftu in charge then takes over.

Although some Muslims who pass away in Athens have embassies from their countries that help with the transport of the bodies back home. However many immigrants, in particular those from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia and Syria have their bodies sent to Western Thrace after they die, mostly because of the difficult economic situations facing their countries.

Notes Abdel-Sayed: "Even a cemetery that is a few hours away from Athens is sufficient.Immigrants who head to Greece by boat sometimes die and drown in the waters off Greece. On these occassions we have to ready some six to seven bodies at the same time for funerals and then send them off to Gümülcine to be buried. I cannot tell you how difficult this is. We wash the bodies, say prayers in the basement of the mescit and then we cannot even bury these bodies. We send them off to far off Gumulcine.”

With many immigrants who come to Greece after abandoning their home countries due to war or poverty, face the stark reality that upon their passing their bodies are sent so far way, facing eternity in another foreign land.



Güncelleme Tarihi: 09 Temmuz 2015, 19:16