First new mosque in Athens since Ottoman Empire to open in April

Athens, March 6, 2019

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There has been no official mosque in Athens since Greece was liberated from the Ottoman Empire in 1821, though historical mosques survive as museums. However, nearly two decades of debate and planning are set to culminate in the opening of a new mosque in April, reports TASS.

The mosque is being built on the territory of the former central parking lot of the Greek navy in the Athenian district of Votanikos. The imam will be elected by the administrative council and appointed by the Ministry of Education. Sermons will be mainly in Greek, though perhaps sometimes in English, the Secretary General of the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs explained, though the prayers will be read in Arabic.

The mosque will open at times of prayer and remain open all day on major Islamic holidays.

However, not all Muslims are happy about the new mosque. There is no minaret or loudspeaker to call Muslims to prayer, and the building looks like a large pavilion, says Naim El Gadur, the Chairman of the Muslim Union of Greece. The building can hold about 300 men and 50 women.

The opening of the mosque has been a long time coming. The Greek government announced in 2002 that there would be a mosque by the time of the 2004 Olympics, that the plan never came to fruition. The decision to build a mosque in Greece was made again in 2013 and a plot of land was allocated on the territory of the now unused naval base. However, Greeks have continually protested the project since then and there will be no minarets, as a concession to the Greek public.

Zealous Greeks have hung crucifixes and spray painted “Orthodoxy or Death” at the walled-off construction site, reports the Financial Times.

The possibility of mosques in Greece have been a regular bargaining chip on the part of Turkish President Erdogan in discussions about the possibility of reopening the Orthodox Halki Seminary in Turkey. The seminary could be reopened in exchange for a mosque in Thessaloniki, he said in May 2015, though His Eminence Metropolitan Anthimos of Thessaloniki had previously said he was against the presence of Islam in the city.

More recently, Erdogan told Greek Prime Minister Tsipras that the mosque in Athens should have minarets if they want to reopen the Halki Seminary.

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