Saturday, March 04, 2006

Where do Muslims in Athens pray?

Muslims in Athens wait for city'sfirst mosque
Athens: In a small, cold and decrepit apartment in central Athens, scores of Muslims trip over each other to find a space to pray as rain drips onto their heads from the leaky roof.
The stairwell is in darkness and there is grime in every corner. But for these faithful, there is no other choice.
About 130 makeshift mosques like this, windowless, airless basements or rooms in warehouses, are all these Muslims have until the Greek capital's first mosque is erected.

"On Friday, many people come here for prayer, it's a very old and congested place. We are afraid a slab is going to fall on us, and it's raining [inside]," said Monjur Moshed, an immigrant from Bangladesh.
A mosque has long been planned for the estimated 150,000 Muslims living in Athens but has been held up over objections from the powerful Orthodox Church, and the public.

Government plans for a mosque and an adjoining Islamic cultural centre date back to 1979, with funding pledged by Saudi Arabia. Officials say the government remains committed to building the mosque, but admit it is a sensitive issue.
The plan seemed close to materialising when the capital hosted the 2004 Olympic Games, authorities promised a mosque would be built for Muslim athletes, although they never materialised.

Although the steady immigration of Muslims to Athens continues, mostly economic migrants from the Middle East and Asia, the city remains the only capital in western Europe without an Islamic place of worship.