Hundreds of thousands of Muslims from countries including Pakistan, Syria, Afghanistan and Bangladesh live in Athens but the city has yet to have an official mosque since it forced the occupied Ottomans to leave for almost 200 years. before.
Plans to build a mosque in Athens began in 1890 but took decades to come to fruition due to opposition from mostly Christian communities and nationalists, The slow bureaucracy, most recently a decade-long financial crisis.
In the midst of an outbreak of coronavirus, only a few people who worshiped, wearing masks and sitting apart due to Covid-19’s restrictions, attended prayers.
Heider Ashir, a member of the board of the cathedral said: “It is a historic moment for the Muslim community living in Athens, we have long been waiting for this mosque. “Thank God we finally have an open mosque and we can pray here freely.”;
But other Muslims were dissatisfied with the mosque’s arrival. A rectangular structure, in gray color, with no domes or small towers, has nothing like the other graceful ornate mosques in Europe.
Naim El Ghandour, head of the Greek Islamic Association, said: “It didn’t look like a place of worship at all, it was a small, square and miserable building. “We thank them very much for the offer, but we will fight to get to the level we deserve.”
Under the ban to curb the rise of Covid infections, gatherings for formal worship will be banned from Saturday until November 30.
“We will pray at home, and as soon as the lock is over, the mosque will reopen to the faithful,” Ashir said.