ATHENS – Athens first mosque is still a far-fetched dream for thousands of Greek Muslims, as many attribute such delays to far-right groups’ attempt to keep the status quo in Europe’s only zero-mosque capital.
“When you go to practice your religion… if you’re a Muslim, you go to a basement, if you are Christian then you go to a nice church,” Anna Stamou told TRT News.
Stamou, a Muslim convert, stressed that the mosque would certainly bring Muslims dignity in the city.
The Greek capital was meant to have its first formal mosque finished by April 2017.
When finished, the mosque would be the first to adorn the city since the Ottomans left Athens in 1833.
Dream to get their first mosque started after a law was passed in 2006 permitting the building of the new mosque.
In 2016, the Greek government awarded a contract to a consortium of construction companies to build the mosque at a cost of a million euros ($1.05m).
Construction was delayed after a far-right group occupied the warehouse for five months. The sit-in was cleared in November 2016.
Moreover, far-right groups have attacked dozens of makeshift mosques in Athens over the past five years, including one incident in which suspects locked dozens of worshipers inside a prayer hall and set it on fire.
Meanwhile, Golden Dawn, a far-right party with seats in parliament, held a protest at the site of the future Athens mosque, nearly three kilometers from the world heritage site of the Acropolis.
Those who oppose the mosque have found some support in the Greek Orthodox Church.
Muslims account for nearly 1.3 percent of Greece’s 10.7 million population.
The number has increased significantly after the flock of huge refugee crowds over the past two years into Europe.
Currently, Greece is home to more than 300,000 Muslims, mostly comprised out of the officially recognized “Muslim minority” of Western Thrace Turks and Pomaks, along with ethnic Albanians.