‘There is great need for a mosque in Athens’


Muslim cleric from Greece decries how Muslims have to worship in dirty basements in Europe’s only capital without a mosque

Decrying how Muslims in Athens have no choice but to pray in unsanitary conditions in basements, a top Muslim cleric from Greece said there is a great need for a mosque in the Greek capital.

“Greece is the only country in the EU without a mosque in its capital,” Ibrahim Serif, head of the Western Thrace Turkish Minority Advisory Board and elected mufti of Komotini (Gumulcine), told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.

There are some half a million Muslims in Athens, Serif said.

“These people are praying in basements and unsanitary places. There is a great need for a proper mosque,” he stressed.

Serif said the construction of a mosque is ongoing, but “I won’t believe it until I see it open for prayer. I guess it will take a lot more years to be completed.”

The completion of Athens’ first official mosque since the 19th century, in the downtown neighborhood of Votanikos, is set for the end of this year, according to plan.

Mosques endangered

Serif also said some masjids or smaller mosques in Alexandria, Veroia as well as Thessaloniki and Didimoteicho, Evros were closed down by Greek authorities.

“People there first opened an association and then masjids under the same roof with the association to pray. These masjids were closed.”

Serif said the official reason for the closures was that they lacked proper fire exits, but added that there are no facilities that meet that standard.

Furthermore, Serif said many Ottoman monuments in Greece are doomed to disappear, including recently collapsed mosques on the southern islands of Rhodes and Kos.

He said that while the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) repairs many Ottoman monuments in the Balkans, they are barred from doing so in Greece.

“For example, the Celebi Mehmet Mosque in Didymoteicho suffered a fire some months ago. It is historically the first mosque in the Balkans. It has now been sitting there for three months in the same condition. I don’t know what will happen to it.”

Serif said he hopes this great work of art could be restored with the support of UNESCO or TIKA.

“But Greece doesn’t permit this restoration to be done, as I know. And they don’t do the repairs themselves, either,” he said.

On a brighter note, Serif expressed his happiness at seeing Hakan Cavusoglu, who was born in Gumulcine, Greece, become Turkey’s deputy prime minister, saying he recently paid a visit to Turkish capital Ankara to congratulate Cavusoglu.