Imam Sidi Mohammed Zaki crosses the ablaze dejected carpeting and takes his abode beneath the mihrab.
Behind him, seven men and, in a abstracted room, one woman are cat-and-mouse for Zaki to activate one of the aboriginal Islamic prayers to be heard in the anew accustomed abbey in Athens.
The burghal of Athens and its suburbs in the Attica region are home to some 200,000 Muslims, according to the Muslim Association of Greece.
‘We are appreciative as Greek Muslims that Athens is the aboriginal European basic that congenital a abbey alone with government funds’
– Ashir Haider, lath affiliate at Athens mosque
Yet Athens has been afterwards an official abbey back the 19th century, back the country was still beneath Ottoman occupation, and until afresh it was the alone European basic afterwards one.
On Monday, the abbey clearly opened its doors to worshippers. Although it can host 366 people, due to Covid-19 it accustomed alone bristles to the aboriginal prayer.
“Everyone in the Muslim association of Athens is actual satisfied, and we would see that if the pandemic wasn’t there,” said Ashir Haider, a affiliate of the mosque’s authoritative board. “This beatitude cannot be declared with words.”
However, due to the latest Covid-19 measures, which were aback appear by the Greek prime abbot on Thursday, the abbey charge be kept bankrupt – like aggregate abroad in the country – until the end of November, afterwards Greece went into a additional absolute lockdown on Saturday.
An official admirable aperture is planned for as anon as the Covid-19 restrictions appear to an end.
Covid-19 had already delayed the aperture of the mosque by a brace of months.
Explaining the new assurance measures, Haider said: “Everyone charge accumulate amusing break of at atomic 1.5 metres, abrasion a affectation central the mosque, ablution their easily with sanitising gel, awning their anxiety with artificial accoutrements and accompany their own claimed carpet.
“For those who don’t accept or can’t accompany a rug, we accord them a cardboard one, which they can afterwards actuate of.”
Located in the neighbourhood of Votanikos, not far from the burghal centre and alone a few minutes’ airing from a busline station, the mosque is a dream appear accurate for Muslims who alive in Athens.
“Finally we accept a abbey breadth all Muslims can go to pray,” said Zaki.
“I’m abiding that every distinct Muslim in Athens will feel a appropriate beatitude and abatement that afterwards all these years we will no best feel afraid that the abbey we adjure in ability shut down, because this is government funded.”
Born in Morocco, Zaki has been active and alive in Greece for over 25 years.
“I’m a Greek citizen, I fabricated my ancestors actuality and all three kids of abundance were built-in in Greece. The earlier one goes to university now,” he said with pride.
He was called after an account with the mosque’s board. The 55-year-old speaks chatty Greek, Arabic and French, and has degrees in Islam.
The prayers are captivated in Arabic, the accent of the Quran, but the admonition is in Greek, and – in aberrant occasions – in English.
The abbey is accessible to all Muslims who appetite to pray, irrespective of allegiance and denomination.
“Our imam is Sunni, and we accept adherents of added sects of Sunni Islam within the authoritative board, and one Shia, and all these bodies adjure calm central the aforementioned mosque, afterwards bigotry or any added problems,” Haider pointed out.
The carpeting on the attic came from Iran, while the board mihrab, which faces the angelic burghal of Mecca, was created by an Egyptian artisan who lives in Greece. Although there is no minaret on the architecture yet, there are discussions to add one.
The abstraction of a abbey in Athens has been on the table for over a century, but it was alone four years ago that the activity started to put on beef and bones.
In August 2016 the Greek assembly accustomed the final plans. A few months later, architecture started on an breadth that belonged to the Greek navy. Greek architecture aggregation Intrakat Group took on the project, at an estimated amount of €887,000 ($1.08m). It was all accompaniment funded.
“We are appreciative as Greek Muslims that today Athens is the aboriginal European basic that congenital a abbey alone with government funds,” said Haider.
First official abbey for Athens creates ailment in Muslim communities
In June 2019, Kostas Gavroglou, the then-minister of education, analysis and religious affairs, said: “Athens assuredly has a appropriate abode of adoration for the Muslims who are here, either as citizens of the country, immigrants, or visitors.
“It’s a appropriate for anybody to adjure to the god they accept in. These are actual animal rights.”
The commitment of the abbey took best than expected, partly due to Greek bureaucracy, but additionally to its opponents, including members of the Golden Dawn affair who afresh went to bastille afterwards being found accusable of arch a bent organisation.
“The problems are now abaft us and the bodies who went to cloister to stop it were defeated,” Haider said.
At the aforementioned time, due to the abridgement of a able abode of adoration all these years, added than a hundred makeshift mosques accept been created about Athens. Ten of these that accommodated the all-important belief accept been accepted permission by the admiral to accumulate operating.
The blow are beneath analysis and ability get permission; otherwise they will charge to move to a altered abode or shut bottomward permanently.
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