ATHENS – It took years and overcoming fierce objections from nationalists and the Greek Church, but Greece’s first official mosque – paid for by the state – could start operation as soon as May.
Sources who weren’t named told Kathimerini that the mosque’s governing committee will meet soon to begin seeking bids for security, cleaning services and supplies while it’s also going to rent office space for workers and the panel members.
The bidding process is expected to take at least three months and the report said that the committee will hire three civil servants for accounting, secretarial and technical duties to help run the facility that is in the Votanikos district of the capital and can hold 300 people.
Muslims living in Greece have been conducting prayers and other services in makeshift mosques including basements and warehouses and private offices while demanding the government build them an official facility.
The mosque, approved by lawmakers in August 2016 and built in a mainly industrial area of the capital, will provide an official place of worship for the country’s Muslim immigrant community and for visitors.
“I would like to start by thanking Allah that we finally have a mosque where we can pray, we can gather, we can talk about our matters,” said Zaki Mohamed, the mosque’s imam, in June 2019 as the plans were proceeding.
Ashir Haidar, a representative of the Shia Muslim community of Greece, described the upcoming opening as “a dream come true.”
“It is a great gift from the Greek state to the Muslim community of Athens and it is a symbolic work that shows respect of the Greek state to the religion of Islam,” he said.
In March, 2019, the President of the Muslim Association Naim Elghandour, complained the 800,000-euro ($864,296) facility – the cost borne by Greek taxpayers – was too small and didn’t like it.
He told Thema 104.6 radio that the grey, boxy, nearly-windowless mosque looks more like a big kiosk than a place of worship to replace the unofficial mosques Muslims have been setting up in basements and elsewhere.
“Is this the mosque they’ve been telling us about for so many years?” Greece, he claimed, has a Muslim population of around 500,000 people, which would be some 5 percent of the country’s population.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)