According to sources from the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, the capital’s first mosque is likely to open for operation in March 2020, with the State approving the appointment of Greek citizen, 46 year old Sindi Mohamed Zaki as the imam.
Athenians have been nervous and apprehensive of what seems as a ‘normal’ development in most Western multicultural societies, but Greece’s recent history with Turkey and historic memories that are still fresh explain in part their reluctance to see a mosque operate in Athens.
These concerns are only heightened by news of fifth-grade pupils in Bjurbäcksskolan, Emmaboda Municipality who were made to participate in religious education to familiarise themselves with Islam where they were asked to kneel on prayer mats facing Mecca and worship Allah in Arabic, as the news outlet Samhällsnytt reported.
According to the news report, the Swedish class was also reportedly divided by gender and the girls had to move to the back of the room.
“Today my girls came home from school and told me that they were forced to lie on prayer mats and pray in Arabic. The girls had to be in the back of the classroom. Then they would dance to Arabic music and eat Arabic cake. My girls did not even want to be there because they could not understand a word of what the teacher read from the Quran in Arabic”, an angry parent who called himself Markus told Samhällsnytt.
The Greek government has defended the construction of the mosque in the name of human and religious rights which will restore dignity to the religious practice of minority groups, who are now forced to gather for worship in over 120 makeshift prayer spots, from garages to apartments.
The operation of a central mosque would see the disappearance of the 120 make-shift prayers spots, something that would diminish the possibility of the ghettoisation of these minority groups and allow them to integrate with greater ease into mainstream Greek society.