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There will be a mosque without minaret in Athens

07 September 2011 / 20:09:24  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

With 198 votes for and 16 against the Greek parliament approved the addendum for the building of a mosque in Athens. Despite the strong resistance by the far-right party LAOS and its President George Karatzaferis who required a roll call vote for the lawmakers from the ruling PASOK party, the opposition New Democracy and the two Left parties both voted "for".

Thus, Athens will no longer be the capital with over 500,000 Muslims with no house of prayer. However, it will not be quite as it should, neither it will be able to meet the needs of all Muslims. The mosque that will be built on a land belonging to the Greek naval forces will have no minaret. It will be suitable for 350 people to pray, although the original plan envisaged the building to take 500.

The mosque will have no minaret. For Muslims, it is like a church without a bell. "Prayers will be held, but something will be missing."

According to Anna Stamou, who is in charge for the public relations of the Muslim Association of Greece, the changes are the result of the pressure by the "far right, whose influence on the government is not justified by the number of votes they receive during elections."

At the beginning of the parliamentary session, George Karatzaferis accused the government that it is close "to establish a factory for terrorists", adding that all captured for the attacks in London last month "began their activities in mosques."

Anna Stamou, however, believes that these attacks are ridiculous and their only purpose is to make the supporters of the far-right party enthusiastic and possibly to increase their number. She stated that it is not possible the Muslims in Greece, many of whom are of Greek origin or children of mixed marriages, not to have a house of prayer, because there is no effective immigration policy in the country. "I do not think that when the mosque is built there will be protests or attacks by far-right elements.

The issue will be forgotten until then. There will be a stronger response against the building in court by people willing to take advantage of the rapid development in the area of ​​Votanikos. "

In an interview for GRReporter, Anna Stamou did not support the responses by many commentators, who do not agree to build a mosque with "our money". "I am not able to understand why they react this way when the Muslims also pay taxes. Islam is official religion and it is unacceptable those who profess it to be unable to fulfill their religious obligations in a democratic country." Anna emphasized the longtime efforts of the Muslim Association to build a mosque with Greek means. "We insisted on this in order to avoid any foreign influence. Otherwise, it was very easy to ask funds from the governments of foreign countries. Then we would not be independent, we would be forced to follow their line. "

According to the addendum adopted by the Parliament, the Ministry of Education and Religion will elect and appoint the imam. The Muslim Association has offered several names from which the Ministry will choose. "These are all theologians and professors at major universities in Arab countries, who will be able to take their role responsibly. For Muslims, the imam is not only the connection between God and man, but also an advisor. Now, when imams are visiting us, people are overwhelming them with requests for support and advice. They are asking them about family matters that could be associated with practical things such as daily matters or about the consequences of the economic crisis on them and their families to very serious topics such as interpretation of religious texts. An educated and erudite imam is able to give them proper advice."

According to Anna, the mosque building would help control what is spoken there. "Currently, there are over 100 prayer houses in Athens. We try to have some control, but it is not possible to know what is happening everywhere, what the imams are saying there, what people are coming."

The construction of the mosque is expected to begin in two months. It is not an end in itself for the Muslim Association of Greece. "We are interested in the existence of the mosque as an institution. We do not demand a luxurious and rich building, just a functional one. We are ready to assist in the work on a voluntary basis, if necessary, and to help in any other issues."

Anna welcomed the vote in parliament, but held her enthusiasm. "I would say I am moderately optimistic. We are aware that the construction process could be interrupted again. This is not of our concern as long as things develop and the quality of life of the Muslims in Greece improves."


Tags: SocietyMuslimsAthensMosqueMuslim AssociationImamParliamanetVoteFar-rightGeorge Karatzaferis
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