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Athens Muslims celebrated Bayram on the square as they have no mosque, eggs were thrown at them

17 November 2010 / 11:11:35  GRReporter
10245 reads

Mass prayers of Muslims in the open once again brought to the fore the critical issue of Muslim temple absence in Athens. According to unofficial data, there are about 500,000 Muslims in Attica, who have been carrying their religious rituals and celebrations in basements and garages for years because plans for the mosque have not been implemented yet and painters and builders take the role of imams.

Muslims in Athens went out at 6 o’clock in the morning yesterday to stretch their prayer mats on the squares in the Greek capital. Their religious leaders were allowed to carry the prayer on some squares, but they have themselves taken the initiative for others. Overall, the celebration was peaceful except for some expected incidents on Attica Square and minor clashes on the square in front of the university.

Due to the tension that escalated in recent years in some neighborhoods of Athens between local Greeks and immigrants the Muslims praying on the Attica Square were pelted with eggs and some residents of the neighbourhood, whose balconies overlook the square, turned music out loud to drown the prayer of the imam. Early in the morning police resorted to tear gas to repel members of a far-right organization and to prevent more serious clashes.

The celebrations on Kodziya Square, Larissa Station, in front of the Peace and Friendship stadium, on Kumunduru Square and the old racecourse were peaceful. This is the third time the prayer is carried out in an open public place. "The prayer was over at 9:30 am. This is one of the two important celebrations for us. We usually eat lamb and veal, and make pasty on this day. I live here alone without my wife and I will celebrate with friends," said a middle-aged man from Bangladesh, who calmly smoked a cigarette after the prayer on the Kumunduro Square.

Abdelsatar Barakat

Correspondent for the Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram particularly for

Mr. Barakat, how did Muslims in Athens celebrate Bayram?

We are celebrating Bayram on this day and Muslims go on pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia on this day each year. According to the traditions, a lamb is slaughtered on this day and is divided into three – one third for the home, one third for relatives and one third for the poor. Muslims gather for prayer around 7:30 am to 8:30 am and according to our religion it should be carried outdoors - on squares, in the streets, not inside a building and this is why Muslims went out on the square in front of the university in downtown Athens.

Two months and a half ago, the City Hall in Athens permitted the Ramadan prayer to be carried out on the Kodziya Square and Muslims had the courage and obtained permission to go out in the square in front of the university but there were some migrants from Bangladesh and Pakistan who were jealous and they came out to celebrate on some of the squares without being formally allowed - on Attica Square, in Egaleo, in Rafina, and other neighbourhoods in Athens.

How would you comment on what happened on Attica Square?

Squabbles happened on Attica Square. Those who went to pray on the square were not right because they are aware that there are problems in this neighbourhood. It seems logical to me that the people from the neighbourhood have vented their anger.

There was a proposal by the authorities the prayer to be carried out on a stadium in order to provide room for all Muslims, but religious leaders have rejected it and finally decided to carry the prayers on the squares in Athens?

The prayer was carried out at the stadium in Maroussi two years ago, but they had to pay. According to our religion, the prayer must be carried out in the open air – on a field, in a mountain, but Muslims in Athens demand a mosque to be built, so they came out to the squares. People could be touched in this way and to ask why there is no mosque in Athens. The largest Greek Patriarchate in Egypt, for example, is in Alexandria – there you see how the church and the mosque can exist side by side. And people here can not understand that Muslims are people too and they are entitled to have an official temple.

Do you think a Muslim temple will be built in Athens?

I am a Greek citizen, I was a soldier, but I will not go into any of these illegal mosques made in garages and rooms. I have spoken with Ms. Dora Bakoyannis, while she was foreign minister and with other ministers and they all say they will do something about it, but nothing has been done so far. And it won’t be done, in my opinion. The Prime Minister George Papandreou is a socialist and he respects human rights and respects other religions. People in the government can not ask why immigrants do this. They should have more freedom.

How many are the Muslims in Greece and of what nationalities are most of them? What do they do? 

No one can say the exact number but I think they are about 500 000 people in Attica, and about 250 000 Greek Muslims in Thrace. There are many people from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, and Palestine in Athens. Egyptians are large communities – about 80-90 000 people, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and most of them live in Attica. I can tell the Egyptians usually work in construction and as fishermen in Thessaloniki and on the islands. Fishermen come with contracts from Egypt.

Tags: NewsBayramReligionMuslimsTempleMosqueAthensAbdelsatar Barakat
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