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Zaha Hadid is willing to design the Athens mosque

24 November 2010 / 11:11:26  GRReporter
15517 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

Days after the mass prayers of Muslims in squares and parks in Athens Greek media announced that the world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid is willing to design the mosque in the Greek capital for free. Despite the protests of the extreme right against the building of a mosque in Athens and the attacks on praying Muslims, the 17 acres in the district of Eleonas are awaiting the construction first sod turning. Athens is the only European capital where there is no mosque and so the challenge for any architect is great. It seems that Zaha Hadid is among those inclined to engage with the project as so far there is no mosque in her long list of works. She has won the Pritsker prize, which is the Nobel analogue for architects. The buildings she designed adorn many of the biggest capitals in the world from Germany and Spain to Japan and USA. She was born in Baghdad. She studied mathematics at the American College in Beirut, but eventually decided to study architecture in London. She realized there her first projects and established herself as one of the most modern and innovative architects in the world.

GRReporter contacted the Muslim Association of Greece. Its marketing director Anna Stamou could not confirm the news but said that strong interest is expected from architects from around the world. "We want a simple and functional building that will not differ from the old buildings typical for the central part of Athens. It should be in harmony with them." According to Anna, due to the proverbial Greek bureaucracy nothing has been done since 2006, when the mosque construction was stipulated by a law.

"The amount of 15 million euros was granted to the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs in 2006. The money was provided by Greece and the European Union. We wanted to have our mosque in which no foreign country could interfere; even in theological issues like what kind of Islam we would follow. This will happen," says Anna. According to her, preparation works in Eleonas neighbourhood, where the mosque will be built, have already begun. The international competition for the selection of an architect is expected to be held in January 2011.

There is another connection between the two women. Both are in the list of the 10 most influential Muslims in Europe. Anna Stamou received this year an award from the European Network of Muslim Entrepreneurs as the voice of moderate Islam today. She adopted Islam six years ago but not only because she married a Muslim but as a result of her personal searches. Anna Stamou said in an interview for GRReporter that the place of women in Islam is the main reason for adopting it.

According to her, "Islam puts women at a very high level. Women have the same, even more rights than men. Rights that women from other religions in that time had not even imagined. These are the titles, rights of inheritance and equality in everything. Theologically, God does not divide men and women, nor they carry original sin as in Christianity. I want to point out that I am talking about Islam, not Muslims or Muslim countries today. I know that women in many Muslim countries are under great pressure. But if Islam could be administered somewhere though society in this country would be very radical."

For Anna, one of the reasons for the so different attitudes towards women is directly related to the culture of any society: "Traditionally, Islam has spread from Indonesia to Morocco. Nowadays there are Muslims worldwide. There are 20 million currently in Western Europe; there are millions in America too. When a person who bears a specific culture shifts to another culture he or she neither forgets his or her own culture, neither adopts the new one completely. The result is always mixed."

According to the Muslim Association of Greece, the number of those who have adopted Islam has risen significantly in recent years. "They are doing it for different reasons. One of the main reasons is mixed marriages between Greek women and men from Arab countries. In their case, they turn to Islam gradually within family life. Moreover, their children are Muslims anyway, because Islam explicitly states that they adopt the religion of the father. Soon I learned from a representative of the community of Egyptians that only they have already 5 000 women who have become Muslims. We have many marriages with Palestinians and Syrians. The second category includes people who decide to turn to Islam after long searches. There are many people who read and decide to adopt it. There are many Greeks who live abroad and are Muslims. The community is very large already," says Anna.

The Association has no special relations with the Muslim minority in Thrace, mainly because the people there study Islam in Turkish "and we, the Greeks who adopted Islam, study it in English and gradually learn Arabic. Even those of them who live in Athens do not come to our mosques - they have theirs in the neighbourhood of Patisia. Language is what distinguishes us and nothing else."

Tags: Zaha HadidMosque in AthensGreek MuslimsHouses of prayerMuslim cemetery
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