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Zaha Hadid is willing to design the Athens mosque

24 November 2010 / 11:11:26  GRReporter
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How many are the praying places in Attica? "There are more than 100 now. But they were only 4 by 1992, which is not so long ago, and all of them were founded by Arabs. The first was founded by Dr. Mounir in the neighbourhood of Gudy in 1984. The second - by my husband Naim in Piraeus in 1989, the third - by Muhedin Ali in Metaksurgio neighbourhood in downtown Athens in 1990 and the fourth - in Neos kozmos neighbourhood in 1992. This shows that there is more than vigorous development. It is connected with the arrival of immigrants from countries where Islam is the main religion. There are praying places now in the suburbs Lavrio, Marathon, even on the island of Salamina. These are the areas where they live and work. The praying place is also a place of socialization, and I think the formation of such places there is a positive development for the regions themselves."

The situation in the centre of Athens, however, is quite different. Praying places there are close to each other, which, according to Anna, is not in favour of praying. "When a person opens a house of prayer he attracts believers. It is quite usual a donation box to be placed in the room for all to donate. There is a phenomenon in the city centre that the imams do not work, but live by donations and use everything for their personal interest." These peculiar mosques usually are housed in warehouses, basements and stores and since they are located in the city centre, where the problem of irregular immigration causes effects of violence anyway, there are attacks against them.

"There was a praying place in a warehouse with no windows on Attica Square. About 40 people from Bangladesh prayed there one night. A group of far-rights locked the door with a big padlock, broke one of its windows and began to hurl naphtha and burning waste to cause fire. The people scared, they called the police, the embassy of their country and began to extinguish the fire with a fire extinguisher. The police arrived but were forced to leave the people inside while dispersing the far rights, who waited for the people to go out and beat them. They still managed to knife wounded two people from Egypt and Afghanistan who came to help the locked. The most tragic thing is that these people are proud of their deeds."

Anna says that the Association has met with many civil society organizations to discuss these issues. She recognizes that the problem of irregular immigrants is serious for the residents of the Athens centre and for themselves. "You can not crowd 50 people in an apartment without water and electricity. This is tragic. But to kill them is not a solution. Far right populism is always gaining ground as is happening worldwide in more deprived areas. These people voted for the far-right Golden Dawn. I think they do not knowing what they did. And this is because they sent 14-year-olds with knives in their hands to attack and beat up immigrants. They destroy a whole generation to show dominance." On the other hand, Anna blames the media in speculating as each time they show the same "angry people". "I saved the reports on the torn Koran 2 years ago. We are talking about the same people," she says.

According to Anna, Muslims in Attica have two main problems: the absence of a mosque and cemetery. When someone dies they send the body in his home country or bury it in the cemetery of the town of Komotini, which is located over 700 kilometers away from Athens. The decision has been taken in 2005 to give the Muslims a part of the largest cemetery in the suburb of Shisto but red tape has not allowed this to happen.

Tags: Zaha HadidMosque in AthensGreek MuslimsHouses of prayerMuslim cemetery
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