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Greece: Government orders Muslim prayer hall to close near Athens

June 24, 2020 at 2:54 pm

Muslims gather at a mosque in Athens, Greece on 25 June 2017 [Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency]

Greece has ordered one of the oldest Muslim prayer halls in the greater Athens area to shut down, the Muslim Association of Greece reported in a press release.

The Education and Religious Affairs Ministry reportedly said the facility lacks a license to operate and gave it 15-days notice to clear the premises in Piraeus, a port city just 12 kilometres from the Athens city centre.

“We are sad to announce that we received a closure order for one of the oldest prayer halls of the capital…without any chance of negotiating with the ministry,” said the Muslim Association of Greece in a press release.

The Al Andalus prayer hall has been operating since 1989, according to the association, the International Quran News Agency reported.

READ: Greece, Turkey need a sustainable dialogue, top Greek diplomat says

The Turkish Muslim minority in Greece has complained that ability to practice their religion has been stifled; including the right to choose their own religiou clerics and the administrators of Muslim endowments (waqfs), rather than ones appointed by the state.

Turkish authorities believes the Turkish minority living in Greece’s Western Thrace region continues to face systematic discrimination and obstacles due to their cultural, ethnic and religious identity, a Balkan expert from Turkish presidential office told MEMO.

“The government has a policy to turn the mosque into a museum. The Fethiye Mosque in Athens, built by Mehmet the Conqueror in 1458, is currently being used as an exhibition hall. The city’s Tzisdaraki Mosque has also been repurposed as a ceramics museum.” the expert stated.

According to a report published by Daily Sabah, Athens is the only capital in Europe without an official mosque.