As Olympics Approach, Still No Mosque in Athens

March 17, 2004

Source: Los Angeles Times,1,6768953.story

On March 17, 2004 the Los Angeles Times reported, "Muslims in the Greek capital can pray in a small room at a crowded cultural center, wedged between a clinic and a schoolroom, or in one of several makeshift basement venues. But government promises to build an official mosque for the city's growing Islamic community remain unfulfilled, sidelined by opposition from the powerful Christian Orthodox Church and a small group of neighborhood activists. 'There is no proper place for us to go and pray,' said Abu Yassin, an electrician who moved to Greece from the Gaza Strip 20 years ago. 'There are thousands of Muslims here, and we don't have a place to gather.' On this score, Athens stands alone: It is the only European Union capital without an official mosque...Gregory Vallianatos, an activist with the Greek Helsinki Monitor human rights organization, said he had doubts the mosque would become a reality because of festering hostility and suspicion toward Muslims. 'Homogeneity is adored in this country,' he said. Government officials disagreed. Tassos Yiannitsis, until recently foreign minister, said the 'political decision' to give Muslims a proper place of worship was firm and unshakable and that the Greek government was committed to creating an 'inclusive, integrated society.' But, he added, it will take time."