ATHENS - An offer by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to fund the building of the first mosque in Athens has invited a showering praise from the Muslim community in the Greek capital.
We are very grateful to Mr Prime Minister, Mazen Rassas, deputy chief of the Muslim Association of Greece, told the Anadolu news agency.
His offer has made us utterly pleased.
Greek Muslims Forced to Go Underground
Athens Far-fetched Mosque Dream
Holding talks with his Greek counterpart Antonis Samaras in Doha earlier this week, Erdogan proposed funding the building of a mosque in Athens to help fulfil the religious needs of Muslim residents.
"I told him that Turkey could cover the costs of a mosque in Athens if necessary permissions are granted, Erdogan told reporters.
And Mr Samaras showed a positive attitude and said the Greek parliament had approved such a plan. We have reached to a mutual agreement that these issues can be solved through good will.
Greek Muslims have long called for building a grand mosque to accommodate the religious needs of the growing Muslim minority.
Despite objections from its powerful Orthodox Church, Greece had pledged to build a mosque in Athens to serve the city's growing Muslim minority.
But the crunching economic crisis, coupled with public enmity associating mosques with the Ottoman presence, has prevented the pledge from being translated into action.
Decked with minarets two centuries ago, Athens has not had a functioning mosque since the end of Ottoman rule in the early 1800s.
About 130 windowless, airless basements or warehouses in Athens currently serve as makeshift mosques for an estimated 200,000 Muslims in the Greek capital.
Tens of thousands of Muslim immigrants perform prayers in private homes and have had to travel hundreds of kilometers to northern Greece for weddings, burials and other ceremonies.
The Orthodox Church has for years insisted that Greeks were not ready to see a minaret in downtown Athens.
Muslim leaders appealed to Erdogan to intervene to ease their burial dilemma in Athens.
Apart from a mosque, there is a more important issue of a Muslim grave yard, Rassas, of Palestinian origin, said.
We could always find a place to pray but we can't find anywhere to bury our dead.
A Muslim's dead body should be immediately taken to a mortuary for washing and preparation.
Two or three adult Muslims should wash the body and then put on the shroud (kafan). Before the burial, the funeral prayer should be done.
The burial should be done as soon as possible. It is makruh (reprehensible) to delay the burial of the dead.
The Muslim deputy chief stressed that a graveyard is a more pressing issue for the sizable minority in Athens.
"When they died I couldn't send the remains of my father and mother to Palestine and I had to bury them in Western Thrace. We bury our dead in Xanti and Komotini," Rassas said.
Anti-Muslim tide has been on the rise in debt-hit Greece, which is battling a growing recession that has brought thousands of job layoffs.In 2011, Muslims holding an open-air prayer near the city centre in Athens to celebrate `Eid Al-Adha, were harassed by local residents who threw eggs at them and blared loud music from windows.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net