World Bullletin / News Desk
More than 200,000 Muslims of this EU city, the only European capital that has no mosque, are hopeful now thanks to Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish prime minister who has recently suggested his Greek counterpart to fund the construction of the first Islamic prayer house in Athens - if the Greek government sanctioned it - but they say need for a grave yard to bury their dead is even more pressing.
"We are very grateful to Mr Prime Minister. His offer has made us utterly pleased. But apart from a mosque, there is a more important issue of a Muslim grave yard. We could always find a place to pray but we can't find anywhere to bury our dead," Mazen Rassas, deputy chief of the Muslims Association of Greece, told the Anadolu Agency.
In a bilateral meeting in Doha, Qatar, earlier this week with his Greek counterpart Antonis Samaras, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested that Turkey could fund the construction of a mosque in Athens.
Rassas, a Palestinian immigrant, said grave yard was a more pressing issue for the Muslim community 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.
An estimated 500,000 Muslims live in Greece, with about 40 percent of them in the capital. Athens has around 100 makeshift mosques and the Greek government has long delayed plans to build an official one.
The country has not allowed construction of a mosque since 1883, the year when the Ottomans evacuated the city.