Greece rejects Muslim demands for place of worship

Greece has rejected a demand by its Muslim community for a place of worship in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Daily Sabah reported on Tuesday.

After two years of preparing documents and receiving authorizations, a formal application for a prayer space was submitted by the Macedonia-Thrace Muslims Education Culture Foundation, the newspaper said.

But the application was denied by Greece's Education and Religion Ministry, citing the lack of lack of additional documents and technical details.

Greece was for long the only European country without a mosque, opening itsfirst Muslim house of worship in Athens in November after 14 years of bureaucratic delay. But access to the space has been limited due to coronavirus restrictions.

Numerous makeshift mosques, in apartments, basements and even sheds, have been created in past years to meet the needs of the city’s Muslim community of nearly 300,000 people.

The denial of an official prayer space by Greece in Thessaloniki, means that Athens is asking Muslims in the region to pray on streets for communal worship, members of the foundation said.

“Greece, which does not open the existing mosques, also does not show Muslims another place for their worship. Our applications to conduct our worship in our foundation have been also rejected with excuses outside the legal regulations,” a member of the foundation told Daily Sabah.

Ankara has long condemned Athens over what it calls the denial of rights of its Muslim and Turkish community, including its refusal to recognise Muslim community’s self-elected muftis and allowing historic mosques to fall into disprepair.

The 1923 Lausanne Peace Treaty established a balance between the religious rights of ethnic Turks in western Thrace and those of the Greek Orthodox community in Istanbul.

Ankara allows the Greek Orthodox in Istanbul to elect their religious leaders, however, Athens refuses to recognise the mufti elected by the ethnic Turkish community and appoints the mufti itself.