Friday 29 May 2015

Mosques in Greece: an Introduction

A Short  Introduction

Churches in Greece has taken me to unusual places and some musty and fusty corners of Greek history, and when I began I had no thought of ever moving towards those ‘other’ churches in Greece, the mosques of present day Thrace and those of the past in Ottoman Greece.

 Modern Greece has obliterated Ottoman monuments as consistently as modern archaeologists have scoured the ancient Greek monuments of their Roman and even Byzantine add-ons. Somehow it has made invisible the 500 thousand Greek Muslims who live mostly in the north, -  at least to those who do not live there. They and their state paid Imams simply fly under the radar of most citizens.  The reasons for this are historical and not all of them are crazy.  History, especially a turbulent history like ours, leaves real trauma and scars on the collective psyche which just might have healed were it not for demagogic politicians and religious fanatics constantly picking at the scabs.
What has brought this subject to the forefront today is the recent (spring of 2015) go-ahead by the Greek government for the construction of  a state financed mosque (and to some extent a government controlled mosque) in the center of Athens to serve the estimated 150,000 (some say 200,000) Muslims currently living  in the city. This is not a new idea. The fight for such a mosque has a long and convoluted history which I intend to try to elucidate in a text in this new section of the blog.
This subject is especially intertwined with the Greek Orthodox Church as is just about every subject of importance in Greece. It has taken a lot of soul searching, not all of it pretty, for the Church to finally come to the conclusion that a mosque is both inevitable and probably necessary in the Athens of the 21st century.
Some of the mosques and religious buildings such as medressen we will visit are ruins or half ruins, some are fully operational, some are being used for other purposes; a few are even being renovated. I hope my readers will find these excursions as illuminating as I have. As always, I intend to build this chapter by choosing whatever strikes my fancy first and, by adding texts, to  eventually present a full history.

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