Athens may delay only mosque after Hagia Sophia conversion

Muslims in Athens fear the long delayed opening of their own official place of worship will be held back again due to anger over Turkey’s move to re-convert Istanbul's Hagia Sophia into a mosque from a museum, AFP reported on Thursday.

“I think after this incident, it might be even more difficult to open the official mosque that we have awaited for ten years,” Imam Atta-ul Naseer, who runs a makeshift mosque in a central Athens apartment, told AFP.

The project to open a state-sanctioned mosque in Athens, the only European capital that does not have one, was launched in 2007.

But it quickly ran into strong opposition from the Orthodox Church, as well as from Greek nationalist groups.

The official mosque in Athens, without a minaret and under the supervision of the Greek state, is expected to open by the end of autumn in the industrial district of Elaionas, northeast of Athens, AFP said.

In the meantime, 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.

Tensions have also been rising between Greece and Turkey recently over migration issues and energy exploration disputes in the eastern Mediterranean.

A News website reported that a group of unidentified people attacked a 16th century historical Ottoman-period mosque with stones in the central Greek city of Trikala on Tuesday.

Windows on the entrance door of the Kurşunlu Mosque, also known as the Osman Shah Mosque, were broken in the attack.

The mosque is no longer used for worship; it now functions as a venue for minor events and is a protected UNESCO site.

It was the only mosque designed by the famous Ottoman imperial architect Mimar Sinan in Greece. It opened in 1570, and was the principal mosque in Trikala during Ottoman rule.

The only mosques dating from the Ottoman era that are currently operating in Greece are located in the border region with Turkey, in Thrace, where a Turkish minority of 150,000 people live.