Naim Elghandour, 62, president of the Muslim Association of Greece expressed the bitterness of the Muslim community in Athens over the mosque erected at Votanikos in an interview to Thema Radio 104.6.
“It’s like a large booth. Is this the mosque they were telling us for so many years would accommodate 300 people? “, complained Elghandour.
He went on to wonder why there was so much secrecy around the whole project. “Why shouldn’t the people know what has been built?”
Mr Elghandour said the Greek government just wanted to complete the project as soon as possible. “A minister told me we have become the laughing stock internationally”, he said.
”I came from Egypt 45 years ago. We had the very large Church of Saint Nicholas, we had a Greek school, we had everything. So many years had to pass for them to build us a booth without a minaret and they tell us that is it?”, he quipped.
He noted that Egypt allowed Greek churches with bell towers and wondered Egypt was dubbed a third world country. “How is a European country like Greece treating us in such a miserable way?”, he said.
His interview caused a barrage of negative comments on protothema.gr with some urging him to leave Greece if he considered it to be a third world country.
Another commenter wondered: “He initially complained that there were no places of worship. Then there were too few. Then, they are underground and warehouses. Now it’s like a pavilion and does not have a minaret. Tomorrow what? Should we renounce our religion and embrace Islam perhaps?”.
Until recently, Greece was the only country in Europe to not have a place of worship for Muslims, who according to some estimates amount to 500,000 in Athens alone.
The decision to erect a Mosque in the Votanikos area in central Athens caused great controversy in the country, as people always saw it with suspicion.
Greece had been under Muslim Ottoman occupation for nearly 400 years before gaining independence in the late 1800s.