- The Washington Times - Monday, June 1, 2009

ATHENS (Agence France-Presse) — Thousands of Muslims from Arab nations, Africa and the Indian subcontinent now live and work in Athens, often scraping by with meager wages and in squalid accommodations.

A long-standing grievance is that despite years of promises, the Greek state has provided Muslims no official prayer sites, forcing the faithful to set up makeshift mosques in rented apartments and unused warehouses.

The Muslim Union of Greece says there are more than 100 unlicensed prayer sites in Athens and hundreds of thousands of Muslims, not counting Albanians and illegal immigrants.

A staunchly Orthodox state with bitter memories of four centuries of Ottoman Turkish rule, Greece currently offers sanctioned Muslim religious sites only near its northeastern border with Turkey, where a Muslim minority of Turkish origin lives.

All traces of Islam were eradicated in Athens in the early 19th century, when Christianity was restored, and bureaucratic wrangling and opposition from church leaders and mayors have stalled plans for a mosque and cemetery.

“We see no mosque; we see no cemetery. Basically, they are making fools of us,” says Abu Mahmoud, a Moroccan who has lived in Greece since 1985.

“The situation in Athens is getting worse because of the economic crisis, which is hitting foreigners the hardest, and the city center has become a jungle as a result.”

The Greek Orthodox Church has offered to donate land for a mosque and a Muslim cemetery.

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