By Akbar Ahmed
Published on Washington Post (7/9/13)
I have always been honored when asked to speak at the Friday sermon in a mosque. It is both spiritually elevating to interact with worshippers and socially it provides insights to the community. There are always many inspiring and impressive people in these gatherings, some of them old and some young, some men and some women.
Addressing the Friday gathering at what passes for Athens’ biggest mosque was, however, a different experience.
I was in Greece in June as a guest of the British Council with the purpose of participating in interfaith dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims.
As an enthusiastic interfaith advocate, and supporter of minority rights including for Christians and Hindus in Pakistan, I was excited to return to Greece. Yet I very quickly discovered that the immigrant community, particularly Muslims, faces widespread discrimination and assaults and lives in fear.
When I was invited to join the community in Athens for the Friday prayer and speak at the sermon, I readily accepted. I was curious to see this mosque because technically there is no mosque in Athens. There are various makeshift arrangements, but no mosque as such. A plan has been debated for several decades, but it has become a controversial subject.