ATHENS – The President and Secretary General of the Muslims’ League in Greece Engineer Abdulnasser Abdulwahid Amer said the morning of Eid day in Greece has a special flavor for Muslims in Greece. After Eid prayers, which is performed by all the Muslims there, they leave so as to exchange Eid greetings. They visit their families, relatives, neighbors and friends. Before the prayers, Zakat Al-Fitr is distributed to the needy. They also visit sick people.
Despite the number of Muslims in Greece not exceeding one million compared to 11 million Christians, Ramadan has a special flavor. Traders import dates from various countries, and some sweets are prepared that Muslims like to eat in Ramadan.
According to Amer, the Muslim communities in Greece hold collective Iftar in the prayer areas. Philanthropists bear the expenses for these meals. Many workers and students attend Iftar.
Amer said the mosques organize religious and cultural Ramadan contests including Qur’an and Sunnah contests. The mosques teach religious knowledge. They invite senior Ulema from various Arab and Muslim countries throughout the holy month. Everyday after Asr prayer Muslims gather in the mosques to listen to one of the Qur’an memorizers reciting one whole Juzu’ of the Holy Qur’an. Then the Muslims recite as much as they can from the Holy Qur’an between Maghrib and Isha prayer and they perform Taraweeh prayer. After this, a small religious lesson is given.
Amer said, “We, as the Muslim League in Greece, prepare a collective Iftar to which we invite ambassadors of Arab, Muslim, European and foreign countries as well as religious scholars and leading figures from the Greek Church to acquaint them with Islam.”
During the last third of Ramadan, the mosques are full of worshipers observing I’tikaf. They recite the Qur’an and perform Taraweeh and Tahajjud prayers. These Muslims observe I’tikaf in 15 prayer areas in Athens as there is no grand mosque. Most of these are small mosques in cities like Salonica and Petra. Those in charge of these prayer areas collect donations and Zakat, which they distribute to the poor and needy. Many Muslims donate money to charity funds so as to help poor Muslims in Greece.
He said, “The Muslims in Greece, who are mainly concentrated in the northeastern part of the country like Xanthi, Komotini and Alexandroupoli, make sure that they do not break their fast for whatever reason. The cafes are shut during the day. Muslims are characterized by their generosity. They are always kind to and help one another. During Ramadan these characteristics are observed even more. The family members make sure to take Iftar in the grandfather’s house. They reward their children for fasting. The Muslims in Greece are granted permits to perform prayer during working hours.”
When asked about harassment of Greek Muslims during Taraweeh and Tahajjud prayers, Amer replied that there considerable harassment of Muslims during the different prayers throughout the year. “As to Taraweeh prayer, we try to enter and leave the mosques quietly. We do not pray loudly, especially because since the Taraweeh prayer is usually rather late at night. The prayer areas are usually in the form of a room or apartments in a residential building,” he said.
As to Ramadan dishes for Muslims in Greece, he said the main food is dates on the Iftar table. The favorite foods for new converts include Arabian stuffed vegetables (Mahshiyyat), dates, laban, Tabboulah, Kabsah, and Mulookhiyah. Muslims in Greece enjoy foods similar to Turkish dishes. — Al-Watan