Muslims pray in Thessaloniki mosque, but for one day only

Eighty-eight years since it was closed and turned into a museum, Thessaloniki’s New (Yeni) Mosque heard prayers again on Saturday, on an initiative of Mayor Yiannis Boutaris to open the historical monument to a group of students from the Muslim School of Komotini, northern Greece.

Boutaris, however, said that the mosque, which was built in 1902 and closed in 1925 following the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, will not be used for regular worship, but conceded on special occasions, “maybe two or three times a year.”

“Opening a mosque is not in the jurisdiction of the municipality, but of the government,” Boutaris said, adding, “As cynical as it sounds, the possibility for Muslims to carry out their religious obligations when they come to the city would boost tourism, which the city is in dire need of.”

Successive promises for a state-backed mosque in Greece have forced the country’s Muslims to use makeshift facilities.