Muslims assemble in city for prayers

Thousands of immigrants congregated in squares in Athens yesterday morning for mass prayers marking the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, which ended peacefully despite small-scale clashes between nationalist protesters and police. The largest crowd, of around 3,000 worshippers, gathered outside the entrance to Athens University at 7.30 a.m. The scenes were unprecedented for Athens, the only capital of the 15 original European Union member states not to have an official mosque. Smaller groups of worshippers gathered in at least 12 other locations. On Monday night, dozens of residents from around Attiki Square scuffled with police. The crowd is believed to have included members of the extreme right-wing group Chrysi Avgi, which gained a seat on the municipal council in recent local authority elections. The protesters returned to the square early yesterday but were pushed back by officers who fired tear gas. Some residents continued with protests from the balconies of their homes, pelting worshippers with eggs and playing loud music in a bid to disturb their prayers. Other residents waved Greek flags. There were no reports of similar violence in other neighborhoods but many Greeks interviewed by television reporters expressed discontent. Naim El-Ghandour, president of the Muslim Union of Greece, told Kathimerini that they had decided to pray in public this year as they did not have enough money to rent a venue, as they used to. Ahmed Mowias of the Greek Migrants Forum said the construction of a mosque in the district of Elaionas, as pledged by the government, was the only long-term solution. «Images of makeshift mosques in basements and of people praying in the street do not belong to a European capital,» he said.