ON A baking-hot Friday afternoon in the dusty Athenian district of Neos Kosmos, a cheerful assortment of (mostly male) worshippers greet one another in Arabic, Greek and other languages, and enter a nondescript building in a side-street. They descend a steep set of stairs, perform their ablutions, and make their way into a large undergound space, pleasantly carpeted, but with ventilation pipes half-hiding the low ceiling. Soon the imam is leading them in prayer and prostration, and pronouncing a khutba or sermon. Despite the makeshift premises, this has the feeling of a well-organised and confident community. Worshippers include sportsmen from well-known clubs and businessmen using nearby hotels.
This slice of Athenian reality is a reminder that, although theory and practice are both words with Greek roots, they do not always march in step in this part of the world. In constitutional theory, Greece is a country whose prevailing religion, followed by an overwhelming majority, is Orthodox Christianity. With an important exception...Continue reading