Athens Muslims fear mosque delay after Hagia Sophia conversion
But it immediately ran into strong opposition from the influential Orthodox Church, as well as from nationalist groups.
"I think after this incident, it might be even more difficult to open the official mosque that we have awaited for ten years," says Imam Atta-ul Naseer, who runs a makeshift mosque in a central Athens apartment.
An architectural marvel of the 6th century, the Hagia Sophia Byzantine basilica was converted into a mosque in 1453 after the capture of Constantinople by the Ottomans.
In 1934, the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, turned the monument into a museum as a symbol of secular Turkey.
But in July, a top Turkey court ruled that Hagia Sophia could be reconverted into a mosque.
But in the meantime, to meet the requirements of a Muslim community of nearly 300,000 people, numerous makeshift mosques, in apartments, basements and even sheds, have been created in past years.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has himself proposed this to Greek leaders in the past.
But the subject is delicate in a country which was occupied by the Ottoman Empire for centuries, before regaining its independence in the 19th century.
- Anti-Turkish sentiment -
In Greece, anti-Turkish sentiment remains strong and the current tension between the two countries over migration and energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean reinforces this animosity.
"In Greek hearts, the Muslim is still associated with the Turkish invader", notes Naseer.
Living in Greece for the past seven years, the Pakistan-born imam has faced racism and sometimes even violence by neo-Nazi militants.
"But in general, Christians and Muslims live together peacefully," he says.
In an attempt to regulate the makeshift mosques, the Greek state sets strict operational rules.
Operators must register the name of the religious representative and his background, the number of regular worshippers and the establishment's sources of income.
The prayer hall must also meet safety standards, which include having a fire alarm, sanitary facilities and an emergency exit.
"The procedures are complicated and take time. Few mosques have obtained permits from the ministry," Naseer says.
Bangladeshi Imam Abu Bakr proudly points to the coveted ministry document, pasted on a wall.
"Since 2017, we have been operating legally," he says.
The only mosques dating from the Ottoman era that are currently operating in Greece are located in the border region with Turkey, in Thrace, where a Turkish minority of 150,000 people live.