Political debate heats up around Athens mosque

Athens mayor George Kaminis accused New Democracy candidate Aris Spiliotopoulos of being two-faced.

Political debate heats up around Athens mosque

World Bulletin / News Desk

The mayor of the Greek capital Athens, George Kaminis, has accused one of his rivals of being two-faced for in his stance to the construction of a mosque in the city ahead of May 18 elections.

Kaminis said New Democracy candidate Aris Spiliotopoulos, who at first said he opposed the building of the mosque despite supporting the plan for the government to pay for its construction when it was pushed forward by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, of hypocrisy.

Spiliotopoulos, the former minister of education and religious affairs, is accused of attempting to reach out to voters with neo-Nazi sentiments with his original comments, only to change his stance later in saying that he supports the mosque as long as it is built on the outskirts of Athens.

“Spiliotopoulos should have thought about all that before his ministry signed the deal about the mosque’s construction [in Votanikos],” Kaminis told SKAI.

A private consortium was awarded a $1.292 million contract to build the mosque on land belonging to the Hellenic Navy in Votanikos, near central Athens, last year. As plans to begin the construction later this year remain on schedule, the plans act as a focus point for far-right Golden Dawn politicians campaigning against Muslims and immigration.

Athens was once home to many mosques during the Ottoman times, but many of these mosques were closed or used for other purposes after Greece became an independent state, especially after the population exchange between the Christians of Turkey and Muslims of Greece left many mosques empty.

Nonetheless the Ottomans still attempted to negotiate the building of a mosque in Athens but these plans fell through twice in 1851 and 1890. Another plan led by Egypt also collapsed in 1934.

Plans to build an Islamic center for the 2000 Olympics, which were held in the city, also failed. This once again became an issue to 2006 but the then Infrastructure Minister Makis Voridis was reluctant to pursue the project.

However, in July 2013, bidding to built the mosque was finally initiated, much to the dislike of far-right groups like Golden Dawn, who have participated in a number of violent protests against the plans.

Athens today is the only European capital without an official mosque for its Muslim residents.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 15 Mayıs 2014, 16:45