Political debate surrounds Athens mosque project

Athens mayor candidate Aris Stiliotopulos is reported to have said that issues such as these should be decided by the people, but in classic right-wing rhetoric added that Athens has 'no more room for asylum seekers'.

Political debate surrounds Athens mosque project

World Bulletin / News Desk

Athens today is the only European capital without an official mosque for its Muslim residents, and although there are plans to build one, the issue has attracted much controversy and is still yet to produce a solid project.

According to Greece's To Vima newspaper, so far only one consortium (Aktor, Terna, JP & Avaks) has made an offer but the contract is yet to be signed as the project is still waiting for permission from the authorities.

Another issue that is delaying the project is the upcoming local elections in May. Aris Stiliotopulos, the Education and Religious Affairs Minister who is hoping to be elected as the mayor of Athens, has called for a referendum to decide whether or not the mosque should be built.

However, before Stiliotopulos became a minister, he directly said that he approved of plans to build a mosque in the Votanikos district. Regarding this, current Athens mayor Yorgos Kamilis pointed out that Stiliotopulos was contradicting himself and accused him of flirting with far-right groups.

Stiliotopulos is reported to have said that issues such as these should be decided by the people, but in classic right-wing rhetoric added that Athens has 'no more room for asylum seekers'.

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.

Last Mod: 15 Nisan 2014, 15:42
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