It was first announced 70 years ago but finally, Athens is to get a mosque. It is the only European capital without one. All of us who support the plan are expecting a huge backlash against it (including from the church) from people who feel threatened by the building, in country where around 96% identify as Greek Orthodox. The argument against it is not just about the mosque, it’s about immigrants. People say that Muslim immigrants have come here and demanded a mosque. This was never the case and never has been. For 70 years, decent people have supported the freedom of religion and the right to worship. For Greek and foreign Muslims that means a mosque. There have always been tourists come here who are Muslim and would like to have a mosque to go to.
The other argument is that Tsipras (the current Prime Minister) has personally created the idea of building a mosque because of his own “crazy leftie” agenda. Yes, he supports the building and has made it a priority for his government but he was not even born when the idea was first brought up.
We’ll see what happens but this is the nearest we have ever been. Let’s hope Athens manages to stagger into the 21st century and to build better ties with its Muslim citizens.
After huge delays the planning for the Mosque of Athens appears to have entered its final stage, with the Ministry of Environment examining the construction plans before issuing a building permit. Ministerial sources revealed there are still a few problems that need to be resolved, namely the settlement of a stream, however these are not expected to cause further delays.
The tender for the construction of the Mosque had been repeated five times and a successful bidder was selected in November 2013. The project has a budget of 946,000 euros, with the Islamic temple being constructed on land owned by the Hellenic Navy in the area of Eleonas (Votanikos).
Government circles have stressed that the construction of the Mosque is a priority for Alexis Tsipras. An appeal had been launched by the Metropolitan Bishop of Piraeus Seraphim, as there have been many objections to the construction of an Islamic temple in Athens. The existing buildings of the former Navy workshop will be converted into a Mosque, which will not however have a traditional minaret, but a similar vertical structure.
Greece has been criticized for the huge delays in the construction of the Mosque, which was initially announced seven decades ago. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has been highly critical of the delays, with the Minister of Education Aristides Baltas stressing that these delays are used to defame Greece.