Greek parliament approves building mosque in Athens
ATHENS - Anadolu Agency
AP photoGreece’s parliament on Aug. 4 gave the green light for the first official mosque to be built in Athens since the 19th century, a move long sought by the country’s Muslims.
The bill split the coalition government, with Syriza voting in favor and the Independent Greeks (ANEL) voting against. The bill passed with more than 200 votes in favor out of 230 MPs who voted.
The mosque is set to be built in Athens’ Elaionas area, and according to the General Accounting Office, it is estimated to cost almost 1 million euros. The expenses will be covered entirely by the Greek state.
Greek Education Minister Nikos Filis supported the construction of a mosque in the capital, saying that the existence of makeshift mosques was “a disgrace to the country and a risk to Greece’s security,” citing how four mosques already operating elsewhere had received legal permits, though none were in Athens.
But ANEL Deputy MP Giorgos Lazaridis, who opposed the construction, said the party’s disagreement “is not new, it is part of the red lines we have drawn from the beginning, and this indicates that we do not agree in everything with Syriza, instead we cooperate.”
The mosque will be able to accommodate 350 people and it will be low-rise, not including a minaret. A parking lot and a recreation area will also be part of the construction, which will occupy two building blocks.
According to Filis, a law permitting the construction of mosques passed in 2000, but due to bureaucratic hurdles, it was never implemented.
A year after the peak of the refugee crisis that has left thousands stranded in Greece, Muslims in Athens requested expedited procedures for the mosque’s construction.