Government officials fear that the delays in constructing a mosque in Athens, a process that has been beset by legal complications, could allow radical Islam to flourish in the capital.
“Every day that we do not have an official mosque and imam in Athens, we pay for in the increased risk of the radicalization of Muslims in the dark and unofficial places of worship,” an official at the Education and Religious Affairs Ministry who wished to remain anonymous told Kathimerini, referring to dozens of basements that have been converted into makeshift mosques.
Greece passed a law in 2006 to build a mosque in Athens with public money. The legislation also granted the government the right to appoint the imam. Although a plot in Votanikos, near the city center, has been set aside, the construction of the building is being held back by numerous appeals against the project, which the Council of State has to hear.
“It is exactly because of the recent terrorist attacks that we have to move quickly to construct the mosque in Athens,” said the official. “The state has to have an official interlocutor who represents the various branches of Islam. When you do not have official places of worship, who can you speak with?”