Greek Education Minister Nikos Filis defended plans to establish an official mosque in Athens as Parliament prepared to vote on a bill to accelerate the much-delayed project Thursday.
SYRIZA’s coalition partner, the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL), and the neofascist Golden Dawn party have both objected to the plans.
Speaking in Parliament, Filis suggested that the absence of an official place of worship could lead to the radicalization of the country’s Muslim population. Dozens of basements in Athens have been converted into unlicensed mosques.
“If we wish to avoid the problems facing France and Belgium, we should not make the mistakes that they are now trying to deal with,” Filis said
“The existence of makeshift mosques is a shame for the country as well as for the Muslim community and a danger to national security,” he said.
The new bill foresees the disbursement of 946,000 euros from state coffers for the construction of the capital’s first official mosque on a patch of land in the Votanikos district that formerly belonged to the Hellenic Navy.
Greece passed a law in 2006 to build a mosque in Athens with public money.
Although the plot in Votanikos was set aside, the construction of the mosque was held back by a series of legal appeals against the project.