NEWS

Deal paves way for Athens mosque by April

TAGS: Religion, Politics

Ten years after the Greek state green-lighted the construction of a mosque in Athens, the Infrastructure Ministry signed a deal this week with a consortium of the country’s biggest construction firms to begin the project on a plot in Votanikos, near central Athens.

The project – undertaken by J&P - AVAX, TERNA, AKTOR and INTRAKAT, who submitted a joint bid in 2013 – is scheduled for completion in April 2017. The cost, budgeted at just under 887 million euros, will be footed by the Greek state.

The bill that paved the way for the capital’s first official mosque was voted through Parliament last August, yet the idea for a mosque in Athens – one of the few European capitals without one – was first floated in 1976 by Arab diplomats.

In 1983, Saudi Arabia submitted plans for an Islamic institution and a place of worship to the Greek Foreign Ministry.

The project, however, never went ahead as authorities repeatedly backed down after opposition emanating from senior Church officials and local authorities at potential locations.

The idea was reintroduced in 2000 with a law stipulating the construction of an Islamic cultural center on the outskirts of Athens, the cost of which was to be undertaken by the Saudi government.

But this plan also floundered under opposition from the Church and locals.

The project was revived in 2006 when Parliament passed a law to build a mosque in Athens with public money, on land formerly belonging to the Navy at Votanikos.

However, more delays followed – the four tenders launched for its construction received no bids, as companies feared backlash from the Church and far-right groups – until the consortium’s joint bid three years ago. After more delays, the deal to begin construction was finally signed on Monday.

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