A group of around a dozen people have occupied the site in the central Votanikos district where the capital’s first mosque will be constructed, and have set up a makeshift center to house homeless Greek people, but not foreigners.
The initiative has been embraced by the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party and other extreme-right groups in what appears to be a concerted effort to block the mosque’s construction.
On Sunday, Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos addressed the second of two protest rallies near the plot – formerly a Hellenic Navy base – organized by the party to denounce the idea of a mosque in Votanikos, or anywhere else in Greece for that matter.
Tellingly, the group occupying the plot calls itself the Association of Reservist Infantryman and has fenced the area off with barbed wire.
Meanwhile, construction work for the mosque – approved in Parliament in August – by a Greek consortium has yet to begin as a string of prerequisite bureaucratic procedures have yet to be completed, Kathimerini understands.
The cost, budgeted at just under 887 million euros, will be footed by the Greek state.
“The actions of these groups are reminiscent of past manifestations of hate which pose a threat to law, order and security,” said a statement issued by Kostis Papaioannou, the general secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights.
For his part, Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis said that the mosque’s construction is a constitutional and international obligation that Greece must fulfill.
“It’s far better to have one official place of worship rather than have 200 informal places around the city,” he said.