Following a tense debate regarding the creation of the capital’s first state-backed mosque, the government was forced to withdraw a provision of a draft bill relating to the funding of the prayer venue after objections by opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
The ND chief called on Education Minister Costas Gavroglou to withdraw and amend the provision to ensure that there is state control over the sources of the mosque’s funding.
The intervention was widely believed to be underpinned by concerns that foreign countries with links to Islamic terrorism might seek to fund the mosque but there was no explicit mention of this.
Gavroglou conceded that Mitsotakis had underlined a “genuine concern” that should be debated. At the end of the parliamentary session, he said discussion on the matter would continue in the coming days.
On Wednesday, a parliamentary committee approved legislation paving the way for the construction of the capital’s first state-backed mosque thanks to the votes of PASOK as leftist SYRIZA’s junior coalition partner Independent Greeks (ANEL) opposed the motion.
Citing objections based on its principles and the party’s established positions on the issue, ANEL MPs voted down the Culture Ministry’s bill, as did the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn.
The House’s plenary had been due to vote on the motion last night but the withdrawal of the provision delayed the ballot.
The site slated for the creation of the mosque is an old naval base in Votanikos, near central Athens.