Mosque tender due by month’s end

The capital?s sizable Muslim population appears closer than ever to getting an official place of worship as a tender for the project is due to be floated before the end of November, a state official has told Kathimerini.

However, financial woes have reportedly forced authorities to ditch plans for a purpose-built mosque — debt-wrecked Greece, after all, is depending on a multibillion bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to pay its bills and avoid default — and now the plan is to renovate an existing structure on a defunct naval base in Eleonas, western Athens.

Works to revamp the 575-square meter building, which is set to accommodate two separate prayer halls for men and women, will be overseen by architects Alexandros Tombazis, Nikos Athanasiadis and Paraskevas Mitsoudis. The report mentions a minimalist design that will bear no minarets or other Islamic motifs.

The cost of the project, which is put at 750,000 euros, will be footed by the Education and Religion Ministry, the report said.

?We hope that a tender for the project will be announced by the end of this month at the latest,? Yiannis Economidis, general secretary of public works, told Kathimerini. He said the tender will be put up as soon as the funding has been set aside by the government.

About half a million Muslims live in Greece according to official estimates — 200,000 of them in Athens. They use makeshift mosques for prayer in basements, apartments and converted coffee shops. Pressure on the Greek state to build a mosque has been growing — perhaps most controversially with a mass prayer by Muslims in front of the University of Athens in 2010.

Predominantly Orthodox Greece has often come under fire for failing to provide an official prayer site for Muslims — in fact, it is the only EU capital without one. Previous campaigns have been held back by red tape and public skepticism, often fanned by the Church, partly a legacy of centuries of Ottoman rule.