Construction firms stay away from city mosque

A fourth attempt to find a construction company to build Athens’s first mosque will be made next month after three failed tenders have led to some firms claiming they withdrew because of fears of intimidation.

The Infrastructure Ministry’s general secretary, Stratos Simopoulos, told Kathimerini that the new tender for the 946,000-euro project in the Votanikos area would only be aimed at big companies.

Kathimerini spoke to representatives of several smaller companies that had expressed an interest in the scheme in the past, who admitted to concerns about the popular opposition to the construction of a mosque in Athens. One person spoke of fears of “being targeted by extremist groups,” while another said that he had been unable to physically submit the bid due to a protest against the mosque by residents and other groups.

Far-right Golden Dawn is opposed to the mosque’s construction but the project is also being fought by Bishop of Piraeus Seraphim and a residents’ group in Votanikos.

Government sources speculated that the lack of interest from construction firms might be an attempt to force the government to offer more money. Athens is one of the few European Union capitals without a mosque, so Muslims use some 100 makeshift praying areas in the basements of apartment blocks.