A bill that paves the way for a much-delayed initiative to build the capital’s first official mosque was voted through Parliament on Thursday by all parties except neofascist Golden Dawn and the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL), leftist SYRIZA’s coalition partner.
After a tense session in the House, 230 MPs joined the roll call, with 206 voting in favor and 24 against.
Addressing Parliament before the vote, the minister of education and religious affairs, Nikos Filis, said the creation of a mosque in Athens will avert the risk of terrorist attacks by Islamist fundamentalists in Greece.
The new law foresees the disbursement of 946,000 euros from state coffers for the construction of the capital’s first official mosque on a patch of land in the Votanikos district that formerly belonged to the Hellenic Navy.
Greece passed a law in 2006 to build a mosque in Athens with public money. But although the plot in Votanikos was set aside then, the construction of the mosque was held back by a series of legal appeals against the project as well as opposition from certain senior clerics in the Church of Greece.
It was not the first time that ANEL has come into conflict with SYRIZA over legislation on contentious issues. Votes on boosting rights for second-generation migrants and gay couples last year also saw the right-wing junior coalition partner defecting from the line adopted by SYRIZA.
Commenting shortly after the vote in Parliament on Thursday, Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis described the development as “a decisive step as regards rights and in particular as regards the self-evident right to practice religious worship in conditions that respect the dignity of believers, as foreseen by the country’s Constitution and by international treaties.” He added that he, and the Right to the City movement with which he is aligned, had supported the need for the creation of an official mosque in Athens “from the very beginning… boldly and directly.”
“Following the approval of the relevant provision by all parties of the democratic spectrum there should be no further delay,” Kaminis added.