ATHENS – The awarding of a contract to construct a state-paid official mosque for the city’s Muslims has led the ultra-right extremist Golden Dawn party to promise a mass protest against its building.
Golden Dawn, whose leaders are in jail pending trial on charges of a running a criminal gang, said the contract was an “unprecedented provocation” and that it would use its position “within Parliament and mainly through mass, powerful demonstrations” to prevent the mosque being built.
They were joined in their opposition to the mosque by the right-wing Independent Greeks party which has a marginal group in the Parliament, where Golden Dawn has 18 lawmakers, although six of them were arrested after the killing of an anti-fascist for which one of its members was arrested.
On Nov. 1, two party members were gunned down by a suspect for which a new urban terror group has claimed responsibility, saying it was in vengeance, further roiling a Greek society already upset by ongoing austerity measures and the threat of more.
The mosque is adding to the anxiety as it’s fiercely opposed by nationalists and the religious right of the Greek Orthodox Church.
Ex-Independent Greeks MP Christos Zois, who leads his own party, Nea Mera, said the location of the mosque in Votanikos, “just a few meters from the sacred rock of the Acropolis and Plato’s olive tree” was disrespectful to Greek history.
“This comes at a time when the government does not dare to demand that Hagia Sophia [in Istanbul] be recognized as a place of worship of worldwide importance and the reopening of the Halki theological seminary,” said Zois.
The Infrastructure Ministry said it had awarded the contract for the mosque’s construction to a consortium comprising the firms J&P Avax, Terna, Aktor and Intrakat.
The project has a budget of 946,000 euros and the mosque will be built on land that belonged to the Hellenic Navy in Votanikos, near central Athens. Ministry officials said the construction work should begin early next year. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative party leader, is a staunch backer of the mosque.