The construction of what will be Athens’ first official mosque in modern times may be legally funded by the state, the country’s highest administrative court announced this week.
In a ruling, the Council of State rejected attempts to block the mosque’s construction by the Orthodox metropolitan bishop of Piraeus, a nature association called Athena, two navy officers and five residents of Votanikos and the Attica area.
The court found that the legislation for the mosque’s construction does not violate the principles of equality and free expression of religious beliefs, but that it offers Muslims of the Attica region the constitutionally supported freedom of expression of their religious beliefs.
The ruling referred several times to a law published in 2006 that cites the need to construct a mosque in Votanikos, Greece’s commitments to international agreements, and the constitution, which says that “all known religions shall be free and their rites of worship shall be performed unhindered and under the protection of the law to the unobstructed exercise of religious obligations”.
The mosque, to be located on Iera Odos near Eleonas metro station, in the western Athens district of Votanikos, will be built at a cost of cost €1.1 million on a 1.7-hectare site in a former repair yard belonging to the Hellenic Navy. The structure will not have a minaret.
It will cover religious needs of Muslims living in the greater Athens area.
An intervention in support of the mosque’s construction filed by the mufti of the northeastern city of Komotini was rejected because he had failed to give power of attorney to his lawyer in time.
Athens is the only capital city among the 15 “older” European Union member states that does not have an official mosque. The city’s Muslims – an estimated 120,000, mostly immigrants and refugees – pray at these makeshift mosques, many of them located in basement and ground floor apartments.
Estimates say there are about 120 unofficial mosques in the capital. A number of former mosques remain from the time of Ottoman rule but are no longer used for religious purposes.
Source: enetenglish, ana-mpa