Greece's Council of State approves construction of first ever mosque in Athens
by Stelyo Berberakis
ATHENSJul 09, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Stelyo Berberakis
Jul 09, 2016 12:00 am
Greece's Council of State on Friday approved the construction of the first mosque in Athens. The ongoing discussions on building a mosque in Athens, which began in the 1980s, are now expected to end with this decision. Construction was prevented by super-patriotic groups as well as some strict members of the Greek Orthodox Church. The decision approved by Greek parliament followed the agreement to build the mosque land of the Greek naval forces.
The ultra-nationalist Greek party, Golden Dawn, recently applied to the Greek Council of State to stop the construction proposal, but the council specified there are no reasons to prevent the mosque project.
Greek Education Minister Nikos Filis, who is also in charge of religious affairs, said that the Greek government will soon start building a mosque and Muslim cemetery, winning approval from the city's Muslim minority.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras frequently said a mosque would be built in Athens and recently reiterated his statement at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg in June.
Previously, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan offered former Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras assistance to build a mosque in Athens in 2013 if the Greek government was willing to issue the necessary licensing. In addition, at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which was carried out by the U.N. Human Rights Council in May in Geneva, Turkey also advised Greece to start building a mosque and assign a cemetery for the Muslim minority in Athens.
Greek authorities previously promised to reopen the historic Ottoman Fethiye Mosque, but the complex has been used as a museum since 2015 instead of a house of worship. Turkish authorities have said in recent years that the country could reopen the Halki Seminary, which was closed in 1971, in exchange for the Greek government reopening Fethiye Mosque.
The Halki Seminary's future remains uncertain, but Athens's recent policies are a positive development in bilateral relations between the two countries.