05 July, 2014 11:09
The general assembly of the state council in Greece has rejected an appeal to prevent the construction of a mosque in the capital Athens.
Construction of Athens's only mosque is due to start soon after plans were approved eight months ago. The mosque is expected to be complete six months after construction starts.
A private consortium was awarded a $1.292 million contract to build the mosque on land belonging to the Hellenic Navy in Votanikos, near central Athens, last year.
As plans to begin the construction later this year remain on schedule, the plans act as a focus point for far-right Golden Dawn politicians campaigning against Muslims and immigration.
Athens was once home to many mosques during the Ottoman times, but many of these mosques were closed or used for other purposes after Greece became an independent state, especially after the population exchange between the Christians of Turkey and Muslims of Greece left many mosques empty.
Nonetheless the Ottomans still attempted to negotiate the building of a mosque in Athens but these plans fell through twice in 1851 and 1890. Another plan led by Egypt also collapsed in 1934.
Plans to build an Islamic center for the 2000 Olympics, which were held in the city, also failed. This once again became an issue to 2006 but the then Infrastructure Minister Makis Voridis was reluctant to pursue the project.
However, in July 2013, bidding to built the mosque was finally initiated, much to the dislike of far-right groups like Golden Dawn, who have participated in a number of violent protests against the plans.
Athens today is the only European capital without an official mosque for its Muslim residents.