ATHENS – Thirteen years after plans were first announced, the long-stalled construction of a state-funded mosque in Athens have come a step closer after a consortium of Greek companies had won the tender to build it.
‘J&P Avax, Terna, Aktor, Intrakat won the tender to build the mosque that will cost about 946,000 euros ($1.27 million),’ the Infrastructure Ministry was quoted by Reuters on Friday, November 15.
The project will have to be completed within six months of contracts being signed, the ministry added.
Greek Muslims have long called for building a grand mosque to accommodate the religious needs of the growing Muslim minority in the capital Athens.
Athens has come under fire by human rights groups such as Amnesty International for being one of the few European capitals without a mosque.
Despite objections from its powerful Orthodox Church, Greece had pledged to build a mosque in Athens to serve the city's growing Muslim minority.
Repeated plans for a mosque in Athens began in earnest in 1880, with an act of parliament, but all fell through, including one timed for the 2004 Olympic Games.
The plan has angered far-right groups, which vowed to block the building of the mosque.
The far-right Golden Dawn party, which is suspected of attacks against immigrants, said it will "fight until the bitter end" to block the mosque plan.
One local bishop, Seraphim, has also taken the plans to build the mosque to Greece's highest administrative court, the Council of State. A ruling is not expected for months.
Reports in local media that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan offered to fund a mosque in Athens have also sparked anger in Greece, which spend four centuries under Turkish Ottoman rule.
Decked with minarets two centuries ago, Athens has not had a functioning mosque since the end of Ottoman rule in the early 1800s.
About 130 windowless, airless basements or warehouses in Athens currently serve as makeshift mosques for an estimated 200,000 Muslims in the Greek capital.
Tens of thousands of Muslim immigrants perform prayers in private homes and have had to travel hundreds of kilometers to northern Greece for weddings, burials and other ceremonies.
The Orthodox Church has for years insisted that Greeks were not ready to see a minaret in downtown Athens.
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