Published: 10:00 GMT Daylight Time - Friday 30 September 2011
Greece gives go-ahead for taxpayer-funded mega-mosque
Country/Region: Europe, Greece
The Greek Parliament has approved a controversial plan to build a taxpayer-funded mega-mosque in Athens.
The Greek government has committed to pay for the construction of a temporary mosque that will be built within the next six months. A larger mosque with enough space for 500 worshippers will be built in the same area by the end of 2012, at an estimated cost of around €16 million ($21 million).
The announcement, supported by 198 out of 300 deputies, comes as Greece battles an economic crisis, including escalating unemployment and the recent €110 billion ($146 billion) bail-out from other European nations.
The decision comes amid thinly veiled threats of violence by thousands of Muslim residents of the city who have been pressuring the government to meet their demands for a mosque or face an uprising.
In recent months Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and others in Parliament decided to push ahead with the mosque project after the Muslim Union of Greece staged a series of provocative mass public prayer sessions across Athens aimed at pressuring the government into building a mosque.
In November 2010, for example, Muslims held open-air prayers in 15 locations across Athens. In one instance, over 1,000 Muslims took over the square in front of the main building of the University of Athens and held public prayers inside the portico on the first day of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. More than 7,000 police officers were needed to keep the peace.
Analysts say the Papandreou government is pushing the mosque project out of fear that the Muslim rallies will become violent sooner rather than later.
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Read Hudson New York article Greece to Build First Official Mega-Mosque in Athens