Plans for the capital’s first official mosque were announced 13 years ago.
Some 700 members and supporters of Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn protested in Athens on Saturday against the construction of the capital’s first official mosque.
Shouting “Greece belongs to the Greeks” and “No mosque in Athens,” protesters gathered in the city’s central Eleonas neighborhood, where the mosque will be constructed.
Lawmaker Eleni Zaroulia—the wife of Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos—and three more of the party’s elected deputies reportedly participated in the protest. Michaloliakos is currently in pre-trial detention, charged with running a criminal organization following a musician’s murder by one of the group’s supporters in September.
In November, the government announced that a Greek consortium had been chosen to lead the construction of the Athens mosque, 13 years after plans were first announced. Five previous attempts to find a business group to back the project had failed.
Athens is one of the few European capitals without an official mosque, but in recent years several nonofficial places of worship have appeared in the Greek capital thanks to an increasing number of immigrants from countries such as Pakistan.
In 2011, the Greek government was forced to adopt a law ensuring the mosque’s construction. But concerns over where to place the mosque and protests from the far right led to the failure of five contract tenders. The only official mosques in Greece are situated in the northeast region of Thrace, where a minority group of Muslim Turks lives.