As Greece’s government takes on Orthodox Church over mosque construction, minority Muslims stand to benefit

For The Los Angles Times

Athens — In a country where the Orthodox Church is part of Greek identity, Muslims have long found that new mosques could be built only in certain areas that did not include Athens, the capital.

But an influx of mostly Muslim migrants coupled with an unabashedly leftist Greek government is bringing change. Authorities in October signed a nearly $1-million  (887,000 euro) deal to build the first state-funded mosque in Athens since the end of Ottoman rule more than 180 years ago.

The mosque planned for the Votanikos neighborhood, while significant, is expected to have a capacity of  fewer than 500 people, not enough to meet all the needs of the estimated 200,000 Muslims in Athens, analysts and residents say.

“It would be a symbolic gesture,” said Konstantinos Tsitselikis, an expert on religious minorities at the University of Macedonia in Thessaloniki. “It’s very small and for sure cannot cover the number of Muslims in Athens.”

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