After yet another attack on government plans to construct a mosque in central Athens, Greece’s neofascist Golden Dawn party has asked for a national vote on the issue.
Speaking in Parliament Thursday, Golden Dawn MP Ilias Panayiotaros said that plans to build a place of worship for Greece’s Muslim community were a “provocation” for Greeks, saying that the project should be put to a national referendum.
Panayiotaros wrapped up his comments shouting “fire and axe to those who bow down,” quoting a phrase from a letter written by Theodoros Kolokotronis, a leader of Greece’s War of Independence against the Ottomans.
Panayiotaros erroneously attributed the phrase to “Constantine” Kolokotronis.
The Golden Dawn MP’s statements prompted a fierce response from Infrastructure Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis who slammed his “nationalist frenzy.” “I do not distinguish people between Pontiac Greeks, Muslims, Buddhists,” Chrysochoidis, a socialist, said.
“You are selling hatred against the world and you are quashing the souls and minds of desperate people,” Chrysochoidis added, drawing parallels between the position of Golden Dawn and recent comments by Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc who earlier this month suggested that he would like to see Hagia Sophia be converted into a mosque.
Last week, Greece’s Infrastructure Ministry said it had awarded the contract for the mosque’s construction to a consortium comprising the firms J&P Avax, Terna, Aktor and Intrakat. The project has a budget of 946,000 euros and the mosque will be built on land that belonged to the Hellenic Navy in Votanikos, near central Athens. Ministry sources said the construction work should begin early next year.