Cosmopolitanism-as-Geopolitics: Contesting the Building of the Athens Mosque

Authors: Alex Papadopoulos*, DePaul University
Topics: Urban Geography, Political Geography, Cultural Geography
Keywords: cosmopolitanism, geopolitics, identity, religion, urban planning, Mediterranean, Greece
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Balcony N, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Athens is home to a significant population of people who self-identify as Muslim: residential, immigrant, and refugee subgroups, which originate in Europe, West Asia, N Africa and in Africa’s Horn region. They find few available services and appropriate spaces for religious worship in Athens, either at the neighborhood, the city, or regional scales. Small mosques, religious schools, and retreats, often unlicensed, and operating in defiance of zoning and safety regulations have organically proliferated in an effort to address demands for services and space. In this paper I explore the geopolitics of mosque foundations in Greece as a dimension of critical cosmopolitanism. In response to demands for appropriate regulation and licensure of a significant place of worship for Athens’ Muslim population, the national state, the Prefecture of Attiki, and the Municipality of Athens have pursued different solutions to the issue. Once the decision was made that Athens should, and will, deliver a main mosque, the question of geography became paramount. Class-, ethnic-, racial-, and ideology-based backlash, translating into a NIMBY posture, undermined the project, derailing it for years, putting its character, its geographic location, and ultimately its feasibility, in doubt. The latest developments situate the proposed mosque in the Votanikos community area. It is now under construction and will be delivered to Athens’ Muslim communities in 2018. The study of the Athens mosque project as an exemplar of cosmopolitanism-as-geopolitics furthers the conversation on reconciliation and confidence building in a Europe embattled by extremist views on religion, race, and migration.

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