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Now Spiliotopoulos Supports Mosque – Out of Athens' Center


New Democracy candidate for Mayor Aris Spiliotopoulos keeps changing his mind
New Democracy candidate for Mayor Aris Spiliotopoulos keeps changing his mind

Reeling from a backlash of criticism, New Democracy’s candidate for Athens Mayor, Aris Spiliotopoulos, said he now backs plans to create a mosque in Athens – as long as it’s not in the historic center as currently planned.
The coalition government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras – the New Democracy leader – supports putting the mosque in the area of Votanikos, near the capital’s downtown, which puts Spilitopoulos at odds with the man who hand picked him to run for Mayor.
There was no report on whether the two had talked to see if their agendas meshed or if the Prime Minister had spoken to the man who chose as his party’s candidate.
Earlier in the campaign, ahead of the May 18 local elections, Spiliotopoulos indicated he was against plans for a mosque to be built in Athens and proposed that a referendum be held to allow Athenians to have the final say on the subject.
That was in line with the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party which also wanted Athenians to have a say on the mosque, aligning Spiliotopoulos with the extremists at the same time Samaras’ government is trying to dismantle the party and has had most of its hierarchy jailed or arrested.
Golden Dawn is virulently anti-immigrant while Samaras campaigned in 2012 on a platform to rid Greece of illegal immigrants. Spilitopoulos earlier said he feared a mosque in Athens would be a magnet for Muslims that he didn’t want there.
Now he’s changed his mind, apparently, after withering criticism that he too was an extremist. Speaking to Mega TV Spiliotopoulos said that he is only opposed to the idea of the mosque being located in the “historic center” of Athens.
“Yes to the mosque, no to where [Athens Mayor Giorgos] Kaminis wants it to be built,” he said, without saying where he thinks it should be built.
The government is proposing to pay for renovation of a building in the industrial area of Votanikos for the country’s first state-sanctioned mosque under pressure from Muslim groups who say that they now can only pray in makeshift areas such as basements and garages.
Spiliotopoulos has been criticized over the past few weeks for pandering to right-wing voters by using harsh language against migrants and opposing plans for a mosque, which had the government’s backing.
“I am much more progressive on the issue of civil rights than all those people who issue statements [criticizing me],” he said.
He was picked by Samaras instead of another New Democracy MP, Nikitas Kaklamanis, who was a largely-criticized Athens Mayor from 2007-10 and now is running against Spiliotopoulos and his own party but hasn’t been reprimanded or ejected.

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