France to ban Muslim street worship
France will stop Muslims from praying in a north suburban Paris street, according to the home affairs minister.
Residents of the multiethnic Clichy-la-Garenne have protested against street prayers and scuffles with the authorities have occurred.
Hundreds of Muslims have been gathering in front of the town hall every Friday to worship leading French MPs to promise an end to all public worship sessions across the country.
Worshippers began praying in the streets in March to protest against the closure of a mosque which was being turned into a library.
The municipal authorities say there is a mosque north of the town that can accommodate the worshippers, but the Muslims say it is not large enough and is tough to reach using public transport.
France’s Muslim community is suffering from a shortage of mosques, saying the authorities have not offering land suitable land for Islamic worship.
“You think it is a luxury to pray on the street?” Hamid Kazed, head of the Clichy Muslim Union, asked politicians in a debate.
“They will not have prayers on the street, we will prevent street praying,” Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said, according to Questions Politics.
But he did admit that more mosques were needed, saying: “Muslims must have a place to pray”. He promised to resolve the issue within the next few weeks.
Similar street prayers have taken place in the southern cities of Marseille and Nice, which both have large Muslim populations.
Earlier this month, right-wing mayor Remi Muzeau led around 100 people in protest against street worshipping.
As worshippers chanted “Allah akbar” (God is great), the protesters, some of whom held crucifixes aloft, sang France’s national anthem.
Riot police separated the two groups and the prayers continued.
Building mosques for France’s estimated 5 million Muslims, around 7.5 per cent of the total population, is controversial and worshipers in several towns have resorted to praying in the streets, fuelling anti-Islamic sentiment pushed by the Front National. The party’s failed presidential candidate Marine Le Pen in 2011 compared Muslims praying in the streets to German occupation during the Second World War. She was prosecuted for inciting hatred, but subsequently acquitted.
In 2011, Guéant ended street worshipping by letting Muslims use a disused fire brigade barracks with capacity for 2,000 people.
Elsewhere, in Munich, public Muslim prayers held to protest about the lack of a mosque in the city centre were cancelled earlier this year for security reasons. The authorities feared that far-right groups would mobilise to attack worshippers.
Clashes in Clichy-la-Garenne this month. Picture credit: YouTube