After burqa, France bans street prayers

via published on September 17, 2011

PARIS: A ban on praying in French streets came into effect on Friday, with thousands of the nation’s Muslim faithful being moved to temporary alternative spaces for their day of prayer.

From Paris to Marseille, Friday’s midday prayers will be led from disused barracks or other temporary buildings, after the question of Islam’s visibility became a political issue under right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy.
France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim population, this year banned the burqa and earlier this week interior minister Claude Gueant warned that “from September 16 there will be no more prayers in the street”.

“If anyone happens to be recalcitrant we will put an end to it,” Gueant said, suggesting police could be brought in. “Prayers in the street are unacceptable, a direct attack on the principle of secularism,” Gueant said, citing the government’s defence of the republic’s secular values as reason for the new policies.

In Paris, a former barracks just north of the city limits has been designated the new prayer area for those living in the multi-ethnic Goutte d’Or neighbourhood.

The praying faithful at the Goutte d’Or’s two mosques have overflowed into the streets since a nearby mosque where 4,000 people could pray closed years ago, sparking the ire of French right-wing and anti-immigration parties. The neighbourhood’s mosques are to be closed for at least the coming three Fridays in order to encourage those wanting to pray to go to the renovated barracks, one of the mosques’ preachers, Sheikh Mohammed Hamza, said.

“Most of the organisations running mosques managed to find solutions allowing them to avoid this kind of practice (praying in the street),” Marseille police said.

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