France will prevent Muslims from praying in the streets of Paris, the country's Interior Minister said. “They will not have prayers on the street. We will prevent street praying,” France’s Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told the media.
The authorities in Paris were forced to ban street prayers following scuffles between some local lawmakers and an all-male Muslim group that insisted on praying on the streets in the northern Parisian suburb of Clichy-la-Garenne.
The Islamic group was holding daily prayers by blocking the roads after the town authorities refused to renew the rent agreement for a Muslim worship center. The Muslims were urged by the city to use the local mosque, but they rejected the suggestion and started praying on the streets. According to the Muslim group, between 3,000 to 5,000 were attending its daily prayers.
British newspaper Independent reported the French Interior Minister’s decision:
France will stop Muslims from praying in a Paris suburb, the interior minister has said, following skirmishes between worshippers and authorities.
Tensions have grown in recent weeks, with residents of the multi-ethnic Clichy-la-Garenne protesting street-prayers.
Worshippers began praying on the roads in March to protest the closure of a local mosque which was turned into a library. (...)
Earlier in November, right-wing mayor Remi Muzeau led around 100 people in a demonstration against street-prayers.
As worshippers chanted "Allahhu akbar", or "God is great", the protesters – some holding crucifixes aloft – sang the French national anthem.
Police with shields intervened to separate the two groups, and the Muslims were able to continue their prayers.
For many locals and Parisian lawmakers, the Muslim street prayers are not a form of worship but a show of force to intimidate authorities.
In 2010, the Front National leader, Marine Le Pen, likened the sight of Islamic street prayers to the Nazi occupation of the country during the Second World War.
"I'm sorry, but for those who really like to talk about World War Two, if we're talking about occupation, we could talk about that [street prayers], because that is clearly an occupation of the territory. It is an occupation of sections of the territory, of neighborhoods in which religious law applies, it is an occupation. There are no tanks, there are no soldiers, but it is an occupation anyhow, and it weighs on people," Le Pen said during a campaign trail in Lyon, France.
She was prosecuted for making those statement, but later acquitted.
According to demographic estimates (French census data does not record religious affiliations), the Muslim population of France will soon exceed the 20-percent mark. A study published last month claims that France could become a Muslim-majority country within the next 40 years. And these are just conservative estimates.
Encouraged by the coming demographic shift, Muslims radicals are challenging the secular state out on the streets. Regardless of the ministerial decree, the French state and its Liberal constitution are bound to give way once the population shift takes place.