Ban on praying on street draws ire of Muslims in France

September 15, 2011, Thursday/ 18:49:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Muslim groups have criticized a french Interior Ministry ban on praying in the streets of Paris as authorities hastily started the implementation of the ban before this week's Friday prayer.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant earlier said his ministry has provided another place of worship for Muslims and that Muslim associations were on board. However, the Muslim community was not informed that the ban would be put into effect immediately. Speaking to French daily Le Figaro on Wednesday, Gueant warned that if people do not obey the new regulation, police will intervene in the situation.

“We didn't receive any letters. We negotiated with the Paris Govenor's Office before June. But we didn't know that the ban would be put into effect this soon,” Mohamed Salah Hamza said, adding that most Muslims in France still do not know that they are not supposed to pray on the street ahead of this week's Friday prayer. He underscored that Muslims do not want to pray on streets and have demanded larger mosques.

Paris Governor's Office assigned a 2,700-squaremeter military depot for the use of Muslims since current mosques do not insufficient space for the community prayers held during Eid on Fridays. Muslim associations will pay 30,000 euros per year as rent throughout the three years of the lease. In 2014, the building for a larger mosque is expected to be completed.

Gueant argued that Catholic events with broad participation on Paris streets should not be evaluated as the same thing as Muslims praying outside. The minister further said the same ban will be put into effect in other French cities of Marseilles and Nice, where many Muslims live.

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