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Minister bans Street prayers

Interior Minister Claude Guéant has said force may be used if people persist in praying in the street

STREET prayers are banned in Paris as of today – a measure understood to mainly target Muslims who congregate in the Goutte d’Or area for Friday prayers.

The practice also takes place in other parts of France, most commonly Nice and Marseille, and it is thought the ban may be rolled out nation-wide, said France Soir.

In Paris than 1,000 people have been meeting for prayers in rues Myrha and Polonceau at 14.00 on Fridays, according to Interior Minister Claude Guéant, who says this “occupation of a public space by a religious practice” shocks passers-by and “contravenes the principle of laicity”.

Muslims in the Goutte d’Or area, which has a large Arab and African population, have become used to street prayers over the last few years, since the closure of a large local mosque capable of holding 4,000 meant that other smaller venues in the area were unable to accommodate everyone.

The ban coincides with the opening for prayers in the area of an old fire station, in an agreement with the city council. This will be a temporary measure until a new Islamic Cultural Centre opens in about two years.

Mr Guéant has said force will be used if necessary if people persist in praying in the street.

It is expected however that the ban will cause immediate problems this afternoon due to people not wanting to change their habits. “We are not cattle,” one Imam told France Soir.

He added the new premises were not fitted out completely to their satisfaction and there are issues remaining over the cost of the rent and whether or not the premises can be used all week long.

“I’m in a difficult position and fear a climate of anarchy,” he said.

Photo: Derussit Xavier MaxPPP

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