Tensions as Paris Suburb Tries to Stop Muslim Street Prayers

Associated Press, November 10, 2017

Tensions erupted Friday as French officials and residents of a Paris suburb tried to block Muslims from praying in the street—a dispute that reflects nationwide problems with mosque shortages.

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Carrying a large banner reading “Stop Illegal Street Prayers,” Mayor Remi Muzeau led more than 100 demonstrators Friday in a show of force to dissuade Muslims from praying on the town’s market square. Worshippers have been praying there every Friday for months to protest the closure of a prayer room.

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As worshippers chanted “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic, the larger group of demonstrators loudly sang the French national anthem. Some held French flags and a crucifix aloft.

Amid pushing and shoving, a banner the worshippers were carrying reading “United for a Grand Mosque of Clichy” was torn down.

Police with shields then formed a human barricade between the groups and Muslims eventually unrolled their rugs on the pavement, took off their shoes and held their prayers.

When the incident was over, the worshippers clapped, and the mayor pledged to come back again next week — as did the Muslim worshippers.

“We’ll do it every Friday if necessary,” said Muzeau.

“I must assure the tranquility and freedom of the people in my city,” he said. “We must not allow this to happen in our country. Our country, the French Republic is tarnished.”

Hamid Kazed, president of the Union of Muslim Associations of Clichy, who led the prayers, said, “We are going to continue until there’s a dialogue for a definitive venue.”

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The demonstrators were joined by the president of the Paris region, Valerie Pecresse, and officials and residents of other Paris suburbs

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