Ban forces Muslims off streets for Friday prayers
France on Friday introduced a ban on praying in the street forcing thousands of muslims into temporary alternative spaces for their day of prayer. Interior Minister Claude Gueant has said that praying in the street is a direct attack on the principle of secularism.
In Paris, a former barracks north of the city limits is the new prayer area for those living in the multi-ethnic Goutte d’Or neighbourhood. The barracks has two 750-and 600-square-metre rooms which can hold up to 2,700 people.
The neighbourhood has seen the faithful overflow into the streets since a nearby mosque where 4,000 people could pray closed years ago. The area's mosques are to be closed for at least the next three Fridays in order to encourage people to go to the renovated mosques.
A new 4,000-square-metre Institute for Islamic Cultures, costing 30 million euros, is set to open in 2013.
In the southern port city of Marseille, the authorities say they will provide a 1,000-square-metre building for Friday prayers.
“This provision is temporary and should allow the organisations running mosques to find long-term solutions,” said police.
France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim populaton, earlier this year introduced a controversial law banning the face-covering burqa