News Agencies – September 16, 2011
A ban on saying prayers in the street, a practice by French Muslims unable to find space in mosques, has come into effect in Paris. Interior Minister Claude Gueant has offered believers the use of a disused fire brigade barracks instead. The phenomenon of street prayers, which see Muslims spreading mats on footpaths, became a political issue after far right protests.
Mr Gueant said about 1,000 people were using two streets in the capital’s multi-ethnic Goutte d’Or district for prayers. An agreement has been reached with two local mosques for the state to rent out the disused barracks on Boulevard Ney with floorspace of 2,000 sq m for three years.
To encourage believers to use the new space, prayers would not be held inside the existing mosques for the first few weeks. Gueant said he did not believe force would have to be used to impose the ban because dialogue was “bearing fruit”. An overseer at the barracks said the space, with a capacity of 2,000, was full. He added that similar problems with street prayers existed in two other cities, Marseille and Nice.