Due to a shortage of mosques, some Parisian Muslims have taken to praying in the street. However, the French far right doesn't like it — and a new law will ban the practice.
According to the AP, there just isn't enough space in French mosques to house all worshipers — so Muslim men have begun praying in streets in French cities including Paris, Marseille, and Nice (women typically pray at home). But the practice doesn't sit well with some in a country that has long insisted on secularism. Far-right groups have lodged protests against street prayer — right-wing politician Marine Le Pen called it a "political act by fundamentalists," and even an "occupation," a term that for the French recalls the Nazi takeover of their country during World War II. Now, an old fire station will be converted into additional indoor prayer space, and praying in the streets of Paris will be banned as of today. Interior Minister Claude Gueant, the architect of the ban, says,
I have said the practice of praying in the streets must stop and it will stop on the foreseen date. We could go so far as to use force if needed, but it's a hypothesis I rule out because dialogue has borne its fruit.
His threat of force seems somewhat ridiculous, given that Muslims don't seem to particularly want to pray in the streets anyway. One man told the AP, "I'm not against moving ... the street noise is a bit of a problem. If the [new] place is clean that's enough. The whole world belongs to God." Said another, "If a good place for more people to pray is found, it's better ... There aren't enough mosques in France." It sounds like Muslims have been praying on the streets of Paris not because they want to intimidate other French people and convert everyone to Islam, but for the simple reason that
there is no space indoors
. The new facility should fix that problem, but it won't fix the xenophobia of the French right.