The French government has introduced a ban on street prayers on the streets of Paris, which comes into immediate effect today. Street prayers are a regular Friday activity in the French capital when thousands of Muslims, who complain there are not enough mosques for their needs, disrupt traffic by blocking roads to pray. The government deems that the practice is against the principle of secularism which France abides by.
French Interior Minister Claude Gueant stated that the ban may be extended to the rest of France. According to the Telegraph
"My vigilance will be unflinching for the law to be applied. Praying in the street is not dignified for religious practice and violates the principles of secularism.”
He also said the ban had the support of all Muslim leaders. The minister said that the law will be applied by force if necessary but believes that agreements with Muslim leaders will prevent the necessity. Before the ban came into effect the Muslim community was offered the facilities of a large disused fire barracks to use as a house of prayer, which they accepted.
reports that Muslims in Paris only have 1,500 prayer houses and the Great Mosque of Paris is not sited near immigrant areas which tend to center around Paris’s eastern 19th arrondissement. France has the highest Muslim population in Europe at an estimated six million. According to Todays Zaman
, the Muslim community complains that they were not informed that the ban would be implemented prior to today’s Friday prayers. Sheikh Mohamed Salah Hamza, who runs a Parisian mosque, emphasized that people do not want to pray on the streets and demand larger mosques.
The ban on street prayers follows the ban on head coverings in public places that the French government introduced in April which made it an offence to appear in a public place with a covered face. Although the ban covers other head wear such as motorcycle helmets it is generally referred to as the burka ban