News / Europe

France to Build Islamic Center in Paris

French Muslims attend a mass prayer at a prayer hall in a unused former fire station, Paris, September 16, 2011.
French Muslims attend a mass prayer at a prayer hall in a unused former fire station, Paris, September 16, 2011.
Lisa Bryant

Paris plans to build a new Islamic center to address two issues, a dearth of mosques for the city's sizable Muslim community and a new law banning street prayers. In the interim, Muslims been invited to worship in an unusual venue - an old fire station at the edge of the city.

For many practicing Muslims in Paris, Friday prayers means having to pack in overflowing mosques. Or when there is no more space, by rolling out prayer rugs on the city's sidewalks. No longer.

A new law has gone into force this month, banning France's estimated 5 million Muslims from praying on the streets - in line with the country's separation of religion and state.

Converting a fire station

French authorities have offered a stop-gap solution, which is the cavernous quarters of an old fire station in northern Paris. Hundreds of people emerged from the facility one recent sunny afternoon, spilling into a wide boulevard just a stone's throw from the city's ring road.

For Guinea-Bissau native Oummou Savanneh, the fire station is a much better option than her local mosque, located just a half-mile away. Savanneh said now there is lots of space, and toilets, for worshippers.

Algerian Sayid Rahmani also is pleased. Rahmani said French authorities now understand that it is not normal for Muslims to pray on the street.

Muslim clerics say they expect several thousand faithful will use the facility. It already is overflowing. Moussa Diakite, rector of the nearby Polonceau mosque, helps lead Friday prayers, taking turns with another rector.

Diakite said it is too early to say whether the facility will work. Either way, he noted, it is only a temporary solution.

Paris Islamic center

Paris authorities agree. They have offered a three-year lease for the facility. For the long term, said sub-prefect Renaud Vedel, the government plans to help build an Islamic institute in Paris.

Vedel said public funds will finance the cultural part of the center, while the Islamic community will finance the religious part.

French Muslims, many of them from North and sub-Saharan Africa, have long complained about the problems of building new mosques - from a lack of funding, to bureaucratic red tape, to a raft of legal challenges filed by French opposed to them.

Bruno Gollnisch, a senior member of the far-right National Front party, however, said the solution is not building new mosques.

"The solution in my opinion is… to reverse the trend of immigration and to try and get these people settled back in their home country," said Gollnisch.

With anti-immigration sentiments running high in France, some see the street-prayer ban as a move by the center-right government to gain votes ahead of 2012 elections. The government sparked controversy earlier this year by banning the face veil. Critics saw it as another political ploy, since the veil is worn by very few Muslim women in France.

Muslims interviewed in Paris said they were unaware of plans to construct an Islamic center.

But one woman worshipper, who gave her name only as Rhama, said the Muslim community deserves a large mosque in a central area - not tucked away on the fringe of the city.

You May Like

South Korea Divided on Response to North’s Cyber Attack

In past five years, officials in Seoul have accused Pyongyang of hacking into banks, government websites, causing chaos and inflicting millions of dollars in damages More

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Bentiu

Residents have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy, but planning for the future remains uncertain as fear of attacks looms More

2015 Could Be Watershed for Syria Conflict

Republican control of US Senate in January could lead to more aggressive policy against IS militants in Syria - and against regime of Bashar al-Assad More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil Wari
X
Adam Bailes
December 22, 2014 3:45 PM
In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Calm Amid Fear in Daily Life in S. Sudan’s Town of Bentiu

Six months ago, Bentiu was a ghost town. The capital of northern Unity State, near South Sudan’s important oil fields, had changed hands several times in fighting between government forces and rebels. Calm returned in November and since then, residents of Bentiu have been trying to regain some sense of normalcy. Bentiu’s market has reopened there are plans to start school again. But fears of new attacks hang heavy, as Benno Muchler reports from Bentiu.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.

All About America

AppleAndroid