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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs