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

Anti-Terror Drills Highlight China’s Push Into Central Asia

China, Russia, several central Asian countries wrap up massive anti terrorism military drills in Inner Mongolia More

Erdogan’s First Step: Secure More Power in New Role in Turkey

Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey's first popularly elected president on Thursday; he picked former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as PM More

Pakistan Army Fails to Break Political Deadlock

PM Sharif claims he didn't ask army to defuse crisis; military rejects claim 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.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid