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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid