Clichy-la-Garenne is a multi-ethnic suburb of Paris, located 6.4 kilometres (4 miles) northwest of the centre on the Seine River. The commune has seen a growing number of protests lately in response to the closure of a popular, well-loved local mosque.
The protests have taken the form of peaceful street prayers and have been going on every Friday since March.
Both lawmakers and locals alike have been taking action over what they believe to be an ‘unacceptable’ use of public space. The mosque used to be housed in a government building that has since been converted into a library.
‘They will not have prayers on the street, we will prevent street praying’, Interior Minister Gérard Collomb told Questions Politiques.
The authorities have come under fire by worshipers, accused of not offering suitable land to build a new mosque. ‘Muslims must have a place of worship to pray. We will make sure we resolve this conflict in the next few weeks’, the interior minister admitted, acknowledging the need for an alternative.
There are around five million Muslims in France, and a growing concern about religious harmony. Muslim religious leaders complain about a lack of space for people wanting to attend services, but the construction of new mosques remains a controversial issue. This stems from the country’s strict secular laws and hostility from the French National Front (FN), France’s far-right party.
In 201o, FN leader Marine Le Pen compared the image of Muslim street prayers to the occupation of France by the Nazis in World War II, with comments that lead to her prosecution for ‘incitement to discrimination, violence or hatred towards a group of people on the basis of their religion’.