France herds Muslim faithful off streets after prayer ban

Paris: A ban on praying in French streets came into effect today, with thousands of the nation’s Muslim faithful being moved to temporary alternative spaces for their day of prayer.
From Paris to Marseille, Friday’s midday prayers will be led from disused barracks or other temporary buildings, after the question of Islam’s visibility became a political issue under right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy.
France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim population, this year banned the face-covering burqa and earlier this week Interior Minister Claude Gueant warned that “from September 16 there will be no more prayers in the street.”
“If anyone happens to be recalcitrant we will put an end to it,” Gueant said, suggesting police could be brought in.
“Prayers in the street are unacceptable, a direct attack on the principle of secularism,” Gueant told AFP last month, citing the government’s defence of the republic’s secular values as reason for the new policies.
In Paris, a former barracks just north of the city limits has been designated the new prayer area for those living in the multi-ethnic Goutte d’Or neighbourhood, around two kilometres away.


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