Gathering outside the town hall in Epinay-sur-Seine, north of Paris, on Saturday, protesters held placards that read “Muslims, shut your mouths, Hervé Chevreau will decide for you” and “Hervé Chevreau: Mayor or Imam?”
The controversy started two years ago, when the local council in Epinay funded a 700-square-metre prayer room costing €2.8 million, and handed control of it to a Muslim association linked to the Grande Mosquée de Paris, the OGME.
The new association banned the former Imam, Moustapha Halloum, from taking office there – a decision the Union of Muslim associations in Epinay (UAME) strongly opposed.
“The mayor thinks he can meddle because he financed our prayer room. But we don’t understand why they’re leaving us out in the cold,” said Nabil Abdellaoui, president of the UAME.
“We have had the same Imam for 15 years and everything ran smoothly. Our battle is one for the freedom of worship. We want to organise ourselves without constraints.
“They are making us look like fundamentalists, but that is not the case.”
Mayor Hervé Chevreau said: “I do not manage this mosque, the Grande Mosquée de Paris does. These people [protesting] do not represent anyone. They are Salafists.”