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France to block Muslim street prayers in Paris suburb

French authorities will stop Muslims from praying in a street north of Paris, the country's interior minister said on Sunday, after a series of protests by lawmakers and locals over what they view as an unacceptable use of public space.

France to block Muslim street prayers in Paris suburb
Photo: Alain Jocard/AFP

“They will not have prayers on the street, we will prevent street praying,” Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told Questions Politics (Franceinfo, France Inter, Le Monde).

Prayers in the street have taken place every Friday in the multiethnic suburb of Clichy-la-Garenne since March to protest the closure of a popular local mosque that had operated in a government building but since been turned into a library.

Worshippers have accused the authorities of not offering suitable land to build a new mosque and the interior minister acknowledged the need for an alternative: “Muslims must have a place of worship to pray.”

“We will make sure we resolve this conflict in the next few weeks,” he added.

A local Muslim association has said it intends to hold prayers in the city centre next Friday.

The row about prayer space saw around 100 local French politicians attempt to block worshippers on November 10th, disrupting the crowd by singing the French national anthem.

The rightwing mayor of Clichy, Remi Muzeau, has argued that another mosque already exists north of the town, but mosque leaders have dismissed that idea as unviable, arguing it is too small and has poor transport links.

France has around five million Muslims, and concern about the religion challenging the country's strict secular laws was a major theme in this year's presidential election.

Muslim religious leaders complain that not enough space is made available for those wanting to attend services, but building new mosques remains controversial, with the influential far-right National Front (FN) particularly hostile.

In 2011, FN leader Marine Le Pen compared the sight of Muslims praying on the streets to the occupation of France by the Nazis in World War II, leading her to be prosecuted — and acquitted — for inciting hatred.

TRAVEL NEWS

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

Car, moped, public transport, or electric bicycle - which means of transport is the quickest way to get across Paris?

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

One intrepid reporter for French daily Le Parisien decided to find out. 

The challenge was simple. Which mode of transport would get the journalist from the heart of Fontenay-sous-Bois in the eastern suburbs to the newspaper’s office on Boulevard de Grenelle, west Paris, fastest?

Over four separate journeys, each one in the middle of rush hour, the electric bicycle was quickest and easiest. More expensive than conventional bikes, electric bikes do come with a government subsidy.

The journey was described as ‘pleasant and touristy’ on a dry but chilly morning going via dedicated cycle lanes that meant the dogged journalist avoided having to weave in and out of traffic.

It took, in total, 47 minutes from start to finish at an average speed of 19km/h, on a trip described as “comfortable” but with a caveat for bad weather. The cost was a few centimes for charging up the bike.

In comparison, a car journey between the same points took 1 hour 27 minutes – a journey not helped by a broken-down vehicle. Even accounting for that, according to the reporter’s traffic app, the journey should – going via part of the capital’s southern ringroad – have taken about 1 hr 12.

Average speed in the car was 15km/h, and it cost about €2.85 in diesel – plus parking.

A “chaotic and stressful” moped trip took 1 hour 3 minutes, and cost €1.30 in unleaded petrol.

Public transport – the RER and Metro combined via RER A to Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile then Metro line 6 to the station Bir-Hakeim – took 50 minutes door to door, including a 10-minute walk and cost €2.80. The journey was described as “tiring”.

READ ALSO 6 ways to get around Paris without the Metro

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