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French ban on Muslim street prayers takes effect

Sep 16. 2011
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Paris - A ban on Muslims praying in the streets of France came into effect Friday, as two new places of worship opened to accommodate the overflow from mosques in Paris and Marseille.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant had said last week that there would be "no prayers in the street from September 16." 

"If by chance there are contrarians, we will put a stop to it," he said.

The ban coincides with the opening of a new place of worship for Muslims in northern Paris, where hundreds of people have been praying in the streets on Fridays for lack of space at two small local mosques.

The leaders of the two mosques in the multiethnic Goutte d'Or district have agreed with the City of Paris to rent out the disused barracks for three years.

The mosques will remain closed for the next two weeks to encourage worshippers to move into the new venue, which can accommodate up to 2,700 people, according to city officials. 

Authorities in the second-largest city of Marseille, where some mosques also periodically overflow, said they had also found a larger space where Muslims could pray off the street.

The issue of street prayers was placed onto the agenda last year by the far-right National Front, which seized upon the decade-long phenomenon as proof of their claim that Islam threatens France's secular values.

National Front leader Marine le Pen controversially compared the street prayers to the occupation of Paris by Nazi Germany and far-right supporters staged protests in the streets of Goutte d'Or.

The government agrees that the practise contravenes laws banning displays of religious symbols in public places.//DPA

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