As a fiercely secular France grapples with religious issues, Interior Minister Claude Guéant has designated a vacant Paris firehouse to host Friday prayers—a stopgap measure to keep the city’s practicing Muslims from doing so in public.
AP - For years, Muslims by the hundreds have unfurled rugs on the northern Paris sidewalks and put their foreheads to the ground for Friday prayers - for the simple reason that there’s not enough space inside.
Now, the interior minister has devised a stopgap solution: On Friday, a unused former fire station nearby will be outfitted to host two large prayer halls.
The move tackles one of France’s thorniest social dilemmas: How to integrate a large and expanding Muslim population that often feels alienated in a proudly secular country with deep Roman Catholic roots.
It also comes as the conservative and unpopular President Nicolas Sarkozy is looking at a potentially tough re-election bid next year. Sarkozy’s far-right flank has decried the sight of Muslim worshippers kneeling on the streets.
Date created : 2011-09-16