New far-right mayor moves to quash Paris region mosque

Photo: AFP

The recently elected far-right mayor of a Parisian suburb has not wasted any time in following through on one of his campaign promises: upend a project for a new mosque.


Mantes-la-Ville Mayor Cyril Nauth had promised to block the project, citing parking problems in the neighbourhood where the future mosque is supposed to stand, as well as potential financial liabilities for the local government.

The previous Socialist-led city council approved in October a measure to purchase a publicly owned building and then resell the property to the local Muslim organisation, who would be in charge of transforming it into a place of worship.

Nauth, a member of the far-right National Front (FN) party, expressed concern that the religious group might fail to disburse city hall the 650,000 euros needed for the purchase of the property.

He told French daily Le Monde this week that he was willing to pay legal damages to the Muslim organisation, one of the potential consequences for unilaterally suspending the venture.

Pork pâté insult

“Besides discriminating against us [Muslims], I don’t see any reason to oppose this project,” Albelaziz El Jaouhari, a Muslim leader in Mantes-la-Ville, told Le Monde. “We have been trying to build a dignified place to pray for the past 25 years. Every other religious group has a place, and I don’t see why it is different for us.”

Muslim residents of Mantes-la-Ville, a town of 19,000 west of the French capital, currently gather for prayer in a building that is rented from the local government. But leaders say the space is too small and does not meet building codes.

Nauth was among a handful of candidates from the anti-immigration National Front who won municipal elections across France last month. However, he holds the distinction of being the only FN member to become a mayor in Ile-de-France, or the Paris metropolitan region.

Muslims in Mantes-la-Ville have expressed concern over what they said has become an increasingly hostile environment since Nauth won the March 30 ballot.

Pork pâté, which like all pork products is considered unclean by Muslims, was left in their mosque’s mailbox on March 16.

The next day, a letter slipped into the same mailbox welcomed the arrival of the new far-right mayor and wished Nauth good luck in “cleansing” the town “in particular, of the Muslim race.”

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