PARIS — Hemmed in and closely watched by police, hundreds of Muslims unrolled rugs and prayed outdoors Friday in the busy streets of a Paris suburb to protest the closure of their prayer hall.
The show of strength by throngs of worshippers in Clichy highlighted a long-standing issue for France’s Muslim community, estimated at five million people: a shortage of mosques.
Such protests aren’t without risk of a backlash, especially in the politically heated atmosphere of France’s upcoming presidential election. Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has previously decried street prayers, part of her anti-immigrant, anti-Islam outlook.
Clichy Muslims had been using a prayer hall rented from city hall. But the town’s mayor now wants to turn that space into a multimedia library for the town’s 60,000 residents.
City hall refused to renew the three-year lease when it expired last June and, following a court battle, closed down the prayer hall last week with help from French police.
City hall says Muslims can worship at a new Islamic cultural and prayer centre, already used by hundreds of people, that…
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