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Paris Muslim street praying ban in effect

Paris Muslim street praying ban in effect
A Muslim man prays at a gymnasium in a posh neighborhood of Paris. (UPI Photo/Eco Clement) | License Photo

PARIS, Sept. 16 (UPI) -- A ban on Muslims praying along the streets of a Paris district when they can't find space in nearby mosques went into effect Friday.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant said Muslims can use a vacant fire station barracks instead of spreading prayer mats along the streets, the BBC reported.

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The ban went into effect in time for traditional Muslim Friday prayers.

Gueant, in an interview this week with Le Figaro, said about 1,000 people used two streets in the capital's Goutte d'Or district for prayers. He said he and leaders of two local mosques agreed that the state would rent the space for three years. To encourage Muslims to use the new space, prayers would not be conducted in the mosques for the first few weeks.

Officials said the measure is in effect until a new, larger Islamic Cultural Center opens, The Connexion said. The street praying began after a large mosque closed, leaving two smaller mosques to accommodate the Muslim population.

However, Mohamed Salah Hamza, an imam in the Goutte d'Or district, said preparations in the barracks were behind schedule and he feared a "climate of anarchy."

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"We are not cattle," France's TF1 News quoted him as saying.

Far-right protests over the "Islamization" of the Goutte d'Or district began last year, the BBC said. In December, French National Front leader Marine Le Pen accused Muslim fundamentalists of using prayer for political ends.

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