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French mayor leads protest to stop Muslim worshippers praying in street
From the French edition of The Local
A French mayor and dozens of other MPs and elected councillors from around the Paris region sang the Marseillaise on Friday as they marched towards around 200 Muslim worshippers in a bid to stop them praying in the street.
The stand off which was caught in several video clips (see link) took place in the Paris suburb of Clichy on Friday afternoon.
The local right wing mayor Remi Muzeau led the march after growing infuriated by the presence of hundreds of Muslim worshippers praying on the town's market square every Friday for the past nine months.
Images relayed from the scene near Clichy Town Hall shows around 60 elected officials, including MPs and the president of the greater Paris region of Île-de-France, Valerie Pecresse marching with their tricolore sashes as they sing the Marseillaise. Video here.
They head towards around 200 Muslim worshippers who are observing their Friday prayer outside in protest against the town's decision to close a prayer hall.
A line of riot police separate the two groups and at one one point tensions appear ready to boil over. Mayor Muzeau was happy with the protest: "We did what the police should have done a long time ago."
Muslim worshippers had been using the square to pray in a protest against a recent decision by the mayor to close their usual prayer hall nearby, which had welcomed up to 5,000 Muslim worshippers each day.
Authorities opened a new mosque for the community, but it was 1.5km away and worshippers said it was hard to reach. Their Friday protests have been aimed at pressuring the local council to agree to open a prayer hall in the centre of Clichy.
But those protests have infuriated local officials, who have called on the government to intervene, pointing out that praying in the street is illegal in France.
"The public space cannot be taken over illegally," said President of Île-de-France Valerie Pecresse. "We are in a country where we do not pray in the street, the rules of law are being flouted."
Can you imagine the Mayor, MP and local councillors of Newcastle joining officials of the University in their official regalia, taking Union Jack flags or the Cross of St George and drowning out the pests blocking free access outside the King George building with their prayer every Friday? No, I can't either.