Debate continues about French Muslim prayer space

December 18, 2010

The comments French far-right spokesperson Marine Le Pen have sparked condemnation from politicians from President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party and from the opposition Socialists and the Greens. “This is the true face of the far right which has not changed in the slightest, and Marine Le Pen is just as dangerous as Jean-Marie Le Pen,” said Socialist Party spokesman Benoit Hamon.
The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) said that Marine Le Pen’s comments were “insulting towards the Muslims of France” and were an “incitement to hatred and violence against them.” An anti-racist group, the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP), said it planned to file a civil lawsuit against her.
Paris’ Goutte d’Or district, where mosques are so full on Fridays that many believers end up praying on the streets outside, is one of the areas that Le Pen was referring to in her Lyon speech. Locals in the Goutte d’Or district said they were well used to comments like Le Pen’s. “Most Muslims feel threatened. They won’t leave us alone,” said a grocery store worker who gave his name as Hakim. “With the cold and the dirt, we’d love to have a clean hall to pray in but we don’t have the choice,” said Walid Ben, who works in a fabric shop in the area.