Council forbids pork and wine buffet outside Muslim prayer hall

News Agencies – March 2, 2011

Authorities in the French city of Nice have forbidden a far-right group to hold a “porchetta and rosé apéritif” outside a Muslim prayer hall. The Nissa Rebela nationalist group says it has already submitted a second request for permission for the event after its first was rejected. The permit was denied on technical grounds, according to the Alpes-Maritimes regional council.
Under French law, organisers must seek a licence for all public gatherings at least three days before the event takes place. Nissa Rebela applied after this deadline, the council said.
The group’s members could face six months in prison and a 7,500-euro fine if they go ahead with the event without permission.

But Nissa Rebela insists that the event is still on. The group is calling its supporters to gather outside a Muslim prayer hall on Nice’s rue de la Suisse, where it will be serving pork and wine.
The worshippers at the hall have been conducting evening prayers in the street, since they say the building is too small to house them. Anti-racism groups and local politicians have strongly condemned Nissa Rebela’s plans. The event is deliberately provocative and designed to stir up hatred, said the mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi.

Muslim Demonstrators Protest Outside American Actor’s Hospital Room in Nice

Dozens of Muslim residents in Nice protested outside the hospital of American actor Angelina Jolie’s, demanding more attention be given by the mayor to a local murdered youth and not to Jolie and actor Brad Pitt’s recently born twin babies. Specifically protestors were requesting that the body of the victim be released to have a proper Muslim funeral.

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Le Pen is back, with a fighting chance

HEADLINE: Le Pen is back, with a fighting chance; As in 2002, the brawler on the far right is a force in France’s presidential race. Some say he could muster another surprise. BYLINE: Sebastian Rotella, Times Staff Writer DATELINE: NICE, FRANCE BODY: This pleasant, slightly faded city of palm trees and sea breezes has been shaped by migratory currents: workers from North Africa, middle-class retirees from Lyon and Paris, elderly French who fled Algeria after the former colony won independence. The sometimes uneasy Mediterranean mix makes Nice a bastion of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the far-right candidate who has emerged once again as a major force with a week to go before the first round of the French presidential race. In 2002, Le Pen stunned the country by reaching the presidential runoff, which he lost to President Jacques Chirac. Five years later, he has gained strength despite persistent accusations that he is racist and anti-Semitic. Polls and political analysts suggest the pugnacious ex-paratrooper could even pull off another election surprise. As he cultivates a more restrained, grandfatherly image, his National Front party has attracted voters from beleaguered Beaujolais vineyards, formerly leftist Parisian intellectual circles and, remarkably, the immigrant-dominated housing projects of Nice and other cities. No matter how Le Pen fares against front-runners Nicolas Sarkozy, Segolene Royal and Francois Bayrou in the vote April 22, “his” issues have all but dominated the campaign debate. “It seemed at first that they were all agreed not to talk about our issues, because only we had dared for the past 30 years to talk about crime, immigration and so on,” said Bruno Ligonie, a leader of the National Front here. “But the sole problem the French really care about is whether they can go out in the street without getting hit in the face or ripped off…. Sarkozy has poached votes on our turf by proposing a ministry of immigration and identity. Royal talks about the flag, the national anthem. That’s proof that we were right.” In any case, it’s apparently proof that the French are worried about their society’s ability to integrate Muslim immigrants and combat youth violence and Islamic fundamentalism. The nationwide riots of 2005 helped push the National Front toward the political mainstream, which has grudgingly recognized Le Pen’s streetwise ability to articulate the fear and anger of working people. “The more votes that Le Pen gets, the more people are willing to say out loud that they support him,” said Francois Rossi, a political analyst for Nice Matin newspaper. “This time the big theme of the campaign is immigration and identity. The French model of integration is a failure and everyone realizes it, from the left to the right.” Pollsters, blindsided by his upset of the Socialist Party five years ago, find it hard to assess Le Pen’s chances. This year’s race is tight. And some voters are reluctant to admit they plan to cast ballots for him because he still inspires intense dislike. Most surveys show Sarkozy of the center-right leading with about 25% of the vote, Royal of the Socialists trailing by a few points, and centrist Bayrou behind her in the low 20s or high teens. Although Le Pen comes in fourth, he surged as high as 16% in recent weeks, besting his numbers at the same point of the 2002 campaign. Le Pen seems capable of a last-minute sprint, say government officials, party operatives and political analysts. And this city will be a key battlefield. “I think Le Pen is once again underestimated and that he’s at around 17% or 18%,” said Bernard Asso, a deputy mayor of Nice and a regional leader of Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement party. “When you are out doing political work on the street, everyone’s talking about either Sarkozy or Le Pen.” The roots of the extreme right here in southeastern France date back to a presence of pro-Nazi parties in World War II. Later, when the French left Algeria in 1961 after a bloody war, many former French colonists, known as \o7pieds noirs\f7, resettled in Nice, Marseilles and other southern cities. They were fiercely nationalist and despised President Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the traditional right, whom they blamed for having lost Algeria. In the 1970s and 1980s, an influx of migrants from North and sub-Saharan Africa spurred the rise of the National Front, especially among blue-collar men who lived in or near industrial neighborhoods where immigrants settled. More recently, the southern coast has become kind of a French Sun Belt, attracting retired people and senior citizens who tend to resent Parisian elites, high taxes and the generous welfare bureaucracy. “Because this is a border area, people here are more sensitive to questions about immigration and foreigners,” Ligonie said during an interview last week at the headquarters of the National Front here. The discreet party offices occupy an apartment in a multiethnic neighborhood a few blocks from the train station and a dusty boulevard undergoing a major public works project where teenage toughs loiter and cruise in cars with stereos blasting rap and North African music. Unlike the headquarters of other political parties, there are no outward signs of the National Front’s presence. The buzzer at the street entrance has been vandalized in an act of apparent political sabotage. “It’s not easy being in the National Front,” said Ligonie, who is tanned, trim and a polished speaker. “We had a terrible image because we have been demonized.” The image softened during the last year as Marine Le Pen, the candidate’s daughter, took charge of the communications strategy. The elder Le Pen seems to smile more and snarl less. But he still has his moments. He recently sneered that Sarkozy, who has Hungarian and Greek-Jewish roots, was “the candidate of immigration.” The remark recalled Le Pen’s brawling, outrageous days of yore when he referred to the Holocaust as “a detail of history” and got into physical confrontations with opponents. Nonetheless, Ligonie insists that the party does not tolerate anti-Semitic or anti-immigrant sentiments. He also takes issue with the “extreme right” label. “We are neither right nor left, but French,” he said. “There is nothing in our program, in our discourse, that is anti-Semitic. And there are Jews in the National Front.” Le Pen’s platform calls for drastic measures such as pulling France out of the European Union and shutting its borders and welfare state to immigrants. Curiously, though, he has gained a foothold in the very immigrant communities he has described as a menace to the future of France. He has reached out to French citizens of immigrant origin, arguing that they are the front-line victims of excessive immigration, crime and disorder. “There are many voters for Le Pen in the projects,” said Rossi, the political journalist. “All of the French who live in those areas, and many French people of Arab origin as well. The psychology is simple. These are people who are well-established in France, especially businessmen with apartments, families, and they deal every day with the problems of the youth in the projects. And they want authority and security.” One of France’s prominent Muslim leaders, Kamel Kabtane, agreed in a recent interview that Le Pen had acquired some support in immigrant communities. Kabtane, an immigrant from Algeria who is the imam of the main mosque in Lyon, said the grizzled candidate had managed to solidify his party’s strength by being consistently frank and outspoken. “He says out loud what the others say very quietly,” Kabtane said. “And I think we must do everything possible to prevent him from being elected.” GRAPHIC: PHOTO: RUNNING STRONG: Jean-Marie Le Pen has tempered his image since five years ago. But his tough-on-immigration themes still resonate with voters — some from immigrant neighborhoods. PHOTOGRAPHER: Eric Bouvet Getty Images LOAD-DATE: April 16, 2007

Islam In Provence’s Landscape

MARSEILLE – Following years of governmental delays, hesitation, and division within the Muslim community, the building project for the Grand Mosque of Marseille was given the go-ahead on 17 July. It is perhaps the most symbolic among a number of current construction projects in the region, which will provide the resident Muslim community with new places of worship, libraries, art and educational centres. The other religious communities in Provence expressed their strong support for these projects. {(continued below in French)} Port_s par le dossier symbolique de la grande mosqu_e de Marseille, les projets foisonnent dans la r_gion. Apr_s un si_cle d’h_sitations, Marseille aura sa grande mosqu_e. Lundi 17 juillet, le conseil municipal a vot_ _ la quasi-unanimit_ la signature d’un bail emphyt_otique de 99 ans, c_dant _ l’association La Grande Mosqu_e de Marseille un terrain de 8 600 m2 dans le 15e arrondissement. _ C’est un moment historique et un symbole de reconnaissance pour les 150 000 _ 200 000 musulmans de Marseille _, s’est r_joui, _mu, Nourredine Cheikh, pr_sident de l’association. Plus qu’un simple b_timent, ce projet constitue le symbole du rattrapage dans lequel s’engage la r_gion Provence-Alpes-C_te d’Azur, o_ les musulmans doivent se contenter de 293 lieux de pri_re am_nag_s dans des foyers de la Sonacotra, des appartements et des caves… Des lieux trop exigus pour recevoir les fid_les dans des conditions d_centes. Six projets vont aboutir dans les ann_es _ venir, _ commencer par la grande mosqu_e de La Seyne-sur-Mer (Var) dont la premi_re pierre a _t_ pos_e il y a deux mois. Le projet comprend un lieu de culte de 400 m2, un centre culturel, des salles de conf_rences et une biblioth_que. _ Un lieu de rencontre et d’_change avec les citoyens de toutes confessions _, pr_cise Abderazak Bouaziz, pr_sident de l’association cultuelle et culturelle de La Seyne-sur-Mer. “Pendant des ann_es, la r_gion a accus_ un retard” _ Toulon, deux nouvelles salles de pri_re de proximit_ verront le jour, tandis que le conseil municipal de La Ciotat votera en septembre la proposition de construction d’une mosqu_e de proximit_ sur le terrain o_ les fid_les prient depuis seize ans, dans des bungalows de chantier anonymes. Comment expliquer une telle profusion ? _ Pendant des ann_es, la r_gion a accus_ un retard, car la communaut_ musulmane _tait divis_e _, explique l’imam Abderrahmane Ghoul, porte-parole du Conseil r_gional du culte musulman (CRCM) en Paca. Depuis juin 2005, cet imam, affili_ _ la Grande Mosqu_e de Paris, a f_d_r_ les diff_rentes tendances de la r_gion et chapeaute les n_gociations entre les associations et les mairies. _ Auparavant, nous _tions confront_s _ de multiples associations, toutes revendiquant un projet diff_rent. Le CRCM a permis d’avoir un interlocuteur identifi_ et l_gitime _, explique Arthur Paecht, maire de La Seyne-sur-Mer. Les _lus sont r_alistes : les musulmans y repr_sentent entre 8 % _ 12 % de la population. _ Les musulmans de France sont des Fran_ais musulmans. Ils sont dans la R_publique et non pas _ c_t_. Nous devons r_pondre _ leur droit de pratiquer leur culte dans un endroit digne _, affirme David Lisnard, adjoint au maire charg_ des affaires cultuelles de Cannes, dont le conseil municipal votera lundi la cession d’un terrain de 1 900 m2 pour construire une mosqu_e de proximit_, rempla_ant la tente o_ 200 personnes prient depuis un an et demi, apr_s la fermeture de la salle du foyer Sonacotra pour des raisons de s_curit_. “La religion musulmane sur la voie de la reconnaissance” Pragmatique, Michel Caillat, maire d’Istres, estime que la construction de lieux de culte pour les musulmans r_pond aussi _ un objectif de transparence : _ Mieux vaut un lieu digne identifi_ et officiel que des endroits douteux dans lesquels risquent de se d_velopper des discours radicaux. _ Pionni_res, les municipalit_s d’Istres et d’Aubagne ont donn_ leur feu vert d_s 2000. _ Aubagne, la blancheur de la mosqu_e de 500 m2 tranche avec les b_timents de la zone commerciale. Stucs et d_corations florales recouvrent les murs de la salle de pri_re des hommes, tandis qu’_ l’entr_e, des cartons de carrelage s’entassent. _ Nous esp_rons avoir termin_ les travaux pour la fin du Ramadan en novembre _, explique Hafidikaddour Hafidi, pr_sident de l’association Dar-Es-Salam, qui a financ_ l’achat du terrain et les travaux gr_ce aux 380 000 _ de dons des fid_les. En attendant la fin du chantier, planches et pots de peinture jonchent le sol, mais peu importe : ici, les fid_les se sentent chez eux. _ La religion musulmane est sur la voie de la reconnaissance _, se f_licite, Si-Mohamed, qui, _ 19 ans, se sent enfin _ consid_r_ comme un Fran_ais musulman _. Les mentalit_s ont _volu_. _ travers l’_dification de lieux de culte officiels, les associations musulmanes n’aspirent qu’_ une chose : faire d_couvrir un islam mod_r_ et effacer des esprits l’amalgame _ islam = terrorisme _. Cette image engendre encore des craintes, comme _ Nice (Alpes-Maritimes), o_ l’association Moubarak et la mairie se livrent _ un bras de fer depuis des mois. “Du racisme et de la discrimination!” En novembre 2005, le maire, Jacques Peyrat, avait d_clar_ : _ Ce n’est pas le moment, face aux violences urbaines et _ la mont_e de l’islam radical, d’installer en plein c_ur de Nice une terre d’islam. _ _ Depuis, _ chaque fois que nous avons souhait_ acqu_rir un lieu en centre-ville, la mairie a us_ de son droit de pr_emption. C’est du racisme et de la discrimination ! _, s’emporte Abdelhamid Razzouk, pr_sident de l’association. Contact_, le maire de Nice a refus_ de s’exprimer sur ce sujet. Depuis, un groupe de travail a _t_ cr?_ en partenariat avec le CRCM. _ Nous avons obtenu un permis de construction pour am_nager une salle de pri_re de 1 000 m2 et remettre _ niveau la vingtaine de salles de pri_res existantes _, dit Otman A_ssaoui, d_l_gu_ d_partemental du CRCM. Les musulmans plaident pour la transparence. Les mosqu_es d’Istres, Aubagne, Marseille et La Seyne-sur-Mer comprendront des espaces culturels ouverts aux non-musulmans, tandis que la mosqu_e d’Istres sera ouverte aux visites scolaires. _ Nous voulons partager notre culture afin qu’elle ne soit pas entach_e d’obscurantisme, c’est le seul moyen de dissiper les craintes _, assure l’imam istr_en Boujeema Imaghri. L’architecture ultra-contemporaine de sa mosqu_e r_sume l’ambition de toute une communaut_ : se fondre dans le paysage. Corinne BOYER, _ Marseille Des projets soutenus par les autres religions Conform_ment _ leur longue tradition d’entente interreligieuse, les diff_rentes communaut_s de Marseille ont toutes apport_ leur soutien au projet de grande mosqu_e. Dans le Var, le service de relation avec l’islam du dioc_se de Toulon a m_me jou_ les m_diateurs aupr_s des pouvoirs publics. _Nous avons rencontr_ les _lus du quartier Pontcarral afin d’offrir des cl_s de discernement et d’_viter les amalgames dans une r_gion marqu_e par un fort vote en faveur du Front national_, explique Gilles Rebeche, diacre du dioc_se de Toulon pour qui l’_glise catholique constitue une _ autorit_ morale reconnue dans la pratique de la la_cit_.