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Marine Le Pen, still from BBC interview

France approves visas for 300 imams despite vows to cut numbers

The French government approved visas for 300 imams from Algeria and Morocco to lead Ramadan services in French mosques. The government had previously vowed to reduce foreign influences on the practice of Islam in France.

Published: June 20, 2018, 10:43 am

    Paris

    The decision sparked a furious outcry from across the political spectrum.

    The leader of the National Front, Marine Le Pen, called the move “unacceptable” and said that the Ministry of the Interior “organises the arrival of 300 foreign imams in our country for Ramadan; it is a violation of the principle of secularism (laïcité)”.

    Her former ally in the 2017 presidential race, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, demanded that foreign imams be required to swear an “oath of loyalty to France and the Republic” before being allowed to enter the country.

    Even former Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls has pledged to “cut all bridges” between Muslims in “third countries” and France. “To ask Algeria and Morocco to send us imams during the month of Ramadan is unacceptable,” Valls said.

    In Chambourcy, the managers of a Carrefour hypermarket have complied with Muslim demands to remove Israeli dates from the store’s “Ramadan department”. Customers complained that the presence of Israeli products was “an affront to Muslim customers”.

    Europe 1 radio meanwhile reported that Ramadan has been a “commercial bonanza” for French retailers. Mimoun Ennebati, the head of a French Muslim association, said that “a priori, large distributors do not want to offend a certain clientele” during Ramadan.

    It is estimated, Ennebati said, that practicing Muslims increase their spending by 30 percent during the month of Ramadan, while spending by pro-Israeli customers is negligable.

    France has also banned street prayer, but sharia law has imposed different requirements that the French government conveniently ignores. The open-air prayer, which took place at around 6 am at the Ariane quarter of Nice, was condemned by Mayor Christian Estrosi of the conservative Republicans who took to Twitter to post a picture of the incident.

    Estrosi slammed the street prayer, saying: “I condemn with the utmost firmness the street prayers which have been held at the Ariane since 6 a.m. this morning. The laws of the Republic must be respected everywhere.” The group had used loudspeakers to attract worshipers, but Estrosi said “nothing can justify street prayers and the disturbance of public order”.

    Street prayers have become a major issue in France. In the Paris suburb of Clichy, local Muslims were evicted from a building they had illegally turned into a mosque. They prayed on the street each Friday for months in protest of the eviction.

    In the city of Orléans in April of this year, police were forced to intervene after continued street prayers outside of the Ibn-Badis Mosque angered residents. The city’s deputy mayor promised to post police officers in the area to stop the practice.

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