Muslims in the French city of Clichy protested a local government decision to remove them from a building which they were occupying and had turned into a mosque.
On Wednesday, police removed the Muslim group known as the Union of Muslim Associations of Clichy (UAMC) who were squatting in the building after a long and heated battle between the city and the UAMC. The city wants to turn the property into a media library, and the Muslim group want it to remain a mosque. On Thursday, a large group of Muslims appeared on the street outside the city hall at 5:00 am to pray and protest the evacuation of the property, La Parisien reports.
According to reports, the local government gave the Muslim association a lease on the property but it expired in June last year, and the Muslims refused to leave. On Wednesday at 8:30 am, bailiffs arrived at the building and welded the gate shut so that no one could enter. However, around 50 individuals managed to gain access to the building and had to be forcibly removed by police.
The removal was not entirely peaceful as police report that three of their officers were injured during the operation. One Muslim demonstrator was arrested for committing a violent act against a police officer.
The city decided to repurpose the building last year and gave the UAMC another building to pray in. The Muslim group rejected the offer and said the new area was too small and did not have the “dignity” befitting its worshippers.
Footage has emerged claiming to be of the protest, showing protestors blocking a street and being flanked by police in full riot gear whilst cars beep their horns.
#France: Illegal mosque evacuated by police in #Clichy. later, the clever believers celebrated prayer on the street. pic.twitter.com/GLnkMZ6tDu
The street prayer protests come as part of a rising movement in France. The recurrence of mass public prayer became so disruptive in the country that in 2011 the government was forced to pass a law banning Muslims from praying on the streets of Paris.
Illegal mosques are not just a problem in France but also in Italy where authorities shut down at least six mosques last year. Muslims in Italy also protested the shutdowns, which officials closed for safety reasons and building standards, and threatened to invade the Vatican and pray there if they weren’t allowed to continue using their mosques.
In Germany, some small mosques, which are often located within private homes, have been linked to radical Islamic schools of thought like Salafism. Earlier this year, Socialist Party politician Sigmar Gabriel called for Salafist mosques to be shut down after it was revealed the Berlin Christmas Market terror attacker Anis Amri had been involved with several Salafist mosques in Berlin.