France's Immigration Trauma

Written by Robin Tim Weis on Wednesday September 21, 2011

The French government has enacted a new law, which many in France hope will end the “occupation” of the streets by Muslims who conduct street prayers.

The issue of street prayers in France has been a contested. Given their strong secular commitments, it is no surprise that many French are irritated to see Friday prayers take place in their neighborhoods. Local businesses and traffic is often brought to an halt due to the masses of people in the street.

Many complain that broadcasting the chant of “Allahu Akbar” makes the French feel disenfranchised in their own quarters and cities.

France’s newest ban comes after its recent “burqa ban”, which took effect on April 2011. That ban mirrored similar efforts in the Netherlands and Belgium. The street prayer ban looks to hamper Muslim communities from gaining additional leverage in increased calls for sharia law to be implemented. The example of an Islamic sharia court being established in Antwerp, Belgium, looms as an example of how failed integration efforts have led to the eradication of secular and democratic European values.

The resentment of the street prayer issue was first put on the French political agenda by the populist politician Marine Le Pen. In 2010 she denounced the street prayers as an “occupation without tanks or soldiers”. (An opinion, which nearly 40% of the French people supported according to an survey conducted by Ifop for the France-Soir newspaper back in 2010.)

In order to avoid Muslims simply defying the law, France has decided to copy the Netherlands by building mega-mosques (such as one in Rotterdam) in order to accommodate Muslims, who until recently have followed the call to the streets. Marseille is set to inaugurate a mega-mosque soon, which will be able to accommodate up to 7,000 worshippers.

France's more ardent call for Muslim assimilation is similar to the recent surge of populist politicians and parties in continental Europe such as the Austrian Freedom Party (FPOE), the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) or the Berlin-based “New Freedom". They all call Muslim mass immigration into Europe a secretive invasion and occupation by the demographically strong Muslim communities. They warn of a future when Muslims will outnumber an aging Christian Europe.

Because of the growing number of disenfranchised right-wing Islamophobic voters, internet portals such as /a>< (PI stand for "Politically Incorrect") have gained in popularity as they meticulously cover the issues of Muslim street prayers in France, mega-mosques in the Netherlands or Muslim street gangs in Berlin.

France’s street prayer ban comes at a time were Europe’s heads of state seem to have deemed the concept of “multiculturalism” a failure and look for more clear-cut messages in their efforts to integrate and assimilate the growing Islamic community in Europe.