I, like the vast majority of people in the world, believe in prayer. Prayer is a great gift given to us to communicate with God. However, I am not a fan of prayer ever being used as a tool of politics. It is especially wrong to use prayer as weapon of intimidation. Sadly a large group of Muslims in Paris, France think prayer should be used for just that purpose.
In the the Paris district of Barbès (Paris, 18th arrondissement) a large group of Muslims take over the streets by blocking them off to cars and pedestrians every Friday. The Islamists use their own guards and people to set up prayer rugs all over the streets of Myrha, Leon Polonceau, Fishmongers, and the Boulevard Barbès. It’s been going on for years and there appears to be no signs of it stopping.
The Muslims come from all over Paris to pray as a protest and act of intimidation. They want the government to build them a Mosque there (though they are welcome to buy and build their own), and until they get it they will take over the streets every Friday for a couple of hours. Of course, these activities are illegal but the Parisian government doesn’t want to offend anyone by enforcing the law.
Meanwhile, local residents have complained they have been blocked from leaving or entering their homes during those prayer times. Also, some women have reported they have been verbally attacked for not wearing head coverings.
When the street make-shift mosque is going on, Imams can be heard all around from loudspeakers. The whole scene is basically a community take over and an act of Jihad. No major violence has broken out, but it is clear that the potential is there every week.
Some of the residents in the area have written directly to President Sarkozy requesting that he enforce the laws against this behavior.
Mr PresidentThis is an appeal for help from the citizens of the 18th arrondissement. For several years now, certain of our streets have been occupied by fundamentalists…The pavements for hundreds of metres are taken over, putting pedestrians in grave danger as they are obliged to walk in the street to get past the people “praying.”Entire streets are roped off with cars and security barriers and no entry signs, preventing the inhabitants of the area from going out or returning to their homes, the shopkeepers from working, ordinary citizens from circulating normally.Every protest or even a simple attempt to penetrate into the zones occupied by these fundamentalists risks being met by insults, threats and aggression and for some time now no one dares to protest, such is the fear installed in our area…Mr. Delanöe, the Mayor of Paris, knows perfectly about our situation, as does Mr. Vaillant Mayor of the 18ème et Mr. Gaudin Préfet de Police. All of them have abandoned our streets to Islamic fundamentalists, they have abandoned their citizens who can no longer walk around their city because certain areas are out of bounds to non-muslims during prayer times…Mr. President. Do not abandon us also. Stop this occupation of our streets by fundamentalists.The inhabitants of the 18ème area of Paris.We are not able to sign this document for fear of our lives and those of our families.
Muslims should be allowed to pray just like Christians and other religions. But prayer should never be used to prove a point, and especially not be a tool to cause consternation in others. Prayer is about talking to God in fear, not causing others to fear you. Jesus was clear on what prayer should look in the gospel of Matthew.
5 ”And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:5-6
The French government should put a stop to letting religious extremists take over streets and neighborhoods. And Americans should realize that similar acts could take place in some of our streets in the not-so-distant future.
Government should never tell someone they cannot pray, but neither should the government allow a supposed prayer service be used to harm others.
Paul Cooper is a husband and father above all else. With a wife and 2 daughters he could use a dog, but sadly he only owns a cat – a female cat no less. Paul is also a pastor, blogger, and business owner. Find him on Twitter.