Muslim groups in France have asked the Roman Catholic Church for permission to use its empty churches as a way to solve the traffic problems caused by thousands of Muslims who pray in the streets. The request, which has been variously described by French political commentators as "alarming," "audacious" and "unprecedented," is yet another example of the growing assertiveness of France's six million Muslims, who are transforming the country in ways unimaginable only a few years ago.
In a March 11 communiqué addressed to the Church of France, the National Federation of the Great Mosque of Paris, the Council of Democratic Muslims of France and a Muslim activist group called Collectif Banlieues Respect called on the Roman Catholic Church – in a spirit of inter-religious solidarity, of course – to make its empty churches available to Muslims for Friday prayers, so that Muslims do not have to "pray in the streets" and be "held hostage to politics."
Every Friday, thousands of Muslims in Paris and other French cities close off streets and sidewalks (and by extension, close down local businesses and trap non-Muslim residents in their homes and offices) to accommodate overflowing crowds for midday prayers. Some mosques have also begun broadcasting sermons and chants of "Allah Akbar" via loudspeakers in the streets.