More than a hundred French politicians led by a local mayor of Paris have marched through a suburban street in the capital city in protest against Muslims holding Friday prayers in public.
The politicians wore tricolour sashes of office and sang the national anthem as they disrupted more 200 Muslim worshippers praying Jummah on a street in Clichy last Friday afternoon.
The right-wing mayor of Clichy, Remi Muzeau, led the march with dozens of MPs in protest against the presence of worshippers praying on the town’s market square every Friday for the past nine months.
A line of riot police separated the two groups and at one point tensions appeared to have boiled over.
Théo Maneval, a reporter for the Europe1 radio news site described the scenes as “bizarre” and “surreal” as the elected officials appeared to try and physically displace those praying by marching right through them.
Mr Maneval tweeted: “It’s getting even more surreal, as the elected officials with their sashes try to jostle the people praying. Movement of crowd, jostling, people falling … The police intervene.”
Mayor Muzeau was happy with the protest. He said: “We did what the police should have done a long time ago.”
Critics say the prayers are an unacceptable use of public space in France’s notorious secular system.
The worshippers, however, say they have nowhere else to go since the town hall took over the room they used for prayers back in March.
One of the worshippers, Abdelkader, told AFP news agency that they wanted a “dignified” place to worship and did not enjoy being in the street every Friday.
He said he resented the politicians singing the French national anthem during their protest.
“They were singing the Marseillaise, throwing it in our faces, even though we’re French people here. We’re French. Long live France!” he said.