Religion

Paris mosque implicated in teacher's murder reopens after six-month ban

The Grand Mosque in Pantin, north of Paris was closed in October 2020. It re-opened on 9 April 2021.
The Grand Mosque in Pantin, north of Paris was closed in October 2020. It re-opened on 9 April 2021. AFP

The mosque in the north-Paris suburb of Pantin is open for Friday prayers for the first time in six months. It was closed by police last October, following accusations that some members had contributed to the on-line campaign against Samuel Paty, the teacher beheaded after he used caricatures of the Prophet Mahomet in a class on free speech.

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The re-opening follows a change in the management structure which has seen M'Hammed Henniche step down from his position as president of the local Muslim federation.

His replacement, Abdourahmane Dramé, has spoken of the "great joy" which he shares with the congregation estimated at 2,000 faithful, that they can once again practice their religion locally.

Abdourahmane Dramé says he has not forgotten the reasons for the closure.

"We condemned the murder" of Samuel Paty, he insists, accepting that the Facebook page of the Pantin mosque, several days before the killing, rebroadcast a video of the father of a student at Paty's secondary school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, calling for action to be taken against the teacher for his "blasphemous acts".

In the wake of the murder, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin ordered the closure of the mosque, insisting that it would remain shuttered until M'Hammed Henniche and the then-imam, Ibrahim Doucouré, both considered to be supporters of radical Islam, agreed to leave.

Doucouré resigned immediately; Henniche stepped down as federation president in March.

Construction to go ahead

The new president, Abdourahmane Dramé, has lived in Pantin for the past 43 years, and is described as "wise and discreet" by the suburb's socialist mayor, Bertrand Kern.

Dramé has said his primary objective is to change the image of the Pantin mosque, turn the page on the "horrible, unworthy" events of last October.

To that end, he is anxious to work with the local police, the town hall and other local groups, so that Pantin's Muslim community is no longer suspect and can go on practicing their religion as members of the French Republic, respecting republican values.

"There may be  a few local faithful with a tendency towards radical Islam, a more rigorous vision of the religion," says the mayor, Bertrand Kern. "But the vast majority of Pantin's Muslims are simple people who ask only to be allowed practice their religion in safety and peace."

One important consequence of the change of management of the mosque is that the million-euro building project, organised with the support of the Pantin town hall, and intended to replace the current temporary accommodation, can now go ahead.

Work on the new building, on ground provided by the local community, was suspended after the Pantin Muslim Federation lost its status as a religious association in the wake of the Paty murder.

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