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France bans street prayers
by Nicholas Vinocur
A French ban on praying in the street came into force on Friday, driving thousands of Muslim worshippers in northern Paris into a makeshift prayer site in a disused fire brigade barracks, angering a small but vocal minority.
The street-prayer ban has highlighted France's problems assimilating its 5-million-strong Muslim community, which lacks prayer space, and follows a long-running controversy, fanned by far-right leader Marine Le Pen, over Muslims forced to lay their prayer mats on the streets in big cities.
Interior Minister Claude Gueant directed Muslims in Paris to temporary spaces made available pending the building of a huge new prayer space and warned that force would be used if necessary as police end their tolerance of street prayers.
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