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Video, colour, sound, 20 min.

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The Al-Fath mosque in the Goutte d’Or neighbourhood of Paris’s 18th arrondissement began as an ad hoc space set aside for collective prayer in a modest tailor’s shop in the early 1970s, run by Moussa Diakité, who had immigrated to France in 1963. By the mid-1970s, as worshippers grew in number, he had relocated the prayer space from the rue Léon to a basement at 53, rue de Polonceau. These makeshift premises proved a welcome refuge for the neighbourhood’s immigrant workers, whose quasi-clandestine religion interested neither public opinion nor public authorities at the time. By the mid to late 1990s, however, the rented basement had transformed into ownership of the building, due in particular to Diakité’s dedicated quest for financial benefactors, both in France and abroad. Prayer began to spill out onto the pavement when, as sole owner, he subsequently renovated the building’s cramped stairway in order for worshippers to directly access the basement from the street. Soon after, the building became slated for demolition as part of a larger redevelopment plan by the Paris city council. The building and the neighbouring address were demolished in 1996. A temporary mosque was built on the site, which henceforth extended to the corner of the rue Polonceau and the rue des Poissonniers. When the mosque’s congregational capacity, in turn, proved inadequate, local authorities tolerated the street’s occupation, notably dur- ing Friday prayer, while a permanent location was sought. In the late 2000s, the mosque came to na- tional attention when outdoor prayer became a political issue. In 2010, Marine Le Pen was accused of inciting racial hatred when she compared street prayer to the German Occupation of France during the Second World War. The following year, in response to growing far-right protests and with elections approaching, French interior minister Claude Guéant threatened to “use force if needed” in order to put an end to public prayer throughout France.

Sound: Judith Rueff
Sound mixing: Mikaël Barre


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