Muslim group prayer at Paris airport lands in ‘regrettable’ controversy


A controversy has erupted in France after photos of Muslims praying in unison at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris emerged on social media, followed by a statement by Augustin de Romanet, the CEO of Aeroports de Paris (ADP), which operates the airport, describing the incident as “regrettable.”

Moreover, French Transport Minister Clement Beaune tweeted that airport authorities promised “firmness” in handling the situation.

The images shared widely on social media, showed dozens of travellers praying in the departures hall ahead of a flight to Jordan. This incident comes at a time when tensions in France are heightened due to the conflict between Hamas and Israel.

France has significant Muslim and Jewish communities, making this incident particularly sensitive. In a response to the photos, Transport Minister Clement Beaune tweeted that airport authorities were committed to implementing rules and promised “firmness” in handling the situation.

The group prayer, involving approximately 30 travellers, took place in terminal 2B of Charles de Gaulle, the largest airport in France. It lasted around 10 minutes.

France, as a secular country, imposes restrictions on public displays of religious belief in places like schools and public buildings, including airports. Specially designated areas are provided for people of all faiths to pray in private.

Augustin de Romanet, the CEO of Aeroports de Paris (ADP), which operates the airport, described the incident as “regrettable.” He emphasised the existence of dedicated places of worship at the airport and noted that border police had been instructed to prohibit such activities and increase vigilance.

De Romanet cautioned against exaggerating the incident, indirectly alluding to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. The images were shared on social media by Noelle Lenoir, a former European affairs minister under former French President Jacques Chirac, who sarcastically questioned the CEO’s response and the official status of the airport’s transformation into a prayer space.

Ruling party MP Astrid Panosyan-Bouvet emphasised the need to implement the rules that prevail in France, including those at airports. However, Luc Carvounas, the Socialist mayor of Alfortville near Paris, accused Panosyan-Bouvet of making “clumsy comments that could be compared to Islamophobia.” He called on her to clarify or even apologize for her remarks.

The incident at Charles de Gaulle airport underscores the challenges of accommodating religious practices in a secular society, particularly in times of heightened sensitivity surrounding international conflicts. The French government appears determined to maintain the secular nature of its public spaces, even as it faces calls for understanding and sensitivity from various quarters.__Geo News