The hour of prayer is approaching this Tuesday afternoon, but the gates surrounding the great mosque of Pantin (Seine-Saint-Denis) remain closed. No doubt for a while. The Montreuil administrative court today confirmed the closure for six months of this place of worship which welcomes some 1,500 faithful. The Muslim Federation of Pantin had filed a summary liberty against this closure, decided in a decree taken on October 19 by the prefect of Seine-Saint-Denis to “prevent the commission of terrorist acts”.
It was notably accused of its rector, M’Hammed Henniche, a figure known to the local Muslim community, of having shared on the Facebook page of the mosque followed by 98,000 people the video of the student’s parent who was was taken from Samuel Paty. This professor assassinated on October 16 for showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad during a course on freedom of expression.
Gérald Darmanin welcomes the decision
As soon as he learned of the result of the hearing held on Monday, the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin – who had announced this closure on TF1 – hastened to share it on Twitter. A sign that his credibility was also at stake. The court therefore ruled in favor of the prefecture, considering that M’Hammed Henniche – who did not respond to our requests on Tuesday – had shown “incomprehensible negligence, while his position and his functions should have led him to more restraint ”.
“It was up to him to verify the veracity of the reported facts and to qualify, even to suppress such remarks by thus anticipating the resonance that such allegations were likely to generate on the supporters of a rigorous Islam”, estimates the court, which did not accept the violation of freedom of association, religion and property rights defended by the lawyers of the federation.
A deliberation denounced in the wake of the advice of M’Hammed Henniche, who announced that they would seize the Council of State. “To make it accountable by a retroactive look at the tragedy that occurred is absurd, given that Mr. Mohammed Henniche has not been the subject of any legal proceedings”, they underline in a press release.
The closure of the place of worship in any case questions the inhabitants of the working-class district of Courtillières where the mosque is located. “Where are we going to pray now? “, Ask the faithful. “We have the impression that a terrorist is committing a crime and that the entire Muslim community pays,” said two young women who occasionally frequented the premises.
Their discourse changes, however, when they learn that the personality of one of the imams of the mosque, Ibrahim Doucouré, accused of being involved in “the radical Islamist movement of Ile-de-France” by the prefecture, played a role in the closing. “We don’t know him, but if he really said dangerous things, that changes everything,” they judge. “Me, I do not comment on a decision of the State”, for his part launches a resident describing himself as “Catholic”.
“An error which should serve as a lesson to us”
Taking their distance from the rector, a group of faithful also approached another law firm, which could in turn file a new summary. “Many Pantinese attending the mosque are shocked by this political instrumentalisation of their place of worship. They are deeply horrified by the assassination of Samuel Paty by a hate and crime activist who has nothing to do with their mosque and the communities that frequent it, ”their advice stressed.
“M’Hammed Henniche is my friend. He made a mistake which should serve as a lesson to all of us, ”said Hassen Chalghoumi, rector and imam of the mosque of Drancy (Seine-Saint-Denis). “I had already told him to be more firm in the face of radical Islam. It is the rector who hires imams. When things are not going well, you have to know how to bang your fist on the table, even if it is difficult, even dangerous, ”he said, calling for real training for rectors and presidents of mosque associations. “Many are former butchers or booksellers and do not know Islam well. However, better knowledge would allow them to identify any deviations as soon as possible. “