France: The bitter Eid of the Muslims of Nice

France: The bitter Eid of the Muslims of Nice
France: The bitter Eid of the Muslims of Nice

“There is no more joy.” Upset in recent months by political speeches and incessant pressure from the administration, the approximately 20,000 Muslims of Nice, in the south-east of France, are preparing to celebrate an Eid festival tinged with bitterness.

“It seems that we are not full citizens,” explains imam Otmane Aissaoui, president of the Union of Muslims of the Alpes-Maritimes (UMAM), denouncing “Islamophobic acts” in high schools or schools. universities, “women with headscarves seen in a negative light, unexpected checks in mosques… We feel it more here than elsewhere”.

The discomfort is not new. Islam has regularly been a political campaign theme in the region and the attacks of July 14, 2016 and then of the Notre-Dame basilica in 2020 provoked reactions of hatred which targeted even the relatives of the Muslims killed on the Promenade des English.

However, with the arrival in September of prefect Hugues Moutouh, then the aftershocks of the Hamas attack on October 7 and the Israeli response in the Gaza Strip, the situation became tense.

While Mayor Christian Estrosi flew the Israeli flag on the pediment of the town hall, the prefect tirelessly banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations, arguing that the department was “in the top three” in terms of anti-Semitic acts.

Rejected each time by the administrative court, these bans only ceased in January.

Then, in February, Mr. Moutouh ordered the temporary closure of a small Muslim bookstore, criticizing the presence of fundamentalist books. A decree also overturned by the administrative court: the books in question are also on sale in general public bookstores.

Evoking a great lack of understanding, the manager invited the prefect to drink tea in her shop, where she has been selling scarves, abayas, prayer rugs and books on spirituality for two decades. But she never received a response.

The absence of dialogue also dominated the crisis around the Avicenna college, a non-contract Muslim establishment welcoming around a hundred students, whose prefect ordered the closure in March, at the request of the Ministry of National Education.

“A feeling of injustice”

The quality of teaching is not in question, especially since the students shine in the Brevet exam and then in public high schools. But Avicenna fumbled to meet the requirements of the law against separatism in terms of transparency on the origin of its financing.

Here too, the administrative court ruled in summary proceedings that the errors noted in the establishment’s accounting did not justify the closure, in terms leaving little suspense as to the decision on the merits, expected at the end of June.

Paradoxically, the college has seen its applications double and will create an additional class in September. But it retains “a feeling of injustice” and “relentlessness”, explains its director Idir Arab: “You have a small project that is working in a neighborhood where everything is collapsing, why go and close it?”

The college, where teachers are of all faiths and clothing is very diverse, has been asking in vain for years to go under contract. “They talk about separatism, but it is we who suffer this separatism,” regrets Mr. Arab, also hurt by Mr. Estrosi’s unreserved condemnation of the college.

In this context, the proposal from the mayor of Nice to re-rent the vast hall of the Nikaïa Palace for the end of Ramadan, sent to religious associations less than 48 hours before the celebration, remained a dead letter in April.

Likewise, the options are reduced for the sacrifice of Eid al-Adha, or Eid el-Kébir, which begins on Sunday in France, after the last site approved in the department to welcome the faithful was pinned down by the courts. More than 600 sheep and 45 cattle were seized there at the end of May.

By comparison, five sites are approved in neighboring Var. Result: in Nice, many families have decided to send the sacrifice money abroad.

Contacted by AFP, Mr. Estrosi did not respond while Mr. Moutouh was unable to respond due to electoral reservations.

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