A few months ago, a global media tempest erupted after Polish Catholics held a mass public prayer event across the country. The BBC deemed it “controversial”, due to “concerns it could be seen as endorsing the state’s refusal to let in Muslim migrants”.
The same controversy, however, did not erupt in Britain when 140,000 Muslims prayed in Birmingham’s Small Heath Park, in an event organized by the Green Lane Mosque to mark the end of Ramadan.
France is debating whether or not to block prayer on the street. “They will not have prayers on the street, we will prevent street praying” Interior Minister Gerard Collomb announced.
“Public space cannot be taken over in this way”, said the president of the Paris regional council, Valérie Pécresse, who led a protest by councilors and MPs. In Italy, hundreds of Muslims prayed next to Colosseum, and Muslim prayers were held in front of Milan’s Cathedral.
The numbers are telling. When Muslims throughout Europe celebrated the final day of Islam’s holy month of Ramadan with public prayers, city squares — from Naples (Italy) to Nice (France) — overflowed. The annual Birmingham event began in 2012 with 12,000 faithful. Two years later, the number of the faithful rose to 40,000. In 2015, it was 70,000. In 2016, the number was 90,000. In 2017, it was 100,000. In 2018, the number was 140,000. Next year?