About 100 French politicians, wearing sashes of the tricolour and singing the national anthem have marched in Protest over prayers being held by Muslim worshippers in the Paris suburb of Clichy. Minor scuffles broke out between the two opposing sides, as police tried to keep the two sides apart which consisted of the politicians and about 200 worshippers. The worshippers have been praying in the town's market square every Friday for the last few months in protest of the closing of a local prayer room. The room was rented from the local council but the Mayor decided it should be used as a library for the town's 60,000 residents.

Religion in a secular society

France is a fiercely secular society, and critics of the worshippers say that the participation of a religious ceremony in public is in violation of France's secular values. During the protest, some of the worshippers tried to avoid confrontation with the protestors, while others remained defiant and back and forth chanting resumed. According to the Daily Mail, some of the worshippers chanted "Allahu Akbar," or "God is great" in Arabic while the protestors sang the French national anthem.

The protests were led by the Mayor of Clichy Remi Muzeau and the President of the Paris Regional Council Valerie Pecresse on Friday, November 10. There are roughly five million Muslims in France, one of the biggest populations in Europe and tension has been evident in French society since the wave of Islamist terror attacks which have claimed the lives of over 200 people.

Neither side backing down

One of the organisers of the protest, Valerie Pecresse said that "Public space cannot be taken over in this way," while the Mayor of Clichy Remi Muzeau said "I am responsible for guaranteeing the tranquillity and freedom of everyone in my town." Friday's protest was led by MP's and Councillors from the centre-right Republican and UDI parties.

The Mayor said that they would protest the prayers every Friday if necessary.

During the protest, neither side seemed to want to back down, with the worshippers unveiling a banner which read "United for a Grand Mosque of Clichy," while the protestors held French flags while holding a crucifix. The police managed to control the situation to the best of their abilities, but some minor scuffles did break out in the highly charged atmosphere, but thankfully no-one was injured.

This event will certainly raise some questions in French society. Following the terror attacks which have taken place across Europe, there have been some noticeable tensions between some communities within European nations, and in a society such as France where secularism is one of the defining characteristics of the state, the biggest question posed from this protest is how do you accommodate religious freedom into a society that is as secular as France?