The al-Rawda mosque, which is located in Stains, an impoverished suburb north-east of Paris, was closed down by the interior ministry in November 2016 after it was identified by French intelligence officials as a “breeding ground for Salafi-jihadists”.
But the new security measures, namely the CCTV cameras, have sparked outrage among the local Muslim community.
A local Muslim youth told the French daily Le Figaro: “It’s total nonsense. Religion is a private matter.”
One Muslim youth said: “How would you feel if someone told you you had to install surveillance cameras inside your church?”
Mohammed Hemmiche, the general secretary of the Union of Muslim Associations of Seine-Saint-Denis, told Le Figaro: “Local officials pray at this mosque, including police officers who wish to keep their faith private and who can no longer come to al-Rawda. It’s problematic.
“We just hope that the new conditions will allow us to turn the page on the mosque’s radical past.”
The mosque was one of the 30 prayer halls to be shut down under the country’s two-year emergency rule, which allowed authorities to shut down ‘radical’ places of worship without prior warning.
French counter-terrorism officials started keeping a close eye on the mosque after it was found that two top Islamic State (ISIS) propagandists – Adrien Guihal and Fabien Clain –, had prayed there regularly before fleeing France to join the terrorist organisation in Syria.
Mosque officials agreed with the interior ministry on a set of conditions under which the prayer hall – which can welcome up to 1,400 worshippers – must now run.
Before reopening, the mosque had to commit to installing CCTV cameras both inside and outside the prayer hall: one by the entrance to monitor worshippers’ comings and goings and five inside the prayer hall.
Mosque officials then had to set up a website to “visibly condemn all messages of a radical nature,” and a surveillance team whose job is to keep watch on local worshippers and look out for suspicious behaviour.
They also had to replace the imam with a preacher ‘pre-approved’ by the interior ministry.