The end of a long soap opera. In a message posted on the social network Twitter, the prefecture of Seine-Saint-Denis announced on Wednesday the reopening of the Pantin mosque. The religious building, which had been under a six-month administrative closure since October 21, 2020, will reopen its doors to the faithful on Friday. Or a few days before the start of Ramadan, which is due to start on April 13.
“The association managing the Pantin mosque has changed its leaders. In view of the progress in the discussions with the new governance, the prefecture will authorize the reopening of this place of worship for Friday, April 9, 2021, ”she said in her message.
In October, the mosque was closed after the posting on its Facebook page – followed at the time by 98,000 people – of a video relaying the message of the student’s parent who attacked Samuel Paty. This history teacher from Yvelines was assassinated for showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad during a course on freedom of expression.
Since then, its rector M’Hammed Henniche, who relayed the video before the teacher’s assassination, was in the sights of the prefect Georges-François Leclerc. If, theoretically, the mosque could have reopened on April 21, at the end of the six months of closure, its existence was indeed threatened since the prefect had taken an administrative decision at the end of December which had the consequence of removing the association responsible for the place – the Muslim Federation of Pantin – its cultic character.
The religious character found?
However, maintaining this character was essential to allow it to keep the emphyteutic lease that it had signed in 2013 with the town hall of Pantin to rent the gymnasium currently occupied by its temporary mosque. A plot on which a real religious building must be rebuilt in the years to come.
At the beginning of February, the prefect had indicated that the reopening of the place would not be done as long as M’Hammed Henniche would remain at the head of the structure. This Wednesday, neither the prefecture nor the town hall of Pantin confirmed to us that the federation had indeed regained its religious character.
But the tweet from the state services suggests that common ground has been found between the authorities and the federation since the resignation of the rector. On March 14, M’Hammed Henniche indeed announced that he had left his post at the head of the federation in order to “save the emphyteutic lease”.
He was replaced in the wake by Dramé Abderrahman, a longtime faithful of the mosque, who for the moment plays the card of media discretion. M’Hammed Henniche, who claims to remain a simple member of the federation, says he is “satisfied and happy that the faithful can turn the page and move on”.
“Many citizens need spirituality”
“I’m not worried about the emphyteutic lease, it should be good. The concern now is to succeed in building our mosque in the years to come, ”he adds.
For Farid Kachour, head of the Montfermeil mosque and secretary general of the Rally of Muslim Associations (RAM) 93, this reopening is also “good news“. “Those in charge of the Pantin mosque made the right decision. Muslims in the area will once again be able to have a place of worship. It is very important, in the period of health crisis that we are going through. Many citizens need spirituality. And this also occurs a few days before the start of Ramadan. “