The mournful sermon in the Mosque Tawhid at Friday prayers was about the attacks, because it is hard now to speak of anything else and dangerous to say nothing.
“Islam is completely against this abomination. To kill someone is to kill all of humanity,” the preacher, a member of the mosque named Abdallah, told dozens of men and women seated on the carpeted floor. “We all have an obligation to condemn these barbaric attacks. People need to hear that. If we don’t speak, certain people will ask questions.”
This mosque in the Paris suburb of Blanc-Mesnil was publicly accused last week by a politician of radicalizing Samy Amimour, a 28-year-old who grew up nearby and was among the suspected gunmen at the Bataclan concert hall where at least 89 people died Nov. 13.
The Muslims who pray here were shocked by the accusation and its bluntness.
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This mosque, long part of the surrounding community, where members distributed brochures deploring violence after the Charlie Hebdo attack in January, has been caught in the broad net of rumors, raids and deep suspicion surrounding France’s Muslims since the latest attack. Mosques across the country have been searched, as have individual homes in hundreds of “counterterrorism” searches not particularly linked to the Paris plot but conducted under the expanded police powers granted by the country’s current state of emergency.
The sweeping reaction comes in a country with a long-standing tension between the guarantee of religious liberty and a deeply felt political commitment to secularism. In France, minarets are controversial and girls are banned from wearing headscarves in public schools.
Assimilation is prized in France over the kind of “melting pot” ideal that exists in the United States. In France, the other is welcomed — if the other blends in.
“We know that the mosques of France are under surveillance for a long time, but we have nothing to hide,” said Nassime Benmezroua, president of the Mosque Tawhid. Members say they have never seen Amimour, the suspected terrorist, let alone listened to sermons extolling violence.
“We can never guarantee that someone came here or not, but when you say ‘radicalize,’ you mean something else, and I can assure you this never happened here,” Benmezroua said. “This mosque has been going for 15 years. Do you think we’ve been a recruiting center for the past 15 years? People would have known by now.”