France: Mosque disagreements end in violence

French authorities filed preliminary charges Tuesday against three men in connection with a weekend shooting and other violence in a mosque in southeast France, a prosecutor said.

The Al-Rahma mosque in the town of Nimes was shuttered indefinitely after the scuffle Sunday, in which a worshipper was hospitalized with gunshot wounds to the legs, assistant prosecutor Gildas Pavy said by phone.

The disturbance apparently stemmed from a swelling and increasingly violent disagreement over the last several weeks between «rival groups» over the way the mosque has been run by imam Driss Saoudi, the prosecutor said.

A 64-year-man faced preliminary charges for armed violence and for bearing a weapon illegally, while two others aged in their 50s faced preliminary charges for violence, Pavy said, declining to further identify the men further.

They were released either on bail or under judicial watch.

«A mosque is a place of serenity and peace. I don't accept that some so-called Muslims take it hostage in acts of violence,» said Abderrahim Berkaoui, head of a regional Muslim association, calling for calm.

«France isn't the jungle,» Berkaoui said. «This case has nothing to do with any settling of scores between Algerians and Moroccans. Some people just no longer want Driss Saoudi.

Some government officials and many Muslim leaders say France is badly short of needed number of mosques. The country is home to western Europe's largest Muslim community, with more than 5 million people whose families came from former French colonies in north Africa. Many Muslims often hold religious observances in housing projects or on pavements outside cramped mosques.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, while interior minister before his election last year, once called for state support for mosques _ only to back away from the proposal after critics said it would violate a century-old law separating religion and state.

Source: pr-inside (English)

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