Locals upset after police raid Paris suburb mosque


Damaged computers, overturned furniture, and punctured ceilings: the manner in which a mosque was searched by police in the Paris suburb of Aubervilliers on Monday night has upset many local residents.

Police entered the mosque La Fratérnité just after midnight, searching the premises for about an hour and a half.

Sofiènne Karroumi, a vice-mayor of Aubervilliers and a member of AMA (“Association des Musulmans d’Aubervilliers”, or Muslims of Aubervilliers organisation), which runs the mosque, was one of the first people to enter the premises following the police search. He posted photos on his Facebook page, accompanied by this comment: “I am outraged to see the state of the mosque after the search that took place tonight. I don’t understand why this sacred place was so relentlessy ransacked. Muslims have nothing to do with what happened Friday night and are just as shocked as the rest of France”.

His photos, as well as others that have circulated on social networks, notably show bookshelves knocked to the ground, several holes in the suspended ceiling, a door’s broken windowpane, and a damaged computer tower.

“The mosque leaders offered the police their keys, but they refused”

Fethi Chouder, who also serves as a vice mayor, was outside the mosque when the police searched it on Monday night.

When I heard what was going on, I ran over to the mosque, but the police wouldn’t let me near it; they had already secured the perimeter. They had closed off the avenue hours earlier, at 8.30 pm. The prefect, who ordered this search, was on the scene.

I met with one of the mosque’s leaders. He told me he had offered the police a key to the mosque. But they refused, and broke down the door. The mosque leaders were very cooperative. I don’t understand why the police acted this way. As the photos show, they damaged the mosque.

Of course, nobody is against the police carrying out searches. It’s their job, and all citizens must cooperate. But I’m saddened by this lack of tact toward the Muslim community. As local leaders, we have asked the Muslim community to stay calm. We certainly don’t want any trouble in these difficult times. However, we are considering taking the responsible parties to court.

Following the search of the mosque, Chiheb Harar, AMA’s president, was questioned by police on Tuesday. We have tried to contact him and the police for more information, but have not yet received any replies.

Contacted by France 24, criminal lawyer Martine Moscovici explains that the methods used by police during this search are not in any way illegal:

Unfortunately, the law does not evoke possible damages caused during police searches. The police can break things without breaking the law. And though in normal times, in France, searches can only be carried out between 6 am and 9 pm, the current state of emergency allows the police to carry out searches at any time. However, if citizens feel like they were treated unfairly, they are allowed to lodge complaints with an administrative tribunal.

Since the November 13 attacks in Paris, nearly 300 searches have been carried out all over France as part of the anti-terrorism effort.

Various media outlets have described this mosque's members as Salafists. In 2013, it made headlines: one of its imams Hassan Bounamcha, was accused of making homophobic statements. 

The mosque is also known for encouraging its members to vote and take part in local politics. 

The AMA organisation, which runs the mosque, says it wants to "give a good image of Islam". This includes, for example, organising a fashion show back in April to raise funds to build a new mosque.