Catalan mayor closes ‘too popular’ mosque, tells Muslims to ‘pray at home’

A Spanish mayor has told Muslim worshippers to “pray at home” and closed the town’s mosque because it was too popular. Angel Ros, the socialist mayor of Lleida, in the northeastern region of Catalonia, complained that the mosque was too full and closed it on Wednesday until further notice.

The building, a former garage used to service trucks, was often filled with crowds exceeding a thousand people, the council said, when the authorised limit for the venue is 240. A new mosque is under construction on the outskirts of the town but work had been stalled because of a lack of financing during the economic crisis.

“The municipality has no obligation to provide places of worship,” Mr Ros said in response to complaints from the town’s Muslim population over the closure. “Those that wish can pray at home, as I do,” he added.

The move follows a recent ban on women wearing the burka or niqab in municipal building in the Catalan town. In June Lleida was the first town council in Spain to introduce a ban, which has since been adopted by half a dozen other councils, including Barcelona, the capital of the region.

Abdelwahab Houzi, the local imam, said the mosque closure had added to the Muslim community’s sense of “persecution” by authorities.

Daily Telegraph, 23 July 2010