(Muslims pray in the street during Friday prayers near the al-Quds mosque in Marseille, April 15, 2011. Worshippers frequently have to pray outside because city mosques are too small to accomodate all of them. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier)

The following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Nadeem Hakemi is a Canadian journalist in Paris who writes regularly for La Jeune Politique and other publications.

By Nadeem Hakemi

Muslim worshippers on their way to Friday prayers at a mosque near La Courneuve, twenty minutes north of Paris, pass a Roma camp, a road filled with garbage and a roaring highway.  In front of the mosque is a recycling plant.  Trucks drop off garbage and scrap metal no more than 50 meters from the main prayer room.

With nearly 5 million believers, France has one of the largest Muslim populations in Europe. But construction permits for mosques in central (or even accessible) locations can be “almost impossible” to obtain, says an official at the Grand Mosque of Paris, the largest in France.

The Union of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF) runs the mosque in La Courneuve. The association’s goal is to better integrate Muslims into French society.