Tensions as Paris suburb tries to stop Muslim street prayers
Tensions as Paris suburb tries to stop Muslim street prayers
No one was hurt in the skirmishes in Clichy-la-Garenne, but both sides appeared to be digging in their heels in the dispute over prayer space in the town.
Carrying a large banner reading “Stop Illegal Street Prayers,” Mayor Remi Muzeau led more than 100 demonstrators Friday in a show of force to dissuade Muslims from praying on the town’s market square. Worshippers have been praying there every Friday for months to protest the closure of a prayer room.
A few dozen worshippers tried to pray anyway but sought to avoid confrontation with the protesters and retreated to a less visible spot. But the demonstrators squeezed them toward a wooden wall.
As worshippers chanted “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic, the larger group of demonstrators loudly sang the French national anthem. Some held French flags and a crucifix aloft.
Amid pushing and shoving, a banner the worshippers were carrying reading “United for a Grand Mosque of Clichy” was torn down.
Police with shields then formed a human barricade between the groups and Muslims eventually unrolled their rugs on the pavement, took off their shoes and held their prayers.
When the incident was over, the worshippers clapped, and the mayor pledged to come back again next week — as did the Muslim worshippers.
“We’ll do it every Friday if necessary,” said Muzeau.
“I must assure the tranquility and freedom of the people in my city,” he said. “We must not allow this to happen in our country. Our country, the French Republic is tarnished.”
Hamid Kazed, president of the Union of Muslim Associations of Clichy, who led the prayers, said, “We are going to continue until there’s a dialogue for a definitive venue.”
“That’s what they want. To divide the citizens,” he said. “We are not fundamentalists. We are for Islam of France.”
The demonstrators were joined by the president of the Paris region, Valerie Pecresse, and officials and residents of other Paris suburbs
While Islam has long been France’s No. 2 religion, the country has a chronic shortage of mosques for its estimated 5 million Muslims. Muslims in several towns have resorted to praying in the streets, fueling the anti-immigrant sentiment of far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen.
Clichy Muslims had been renting a prayer hall from City Hall. But the town’s mayor decided to turn that space into a library for the town’s 60,000 residents, and the prayer hall was shut down in March following a court battle.
City Hall says Muslims can worship at a new Islamic cultural and prayer center, already used by hundreds, that the town inaugurated last year. However some Muslims say the new facility is too small, remote and doesn’t meet safety standards.
UN envoy: 1.1 billion people face risks from lack of cooling
- “Access to cooling is not a luxury. Access to cooling is now a fundamental issue of equity”
- For the first time in a decade, the number of people who are undernourished has increased — from 777 million people in 2015 to 815 million in 2016
UNITED NATIONS: New data from 52 countries in hot climates reveals that over 1.1 billion people face “significant risks” from lack of access to cooling including death, a UN envoy said Monday.
Rachel Kyte told a press conference that “millions of people die every year from lack of cooling access, whether from food losses, damaged vaccines, or severe heat impact.”
The UN envoy, who is promoting the United Nations goal of providing sustainable energy for all people by 2030, said nine countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America with the biggest populations that face major risks are Bangladesh, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sudan.
Kyte stressed that “’cooling for all’” doesn’t mean “putting an air conditioner in every home.”
She said an urgent effort is needed to clarify cooling needs, engage governments and the private sector, and develop and test possible new solutions.
Kyte spoke on the sidelines of this week’s high-level event assessing progress on six of the 17 UN goals adopted by world leaders in 2015 to combat poverty, promote development and preserve the environment by 2030. One of the goals is universal access to sustainable energy.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told the opening session that there has been progress on reducing maternal and child mortality, tackling childhood marriage, expanding access to electricity, addressing global unemployment, and cutting the rate of forest loss around the globe.
But Mohammed said in other areas “we are either moving too slowly, or losing momentum.”
“For the first time in a decade, the number of people who are undernourished has increased — from 777 million people in 2015 to 815 million in 2016 — fundamentally undermining our commitment to leaving no one behind,” she said.
Young people remain three times more likely to be unemployed than adults, most of the world’s extreme poor are projected to live in urban settings by 2035, and basic sanitation remains “off track,” she said. And “we are seeing alarming decline in biodiversity, rising sea levels, coastal erosion, extreme weather conditions and increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases” that cause global warming.
As for access to energy including renewable energy, Mohammed said the rate of progress “is not fast enough to meet our target.”
“We need to also double our efforts on energy efficiency,” she said. “250 million more people in Africa have no access to clean fuels for cooking compared to 2015.”
Kyte, who is also CEO of the nonprofit organization Sustainable Energy for All, stressed that without ensuring access to cooling for all people, the UN goal of universal access to energy will not be achieved.
She stressed that “access to cooling is not a luxury” but “a fundamental issue of equity. And as temperatures hit record levels, this could mean the difference between life and death for some.”
While 1.1 billion people lack access to cooling, Kyte said another 2.3 billion people present “a different kind of cooling risk.”
They represent “a growing lower-middle class who can only afford to buy cheaper, less efficient air conditioners, which could spike global energy demand and have profound climate impacts,” she said.
As examples of other hurdles that must be overcome in the next 12 years, she said, 470 million people in poor rural areas don’t have access to safe food and medicines and 630 million people in hotter, poor urban slums “have little or no cooling to protect them against extreme heatwaves.”
In India, Kyte said, “nearly 20 percent of temperature-sensitive health care products arrive damaged or degraded because of broken or insufficient cold chains, including a quarter of vaccines.”