Tensions as Paris suburb tries to stop Muslim street prayers

Clichy la Garenne's mayor Remi Muzueau, center left, leads the demonstration against Muslim street prayers, in the Paris suburb of Clichy la Garenne, on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Updated 10 November 2017
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Tensions as Paris suburb tries to stop Muslim street prayers

CLICHY-LA-GARENNE, France: Tensions erupted Friday as French officials and residents of a Paris suburb tried to block Muslims from praying in the street — a dispute that reflects nationwide problems with mosque shortages.
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.


New Delhi half-marathon tries radio waves to beat city’s toxic smog

Updated 21 October 2018
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New Delhi half-marathon tries radio waves to beat city’s toxic smog

  • The measures had reduced pollution by “at least” 30 percent during the race
  • Air quality at monitoring stations near the route were still rated as “very unhealthy” under international standards

NEW DELHI: New Delhi’s half-marathon race used ultra high frequency (UHF) radio waves to clear the air for the runners on Sunday, an experimental technique the organizers hope could improve the city’s notorious air quality.
India is home to the world’s 14 most polluted cities. Last year the smoke from burning crop waste and thousands of firecrackers contributed to a toxic smog that blanketed the capital of New Delhi and a large part of northern India in toxic smog.
The city’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal warned New Dehli would face the same fate this year if Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party did not do more to combat pollution.
After medical experts urged the canceling of last year’s race, marathon organizers responded by bringing the race date forward to October, away from November’s Diwali festival when the firecrackers are set off.
They also tried to dampen down the dust that hangs over the city in winter, including reagents from the mining industry to treat roads, dropping water vapor along the course from a height of 20 feet.
The techniques also included using the UHF waves to dispel pollution from particulate matter measuring only 2.5 microns, known as PM2.5, whose small size — about 30 times smaller than a human hair — allows it to lodge deep in the lungs, damaging the respiratory system.
“It was a great day with clear skies and no pollution-related incidents among our 35,000 runners,” Vivek Singh, a managing director of race promoter Procam International told Reuters.
He said the Delhi government, which last year resorted to shutting power stations and banning some cars from roads to clear the air, should look at using the UHF technology, manufactured by a Bangalore-based company Devic Earth, to mitigate pollution.
“We have shown that it works and made a point to tell the authorities,” he added.
Pictures of the event, which began at 5 a.m. (0030 GMT) showed relatively clear skies, with the early morning sun visible through a sight haze.
“I did doubt signing up, but it was just the usual morning haze, and didn’t feel hard to run in,” said Emily Jackson, a British carbon market analyst living in New Delhi who competed in the race for the first time.
“I only saw one person with a mask.”
Singh said the measures had reduced pollution by “at least” 30 percent during the race, though air quality at monitoring stations near the route were still rated as “very unhealthy” under international standards.
The women’s race was won by Ethiopian Tsehay Gemechu in a course-record time of 1:06:50, while teenage compatriot Andamalak Belihu finished first in the men’s race with a time of 59:18.