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.


Pakistan court rejects Sharif family’s bail pleas

Updated 17 July 2018
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Pakistan court rejects Sharif family’s bail pleas

  • Court adjourned hearing into the case until end of July, seeking complete record of trial against Sharif family
  • Ex-premier’s close aide, Senator Pervaiz Rashid, still expects the high court will set aside the convictions

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani court on Tuesday rejected appeals of ex-premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt. (retd) Mohammad Safdar for bail and suspension of their convictions in a corruption reference.
A divisional bench of Islamabad High Court has taken up the Sharif family’s appeals against an accountability court verdict in Avenfield properties reference and later adjourned the hearing until the last week of July.
The two-member bench comprising Justices Mohsin Akhtar Kayani and Mian Gul Hassan Aurangzeb, however, issued notices to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor and investigator to present a complete record of the trial in the court at the time of the next hearing.
The ex-premier, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law Safdar are currently in jail after the accountability court in Islamabad on July 6 sentenced Nawaz and Maryam in absentia to 10 years and seven years respectively with a $8 million and $2 million fine respectively on corruption charges.
Safdar was given a one-year sentence without any fine.
The Islamabad High Court has now summoned a NAB prosecutor and investigation officer on the next hearing to record their arguments on the Sharif family’s appeals seeking bail and suspension of the accountability court verdict.
The court was packed to its capacity when hearing into the appeals started in the afternoon. Scores of supporters and leaders of the ex-premier have turned up in the court to observe the hearing into the appeals.
Lawyers of the convicts highlighted legal lacunae in the accountability court verdict during the hearing and urged the court to suspend the imprisonment sentences of their clients until a final decision of the Islamabad High Court.
Khawaja Harris, legal counsel of Nawaz Sharif, argued that it was a case of having assets beyond known sources of income but the NAB prosecutor and investigator failed to provide valuation of the Avenfield properties during the trial.
He said the accountability court verdict is also based on presumptions that Nawaz Sharif’s children were dependent on him and had no monetary resources to buy the London flats. He said the prosecution also failed to prove this assumption during the trial.
Likewise, Amjad Pervez, legal counsel of Maryam and Safdar, also highlighted flaws in the accountability court’s verdict and urged the court to set aside the ruling.
The court also dismissed the Sharif family’s request to stay corruption trial in remaining two references in the accountability court till their appeals are decided.
Talking to the media outside the court, Senator Pervaiz Rashid, a close aide of Nawaz Sharif, said the people expect the high court to decide on the appeals at the same speed with which corruption proceedings were conducted against the Sharif family in the accountability court.
“We expect justice from the court,” he said. “We hope the high court will declare the convictions of Nawaz Sharif and his family void after hearing the arguments of our lawyers.”
On July 13, both Nawaz and Maryam were arrested at Lahore airport on their arrival from London and sent to Adiala Jail, Rawalpindi, to serve their sentence.
The two leaders were in London at the time of the verdict with Nawaz’s wife and Maryam’s mother Kulsoom Nawaz, who is battling cancer. She has reportedly been on life support since June 14.
Earlier, Shahbaz Sharif, younger brother of Nawaz Sharif and ex-chief minister Punjab province, has written a letter to the caretaker chief minister to complain about “abysmal conditions” under which the ex-premier was languishing in a high-security Adiala jail.
He demanded the government provide all basic facilities, including access to a personal doctor and air-conditioning, to Nawaz Sharif.
“It is very unfortunate that Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, three-time prime minister of Pakistan, is being treated in such a shabby manner,” the letter available to Arab News reads.