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.


More than 300 older children split at border are reunited

Julie Schwietert-Collazo, left, of Immigrant Families Together, walks with Rosayra Pablo Cruz, center, as she leaves the Cayuga Center with her sons 5-year-old Fernando, second from left, and 15-year-old Jordy, in this July 13, 2018 photo, in New York. (AP)
Updated 20 July 2018
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More than 300 older children split at border are reunited

  • The government has identified eight US Immigration and Customs Enforcement locations to reunify children 5 and older, and people have been getting released throughout the Southwest this week
  • The actual reunification process is a logistical nightmare

SAN DIEGO: The Trump administration said Thursday that it has reunified 364 children ages 5 and older with their families after they were separated at the border, still leaving hundreds to go before a court-imposed deadline a week away.
The Justice Department reaffirmed in a court filing that it has identified 2,551 children who may be covered by US District Judge Dana Sabraw’s order. More than 900 are either “not eligible or not yet known to the eligible,” the vast majority of them undergoing evaluation to verify parentage and ensure the children are safe.
ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said he was concerned about the high number of children who have not been cleared for reunification.
The administration and the American Civil Liberties Union are due back in court Friday for the fifth time in two weeks as the judge holds tightly to a July 26 deadline for all children to be reunified. He set an earlier deadline of July 10 for dozens of children under 5.
The government has identified eight US Immigration and Customs Enforcement locations to reunify children 5 and older, and people have been getting released throughout the Southwest this week.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service are taking the lead on helping families that have been released into the US Faith-based groups provide food, clothing, legal aid and often money for a bus or a plane ticket, usually for them to join relatives across the country.
Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas, has served dozens of families. The shelter’s director, Ruben Garcia, said “the actual reunification process is a logistical nightmare.”
On Monday, the judge put a temporary hold on deporting parents while the government prepares a response to the ACLU’s request for parents to have at least one week to decide whether to pursue asylum in the US after they are reunited with their children.