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Building a Mosque in France, Never Easy, May Get Even Harder

The disparities also touch on everything from government subsidies to private schools to credits on personal income for donations, which overwhelmingly favor Catholics and high-income taxpayers. But they are perhaps most glaring in physical structures. Even as Mr. Macron has pledged to nurture an “Islam of France,” followers of the faith suffer from an acute shortage of proper mosques across the country.

“It’s a total paradox,” Saïd Aït-Laama, an imam, said in an interview before Friday Prayer.

Unable to finance mosque-building themselves, generally unassisted by the state, Muslim communities have turned to governments abroad for help.

But that may now become more difficult under Mr. Macron’s new law, which is intended to combat Islamism by toughening rules on secularism and controls over religious organizations, including tightening the flow of foreign donations.

Last week, the government said that the new law would allow it to oppose the public financing of a large mosque in Strasbourg, in the eastern region of Alsace, where, for historical reasons, the construction of religious buildings can still qualify for government subsidies.

The interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, pressed the local government to cancel the funding, saying that the association behind the Strasbourg mosque had ties to the Turkish government.

Even before new law was drafted, the City Council of Angers used real-estate regulations last year to stop mosque leaders from turning to Morocco. A provision in Mr. Macron’s law would allow the national government, too, to oppose the sale of religious buildings to a foreign government if the French authorities consider the sale a threat.

Mr. Macron has said that the legislation is critical to fighting the kind of radical ideology that has sent French youths to fight in Syria and led to the deaths of more than 250 French people in Islamist terrorist attacks since 2015. Last fall, four people were killed in three separate terrorist attacks.

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At Least 10 Killed in Protests Against Modi’s Visit to Bangladesh

DHAKA, Bangladesh — At least 10 people were killed and dozens injured in protests against a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to Bangladesh as part of celebrations for the country’s 50th anniversary.

Clashes between protesters and security forces began Friday after weekly prayers in three cities — Dhaka, the capital; Brahammanbaria, near the Indian border; and the coastal city of Chattogram.

An Islamist group called Hefazat-e-Islam led street processions denouncing Mr. Modi. On Friday, four people were killed in Chattogram and one person was killed in Brahammanbaria, where hundreds of protesters had gathered outside the Baitul Mokarram mosque. The clashes began there after one group of protesters began waving their shoes in a sign of contempt for Mr. Modi, according to local television news reports.

One channel reported that at least 40 people had been injured in the clashes, including some journalists.

Bangladeshi and Muslim migrants from India — could make such a partnership more difficult.

At a press briefing Saturday, Mamunul Haque, a senior leader for Hefajat-e-Islami, said that a shutdown had been called to protest the deaths of those demonstrating against Mr. Modi’s visit to Bangladesh.

“We want to make this clear,” Mr. Mamunul said, “our movement is not against the government, our movement is against atheists and apostates.”

Conservative Islamic views have been gaining ground in Bangladesh, a secular democracy that is more than 90 percent Muslim. Anti-India and anti-Hindu sentiment has been used to challenge Ms. Hasina’s party, the Awami League, since the country was founded after a bloody war for independence from Pakistan in 1971.

Under Ms. Hasina, who has been in power on and off since 1996, and is serving a fourth consecutive term, Bangladesh has come to be seen as somewhat of an economic miracle, regularly posting 8 percent annual growth. Its ready-made garment industry is considered second only to China’s. And the country of 160 million has risen steadily up the United Nations Human Development Index.

Bangladesh’s success story, however, has a dark underbelly: accusations of deep corruption and the stifling of dissent in the increasingly authoritarian government of a country that has been prone to coups and political violence.

While Mr. Modi’s trip is mainly focused on Bangladesh’s anniversary celebrations, the visit also has political implications in India, where voting began Saturday in several state-level elections, including West Bengal, which borders Bangladesh.

series of tweets late Saturday after returning to New Delhi, Mr. Modi said he and Ms. Hasina had discussed how to deepen their relationship.

“I would like to thank the people of Bangladesh for their affection during my visit,” Mr. Modi wrote. “I am sure this visit will lead to further strengthening of bilateral ties between our nations.”

Mr. Modi made no mention of the violence and deaths.

Julfikar Ali Manik reported from Dhaka and Emily Schmall reported from New Delhi.

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U.K. School Assailed From 2 Directions Over Muhammad Cartoon

A cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad — this time, its use in a British classroom — is once again stoking anger and national debates about the limits of tolerance, free speech and education.

The teacher who showed the cartoon to students this week has received death threats and is under police protection, officials said — echoes of the deadly attacks on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo and on a French teacher last year for having shown similar cartoons.

Loud but nonviolent protesters blocked access to the school and demanded the dismissal of the teacher at Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire, in northern England, calling the incident an example of bigotry. Many Muslims consider any physical depiction of Muhammad to be blasphemous.

On Thursday the school, near Leeds, suspended the teacher — who supporters said had used the image in a lesson about religion and free expression. The school said in a statement that “we would like to offer a sincere and full apology.” It said it had removed the offending material, which it did not describe, but some protesters said it was one or more of the cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo.

she wrote in a Twitter thread, and “the school should ask whether the issue of blasphemy could have been taught in a better way that didn’t necessitate the use of cartoons depicting Muslims wearing bomb turbans.”

At the same time, she said the teacher “should not be named, nor hounded,” and added, “I urge the small but noisy group of protesters to calm down & go home. There are better ways to enjoy the good weather.”

And in more scabrous terms, she advised anti-Muslim “commentators, media outlets, twitter trolls, politicos,” not to be so eager for “a ‘them Muslims’ row.”

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Arab Party Could Break Israel Election Deadlock

JERUSALEM — After a fourth Israeli election in two years appears to have ended in another stalemate, leaving many Israelis feeling trapped in an endless loop, there was at least one surprising result on Wednesday: An Arab political party has emerged as a potential kingmaker.

Even more surprising, the party was Raam, an Islamist group with roots in the same religious movement as Hamas, the militant group that runs the Gaza Strip. For years, Raam was rarely interested in working with the Israeli leadership and, like most Arab parties, was ostracized by its Jewish counterparts.

But according to the latest vote count, Raam’s five seats hold the balance of power between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc and the motley alliance of parties that seeks to end his 12 years in power. The vote tally is not yet final, and Raam has previously suggested it would only support a government from the outside.

Still, even the possibility of Raam playing a deciding role in the formation of a coalition government is making waves in Israel. An independent Arab party has never been part of an Israeli government before, although some Arab lawmakers supported Yitzhak Rabin’s government from the outside in the 1990s.

Mansour Abbas, the party’s leader, said in a television interview on Wednesday. In the past, he added, mainstream parties “were excluding us and we were excluding ourselves. Today, Raam is at least challenging the political system. It is saying, ‘Friends, we exist here.’”

The party is not in “anyone’s pocket,” he added. “I am not ruling out anyone but if someone rules us out, then we will of course rule him out.”

leave the country.

legislation that downgraded the status of the Arabic language and said that only Jews had the right to determine the nature of the Israeli state. In a previous election, Mr. Netanyahu warned of high Arab turnout as a threat to encourage his own supporters to vote.

Raam would also be cooperating with an alliance that includes far-right politicians who want to expel Arab citizens of Israel they deem “disloyal” to the Israeli state. One of those politicians, Itamar Ben Gvir, until recently hung in his home a picture of a Jewish extremist who murdered 29 Palestinian Muslims in a West Bank mosque in 1994.

But Mr. Abbas is prepared to consider these possible associations because he believes it is the only way for Arab citizens to secure government support in the fight against the central problems assailing the Arab community — gang violence, poverty and restrictions on their access to housing, land and planning permission.

In the past, “Arab politicians have been onlookers in the political process in Israel,” he said in an interview with The New York Times in February. Today, he added, “Arabs are looking for a real role in Israeli politics.”

The move would mark the culmination of a gradual process in which Arab parties and voters have grown incrementally more involved in the electoral process.

Raam, a Hebrew acronym that stands for the United Arab List, is affiliated with a branch of an Islamist movement that for years did not participate in Israeli elections. Raam was founded in 1996 after some members of that movement voted by a narrow margin to run for Parliament, an event that split the movement in two. The other branch, which Israel has outlawed and whose leader it has jailed, does not participate in elections.

the third-largest party in three recent Israeli elections, in a sign of the Arab minority’s growing political sway.

said if a right-wing government of Zionist parties was impossible to assemble, his party would consider “options that are currently undesirable but perhaps better than a fifth election.”

Raam’s newfound relevance constitutes “a historical moment,” said Basha’er Fahoum-Jayoussi, the co-chairwoman of the board of the Abraham Initiatives, a nongovernmental group that promotes equality between Arabs and Jews. “The Arab vote is not only being legitimized but the Palestinian-Arab community in Israel is being recognized as a political power with the ability to play an active and influential part in the political arena.”

The news was also greeted happily in the Negev desert, where dozens of Arab villages are threatened with demolition because they were built without authorization.

Ayman Odeh, the leader of the Joint List, has accused Mr. Abbas of assenting to a relationship with the Israeli state that frames Arabs as subjects who can be bought off, rather than as citizens with equal rights.

“Mansour Abbas is capable of accepting this,” Mr. Odeh said in an interview before the election. “But I will not.”

Irit Pazner Garshowitz and Gabby Sobelman contributed reporting.

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Nawal El Saadawi, Advocate for Women in the Arab World, Dies at 89

Dr. Saadawi was among some 1,500 activists jailed by President Sadat shortly before his assassination in October 1981. She was released three months later and published, in Arabic, “Memoirs From the Women’s Prison,” in 1983.

Her message and manner drew equivocal assessments in the West.

After the first of Dr. Saadawi’s books to be translated into English, “The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World,” was published in the United States in 1982, by Beacon Press, Vivian Gornick, reviewing it in The New York Times Book Review, wrote, “For an American feminist it is a curious work.”

“Written by a Marxist who has read Freud,” she went on, “in a country and for a people that require an educated introduction to the idea of equality for women, the book seems disoriented by the inorganic nature of its understanding.”

Four years later, reviewing Dr. Saadawi’s novel “God Dies by the Nile,” the Indian-born American writer Bharati Mukherjee wrote that the author “bears down on social issues with directness and passion, transforming the systematic brutalization of peasants and of women into powerful allegory.”

She added, “This directness may put off American readers.”

Under President Mubarak, Sadat’s successor, Dr. Saadawi was placed under police guard, supposedly to protect her from Islamist threats. Her name was included on a so-called death list published in Saudi Arabia.

After fleeing to Duke, where she taught from 1993 to 1996, Dr. Saadawi wrote two more volumes of autobiography. When she returned to Egypt she continued to face fundamentalist accusations of apostasy and heresy. She announced plans to run for president against Mr. Mubarak in 2004 but resolved instead to boycott the election when her followers were threatened.

Into her 80s she seemed to suggest that her struggle was far from over.

“Do you feel you are liberated?” she asked a writer for The Guardian, a woman, in an interview in 2015. When the writer nodded her head, Dr. Saadawi said, “Well, I feel I am not.”

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Pope Francis Ends Historic Trip at a Critical Moment for Iraq

ERBIL, Iraq — Pope Francis concluded on Monday a trip to Iraq that made history with every step and demonstrated that Iraq, still beset by violence and recovering from decades of war and mismanagement, was able to pull off a visit that would have posed a challenge for any country.

“It’s huge. It’s huge,” President Barham Salih told The New York Times about the importance of the visit after seeing Francis off at Baghdad airport. “I am not underestimating the challenges facing Iraq, but the visit by the pope was a remarkable affirmation of the essence of these values of tolerance and coexistence that are deeply rooted in Iraqi society,” said Mr. Salih, who is Kurdish.

For Iraqi officials, the visit was an affirmation of the country’s importance in the region, after years of isolation by Sunni Arab countries because of Iraq’s Shiite majority leadership. It was also a support for leaders who have expressed concern about how sectarian and political divisions have weakened the country.

The stops on the 84-year-old pontiff’s four-day trip illustrated the hollowing out of the historic religious diversity in a land seen as the birthplace of monotheistic religions; a country badly scarred by sectarian violence and the legacy of the Islamic State’s brutal takeover of parts of northern Iraq and Syria.

Alan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian boy killed when his family’s rubber dinghy capsized between Turkey and Greece. The photo of the small boy’s body washed up on a beach in Greece helped focus attention on the plight of refugees and migrants desperate to reach Europe.

Iraqi officials said they hoped to start an ongoing interreligious dialogue, but acknowledged the difficulties ahead.

“The pope, he cannot make a miracle ,” said Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, the Iraqi Christian leader whom France promoted in 2018. “We sows the seeds, but we have to water them, and God will bless them and let them grow.”

Jason Horowitz contributed reporting.

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Pope Francis Defends Iraq Trip During Coronavirus Pandemic

The pope’s trip was intended to underline the tragic costs of failing to achieve that fraternity. On Sunday, he visited Mosul, once the capital of the Islamic State’s caliphate, and now a devastated monument to the destruction wrought by the militants, with buildings and churches reduced to rubble, families decimated and traumatized, a once vibrant Christian population long gone.

He said the ruins had left him “speechless,” and added that as he stood in front of the obliterated Catholic church, as well as other demolished churches and mosques, he thought “I couldn’t believe” such cruelty existed.

Francis, who has made mercy a cornerstone of his pontificate, said the thing that most moved him were remarks by a woman in Qaraqosh, the northern Iraq town with the country’s largest Christian population, who talked about how she had lost her children to the Islamic State, but nevertheless had sought forgiveness for the militants.

The Vatican expressed great satisfaction with Francis’ trip, in which he made bold symbolic gestures, but also came through on concrete action, including a statement of support for Iraq’s Christians by Ayatollah Sistani.

Still, there is a question of whether the pope’s trip will have any real and lasting impact.

“You don’t resolve the problems of a country like Iraq overnight and with a bit of ecumenism,” Archbishop Gallagher said. He called it “a significant contribution” in which the pope “has done something, it’s worked out, it’s overcome lots of obstacles — and I think that sends a strong message.”

“In a very spiritual dimension,” Archbishop Gallagher added, the pope is saying “No, we shouldn’t just abdicate our responsibility or contribution. We can all do something.”

But there are also those who worry the pope, in causing crowds during his visit, had done something he may one day regret.

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Swiss Voters Narrowly Approve a Ban on Face Coverings

GENEVA — Switzerland on Sunday became the latest European country to ban the wearing of face coverings in public places, prohibiting the veils worn by Muslim women.

Official results of the nationwide referendum showed 51.2 percent of voters supported the ban on full facial coverings, which was proposed by the populist, anti-immigrant Swiss People’s Party (S.V.P.), compared with 48.8 percent opposing it, a much narrower margin of victory than pollsters had initially predicted.

The initiative, started long before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, makes exceptions for facial coverings worn at religious sites and for security or health purposes, but also bans coverings like the ski masks worn by protesters. Officials have two years to write legislation to put the ban into effect.

The federal government had urged voters to reject the ban as tackling a problem that didn’t exist and arguing that it would damage tourism.

Critics of the ban cited a study showing only some 30 women in Switzerland wear the veils and most of them were born in Switzerland and had converted to Islam. The only people seen wearing the burqa, a full head-to-toe covering, are visitors from the Middle East, mostly wealthy tourists from the Persian Gulf bringing welcome revenue to the country’s hospitality industry.

France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Austria ban face coverings, and opinion polls at the start of the year showed the Swiss initiative garnering the backing of around 65 percent of voters, but the gap narrowed quickly as liberals and women’s groups pushed back against a ban they condemned as racist, Islamophobic and sexist.

The Swiss People’s Party has “always profited from campaigning against minorities, and feel they have to keep doing it,” said Elena Michel, a manager of a campaign against the ban for Operation Libero, an activist group supporting liberal causes. “In the end all our freedoms are at stake. If we open that door, it shows a tendency that it’s OK to take away the fundamental rights of minorities.”

Switzerland’s Central Council of Muslims called the result of the vote “a dark day” for Muslims and issued a statement saying, “Today’s decision opens old wounds, further expands the principle of legal inequality, and sends a clear signal of exclusion to the Muslim minority.”

The proposal put forward by the Swiss People’s Party, the country’s largest, did not mention Islam or niqabs and burqas — veils traditionally worn by Muslim women — calling instead for a ban on “full facial covering.” But the party left no doubt as to whom it was targeting.

Menacing campaign posters depicting a black-garbed woman scowling from behind her veil carried the slogan “Stop Extremism!”

The initiative evoked memories of a successful 2009 campaign by the S.V.P. to ban the construction of minarets, the towers from which mosques traditionally broadcast the call to prayers. Switzerland had three minarets at the time but the party challenged such architecture as alien to the Alpine nation’s culture and landscape, and hammered home the message with posters depicting minarets as missiles.

The S.V.P. framed its campaign leading up to Sunday’s vote as part of a “war of civilizations” in which it was defending Switzerland against “the Islamization of Europe and our country.”

To win support from other parts of the political spectrum, the party also framed the initiative as liberating women from religious oppression and said it would help the police deal with hooligans in street protests and at sporting events.

Some liberal-leaning Muslims supported the ban.

“What the full veil represents is unacceptable; it is the cancellation of women from public space,” Saïda Keller-Messahli, president of the Forum for a Progressive Islam, told Swiss media.

Social commentators say Switzerland’s 400,000 Muslims, who make up around 5.5 percent of the population, are better integrated than those in France or Germany.

Some who campaigned against the ban called the outcome better than expected.

“We lost the battle but not the war,” said Ines el-Shikh, a Muslim and co-founder of the Violet Scarves, a feminist group, who celebrated the sharp drop in support for the ban. “This is huge. It shows the power that feminism as an organized movement can bring to public debate.”

Others said they feared the outcome would merely stoke the politics of division and fuel anti-Muslim sentiment.

“Things are going in a bad direction and this is going to make them worse,” Sanija Ameti, a political activist and member of the Green Liberals Party, said. “That frightens me.”

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Amid the Rubble of Mosul, Francis Offers a Salve for Iraq’s Wounds

MOSUL, Iraq — After the Islamic State took control of Mosul seven years ago and declared it the capital of its caliphate, the terrorist group sought to strike fear deep into the West by vowing to conquer Rome.

But with the Islamic State pushed from the city, it was Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, who on Sunday came to Mosul. In an extraordinary moment on the last full day of the first papal trip to Iraq, Francis went to the wounded heart of the country, directly addressing the suffering, persecution and sectarian conflict that have torn the nation apart.

“Now Rome has come here,” Ghazwan Yousif Baho, a local priest who invited Francis to Mosul, said as he awaited the pope’s arrival. “He will bring his blessing to spread peace and brotherhood. It’s the beginning of a new era.”

Francis is the first to make the trip. In doing so, he has sought to protect an ancient but battered and shrunken Christian community, build relations with the Muslim world and reassert himself on the global stage after being grounded for more than a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

ISIS expelled those who remained. Only about 350 Christians have returned since ISIS was driven out in 2017 — almost all of them to the more prosperous east side, which suffered far less damage.

“I especially welcome, then, your invitation to the Christian community to return to Mosul,” said Francis, who has praised young volunteers, Muslim and Christian, working to rebuild churches and mosques.

“I am sure it will be a first step for them to come back,” said Anas Zeyad, a Muslim engineer who is part of an international project to rebuild the churches. He said that Christians who had fled the city “have memories, they have Muslim friends, they have homes here.”

After praying for the dead, and for the repentance of their killers, Francis, who suffers from sciatica and limps heavily, took a golf cart to the Syriac Catholic church that ISIS had used as a courthouse. On the way, he passed a cartoon mural of three girls at play, their faces blacked out. ISIS forbid depictions of people and animals.

“We were living here in Mosul, all together, Christians, Muslims,” said Rana Bazzoiee, 37, a pediatric surgeon, who fled Mosul in ahead of the ISIS takeover in 2014. She said that, while a semblance of normalcy had returned to the city, the pope’s visit could improve things further. “Why not?” she said. “We lived together for a long time in Mosul.”

In his whirlwind trip, Francis has sought to make significant progress in tightening bonds between his church and the Muslim world. On Saturday, the country’s most powerful and reclusive Shiite, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, met with the pope and released a statement stressing that Christian citizens deserved to “live like all Iraqis in security and peace and with full constitutional rights.”

Francis called for brotherhood at a meeting of minorities on the desert plains of Ur, what tradition holds is the homeland of Abraham, revered by Christians, Jews and Muslims alike.

Two earlier popes had tried and failed to visit Christians in Iraq, but it was Francis, who as pontiff has prioritized reaching out to the marginalized and forgotten, who succeeded.

On Sunday afternoon, the faithful in Qaraqosh, the largest town of the Ninevah Plains that are Iraq’s Christian heartland, thanked him for it. They lined the streets outside the al-Tahira Syriac Catholic Church, clapping and ululating as his vehicle approached.

Residents of Qaraqosh have spent the past three months preparing the town for the pope’s arrival and the past four years repairing the damage done by ISIS. For many, Francis’ visit was a chance to celebrate the community’s survival.

A young priest holding a scarf danced in the street near the church while a group of white-robed nuns on a rooftop held brightly colored balloons. Women and girls wearing traditional Christian dress, with brightly colored wraps embroidered with scenes of church and home life, waved olive branches.

Hundreds crowded into the church, prompting one Vatican official to complain to Iraqi organizers that there was not sufficient space between people in the pews. Masks were often disregarded. But the coronavirus seemed the least of attendants’ worries.

Qaraqosh, just 20 miles from Mosul, was overtaken by the Islamic State in 2014 and held for three years before being liberated by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces. Its 50,000 residents fled when ISIS arrived, and those who returned found burned and looted houses and badly damaged churches. About half the pre-2014 population never came back.

ISIS had turned many homes into car bomb factories — including that of Edison Stefo, a school principal who was among the parishioners waiting in the church.

He said he hoped the pope’s visit would encourage Christians to return.

“This is like a dream,” Mr. Stefo said. “We feel like he is one of us — that he is from our area and knows what we went through.”

The pope ended the day by celebrating Mass at a stadium in Erbil. In the days leading up to the visit, as coronavirus infections spiked in Iraq and concerns grew about potential crowds, the Vatican insisted that all events would be socially distanced and safe.

But priests organized trips to the Mass, packing buses with parishioners. More than 10,000 people, many in white hats emblazoned with the pope’s face, entered the stadium. They hummed along with chants and expressed joy and relief that a pope had finally come to find them.

Calling himself “a pilgrim in your midst,” Francis concluded the last public event of his trip, which ends on Monday when he returns to Rome. “Today,” he said. “I can see at first hand that the church in Iraq is alive.”

Sangar Khaleel contributed reporting from Erbil, Iraq.

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