German city of Hamburg to restrict older diesel vehicles

A car passes a traffic sign showing a ban on diesel cars at the Max-Brauer Allee in downtown Hamburg, Germany, on May 23, 2018. (REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer)
Updated 24 May 2018
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German city of Hamburg to restrict older diesel vehicles

  • Diesel bans will affect two streets, non-Euro-6 models
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has long sought to avoid bans, as has the VDA auto industry lobby representing carmakers such as Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW.

BERLIN: Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg, will ban the most polluting diesel vehicles from two major streets from next week, a move that could spur others to follow suit and raise pressure on carmakers to consider costly vehicle refits.
Hamburg, home to around 1.8 million people, said on Wednesday the ban would start on May 31 and affect diesel models that do not meet the latest Euro-6 emissions standards.
This follows a ruling in February by Germany’s top administrative court that the cities of Stuttgart and Duesseldorf should consider bans for older diesels.
The detailed publication of that ruling last Friday showed local authorities were entitled to implement targeted bans with immediate effect to bring air pollution levels into line with European Union rules, although curbs affecting wider city areas should only be phased in over time.
Bans on diesel vehicles from city centers are also planned in Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens by 2025, while the mayor of Copenhagen wants to bar new diesel cars from entering the city center as soon as next year.
Since the German ruling was disclosed, the environment minister of Germany’s northernmost state, Schleswig-Holstein, has said banning older diesel vehicles could also be an option for the regional capital Kiel, a city of about 250,000 people.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has long sought to avoid bans, as has the VDA auto industry lobby representing carmakers such as Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW.
Environment Minister Svenja Schulze — a member of the Social Democrats, junior partners in Merkel’s coalition government — urged carmakers to roll out retrofits for diesel cars to lower emissions. “Driving bans like those in Hamburg show how serious the situation is,” she told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. “It’s up to the car industry now.”
Levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emitted by diesel engines and known to cause respiratory disease should fall significantly as more efficient Euro-6 models are sold and emissions-cleaning software updates take effect, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer was quoted as saying on Wednesday by the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.
The bans in Hamburg affect a section of about 1.6 km (one mile) on Stresemannstrasse, where the restrictions will apply only to commercial vehicles weighing 3.5 tons or more, and a section of about 580 meters on Max-Brauer-Allee, covering all diesel vehicles.
Both thoroughfares are in Altona, a busy district in the west of the city.
Drivers aiming for a destination on the two affected streets, including residents, trash collectors, suppliers and taxis, will be exempt from the restrictions as they are designed to filter out through traffic, a spokesman for Hamburg’s environment and energy department said.
Of the 330,000 diesel cars on Hamburg’s roads, only about 116,000 have the Euro-6 technology that was introduced in 2014, according to local government data.
Police will make random checks and fine drivers of older diesel cars 25 euros ($30) and truck owners up to 75 euros for violating the new rules, he said. 


Tony Blair: UK Muslim activist groups promote ‘extremist world view’ 

Updated 18 January 2019
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Tony Blair: UK Muslim activist groups promote ‘extremist world view’ 

  • Organizations stir up resentment by portraying Muslims in Britain as victims and alienated, report finds
  • Divisive ideas about the place of Muslims in the West are "threatening social cohesion"

LONDON: Former British prime minister Tony Blair has accused some Muslim organizations in Britain of spreading views that often mirror those of extremists. 

While they are non-violent, such groups stir up resentment by portraying Muslims in Britain as victims, alienated from British society and in constant conflict with the non-Muslim world. 

Most disturbingly, they “promote a worldview that significantly overlaps with that of a proscribed Islamist extremist organisation, Al-Muhajiroun” - a banned group which does espouse violence.

The allegations appear in a report from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change - the think tank Blair founded after leaving office - and names four groups: CAGE, Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK and Islamic Human Rights Commission.

The report identifies six “key themes” shared by all four groups: Victimization, opposition between “good” and “bad” Muslims, opposition between Islam and the West, a delegitimization of the government, making Islam central to national politics and justification of violence.

“There is a range of views on these six themes, with differing degrees of severity from mainstream to extreme,” the report says. Of the four, Hizb ut-Tahrir comes close to sharing Al-Muhajiroun’s stance on violence. 

Banned since 2000, Al-Muhajiroun notoriously dubbed those  behind the Sept. 11 attacks “the Magnificent 19” and several of the group’s adherents have perpetrated other atrocities. 

The report warns that such a “corrosive narrative” promoting divisiveness between Muslims and non-Muslims can only embolden the far right and calls on the UK government to establish “a working definition of extremism” by identifying the key ideas that would “flag up” potential danger.

“Divisive ideas about the place of Muslims in the West are threatening social cohesion in Britain today,” said the former prime minister, who went on to serve as a special Middle East envoy. 

Tony Blair said divisive ideas about the place of Muslims in the West are threatening social cohesion. (AFP)

“Countering and recognizing this is an essential part of fighting extremism because - let us be clear - there is nothing incompatible between being British and being Muslim. But too many people, Muslims and non-Muslims, actively push messages that suggest otherwise.”

 The result, he said, was a “skewed discourse” in which fringe views dominate because moderate voices are afraid to speak out. Blair also accused  UK politicians of giving up on the discussion.

“Many Muslims in the UK hear more from divisive groups about how there is a security state set up to oppress them than they hear from our national leaders about how communities and policymakers can work together to build a thriving, inclusive Britain,” he said.

“Often when people think of this challenge, they focus entirely on violent, jihadi groups. Yet, as this report shows, many of the central ideas that British Muslims are hearing today from some activist groups are worryingly similar to the ideology of violent extremist groups.”

The Home Office (interior ministry) of the UK government describes Hizb ut-Tahrir as a “radical, but to date non-violent Islamist group” that “holds anti-semitic, anti-western and homophobic views.” Almost all the articles on the Hizb ut-Tahrir website portray Muslims as oppressed and bullied. Some articles are clearly anti-Saudi in tone and content.

CAGE was founded as an advocacy service to raise awareness of the plight of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay during and after the War on Terror. Its outreach director, Moazzam Beg was himself held in Guantanamo Bay for two years before being released without charge. However critics have labelled CAGE “apologists for terrorism,” a “terrorism advocacy group,” propagators of a “myth of Muslim persecution” and “a front for Taliban enthusiasts and Al-Qaeda devotees that fraudulently presents itself as a human rights group.”

The British-born Daesh extremist Mohammed Emwazi, nicknamed Jihadi John, who was filmed beheading hostages had been in contact with CAGE while in the UK, complaining that he was being harassed by British intelligence agencies.

Responding to the Blair Institute report, CAGE called it “an academically flawed attempt to remould Islamic belief and silence Muslim voices that challenge repressive state policies,” and dismissed the former prime minister as “commonly known for being funded by despots.”

CAGE research director Asim Qureshi said: “It’s unsurprising, considering Tony Blair’s penchant for misinformation that his organization would use seriously flawed methodology in order to draw false conclusions.”

Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has held consultative status with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs since 2007. However it has also been described as “a radical Islamist organisation that uses the language of human rights to promote an extremist agenda including the adoption of sharia law” and “neo-Khomeinist.” 

The Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK encourages tactical voting in elections to dislodge members of parliament who support policies which it considers not be in Muslims’ interest. In 2005, the MPACUK targeted Lorna Fitzsimmons, a Labour MP for Rochdale, a town in north-west England with a large Muslim population, printing leaflets that claimed she had done nothing to help the Palestinian cause because she was Jewish. She is not and the group later apologized.

Former home secretary Jack Straw, whose parliamentary seat in Blackburn also has a large Muslim population, called the group “egregious” after it campaigned for Muslims to oust him. 

Azmina Siddique, policy adviser at the Tony Blair Institute, said: “The groups studied in this report don’t represent what most British Muslims think…This isn’t about violent extremism but about sowing division. This ‘us versus them’ rhetoric is becomingly increasingly visible across our society, including from the far right. Policymakers and civil society must start to challenge rhetoric that falls into this grey space between activism and extremism so that we can tackle the increasingly toxic climate that is feeding into extremism.”

Arab News asked the three other UK groups to comment on the report but none of them responded.