Climate change protesters halt London street blockade

Extinction Rebellion climate change activists lie on the floor as they perform a mass "die in" in the main hall of the Natural History Museum in London on April 22, 2019, on the eighth day of the environmental group's protest calling for political change to combat climate change. (AFP)
Updated 22 April 2019
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Climate change protesters halt London street blockade

  • Extinction Rebellion took over the heart of the UK capital in a bid to focus global attention on rising temperatures and sea levels
  • London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned that protests were starting to overstretch the police

LONDON: Some of London’s busiest streets re-opened Monday for the first time in a week as climate change protesters regrouped and plotted a new course after police made over 1,000 arrests.
The so-called Extinction Rebellion took over the heart of the UK capital in a bid to focus global attention on rising temperatures and sea levels caused by greenhouse gas emissions.
The grassroots group was established last year in Britain by academics and has used social media to become one of the fastest-growing environmental movements in the world.
But it abandoned four of the five main protests sites over the weekend in response to a more forceful police approach and an outcry from local businesses that claimed a heavy loss in sales.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan also warned Sunday that protests were starting to overstretch the police and limiting their ability to respond to daily crime.
“It simply isn’t right to put Londoners’ safety at risk like this,” Khan said.
Extinction Rebellion organizers retreated by Monday to Marble Arch — a monument on the edge of Hyde Park that allows limited protests to continue without disrupting traffic.
The site has been sanctioned by the police.
“After leaving four of five locations in good order, rebels will meet at Marble Arch on Monday to decide where they go next,” the group said in a statement.
It added that its seven-day campaign has helped it raise nearly £300,000 ($390,000, 345,000 euros) and gain 30,000 new members.
The police said they had made 1,065 arrests and charged 53 people since the first protests took over a bridge and renowned London intersections such as Piccadilly and Oxford Circus.
“We remain in frequent contact with the organizers to ensure that the serious disruption to Londoners is brought to a close as soon as possible and that only lawful and peaceful protests continue,” the police said in a statement.
The London campaign has no formal leaders and its immediate plan of action remains unclean.
Some of the organizers said Sunday they wanted formal talks with the London mayor and the UK government.
The group’s list of demands includes a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to a net level of zero by 2025 and a halt to biodiversity loss.
The group has previously said that it wants the UK government to “create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.”
But it said Monday that its strategy was still under discussion — and that it may yet decide to resume the street blockades.
“A proposal has been circulated for entering a ‘negotiations’ phase,” it said in a statement.
“Despite being presented otherwise in the media, this idea remains only a proposal,” it added.
“Where we go with Phase Two is up to us.”


Sri Lanka rejects plans for $10m Shariah university

Updated 24 min 59 sec ago
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Sri Lanka rejects plans for $10m Shariah university

  • Madrasas to be absorbed by Ministry of Education in wake of Easter Sunday attacks
  • More than 100 arrests have been made following the rioting. A curfew has been lifted and life is returning to normal

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday refused permission for a planned $10 million (SR37.5 million) Shariah university in one of the country’s main cities.

And in the wake of the deadly Easter Sunday terror attacks on hotels and churches, the premier also announced that all madrasas would be brought under the umbrella of Sri Lanka’s Education Ministry.

The latest moves by the Sri Lankan government follow widespread unrest on the island, with anti-Muslim riots having caused damage running into millions of dollars.

Wickremesinghe’s orders came after a fact-finding report into the university compiled by MP Ashu Marasinghe. He recommended that the institution, being constructed at Batticaloa, in the Eastern Province, should be privately operated and titled Batticaloa Technology University. The new education complex is located close to the township of Kattankudy where suspected ringleader of the Easter Sunday suicide bombings, Zahran Hashim, lived and preached his messages of hate and violence.

The Sri Lankan government analyst’s department said on Tuesday that DNA tests proved Hashim died in the attack at the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo.

President’s Counsel, Ali Sabry, a prominent lawyer and political analyst, told Arab News on Tuesday that the premier’s announcement was welcome.

“We don’t need a Shariah university at this juncture when there is a lot of suspicions on various Islamic topics that need to be clarified by Islamic theologians following the suicide attacks by Muslim extremists,” Sabry said. He stressed that the country’s main focus should be on strengthening ways to ensure peaceful coexistence among all communities.

The Sri Lankan University Grants Commission had a set of guidelines to license new universities, and Wickremesinghe’s latest recommendations would also be included among the requirements for a new university, Sabry added.

The prime minister’s ruling on madrasas (Islamic seminaries) would provide more transparency on the activities of the institutions, he said. “Their curriculum and their co-curricular activities should maintain a common standard and these madrasas should prepare the students to make them fit into society instead of just learning Arabic and Islam only.”

M.R.M. Malik, director of the Muslim Affairs Ministry in Colombo, told Arab News that currently all madrasas function under his ministry. “There are 317 madrasas throughout the island with an estimated 25,000 students. In addition to the local teachers, there are 38 Arabic teachers and 85 foreign students,” he said.

Most of the teachers are from Egypt, Pakistan and India, while many of the overseas students studying at the madrasas are from Libya, Pakistan, Jordan and India.

Sri Lanka Muslim Council President N.M. Ameen told Arab News that the local community had never wanted a Shariah university. However, he said the proposed curriculum for the madrasas should be constructed in consultation with Islamic scholars and the Muslim community.

Meanwhile, Western Province Gov. Azath Salley, revealed that damage caused by anti-Muslim riots had reached nearly Rs900 million (SR19.2 million). The governor was speaking to Arab News following a visit to some of the worst-affected villages on the island.

“Speaking to the families of the vandalized properties, it’s clear that an organized gang had attacked these earmarked properties owned by Muslims,” said Salley. “One child, whose father was killed in his presence, is still in a state of utter shock and dismay.” He added that turpentine oil had been poured on the face of the dead carpenter by his killers and set on fire.

The governor urged the authorities to bring the attackers to justice. He added that the government would provide compensation to victims of wrecked properties.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasakera said that more than 100 arrests had been made following the rioting, and that a curfew had been lifted and life was returning to normal.