‘Millions’ protest in youth-led global climate strike

A boy holds up a placard during a rally calling for action to guard against climate change in Tokyo. (Kyodo News via AP)
Updated 21 September 2019

‘Millions’ protest in youth-led global climate strike

  • Some four million people filled city streets around the world, organizers said
  • Teen activist Greta Thunberg: Change is coming whether they like it or not

NEW YORK: Masses of children skipped school to join a global strike against climate change that teen activist Greta Thunberg said was “only the beginning,” ahead of a UN youth summit she will participate in Saturday.
Some four million people filled city streets around the world, organizers said, in what was billed as the biggest ever protest against the threat posed to the planet by rising temperatures.
Youngsters and adults alike chanted slogans and waved placards in demonstrations that started in Asia and the Pacific, spread across Africa, Europe and Latin America, before culminating in the United States where Thunberg rallied.
“Change is coming whether they like it or not,” said Thunberg, hitting out at skeptics as she wrapped up the massive day of action in New York, where she said that 250,000 protested.
Strike organizers 350.org said Friday’s rallies were the start of 5,800 protests across 163 countries over the next week.
From Berlin to Boston, Kampala to Kiribati, Seoul to Sao Paulo, protesters brandished signs with slogans including “There is no planet B” and “Make The Earth Great Again.”
In New York’s Battery Park, tens of thousands of supporters gave Thunberg a rockstar reception, chanting her name as she called on leaders to act now to curb gas emissions.
“Why should we study for a future that is being taken away from us?” She asked. “We demand a safe future. Is that really too much to ask?”
On Saturday, she and 500 other youth environmentalists from around the world will take part in the first-ever Youth Climate Summit.
Then on Monday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has convened a Climate Action Summit where more than 60 world leaders will take to the podium to present greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.
Events began Friday in the deluge-threatened Pacific Islands of Vanuatu, the Solomons and Kiribati, where children chanted: “We are not sinking, we are fighting.”
The defiance reverberated across the globe as kids closed their textbooks in a collective call to action.
“We are the future and we deserve better,” 12-year-old Lilly Satidtanasarn, known as “Thailand’s Greta” for her campaign against plastic bags in malls, said in Bangkok.
Schoolchildren rallied in India while thousands protested in the Philippines, which experts say faces threats from rising sea levels and increasingly violent storms.
About 200 marched in Ghana’s capital Accra, where some 44 percent of the country’s population has not heard of climate change, according to a study by Afrobarometer.
“Developing countries like Ghana are the most affected. We don’t have the resources to adapt to climate change,” said 26-year-old protest organizer Ellen Lindsey Awuku.
In Slovakia, five-year-old Teo asked a crowd of 500 “not to cut down forests, and reduce garbage production, and not to use so many petrol-fueled cars.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel used Friday to pledge at least €100 billion by 2030 to tackle emissions in the energy and industrial sectors, boost zero tailpipe emission electric vehicles, and get passengers out of planes and onto trains.
Several thousand protested in Brazil, where banners slammed President Jair Bolsonaro over recent devastating fires in the Amazon rainforest.
And in Mexico City, protesters wore wrestling masks and skeleton costumes associated with the country’s Day of the Dead celebrations.
Organizers said more than 300,000 children, parents and supporters rallied in Australia alone.
Australia has been struck in recent years by droughts, more intense bushfires, devastating floods and the blanching of the Great Barrier Reef — phenomena experts have blamed on a changing climate.
The protests also highlighted resistance from climate change skeptics.
“The facts are, there is no link between climate change and drought, polar bears are increasing in number,” said Australian ruling coalition parliamentarian Craig Kelly Thursday.
Businesses also backed the protests.
Amazon chief Jeff Bezos pledged Thursday to make the US tech giant carbon neutral by 2040 and encouraged other firms to do likewise.
A landmark UN report to be unveiled next week will warn global warming and pollution are ravaging Earth’s oceans and icy regions in ways that could unleash misery on a global scale.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Guterres acknowledged Monday’s summit would not solve everything.
“My main objective is to make as much noise as I can, and to do as much as I can to support as many actors involved in this as I can, especially in relationship with the youth,” he said.


Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

Updated 16 min 41 sec ago

Fears of Islamophobia in the UK even as record number of Muslim MPs elected 

  • MCB warning comes after Johnson’s landslide election result
  • UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons   

LONDON: There is a “palpable sense of fear amongst Muslim communities” in the UK, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has warned, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson secured a crushing victory in the 2019 general election.
“We entered the election campaign period with longstanding concerns about bigotry in our politics and our governing party. Now we worry that Islamophobia is ‘oven-ready’ for government. Mr Johnson has been entrusted with huge power, and we pray it is exercised responsibly for all Britons,” the MCB’s Secretary-General Harun Khan said. 
The warning came as accusations of Islamophobia within the Conservative Party continue to plague it.
Despite concern that Islamophobia is “oven-ready” for government, a record number of Muslim MPs were elected on Thursday, with 19 winning seats in the general election; an increase of four from the last election in 2017.
Of these, 15 belong to the Labour Party and the other four, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid, are Conservatives. 
As the UK saw a record number of 220 women elected to the House of Commons, this trend was also seen in the number of Muslim women, with 10 winning seats. 
Despite this, Muslims are still not proportionally represented in parliament.
Only 3 percent of the UK’s 650 MPs are Muslim, whilst the country’s Muslim population stands at around 5 percent.
The MCB’s concerns about bigotry and Islamophobia were echoed on Thursday by ex-party chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the first female Muslim cabinet member.
Warsi said the Conservative Party “must start healing its relationship with British Muslims,” and the fact that her colleagues in the party had retweeted comments from Islamophobes Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins was “deeply disturbing.” 
She added: “An independent inquiry into Islamophobia is a must — the battle to root out racism must now intensify.”
The Tory peer has repeatedly called for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and told BBC Radio 4’s Today program in November that the party had a “deep problem” with Islamophobia. 
“Remember, we’re now four years into these matters first being brought to the attention of the party … the fact that we’re still prevaricating about even having an inquiry, and the kind of inquiry we’re going to have, shows just how dismissive the party have been on the issue of Islamophobia.”

Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MP for Bolton South East Yasmin Qureshi (L) attend a general election campaign event in Bolton, Britain December 10, 2019. (Reuters)


Later in November, Johnson apologized for the “hurt and offence” that had been caused by Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, and said that an inquiry into “every manner of prejudice and discrimination” would begin by Christmas. 
Despite apologizing, he remained silent about his own comments on Muslim women wearing the niqab in his Daily Telegraph column in August 2018, when he wrote that Muslim women wearing it “look like letter boxes” or “bank robbers.”
Fourteen party members were suspended in March after posting Islamophobic or racist comments on social media, and a member who had previously been suspended in 2015 for comments on social media was due to stand in local elections this year. 
Peter Lamb was readmitted to the party after he had served a suspension and apologized for his comments.
Lamb, who has since quit the party, tweeted in 2015: “Islam (is) like alcoholism. The first step to recovery is admit you have a problem.”
Yasmin Qureshi, a female Muslim Labour MP, has held her Bolton South East seat since 2010 and was re-elected on Thursday for the fourth time.
Speaking to Arab News, Qureshi said many Muslims were “very fearful and very disappointed” at Johnson’s victory.
“Generally, you can say whatever you want about Muslims in this country now and nobody is really bothered, nobody challenges it, and if it is challenged, it is very mildly dealt with.
“Islamophobia is a big issue and although everybody rightly spoke about anti-semitism, there was not as much emphasis and talk about Islamophobia.
“Islamophobia is not just in the Conservative party, it is actually in the establishment. It is especially present in the media in this country; most of the newspapers of our country are very right-wing and anti-Muslim.
She added: “It doesn’t matter whether you malign Muslims, it’s essentially okay, you can get away with it. That is sadly a reflection of the current state of affairs in the UK.”