Friday 28 November 2014 at 15:46How Muslim NGOs are tackling climate change
Muslims are probably the most scrutinised and analysed group under the microscope today. Whether it is about Muslims and radicalisation, their values versus western morals, and the role of Muslims in modern society, Muslims are often having to validate their contribution and worth in the face of growing Islamophobia.
So how have Muslims been contributing to society at large? Historically Muslims have excelled in the field of science, maths and medicine, largely during the period that many call the Golden Age of Islamic civilisation, between mid 7th to mid 13th century. The likes of Avicenna, are well known not just in Islamic tradition but in Western scholarship too.
While Muslim contribution in these fields may not be as prominent as it once was few people realise how large the Muslim contribution to the development sector has been in the last few decades.
It has seen a large influx of Muslim NGOs, expanding across the globe and documenting large successes. The later decades of the 20th century Muslim NGOs and charities played a significant role in humanitarian relief. However overtime NGOs began to venture into sustainable livelihood projects and social action projects in order to deal with the root causes underlying many societies.
With the phenomenon of climate change, Muslim NGOs have been required to deal with the issue. The first decade of the 21st century saw 3496 natural disasters from floods, storms, droughts and heat waves, this figure being five times as much as the catastrophes reported in the 1970s. With the continual occurrence of devastating natural disasters that have left thousands and thousands of victims, NGOs are begun to realise the need to have protective measures in place to combat disasters.
Islamic Relief, one of the largest NGOs in the world, adopted its first environmental policy in 2008. It has identified climate change as a key cross cutting issue in its global strategy for 2011 to 2015. Through its projects, it has helped promote climate adaption for communities vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. One incidence of this is in Bangladesh, where Islamic Relief Bangladesh helped vulnerable inhabitants living on floodplains to anticipate and prepare for extreme floods by erecting houses on raised mounds.
Other Muslim NGOs have focused on a different approach to combating climate change. Organisations through education and building awareness are working to change the culture of a people that has allowed global warming to be a major concern. NGOs such as MADE In Europe disperse understanding on environmental issues within the Muslim community by working with local mosques and schools. IFEES, another green Muslim organisation work on creating mass awareness, including research, production of teaching materials, training and project development for use internationally. Global One 2015 who work on international development implement environmental sustainability elements in all their projects as well as working on greening the hajj, an initiative to make pilgrims act more eco-friendly, curbing waste and carbon emissions.
It is clear that Muslim organisations have started to wake up to the reality of climate change. This reality is the outcome which results from an underlying spiritual problem in today’s materialistic society. Islam teaches moderation in consumption, and care for the environment, but modern culture promotes waste and excessiveness, which has led to global warming on a catastrophic scale. We as humanity are responsible for our actions and must face the consequences. This is alluded to in the following verse from the Qur’an;
“Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness].” (Qur’an 30:41)
But with climate change, we have the opportunity to be united with a wide array of groups, regardless of religion and beliefs. That is why Ourvoices, a group bringing different faith groups together, is bringing the collective moral and ethical argument to the forefront on action against climate change. With world leaders gathering in Paris at the end of the year to agree on a meaningful climate agreement, 2015 will be a crucial and decisive year.
As such it is crucial the Muslim community, organisations and individuals including prominent scholars raise their voice on this issue. With the blessing of God, the Almighty, things are starting to pick up and happen, and more and more religious figures are speaking on the subject. In fact Imam Zaid Shakir of Zaytuna College recently joined Ourvoices as an Ambassador, and his speech at the People’s Climate March can be viewed below. Importantly Muslim NGOs play a key role in making this happen, and it is hoped organisations can come together to have a coordinated strategic action plan in tackling climate change and environmental issues.