Ask around in Egypt and the environment is usually not on the top of most people’s agenda, especially considering the vast number of people living in poverty, unemployment rising, sexual harassment burgeoning and a government that constantly pushes its people toward oblivion. But that is not stopping a number of Muslim activists from speaking out on environmental issues, with calls in Jakarta recently at an environmental conference to turn the Islamic pilgrimage, or the Hajj, green.
The movement sees no qualms in combining faith with environmental protection. They argue that global warming does not discriminate between religion or region, activists said at the Jakarta meeting of the international Islamic green movement’s meeting.
Leading activist Mahmoud Akef of the Earth Mates Dialogue Center was one of nearly 200 Muslim delegates from across the world to call for a greener Hajj: “Because we are all living on this Earth and what is happening, or what’s affecting with regard to the climate change, affecting Americans, affects the Muslims here in Indonesia, affects Egypt, Muslims in Africa and Asia anywhere,” Akef said at the conference.
While the West has had lobbyists calling for environmental reform and a push toward ending carbon emissions to curtail global warming and climate change, for the post part, Muslim leaders and activists have shied away from the discussion. This is changing, and Akef is leading the charge.
He said that Muslim environmentalists want to have the message about climate change and global warming heard around the world, in the Middle East, in Islamic countries and in the mosques.
At the conference, the leaders announced a desire to implement a greener Hajj, where some three million Muslims participate in annually in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. They argued that it is the ideal location to raise awareness of global warming and the environmental impact individuals have.
The plan includes a ban on plastic bottles at Hajj sites and workshops about the link between environmental stewardship and the teaching of Islam.
Qu’ran as book of ecology
“The Qu’ran is kind of ecology book. A lot of verses tell about the environment and how to deal with the environment and how to protect the environment,” Akef said.
They are also looking into designating eco-friendly mosques and publish Islam’s Holy Book with paper from sustainable forests.
Muhammad Sembiring, part of the Indonesian environmental organization Kehati, says Muslim activists see no conflict between science and faith on the issue of the environment.
“It is proven there is totally no conflict, it is really [a] complement and it is shaking hands, it is matching,” Sembiring said.
The conference agreed that the meeting was a good starting point, but they added that a new approach to educating the larger population is needed in the near future.
More on greening your Hajj:
Greening Hajj and Medina for the Muslim World
Swine Flu Finds Hajj 2009
Go to Medina and Mecca on Hajj on Fast Sustainable Train
Saudi Arabia Adds Eco-Guards to Its Police Force
(This story was reposted from the Egypt-based news site Bikya Masr.