Islamic Scholars Call Muslims to Action on Climate Change

SHAFAQNA - Islamic scholars and politicians are issuing a call to the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to play their part in tackling climate change.

The Islamic Climate Change Declaration will be formally announced on Tuesday at an Istanbul summit organised by three religious-environmental groups, according to Bloomberg. It has attracted high-profile Muslim supporters, including Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubaje, the Grand Mufti of Uganda—a title given to the highest religious authority in a Sunni country. Other backers include the Grand Mufti of Lebanon and the president of the Indonesian Council of Ulema, the country’s major body of Muslim religious scholars, and government representatives from Morocco and Turkey.

The summit, which will also be attended by U.N. officials including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s second-in-command Ibrahim Thiaw, will describe climate change as the world’s most pressing challenge and say that Muslims have a religious duty to adopt a greener lifestyle in order to tackle the problem. In an email comment, Mubaje said, “Islam teaches us: ‘Man is simply a steward holding whatever is on earth in trust,’ therefore man should ensure that we do everything possible to protect for this and future generations, in order to leave this world a better place than we found it.”

Despite the traditional view that religion and science are poles apart, faith leaders are taking a leading role in the fight against climate change. The response from leading Muslims follows a major intervention by Pope Francis, the leader of the Catholic Church, who in June released a letter to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics describing climate change as an “urgent and compelling” issue. Earlier this year, the Church of England also pulled £12 million ($18.8 million) of investment from tar sands oil and thermal coal, two of the most polluting fossil fuels.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), a U.K. umbrella body of Muslim organizations, says that Islam has fundamental observations relevant to climate change, particularly with regard to the global energy system. “Given Islam’s emphasis on equity and justice, the present order of predatory capture of global ecological capital would be challenged,” an MCB spokesperson told Newsweek. The spokesperson said the MCB welcomed the pope’s recent intervention of the issue and recommended British Muslims get involved in grassroots environmental movements.

However, Sheikh Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini, Research Fellow at the Westminster Institute, a U.S.-based policy group focused on counter extremism, says that climate change is being used as a “political football” by religious leaders who should be focusing on more pressing issues. “At a time when Islamic State [ISIS] are beheading Christian and other minorities in the Middle East and burning down churches…it is pure hypocrisy for Muslim scholars to be focusing on the issue of climate change,” says Al-Hussaini. While acknowledging that climate change is “an extremely important issue,” Al-Hussaini suggests that religious leaders support the work of secular environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

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