OPINION
19/10/2019 06:00 BST

If Muslims Put Climate Change At The Centre Of Their Faith, We Can Make A Difference

It is time the 1.8 billion followers of Islam in the world stood shoulder to shoulder with climate activists to rally the call for action, Afzal Khan MP writes.

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Pollution

According to the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change in 2015, “We are in danger of ending life as we know it on our planet”. This call to the Muslim community is reminiscent of Greta Thunberg’s recent emotive and powerful speech at the UN Climate Action Summit. 

Islam is inherently environmental. Central to the Muslim faith is the idea of harmony and balance with the natural world. In the Qur’an it states “waste not by excess for Allah loves not the wasters” (Qur’an 7:13). 

As Muslims, we are taught to respect proportion in nature. Allah calls on us to “walk gently upon the earth” thereby binding us by a moral imperative to treat our shared home with care and reverence.

It is time the 1.8 billion Muslims in the world stood shoulder to shoulder with climate activists to rally the call for action.

Our society is beginning to wake up to the reality of the human impact on the natural world. We have polluted ecosystems, wiped out entire animal species and warmed our planet to uninhabitable temperatures. The impact of the climate crisis is already being felt across the globe, with devastating drought across North Africa, life-threatening heatwaves in the Gulf States and catastrophic flooding in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. 

The reality of the climate crisis then is that it not only has catastrophic environmental implications for the future of our planet, but it also represents one of the great moral and ethical issues of our time. If nothing else, this must drive Muslims and the Islamic community to respond with action. 

The idea of man as khalifah (stewards) over our environment is not unique to Islam. In fact, this concept is present in all major monotheistic religions. Christianity and Judaism teach followers of their responsibility to care for all God’s natural creations. Ultimately, being of faith means caring – for people and for planet

It stands to reason then, that all faiths can agree the climate crisis is the result of our collective failure to care for our natural home and the environment that surrounds us. We have neglected our duty to protect the world for ourselves, future generations and Allah himself. 

Just as religion unites us, the climate emergency also unites us. The impact of the climate breakdown threatens all of humanity, all faiths, all cultures and all communities. We must now come together to take the urgent action necessary to stop the climate emergency from becoming an unstoppable and runaway disaster. 

For people of faith, this means putting the natural world back at the centre of our devotion. It also means joining the fight for change. 

In history, all major and meaningful social transformation has been achieved through activism on our streets and by people campaigning for change. People of faith and religious groups have played a crucial role in many of these struggles. 

In the protest actions of Extinction Rebellion we are seeing the beginning of galvanised faith communities. Earlier this week, 77-year-old Rabbi Jeffrey Newman was arrested while blocking a road as part of the Extinction Rebellion uprising. He was protesting alongside a group of 30 or so Jewish activists from the Finchley Reform Synagogue. 

As he was carried away by police, Rabbi Newman warned: “We are in a period of enormous catastrophic breakdown and, if it takes an arrest to try to find ways of helping to galvanise public opinion, then it is certainly worth being arrested.” I hope his words will translate into other religious communities and people of faith joining the climate protests. 

It is only with people-powered climate activism that this Government will start to listen to the concerns of scientists and environmental campaigners about the reality of the climate breakdown. I am proud of the policies Labour has developed in this field and its ongoing commitment to a Green Industrial Revolution. We must now push our Government to act to mitigate the most devastating effects of the climate emergency. 

I believe people of faith have an important and invaluable role to play in resisting the climate breakdown. We must draw courage from our faith and convictions, working with those of faith and those of none, to collectively stop and reverse the human impacts of climate change. 

It is time the 1.8 billion Muslims in the world stood shoulder to shoulder with climate activists to rally the call for action. 

Afzal Khan is Labour MP for Manchester Gorton and Shadow Immigration Minister