Sunday, September 14, 2008
Green Muslims Here and There
Green Muslims in the UK?
3 days ago, this green Muslim was in DC. Today, I’m in Dubai. Not the greenest place on earth, I know. The day before yesterday I was in Brighton, England. A pretty "green" town, I’d say... though all the international travel I’ve been doing isn’t!
I spent that surprisingly sunny day in Brighton with my friends Muzammal and Shumaisa. Muzammal helped start LINE, London’s first local Islamic Network for the Environment. Shumaisa, on the other hand, helped start Green Muslims.
Green Muslim History...
Let’s talk about that, the start of Green Muslims. Shumaisa, a PhD student in environmental justice, and a group of friends at UMich organized a conference on Islam and social justice in the spring of 2006. That conference sparked a number of conversations amongst like-minded Muslim environmental students and professionals, from Ann Arbor to Chicago to Boston to DC.
Green Muslims Go Local
This also encouraged Shumaisa to start a yahoo group – firstname.lastname@example.org – to keep us all connected and informed. The yahoo group is still around (see below!) but for all the enthusiasm there was in that national conversation it didn’t easily translate into anything on the ground. It wasn’t until the spring of 2007 that a few of us in the DC area began to seriously consider organizing locally, and we did.
Green Muslims in the District
It started with a few visits to local mosques and schools, speaking on Islam and the environment. The national conversation quickly became a local one, between DC-area Muslims and people of faith working on environmental advocacy and activism. By Ramadan of 2007, a year ago now, we had what you could call a critical mass around what we called a “green” iftar. That was Green Dinner #1, and we’ve had 4 more since then.
Green Muslims @ ISNA
That, in part, is the story Sanjana told at our Green Muslims session at ISNA a few weeks ago. In addition to the history of the group and the dinners, she talked about our other activities (from hikes to museum visits to community engagement to interfaith film screenings) and our approach: start small, be local, stay relevant... and have fun!
I then presented on diversity in our work, where it was working and where it needed more work. Specifically, I highlighted our partnerships with local groups like Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light (GWIPL) and Washington Parks and People.
Tarek Elgawhary, a PhD student at Princeton University and former MSA National President, ended the panel up with a moving exposition of the Islamic idea of the balance of nature. Rabia Terri Harris, our moderator and founder of the Muslim Peace Fellowship, wrapped all this up in way that only someone with her experience and wisdom could.
Sister Rabia then broke the audience (100+ people at one point in the session) up into 3 smaller groups for dialogue. The energy and enthusiasm in the group I sat with, made up in large part of MSA and MYNA youth, was palpable... that's exciting and it'll inspire our future work, insha'Allah! As will the fact that ISNA 2009 will be a local event for us, to be held here in Washington, DC on July 4th weekend.
Green Muslims Now
Back to Green Muslims issues at present, the national conversation and the yahoo group. Our intention with the ISNA session was to convene and connect Muslims in North America working on or interested in environment and social justice. There must be more of us out there, unaware that we’re not the only ones with interests in and, indeed, a passion for people and for nature.
So we humbly invite all such people to connect on the Green Muslims yahoo group and to blog about their ideas, their inspiration and their work on Ecoislam.org ...see you there!