Sunday, September 13, 2009

Farm of Peace

Over Labor Day weekend, a group of Green Muslims drove up to south-central Pennsylvania to the Farm of Peace. The Farm of Peace is a Sufi-run free range farm that raises chickens, donkeys, and sheep, and keeps a small orchard. Its rolling pastures, tucked between cerulean tree covered hills, are a bucolic treasure. The visual gem of the farm reflects the ideology that drives it - all animals are raised halal. Nowhere is this more evident than with the chickens, who make up the part of the farm called Sumayah's Peaceful Poultry. It is second
nature for us to block out where the drumstick at dinner or breakfast eggs come from, but most of the chicken we ingest, including chicken slaughtered according to Zabiha standards, comes from hormone-injected birds who often have their beaks removed and are kept in cages too cramped to move around or flap their wings. On the other end of the spectrum is Peaceful Poultry, where the chickens are true free range and given the opportunity to live and grow naturally. You can learn more about Peaceful Poultry and its philosophy at their website.

Sumayah herself is an inspirational character
who kept us captivated as she spoke about her efforts. She helped us look deeper into the ethics of where our food comes from, reminding us of the great privilege mankind is given to take another creature's life, and the responsibility that comes with that. We rarely think of the dignity and God-given purpose that is so often robbed from creation to supply our own sustenance. Sumayah helped bring our place in nature's order to focus.

She made sure we gave back to the land as well, and had us clean the manure from the donkey stalls and lay it on one of their pastures. Though a small effort, it felt good to reconnect with the land and take part in its natural renewal. DC can leave one wanting for a stronger connection to nature, and the work was therapeutic. It also made the potluck iftar with some members of the local Sufi community that much more satisfying.

At some point, it would be great to bring more members of Green Muslims to the Farm of Peace. They would greatly appreciate the help, and there is reward to be found in it by anyone. Sumayah would certainly be thrilled to meet more members of our group as well, and we all have much to learn from her insight and experiences.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ramadan Marks New Beginnings for Green Muslims

Ramadan is an intensely introspective experience for Muslims. It allows the faster to focus their attention on ways to improve and purify their own thoughts and actions. However, the month also offers a unique chance to deeply examine one's individual role in the society and world around them. Thus, there is no better time to commit to being green conscious.

Gathering at the Muslim Public Service Network house on Capitol Hill, more than twenty area Muslims came together to break their fast and kick Green Muslims off to a renewed start on Thursday, August 27th. Green Muslims is an environmental group concerned with two core questions - how does one be Muslim in the green community, and how does one be green in the Muslim community? After an ice breaker that demonstrated how we all came to this group from different professional and personal backgrounds with diverse motivations, we tackled these two questions.

Being Muslim in the green community requires more than simply doing good in a green manner, but shedding a different light on those acts and offering others a positive example of Muslims fulfilling the duties of their religion. By maintaining our Muslim identity in the green community, we are able to show Muslims a broader side of their religion, and demonstrate that being green isn’t exclusive to singular ethnic, religious, or socioeconomic groups.

Being green in the Muslim community means focussing on our own community and ways in which we can inspire it to be aware of this important Islamic duty. Belief in our role as a caretaker of the world is an essential part of our religion, and we should aim to help other Muslims to embrace this responsibility with an enthusiastic spirit, whether that means instituting energy efficient measures at local mosques or educating Muslim youth about environmentalism.

We continued this discussion by making a list of twenty-one ideas for activities the group can do, from outreach, to projects, to volunteering, to environmental appreciation. The list included sponsoring getting recycling bins at Howard University, interfaith tree planting, apple and pumpkin picking, and having a 'green fast' where we only eat local foods. Each activity was unique and a valuable example of the variety of means through which Green Muslims can fulfill its mission.

After producing our list, we talked about accountability within the group and how we can implement our goals. We decided to keep it a grass-roots effort, with no hierarchy. We will allow individuals to assess the types of activities they want to be involved in and figure out what special skills they have within the group, and from there create smaller circles that are in charge of sub-sets of activities. To stay connected, we will refine the group site and get connected through our online database.

It was a productive, and inspirational first meeting that provided a great launching point for our future activity. God willing, we can use this month to establish a precedent of action that helps both ourselves and those around us well into the future.