The global Muslim community – made up of around 1.6 billion followers from world leaders to academics, from teachers and healthcare workers to business people and investors – has incredible collective power. Islam is the fastest-growing religion: 1 in 5 people today are Muslim, and Muslims will make up around 30% of the global population in 2050. As the newly appointed CEO of the world’s largest Islamic humanitarian and emergency relief NGO, I have witnessed this collective power harnessed to achieve immense and noble things, from providing shelter and relief to victims of floods and earthquakes to supporting refugees from war-torn countries. However, one longstanding crisis constantly threatens to undermine our efforts to make the world a safer place to live in: climate change. With world leaders gathering in New York on April 22nd to reaffirm the commitment they made to end the fossil fuel era in Paris last December, it is time for a reminder of just how important it is that they turn their promises into action without delay.
We can’t fall into the trap of thinking that climate change is a problem for the next generation whose effects won’t be felt for years. Climate change is devastating the world. Now. Many Muslim majority countries are on the front lines: a recent reportfrom the Asian Development Bank showed that in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country and the fourth largest country in the world by population, climate change and the floods it causes are turning the poor into the ‘ultra-poor’. Most of the Middle East and North Africa is expected to become hotter and drier due to climate change, worsening droughts and exposing millions to water shortages. These changes provoke migration to other countries themselves facing resource deficiencies aggravated by climate change, thereby increasing the risk of violent conflict. This, and the ever-growing death toll among the world’s poorest who have contributed least to greenhouse gas emissions, are unjust realities with which we are all too familiar at Islamic Relief.
Whilst more and more Muslims are experiencing the ravages of climate change first hand, more Muslims and governments are in turn starting to join the fight against climate change. Last August, Muslim scholars, experts and activists from over 20 countries called on the world’s Muslims to act on climate, with a particular demand to governments to move away from fossil fuel sources of energy and towards societies where 100% of energy is provided by renewable sources such as solar and wind – resources which many Islamic countries have in abundance – as early as possible. There is nothing radical in the claim that acting on climate change is a fundamental part of Islam: we know from the Qur’an that Allah has made each of us a steward (khalifah) of the earth – a ‘precious home’ with finite resources – in order to maintain its delicate equilibrium (mizan). The fossil fuels that once brought us prosperity are now destroying this equilibrium and our prosperity along with it.
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