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GUEST COLUMN: It’s time for Muslims to join the climate movement

Toronto Sun by Reyhana Patel 27 September 2019

 

Climate change. These are two words I’ve heard a million times over in the last few years. I’ve heard it in the news, from our politicians as they campaign for the upcoming election and in my work with a humanitarian agency. But it’s only over the last year or so I’ve started to realize the real gravity of the consequences of human impact on our environment.

As a Muslim woman, climate change hasn’t been high up on my agenda. Within my community, it’s rarely discussed as conversations about Islamophobia, gender and other important issues continue to dominate the voices of our community. While this is slowly changing, our neglect so far surprises me, because Islam places a huge emphasis on the protection of our environment.

In fact, the Quran tells us that as Muslims we are trustees of the world we live in and it is our duty to protect it. Not only is sustainable living encouraged in the Islamic tradition, but we are also taught to never hesitate to positively contribute to our world. The example given is a powerful one: if I happen to find myself caught in the cataclysmic end of the world, and I happen to have a sapling in my hands, I should plant it.

Today, I will be joining Canadians of all walks of life to remind ourselves that our collective lollygagging around the climate crisis may soon bring us to a point of no return.

By joining the Global Climate Strike, I’m adding my voice as a Muslim woman to an urgent call for serious action on climate change at every level, from the individual to international organizations.

Even those of us who live relatively privileged and comfortable lives in Canada are starting to directly feel the effects of climate change. Wildfires, harsh winters and unpredictable weather are all just a minute consequence of us not looking after our environment.

But as part of a humanitarian organization that works in over 30 countries around the world, I am also keenly aware that for the underprivileged in many parts of the world, climate change is already devastating. Earthquakes, droughts, famine, hurricanes are more frequent and harsher to communities already living in the worst conditions we can think of.

Last week, a record-tying six tropical storms were forming at the same time around the world. On Tuesday, the sky in parts of Indonesia turned blood-red in the middle of the day due to 800,000 acres of forest on fire nearby – an area more than five times the size of Toronto.

While we may not always agree on the best ways to proceed in taking care of our planet, we can no longer afford to ignore or downplay the climate crisis.

As a Muslim who works closely with many diverse people within Canada’s Muslim community, I can say that regrettably, we as a community have not always advocated as strongly as we ought to for serious action on climate change, including living more sustainably ourselves.

I am part of this problem. I’m still struggling with eliminating single-use plastic from my everyday life and recycling when I should do this, amongst many other little everyday things I can do to play my part.

We can do more. Canada can do more. I believe that there are many traditions, religious and otherwise, that encourage this vision. And that is why I am joining people of all walks of life and from all parts of the world in today’s Global Climate Strike.

It’s time for us to come together and remind the powers that be in our world that this, perhaps more than anything else, is what we care about, and that we will no longer accept dilly-dallying about it. At every level, it’s time for serious action.

Reyhana Patel is the head of public relations at Islamic Relief Canada