Events

Islamic Exhibit Captures the Journey to the Moon

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And He has subjected for you the night and day and the sun and moon, and the stars are subjected by His command. Indeed in that are signs for a people who reason.

(Quran 16:12)

The moon has played a pivotal role within Islamic history, marking the passage of time and symbolizing the delicate balance within the universe. It has inspired scientific understanding, formed the basis of spiritual beliefs and influenced art and poetry for millennia. It was the cohesive bond between cultures as Islam spread throughout the world, and it is no surprise that the crescent moon has become the modern symbol of Islam.

This Spring, the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto is curating an exhibit that explores the relationship of faith, science and the arts, highlighting the 50th anniversary of the Apollo lunar landing.  The Moon: A Voyage Through Time brings together important miniature paintings, scientific instruments, Islamic manuscripts, and contemporary works of art to illustrate the wonder at the moon that is shared among culture.

This immersive and interactive exhibition encourages visitors to view the moon from a new perspective by bringing together pieces by contemporary artists and masterworks from around the world.

For more information, please visit: https://agakhanmuseum.org/exhibitions/the-moon

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International Polar Bear Day

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International Polar Bear Day is an annual event aimed to raise awareness about the impact of global warming and reduced sea ice on polar bear populations. Organized by Polar Bear International (PBI), the event encourages people to reduce their carbon footprint through making small changes in their daily lives such as driving less or lowering their thermostat. The mission of the organization is to inspire people to care for the Arctic, the threats to its future, and the connection between this remote region and our global climate.

The Polar Bear Connection

Polar bears rely on sea ice to hunt seals, which is their primary sources of food that sustain them throughout the year. However, the sea-ice in the Arctic has been melting earlier each year on average, limiting the time polar bears can effectively hunt and build up critical fat reserves. The snowball effect over several years reduces the polar bear population and range, making them vulnerable to extinction in the future.   

Changes in the Arctic are a litmus test of the effects of climate change, as the impacts are felt greater at higher latitudes. Scientists predict that as the Arctic continues to warm, two-thirds of the world's polar bears could disappear within this century. The latest IUCN report estimates there are approximately 26,000 remaining in the wild. Reducing our carbon emissions goes a long way towards limiting the negative impacts to polar bears and other Arctic species.

Islamic Perspective on Extinction

“And the earth, He has assigned it to all living creatures” – Quran 55:10

There are numerous references in Quran and Prophetic Tradition (Hadith) that speak to our role as stewards over the environment and the animals that inhabit it. We are obligated to take care and protect all animals as a sign our gratitude and for the blessings provided to us by Allah.

“The merciful are shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Show mercy to those on earth, and He Who is in heaven will show mercy unto you.” (At-Tirmidhi, 1924)

When it comes to polar bears, we all have a collective responsibility to ensure that we prevent not only their habitat degradation but their extinction as well. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by lowering our thermostat or not idling our cars are simple steps we can take on an individual level. Educating others and engaging your community are other great ways to raise the awareness about polar bears and harmful impacts climate change to animals.

For more information on International Polar Bear Day, please visit: https://polarbearsinternational.org/

Wetlands: Our Collective Responsibility

By: Muaz Nasir

Saturday, February 2nd 2019 marks World Wetlands Day, where government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and groups of citizens at all levels of the community, take this opportunity to learn, share and take action aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits. This day also marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on February 2nd 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea (1).

World Wetlands Day was established in 1997 to raise awareness about the value of wetlands for humanity and the planet. The theme for this year is Wetland and Climate Change, and draws attention to the crucial role wetlands play as a natural solution in building resilience to climate change.

What are wetlands?

Often an overlooked component of the ecological system, wetlands provide us with clean water, protect us from floods and droughts, offer food and livelihoods to millions of people and store more carbon than any other ecosystem. They also support a rich diversity of plants and animals, as well as migratory populations of birds and fish. Yet, the value of wetlands remains largely unrecognized by policy and decision makers (1).

“Wetlands play an important role in the health of our country and our communities. They remove sediments, excess nutrients and even bacteria from our drinking water. They are very effective at storing carbon. And much like a giant paper towel, they absorb and hold water to buffer our cities and farms from floods and droughts – both of which are growing more common and extreme in recent years.” Hillary Page, Director of Science and Stewardship, Nature Conservancy of Canada

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Why are they important?

Since 1900, over 64% of the world's wetlands have been lost, with nearly 50% of this loss happening since 1970. Canada is home to nearly 25% of the world’s wetlands but 70% have either been destroyed or degraded. In the worst cases, such as some areas on the prairies, as much as 90% of our wetlands have disappeared (2).

There contributing causes for the disappearance or degradation of these valuable ecosystems include farming, urban development and resource extraction; which result in wetlands being drained and converted for other purposes (3). The negative impacts are cumulative and can have significant impacts to the surrounding environment. Every time a wetland is lost the entire watershed loses value to humans, animals and plants (4).

The loss or destruction of wetlands can result in:

  • Loss or degradation of wetland habitat and a loss of plant and animal biological diversity

  • Deterioration of wetland water quality

  • Reduction in water supply and water storage

  • Loss of flood plain land and floodplain protection

  • Increased soil erosion and desertification

  • Reduced range of recreational opportunities

“Wetland-dependent species are in serious decline. Since 1970, declines have affected 81% of inland wetland species populations and 36% of coastal and marine species.” International Union for the Conservation of Nature

Wetlands in Islam

Recent theological research has highlighted the importance of wetlands as Hima or ‘living sanctuaries’, that deserve to be protected based on their ecological importance to current and future generations. The Islamic concept of Hima has been practiced since the time of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) when he designated a Hima around the area of Madinah to ensure the protection of vegetation and wildlife. This approach has been expanded today, and has been interpreted to include the protection of ecologically significant or sensitive areas, including wetlands.

Hima has been recognized as a Community-Based Natural Resources Management (CBNRM) System, which promotes sustainable livelihood, resource conservation, and environmental protection for all. The Hima system is considered as one of the most widespread systems of traditional conservation that is based off of consensus and mutual benefit. Proponents of the application of Hima to wetlands cite passages from the Quran that clearly identify the responsibilities Muslims have as stewards over all environments, and ensuring their health for future generations (5).

“And it is He who has made you successors upon the earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.” Quran 6:165.

What you can do:

  • Explore wetland areas in your community and enjoy the natural diversity of plants and animals that thrive in this environment.

  • Learn more about the importance of wetlands, and educating others on their role and importance.

  • Become involved in wetland restoration projects in your community by reaching out to your local conservation authority.

  • Raise the issue with at your local planning committee to ensure development does not adversely degrade wetlands.

  • Visit the World Wetlands Day website for more information and resources on how wetlands can help mitigate the impacts of the climate change.

Sources:

  1. Global Wetlands Outlook: https://www.global-wetland-outlook.ramsar.org/

  2. Nature Conservancy of Canada:

    http://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/where-we-work/manitoba/stories/wetlands-are-disappearing.html

  3. Ducks Unlimited: https://www.ducks.ca/our-work/wetlands/

  4. Wetlands Alberta: http://www.wetlandsalberta.ca/wetland-loss/

  5. Hima as ‘Living Sanctuaries’: An approach to wetlands conservation from the perspective of Shari’a law: https://ac.els-cdn.com/S187704281304425X/1-s2.0-S187704281304425X-main.pdf?_tid=3953607b-370f-4b9d-b1dd-f90e3729cac8&acdnat=1548949103_c7e087d4a0fd8a16325fee5ff8b02eaa  

Caring for Our Common Home: Climate Change and Faith

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Adopted from a keynote address at the Grand River Interfaith Breakfast held in Kitchener, ON on April 25, 2015

By: Dr. Hind Al-Abadleh
Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Wilfrid Laurier University

I had the honour and privilege to stand before 350+ attendees from the Waterloo Region and deliver the keynote on a topic that I’m passionate about at the Grand River Interfaith Breakfast, just three days after the world celebrated Earth Day. I provide below an edited version of my talk.

I started by acknowledging that “we are on the Haldimand Tract, traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnaabe, and Haudenosaunee peoples.” The indigenous people of this land have so much to teach us on how to care for it as it was their ancestors who were connected to this land, understood its seasons and rhythms, and welcomed settlers into their ever-expanding circle.

I have structured my brief talk with one goal in mind that I wanted to leave the audience with, which is that humans need to rethink and restore their relationship with and dependency on nature, and that people of all faiths are uniquely qualified to lead in this area.

The history of environmental degradation since the industrial revolution that started just two centuries ago clearly shows that human-induced climate change is by far the most serious threat to human civilization as we know it in the 21st century. Nature has a way of restoring balance in its systems after a storm, an earthquake or a volcano eruption. But, when you add to the picture people, homes, factories, farmlands, drinking water sources, basic infrastructure for transportation and sewage, border security, animals and microscopic species we depend on for food, it becomes clear how fragile this human-built civilization is to the impacts of climate change.

These impacts include, but are not limited to: rising sea levels, ocean acidification and its impact on marine life, increased intensity of hurricanes and tornadoes, loss of biological diversity and its impact on soil quality, increased intensities and duration of heat waves, flooding in some areas and drought in others, and mass migration of people fleeing conflict due to lack of water and food.

Because I’m a trained scientist and a practicing Muslim, it is very clear in my mind where science and religion stand on environmental issues:

I see science as a tool that help us make sense of the world around us at molecular, atomic and subatomic levels, and also as a tool to create things we can’t find in nature. Through scientific studies, we can quantify and project how human activities influence the chemical and physical balance of natural systems, and how we can fix them when they are out of balance because of our actions. I also can see that scientific findings can enlighten the faithful about benefits and harms of certain religious practices passed on from generation to generation.

As for religion, given what I know about human nature and how it evolves and changes over ones’ life time, religion can inform the application of science through instilling ethical principles so that products of scientific innovation are for the benefit and good of society and the rest of creation.

There is a relevant statement in Dr. David Suzuki’s book, the Sacred Balance, that reads as following:

"As scientists, many of us have had profound experiences of awe and reverence before the universe. We understand that what is regarded as sacred is more likely to be treated with care and respect. Our planetary home should be so regarded. Efforts to safeguard and cherish the environment need to be infused with a vision of the sacred. At the same time, a much wider and deeper understanding of science and technology is needed. If we do not understand the problem, it is unlikely we will be able to fix it. Thus, there is a vital role for both religion and science."

More scientists and politicians are coming out framing environmental problems as moral issues, not only technical scientific issues that can be fixed with machines. See for example statements by Dr. James Hansen and Al Gore.

So, what drove humanity to this degree of environmental degradation that threatens their existence? It boils down to two main factors: (1) unregulated corporate greed for resource development, whether at home or abroad, and (2) overconsumption by individuals eager to achieve and maintain a certain social status based on materialistic acquisitions.

Hence, what do religions in general, including Islam, have to offer humanity at this critical time of societal challenges?

In an excellent book authored by Andrea Cohen-Keiner with the title “Claiming Earth as Common Ground”, I echo what she lists there as the three main tools that people of faith bring to the table of environmental activism: Faith, Spirit and Social Wealth.

  • Faith: the belief in a mighty God and a benevolent universe. This faith is trust, optimism, and the capacity to work when we know we will not finish the job. With faith, we know the worst and work for the best.
  • Spirit: is the still small voice we hear that calls for alignment with natural order. It is the joyful wordless satisfaction we feel when are connected to ourselves and feel fully alive.
  • Social Wealth: is the non-competitive meaningful connection to the community. It is not governed by same physics of “material wealth”.
     

For decades, Muslim scholars specializing in religious studies, social and physical sciences have written on the topic of Islam and Ecology. They include Drs. Seyyed Hossein NasrFazlun Khalid in the UK, Adi Setia in Malaysia, and Ibrahim Ozdemir in Turkey.

The main questions addressed in their scholarly work were:

  1. What do the revelations in the Quran say about the natural world?
  2. How do Muslims understand the “stewardship” concept?
  3. How do Muslims translate that understanding into practice?

In answering question 1 on what the Quran says about the natural world, we find that verses regarding the natural world are universal and address all humanity, believers and non-believers.

These verses start with “O People..” and “O People of Adam”, or contain pronouns that refer to all humans. The context of these verses revolves around:

  • the creation of humans from a single soul and of diverse nature,
  • creation of the natural world, the living and the inanimate, and
  • how humans should view the natural world.

This verse in particular:

“He has raised the sky. He has set the balance: 8. so that you may not exceed in the balance” (Quran 55-7). The word “balance” in the above verse could be interpreted in light of our scientific understanding of how ecosystems work, where natural elements are interconnected with each other in a delicate cyclical fashion.

In addition, natural elements in the Quran are referred to as “signs” of God, a language for us to learn. God invites us to read these signs as a “book of Nature” and tell us that it is as sacred as the written “book of revelation”. It is not a coincidence that the first word that was revealed in the Quran is ‘Read’ and the name of the second chapter is the ‘Pen’, highlighting the centrality of seeking and recording knowledge to believing in God.

It is also not surprising that the first thing a reader of the Quran will notice is that a good number of the 114 chapters have names of natural elements: the Sun, the Moon, The Star, the Bees, the Ants, The Spider, the Sand Dunes, The Smoke, etc. See more selected verses in this link.

In answering the second question on how Muslims understand the “stewardship” concept:

It is mentioned in verse 165 of chapter 6 that, It is He (God) who has made you (people of Adam) successors, stewards, vicegerents on Earth.”

In light of this verse and other related ones, Muslim scholars interpreted the stewardship concept as the following: As God’s vicegerents on Earth, generations of humans are guardians of the natural world and should work hard to keep it in its inherit balanced state.

Early scholars deduced that everything in nature was created for reasons other than only serving or benefiting human kind. Hence, as Al-Burini inferred, humans “[do not] have a right to exploit the other kingdoms for [their] own desires”.

Should humans ignore their responsibility towards the natural world, we are told in the Quran (Verse 41 of chapter 30) that humans shall taste the consequences of their ignorance in this life: Corruption has flourished on land and sea as a result of people’s actions and He will make them taste the consequences of some of their own actions so that they may turn back”. The keyword “corruption” is so broad in meaning and has been interpreted by many scholars to encompass environmental degradation as a result of people’s exploitation of the natural world.

To continue on to the answer of the third question of how Muslims translate their understanding of religious texts into environmentally-friendly practices, we have to start by saying that what drives Muslims to couple faith with action stems from their desire to live a good life now and in the hereafter, where they will meet their Lord. Acts of righteousness — as Muslims understand them — encompass those to one self, other fellow humans, and the rest of creation.

In addition, traditions of Prophet Muhammad inspire Muslims to cultivate land, treat animals humanely, reduce water usage, and tread gently on the earth. See specific examples in this link.

What I’ve mentioned so far does not only provide an alternative ethical worldview of the natural world, but also builds a sense of internal accountability to the Creator to whom we will return. This internal sense of accountability was the driving force for early generations of Muslims to (1) set up a range of conservation zones for protecting land and species in their habitat, (2) designate zones where human development was not allowed, usually for the protection of water sources, and (3) establish agencies known as hisba to whom members of the community were held accountable.

In more recent history, a number of initiatives by Muslim academics, activists and concerned citizens in Canada and around the world galvanized action towards raising awareness of environmental problems and solutions, and also produce scholarly work in this area. This modern Islamic environmental movement culminated in the publication of the “Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change” in 2015 in Istanbul by a team of Muslim professionals recruited by the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences based in the UK.

2015 was also the same year when Pope Francis published his 192-page encyclical letter on climate and the environment. The letter was welcomed in the scientific community with dedicated editorial pieces written on its content in the top two scientific journals, Science and Nature. This is in addition to reports published regularly by a number of interfaith grassroots organizations and initiatives focusing on ecology: the Greening Sacred Spaces of Faith & the Common Good here in Canada, the US Sierra Club report entitled ‘Faith in Action: Communities of Faith bring Hope for the Planet’, and the UK-based Alliance of Religions and Conservation.

So, the climate change issue presents opportunities to think globally and to act and collaborate locally towards a common goal. Instead of feeling paralyzed when thinking about the impacts of climate change, we need to shift our focus and energy and think of the massive opportunities that await us in creating a new future that is more sustainable, socially just, and in harmony with nature for us and future generations.

Scientists and thought leaders in politics and the energy sector tell us that the path to meeting Paris emission reduction goals center around the following three major points:

  • Stopping all subsides to the fossil fuel industry,
  • Pricing carbon to account for the true cost of pollution,
  • Divesting investments from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Religious leaders in all faith communities also have a role to play to:

  • Remind the faithful that their value as human beings in the eyes of God does not equal the material wealth they accumulate at whatever expense,
  • Remind the faithful that their faith in the heart has to be coupled with actions that benefit the planet, the people, and all creation for generations to come, and that God is watching their intentions and actions,
  • Encourage the faithful to renovate or build homes and places of worship that consume less energy and water,
  • Encourage the faithful to cultivate the land in their homes and places of worship in form of community gardens,
  • Encourage the faithful to contemplate their diet and ways of transportation to reduce their environmental footprints,
  • Reach out to members of the indigenous communities to listen to their stories on how they cared for this land,
  • Reach out to neighbouring faith communities and other non-faith based community organizations to learn about best practices and how to support each others efforts.

I hardly can think of other ways to engage the faithful — and youth in particular — for the long term, except through working on solutions to climate change. In this way, we are sure to build a future and a community that we will be proud of for years to come.

To conclude, while science provides the understanding and technical fix to climate change, religions provide the moral and ethical framework that influences the individual’s behavior towards the creation in general.

Acknowledgments:

I want to thank my dear colleague Dr. Meena Sharifi-Funk for the introduction at the event and encouragement to participate in this year’s interfaith breakfast.

Also, thanks to Sandy Milne and John Maine for their kind invitation, Mirko from the Laurier Seminary for the media coverage, and the hardworking volunteers who made that event possible.

This article originally appeared on Faith and the Common Good on May 7th, 2018. 

Earth Day 2018

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Earth Day is upon us, a day celebrated by the world to generate awareness on protecting our planet. Earth day started in 1970, and has become a very popular event where people plant trees, clean up parks and rivers, and campaign critical efforts. The struggles our planet faces is one of the most important topics of discussion and should be discussed in our masajids, in our halaqas, and on our minbars. Allah in the Quran says:

 “And it is He (God) who has made you successors (khala’ifa) upon the Earth and has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Surah Al-An’am:165].

Throughout the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet  there are everyday lessons of our duty and responsibility in regards to the environment. These duties bring out our mercy, compassion, righteousness, and piety. These teaching and orders soften our hearts to increase our taqwa towards Allah . Our Prophet Muhammad  said:

There is no Muslim who plants a tree or sows a field for a human, bird, or animal eats from it, but it shall be reckoned as charity from him.” [Bukhari, Muslim].

This encourages us to build a connection with our planet, something we need to re-establish through implementation of the Quran and Sunnah. By doing so you build a stronger bond with Allah  and you reach a higher level of harmony in your life.

These role of stewardship bestowed upon us by Allah also shows us his vast mercy upon us. Allah’s Messenger  said,

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“While a man was walking he felt thirsty and went down a well and drank water from it. On coming out of it, he saw a dog panting and eating mud because of excessive thirst. The man said, ‘This (dog) is suffering from the same problem as that of mine. So he (went down the well), filled his shoe with water, caught hold of it with his teeth and climbed up and watered the dog. Allah thanked him for his (good) deed and forgave him.” The people asked, “O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! Is there a reward for us in serving (the) animals?” He replied, “Yes, there is a reward for serving any animate.”

And abandoning our stewardship role that has been given to us by Allah reveals punishment in a sense. The Prophet  said,

“There are three types of people whom Allah  will neither talk to, nor look at, on the Day of Resurrection. (They are): 1. A man who takes an oath falsely that he has been offered for his goods so much more than what he is given. 2. A man who takes a false oath after the ‘Asr prayer in order to grab a Muslim’s property, and 3. A man who withholds his superfluous water. Allah  will say to him, Today I will withhold My Grace from you as you withheld the superfluity of what you had not created.” [Bukhari;2370]

Getting your masjid and community involved in worthy environmental efforts will increase rewards and reduce the chances of neglecting our obligations to the environment. This can go to the extent of being sadaqah jariya. In NJ we used to plant trees, not just on Earth Day but year round. We would go to the most impoverished cities and neighborhoods in the state and plant trees in their community. This allowed us to provide trees that will provide shade for decades to come. Prophet Muhammad  said:

 “There is no Muslim who plants a tree or sows a field for a human, bird, or animal eats from it, but it shall be reckoned as charity from him.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

It was also a form of dawah:

“Let there arise out of you a group of people inviting to all that is good (Islam), enjoining Al-Ma’roof (whatever is good) and forbidding Al-Munkar (whatever is evil). And it is they who are successful.” (Qur’an 3:104)  The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: “The best among you are those who possess the best manners.” (Al-Bukhari/Muslim)

Make your masjid into a Green Masjid, raise funds for solar panels, wudu friendly faucets to conserve water, and proper insulation for the summer and winter seasons. Make small changes from irresponsible use of energy be it lighting, heating or cooling, to reducing use of plastics. Let us show the world how the values of Islam can lead to a healthier and more prosperous planet.

This article originally appeared on Muslims Matters on April 22nd, 2018. 

Beyond crisis: a film on social justice and hope for the climate

By Dr. Hind Al-Abadleh

“Nature has a way to go on whether we’re part of it of not” – Film director Kai Reimer-Watts

What a powerful line at the beginning of a film launch that marked the third year of the People’s Climate March on September 21, 2017 in Waterloo.  This day also marked the UN International Day of Peace.  

Beyond Crisis is unique compared to other documentaries on the topic of man-made climate change and the need for action.  It is narrated by the film director, Kai Reimer-Watts, who holds a Master of Climate Change from the University of Waterloo. The documentary is divided into parts: the first part reminds us of the science behind the changing climate at unprecedented rates relative to the past 400,000 years.  It shows news clips of the most recent impacts linked to climate change within the last 10 years on major cities across the globe, from flooding, to droughts, to intense and more frequent hurricane activities and wild fires.  The film shows interviews and highlights from the recent scientific literature by notable scientists like Dr. James Hansen of NASA, and those who contributed and reviewed the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Reports.  

The second part of the film interviews social justice activists who highlight the fact that people who did not contribute to the problem are the ones who are facing the most consequences.  More specifically, nations around the equator who live in low land will experience sea rise and floods.  Increasing heat waves in some of these lands will not only make life unbearable, but will affect food production and water quantity and quality, leading to mass migration and political conflicts.  Closer to home, indigenous communities who live in their ancestral lands in the northern parts of Canada have seen first hand the effects of increasing rates of ice melting on their infrastructure and food resources.  Interviews with social activists and journalists such as Naomi Klein emphasized the moral responsibility of those who live carbon-intensive lifestyles to those whose basic living conditions are threatened or even destroyed because of climate change impacts.  The movie featured what religious communities in particular have done in this regard, from Pope Francis’s Climate Change Encyclical to the Islamic and Hindu Declaration on Global Climate Change, to name a few.

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The following parts in the film focused on the background story behind organizing for the People’s Climate March in 2014 that brought together over a million people in many cities around the world to protest policies on climate change and call on government leaders to take action before time is too late to act.  This great march that brought people from all walks of life together was influential in exerting pressure on political negotiators who participated in the talks that led to the Paris climate agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2016.  This historical agreement aims to hold global climate temperature to well below 2 degrees C relative to pre-industrial levels, by reducing carbon emission and increasing adaptation and climate resiliency efforts.  Signatory countries have to come up with their own national efforts to meet the goals of the Paris agreement.  Here comes the role of individuals and communities, who have to keep the issue of climate change front and centre when making choices in their lifestyles and when they elect the politicians who represent them.

The last part of the movie flowed naturally to the massive opportunities that awaits us in creating a new future that is more sustainable, socially just, and in harmony with nature.  With interview clips from scientists and thought leaders in politics and the energy sector, the path to meeting Paris goals was laid out in three major points:

  1. Stop all subsides to the fossil fuel industries,

  2. Price carbon to truly account for the true cost of pollution,

  3. Divest investments from fossil fuels to renewable energy.  

We need to shift our thinking from relying on an economy based on resource development to a technology based economy, where we harness the energy of the sun, wind and geothermal wells to power conscious and sustainable lifestyles.  Employment data shows that this transition to renewable energy will create more jobs that those lost from ceasing to work in fossil fuel industries.  The film emphasizes that this grand challenge can be overcome within a generation when the politicians and people come together and work towards a common goal.  Examples from history highlighted in the movie to prove this point included civil rights movement with Martin Luther King, funding projects that landed humans on the moon, and preparing for the military might that defeated Nazism in World War II.

At the end of the screening, the attendees left with a renewed sense of hope and mingled together to share their ideas and ongoing projects they’re working on.  It was a truly inspiring experience that shows the importance of grassroots effort in tackling what appears to be a problem of magnificent magnitude.  I highly encourage everyone of you to plan for a screening of this film in your community, invite the Director for a Q & A, and keep the conversation, and action, going.

Dr. Hind Al-Abadleh is a Professor of Chemistry at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, ON.  She is also the Science Advisor for Students for Sustainability at Laurier.  She could be reached via e-mail: halabadleh@wlu.ca

Grateful for Gardens: Tarbiyah Elementary experiences the joys of green space

Tarbiyah students enjoy their time in the garden and help to create their own green space! 

by Chantelle Misheal

What happens when you introduce gardens and plants to your students? Well, they get awfully interested in learning more! We’ve had such an amazing time working with the students of Tarbiyah Elementary School in Milton, ON and a large part of that is due to the students’ excitement of being in the garden!

Given the generous funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to provide programming around gardens, as well as the funding from the Ontario150 Youth Partnership Program to install a garden at two schools, we were more than fortunate to have the resources to allow the children to really dig deep and get their hands dirty as they learn more about the benefits of restoring natural habitat.

We started off with a workshop from our partners at EcoSource, who took us to the Iceland Teaching Garden with 30 students from Tarbiyah. The girls got a first hand look at a community garden with a tour and basic information about everything that was growing, as well got the chance to help contribute to the garden by first making room in the garden beds for new seedlings to be planted.

Initially, I was worried someone would be terrified of getting their hands dirty. Soon enough, I realized the girls were racing to plant more seedlings and were eager to learn more! Learning about the processes of the garden helps to reconnect us to the process of food, and allows for a greater appreciation for the food we are so fortunate to have. The time outside was beneficial as their school is surrounded by quite a bit of concrete, and there isn’t too much opportunity to spend time in the garden.

GSS VISITS

SIX NATIONS

As we celebrate Canada 150, we have also made it a point to ensure we are acknowledging what 150 years really means. We’ve turned our efforts towards honouring the land and its original caretakers, looking for the support from Six Nations and the Indigenous Council to help us make this project representative of what the next 150 years will be through Truth and Reconciliation.

Sherry Caevil, the Aboriginal Liason Officer for the Halton Catholic District School Board, offered to take us to visit Six Nations. We were interested by the Kayanase Greenhouse and the amazing selection of native species, so we’ve made the decision to purchase most, if not all, of the plants for the schools from this greenhouse. After a tour and a quick bite at the Burger Barn, we left Six Nations with open minds and open hearts, a full belly and a van jam packed with beautiful plants!

You can plan your next visit to Grand River with a little help from this website!

BUILD DAY AT TARBIYAH

On June 13th, we held our official Canada 150 Build Day at Tarbiyah Elementary School. Planning around a shorter school schedule, busy last weeks at school and also being mindful that the students were celebrating Ramadan, made this build day nothing short of exciting! We were visited by MP Indira Naidoo-Harris who gave a special speech to the girls before we “broke ground”.

With a focus on native species, we invited Erin from Conservation Halton to teach the girls a little more of the importance of natural habitat. Luckily, the rain held off long enough for us to do the majority of the planting, but we will have to return over the summer to complete the rest of the garden beds. Even with most of the students fasting, so many wanted to continue working throughout the day to be involved in the garden!

While all the fun was happening outside for the older grades, I hosted a few sessions with the younger grades making some seed balls to help transform the bushy areas around the school!  Students were more than happy for the opportunity to help the bees and butterflies and eagerly asked to make more to take home for their own gardens.

Pictures will be up soon to show you the before and after of our wonderful garden, which includes a new rain barrel to help our thirsty plants this summer! With plans already underway for our next garden, we are optimistic and hoping for the same reaction from our students at Christ the King Secondary School in Georgetown.

Stay tuned to see what projects we’re working on! Follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @GSSHaltonPeel. See you next time in the garden! This article originally appeared on Faith and the Common Good on June 26th, 2017. 

#WasteFreeRamadan

By Nouman Khalil

This year, Peel, Halton and Toronto’s Muslim community is celebrating environment-friendly Ramadan by saying "no" to disposable bottles from sunset to sunrise.

The fasting month of Ramadan begins next weekend, May 27-28. It’s the Islamic month in which holy Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the revelation occurred during one of the last 10 nights, called Laylat Al-Qadr.

To reap maximum reward in this month, benefit others and protect the environment, TorontoMuslims — a project of DawaNet, a Mississauga-based nonprofit organization committed to community service, outreach and development — launched a pilot project called the #Waste Free Ramadan campaign to encourage all community members not to send plastic bottles to landfills.

“We really want to be environmentally conscious, especially in the coming month of Ramadan,” said Taha Ghayyur, one of campaign organizers. “If we are fasting to develop God-consciousness, we are also ensuring that we are not damaging the world and that’s the whole idea of seeking mercy.”

He said the campaign began with an initial goal of distributing 5,000 bottles through few major mosques in Peel, Halton and Toronto regions, especially in the cities of Brampton and Mississauga, but due to overwhelming response they have double the target to 10,000.

“The earth is green and beautiful and Allah has appointed you stewards over it,” reads a campaign message quoting a hadith (saying of the Prophet).

Bottles are available free of charge at local mosques such as ISNA Canada, Al Falah Islamic Centre, Sayeda Khadija Centre, Anatolia Islamic Centre, Islamic Propagation Centre (aka Coopers Masjid), and Dar At-Tawheed Islamic Centre. People can also obtain one free of cost by making an online donation.

Ghayyur said since it's a pilot project, TorontoMuslims initiated this campaign with selected mosques, but the actual idea was to distribute bottles free of cost.

The colourful bottles are designed for people to also write their own names on it and encourage others to do the same.

The #WasteFreeRamadan campaign hopes to engage all Canadian in discussions about climate change, global warming, environmental degradation and conservation.  

For more information, visit https://www.launchgood.com/project/wastefreeramadan#/.

Nouman Khalil is a reporter with The Mississauga News, Brampton Guardian and South Asian Focus. This article originally appeared on Mississauga.com on May 19th, 2017. 

All My Relations: Uniting Muslim and Indigenous Voices

By Muaz Nasir

Faith leaders and community activists gathered in Toronto yesterday evening for a discussion on strengthening the bond between the Muslim and Indigenous communities.

United Muslim and Indigenous Voices is the first of a series of events focusing on solidarity and reconciliation and was brought to fruition as a result of recent racial and religious attacks, both at home and abroad.

The panel discussion was hosted by Canadian Roots Exchange, a national not-for-profit organization that is committed to building bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people. The goal of the event was to discuss issues of racism, colonialism and Islamophobia from Indigenous and Islamic perspectives and fits in the organization's mission to facilitate dialogue and strengthen relationships through leadership programs.

The Toronto Foundation and the Inspirit Foundation were also supporting partners, and follows up on a report released last year which cites the ongoing discrimination Muslim youth face and the prevailing sentiment that this is expected to increase in the future.

“It’s no secret that folks from Muslim communities face discrimination and prejudices, much like Indigenous people,” said Max FineDay, co-executive director Canadian Roots Exchange to MetroNews. “This is an opportunity to start getting to know one another better and work together for the common good.”

The panel discussed the importance of educating ourselves about each others’ injustices and confronting our own prejudices as part of the decolonization process. “In order to activate yourself, educate yourself.”

The audience also raised questions about meaningful forms of solidarity, and the importance of making incremental steps towards fostering a friendship not just between Indigenous and Muslim communities but with all Canadians. “Solidarity to me looks more like friendship,” said panelist Zainab Amadahy as she recollected a very personal experience; it can be small or it can be grand. But at the end of the day, it’s about a responsibility, a meaningfulness and a connection to one another.

 

About the Speakers:

SARAIN FOX

Sarain is an Anishinabe dancer, choreographer, facilitator, and activist. Since 2015, Sarain has turned her focus more toward media undertaking several hosting contracts with the VICE network, including RISE, a multi-episode show focusing on the endeavours of indigenous cultures from around the world, and Cut Off, which followed Justin Trudeau as he visited Shoal Lake 40, a remote Indigenous community struggling with water security. Most recently, Sarain has been contracted to co-host a forthcoming show on the Aboriginal People’s Television Network (APTN). All of her work, both artistic and community-based, serves her deep commitment to the process of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada and beyond.

ZAINAB AMADAHY

Of mixed race heritage, Zainab Amadahy is a researcher, organizational development consultant, author and educator currently based in Toronto. Her background in community service is in the areas of Indigenous knowledge reclamation, curanderismo, non-profit housing, women’s services, migrant settlement and community arts as well as medical and photovoltaic technologies. Among her publications is "Indigenous Peoples and Black Peoples in Canada: Settlers or Allies” (co-authored with Dr. Bonita Lawrence, 2009) and the futurist novel Moons of Palmares (Sister Vision Press, 1998). Links to Zainab’s more recent writings can be found at http://swallowsongs.com/

AUSMA MALIK

Elected to the TDSB in 2014, Ausma brings expertise and experience in education policy and community organizing to representing her vibrant downtown community. From serving on the Board of the Toronto Environmental Alliance, the city's only social justice environmental organization, to volunteering with young people in Toronto's high needs communities, to labour organizing and leading equity initiatives on Ontario campuses, Ausma is a committed life-long human rights and social justice activist. Her work continues as Director of Social Engagement at the Atkinson Foundation.

RUDAYNA BAHUBESHI

Rudayna Bahubeshi is the Communications Manager at Inspirit Foundation. She is a passionate social justice advocate and city builder who always asks who is at the table and who is missing? She is currently a CivicAction DiverseCity Fellow and a Youth Advisor on Wellesley Institute's Supports for Success program, an emerging project seeking to bridge the gap across systems, services, and programs to enable children and youth to succeed. Rudayna has led programming and communications in the non-profit and grassroots sector for several years with organizations including Women in Toronto Politics, The Natural Step Canada, Engineers Without Borders, Getinvolved.ca, and Impact Hub Ottawa. Rudayna is deeply interested in civic engagement and developing a more inclusive civic discourse. She is originally from Ottawa and holds a Bachelor of Humanities from Carleton University.

 

Toronto Imams Mark Earth Day with 'Green' Khutbah

Imams in Toronto joined the worldwide Green Khutba Campaign on Earth Day and delivered sermons to raise awareness on the environmental challenges facing humanity.

“Islam appreciates and celebrates the earth and the environment to the extent that some Qur’anic surahs are named after some creations such the cow, the ants, the bees, the sun, and the moon,” said Imam Dr. Wael Shehab of Masjid Toronto in his message to the congregation. “The earth and all creations glorify Allah, so we have something in common with them all.”

“We love all creations and they love us too,” said Imam Shehab. “For us, the whole earth is like a masjid, so we should preserve it.”

The Green Khutbah Campaign commemorates Earth Day which coincided with the sermon awareness campaign this year.

“This year the theme of the Green Khutbah Campaign is ‘Climate Change: Working Together to Solve a Global Challenge’ whereby we encourage Muslims to evaluate their contribution towards global warming and consider the implications for current and future generations,” said Muaz Nasir, the publisher of the Canadian environmental website, Khaleafa.com and one of the founders of the Campaign.

The Campaign was launched in 2012 in Canada and, every year, Imams across the world are encouraged to deliver a message that remind their congregations of the Qur’anic message to be stewards of the earth and its environment.

“We have been honoured to be vicegerents of God on earth,” Imam Dr. Hamid Slimi told the congregation at the Sayeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga. “Take responsibility of your duty to Mother Earth.”

“This environmental crisis is not localized but universal,” said Friday Imam Muneeb Nasir in his sermon at Masjid Toronto at Adelaide. “This crisis is not just a scientific problem or an environmental one but the result of a deep, inner crisis of the soul – it is a moral issue.”

“We cannot tune out – tuning out would mean that we are disregarding our moral responsibility to Allah’s creation,” added Nasir. “As such, we must be, not just ‘friends of the earth’, but its guardians.”

“Today’s Green Khutbah Campaign is calling all Muslims to reflect and join with others to create a sustainable future – a future where we meet our needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The first Earth Day, held on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement.

More than 1 billion people across the world now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

As the world commemorated Earth Day on Friday, leaders from more than 170 countries gathered at the United Nations in New York to sign an international treaty that aims to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius.

Earlier in the week, 250 religious leaders around the world released the Interfaith Climate Change Statement warning, “The planet has already passed safe levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

“Unless these levels are rapidly reduced, we risk creating irreversible impacts putting hundreds of millions of lives, of all species, at severe risk.”

This article appeared on Iqra.ca on April 22nd, 2016. 

2016 Green Khutbah Campaign

Muslims across the world to celebrate Earth Day with Green Khutbah Campaign

TORONTO, April 11, 2016 - Muslims across the world will commemorate Earth Day on Friday, April 22nd, 2016 with the Green Khutbah Campaign as religious leaders deliver a sermon to raise awareness on the environmental challenges facing humanity.

“We are encouraging mosques, schools, universities and Islamic Institutions to devote their Friday Khutbah to celebrate the blessings, graces and beauty of all of God’s creation and to raise awareness on the environmental challenges facing humanity,” said Muaz Nasir, the publisher of the Canadian environmental website, Khaleafa.com and one of the founders of the Campaign.

“This year the theme of the Green Khutbah Campaign is ‘Climate Change: Working Together to Solve a Global Challenge’ whereby we encourage Muslims to evaluate their contribution towards global warming and consider the implications for current and future generations,” Nasir added.

The Campaign was launched in 2012 in Canada and, every year, Imams across the world are encouraged to deliver a message that remind their congregations of the Qur’anic message to be stewards of the earth and its environment.

The Green Khutbah Campaign commemorates Earth Day that will take place on Friday, April 22.

The first Earth Day, held on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement.

More than 1 billion people across the world now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

“Leading climate scientists now believe that a rise of two degrees centigrade in global temperature, which is considered to be the “tipping point”, is now very unlikely to be avoided if we continue with business-as-usual; other leading climate scientists consider 1.5 degrees centigrade to be a more likely “tipping point””, according to the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change released last year.

“This is the point considered to be the threshold for catastrophic climate change, which will expose yet more millions of people and countless other creatures to drought, hunger and flooding. The brunt of this will continue to be borne by the poor, as the Earth experiences a drastic increase in levels of carbon in the atmosphere brought on in the period since the onset of the industrial revolution.”

Muaz Nasir says that Muslims cannot tune out from the environmental damage.

“Tuning out would mean that we are disregarding our moral responsibility to God’s creation,” he said.

“Those who violate or abuse the Trust are described in the Qur’an as those who corrupt, degrade and bring ruin on earth,” Muaz Nasir added. “The corrupters abuse the Trust and are in clear contrast to what Muslims must be - the stewards of the earth.”

An extensive online resource has been created by Khaleafa.com (www.Khaleafa.com/greenkhutbah) to support the Green Khutbah Campaign and Islamic organizations and well-known leaders are throwing their support behind the initiative.

##

For more information, photos or to arrange an interview please contact:  

Umar Nasir,

Media Relations, Green Khutba Campaign

e: http://khaleafa.com/contact

MADE launches the Ultimate Water Challenge

The Muslim Action for Development & Environment (MADE) has launched its newest campaign to raise awareness about water consumption and educate Muslims about the importance of conservation.

The Ultimate Water Challenge encourages Muslims to reduce their water use through completing a series of challenges from March 21st-March 25th, 2016. Participants can either sign up as an individual or a team and compete against each other across several categories. The overall goal of the campaign is to raise awareness and funds to support well-boring initiatives in Zanzibar.

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CHALLENGE LEVEL 1 – Only for the Conscious!

Beat the Tap: Use only the Prophetic amount of water [the mudd approx. 675ml] during wudu for the five prayers over five days - mudd is included!

CHALLENGE LEVEL 2 – Only for the Brave!

Beat the Bucket: Beaten the tap? Well then how about the ghusl bucket challenge and use 1 bucket for your daily shower – challenge yourself and be one of the brave!

CHALLENGE LEVEL 3 – Only for the Heroic!

The Ultimate Water Walk: Is the bucket a breeze? Then take the Ultimate Water Walk carrying a weight of 20 litres for 6km through central London passing iconic places whilst raising awareness of water injustice and the Islamic teachings of water. Experience what many women and children go through daily who do not have access to water - challenge your endurance and be one of the heroes!

To learn more and sign up as an individual or a team, visit www.made.ngo

 

International Islamic Climate Change Symposium

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Photos from IR staff in Nepal following the earthquake, 2015. Introduction

This year, 2015, is a watershed year for the climate movement. In December governments will converge in Paris where they are expected to forge a new, international climate agreement that is robust, ambitious and comensurate with the scientific imperatives outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We believe that their ambition has to be driven by a bigger, broader and stronger citizens’ movement.

Faith communities increasingly recognise that the climate crisis is also a moral crisis. The adverse impacts of climate change that we have witnessed so far, present a clear case for people of faith to examine the underlying moral causes of this phenomenon. It prompts faith communities to take action to halt the desecration of nature that leads to destruction of creation, human and otherwise. Furthermore this is an opportunity for faith communities to provide a vision, inspire others and lead the way in building a fairer, safer, cleaner world built on renewable energy – leading the way on a journey to an economic system that meets development goals and is also spiritually fulfilling. The Islamic faith community represents a significant section of the global population and certainly, can be influential in the discourse on climate change.

Overview

A group of top academics has been engaged in drafting an “Islamic Declaration on Climate Change” and the initial draft has been circulated widely for consultation. The symposium will be an experts’ meeting convened to seek broad unity and ownership from the Islamic community around the Declaration, and to further discuss the amplification of messages and mobilization of various actors and groups around COP 21 and in the future. In attendance will be senior international development policy makers, leaders of faith groups, academics, and other experts. This symposium shall also provide opportunities to connect with leaders from other faiths as well as secular organisations, and promote inter-faith and cross-movement cooperation around aligned and joint messages. It will moreover highlight the future role and contribution of Muslims to the climate movement, and present ample communications opportunities, the aim being to secure high level representation from the diversity of actors mentioned above.

For more information about the symposium, please visit: http://islamicclimatedeclaration.org

Muslims across the world to celebrate Earth Day with Green Khutbah Campaign

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  Water-Banner

 

TORONTO, March 16, 2015 - Muslims across the world will commemorate Earth Day on Friday, April 24th, 2015, with the ‘Green Khutbah Campaign’ as religious leaders deliver a sermon to raise awareness on the environmental challenges facing humanity.

“The theme of this year’s Green Khutbah Campaign is “Water – A Sacred Gift,” said Muaz Nasir, the publisher of the Canadian environmental website, Khaleafa.com and one of the founders of the Campaign. “God states in the Qur’an, ‘We made from water every living thing (21:30),’ and we hope, this year, to raise awareness on the immense gift of water that we’re blessed with.”

“The Campaign challenge is to request all Muslims to commit to protect, care for and wisely use our water resources with the 3 C action plan: Consume wisely, Conserve responsibly and Care for our waters.”

The Campaign was launched in 2012 in Canada and, every year, Imams across the world are encouraged to deliver a message that remind their congregations of the Qur’anic message to be stewards of the earth and its environment.

The ‘Green Khutbah Campaign’ commemorates Earth Day that will take place on Wednesday, April 22.

The first Earth Day, held on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement.

More than 1 billion people across the world now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

Environmental concern around the world is on the wane, according to the GlobeScan global poll that tracked public concern on six environmental issues.

The poll found that across eighteen countries, public concern about water pollution, fresh water shortages, natural resource depletion, air pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss is way down from its peak in 2009.

However, Muaz Nasir says that Muslims cannot tune out from the environmental damage.

“Tuning out would mean that we are disregarding our moral responsibility to God’s creation,” he said.

“Those who violate or abuse the Trust are described in the Qur’an as those who corrupt, degrade and bring ruin on earth,” Muaz Nasir added. “The corrupters abuse the Trust and are in clear contrast to what Muslims must be - the stewards of the earth.”

An extensive online resource has been created by Khaleafa.com (www.Khaleafa.com/greenkhutbah) to support the ‘Green Khutbah Campaign’ and Islamic organizations and well-known leaders are throwing their support behind the initiative.

## For more information, photos or to arrange an interview please contact:

Umar Nasir, Media Relations,

Green Khutbah Campaign e: http://khaleafa.com/contact

A Testament to Multifaith Collaboration

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The support of a leading community foundation for the charity, Faith & the Common Good (FCG), is a testament to the value of multi-faith collaboration said Dr. Lucy Cummings, Executive Director of FCG.

Cummings made the remarks on Sunday at the announcement of a grant to Faith & the Common Good by the Olive Tree Foundation (OTF).

“The support for our work from the Olive Tree Foundation is an important sign of support from a leading Canadian Muslim community foundation,” said Dr. Lucy Cummings.  “This is not only a deep honor, but a testament to the value of multi-faith environmental collaboration in Canada.”

The grant was announced at the Annual Awards Ceremony of the Olive Tree Foundation held at the Sayeda Khadija Centre in Mississauga on Sunday, November 30.

“The Olive Tree Foundation is very pleased to be able fund this important project of Faith & the Common Good,” said Muneeb Nasir, President of the Olive Tree Foundation, in announcing the grant. “This project will build upon the trust of Faith communities in helping vulnerable people in our society with compassionate outreach.”

Faith & the Common Good will use the grant to study how faith communities can act as neighborhood resilience hubs during the next extreme weather event. The project will develop a model that can serve as a template for future community-based responses to extreme weather.

The overall objective is to learn and understand what makes a “good” community resilience hub, specifically, what criteria need to be in place, for a Faith community to be successful in caring for the vulnerable, in the case of extreme weather conditions.

“To date, we have interviewed 12 Faith communities, from different traditions and geographical locations, in the city of Toronto, and their willingness to participate in this project has been immediate,” said Dr. Lucy Cummings.  “The Olive Tree Foundation grant will allow us to engage and mentor youth members to help us analyze neighborhood extreme weather needs at each of the faith community sites.”

“We will also lead a workshop to teach the youth volunteers how to write and present a key findings report on the topic,” she added.

Faith & the Common Good (FCG) is an interfaith organization that helps faith communities make the connection between their faith and care for the environment.

The Olive Tree Foundation is a philanthropic foundation that promotes community development through the collection of endowed funds and charitable contributions to fund services for the long-term benefit of the community.

This article was originally published on IQRA.caon December 2nd, 2014. 

YorkU Students Partake in Campus Clean-up

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By: Idil Said and Syed Ali

Students at York University recently took part in a campus cleanup event organized by the York Muslims Students Association and Regenesis@York. The event included the cleanup of three woodlots located on the university's property with supplies provided by Campus Services and Business Operations (CSBO). Several dozen students and staff participated in the unique collaboration between two campus groups and the unseasonably warm weather and fall colours contributed to everyone's high spirits.

“This was an uplifting experience”, commented Idil Mohamed, a participant at the event. “As I was cleaning, I thought about how we’re not just cleaning the university’s property, but God’s property, which He bestowed upon us in amanah (trust) to not only use for our benefit, but to love and care for.”

Many students came out to support the cause, even though they did not have scheduled classes that day. Considering the commuting nature of the campus, the clean-up demonstrated the passion and commitment of Muslims and non-Muslims alike towards community involvement and ecological awareness.

“It was great to see two organizations that both care for the environment to come together for a common cause,” said Mashood Khan, Campaign Director for Regenesis@York, a community environmental organization. "As well, with this event, we could make October officially Harvest Cleanup Month in Toronto just as it is in Brampton to get city-wide clean up initiatives going."

After the cleanup, students reconvened at the Scott Religious Centre for refreshments and a lecture by Imam Belal Ahmad about the environment from the Islamic perspective. This was followed by a reflection by Himy Syed about sustainability and its role in Islam.

Some lessons that were shared include the importance of stewardship over the resources Allah has provided us and the collective responsibility we have as servants of Allah. The students also learned about the natural blessings we have surrounding us and our duty to actively maintain these areas.

To learn more about this event, please visit York MSA and Regenesis@York.

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Promising Environmental Action, Faiths Rise Together at Religions for the Earth Summit

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Parliament Chair Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid commits to ensuring that the forthcoming 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City, Utah, will make sustainable living a primary focus. Imam Mujahid speaks here at the Religions for the Earth MultiFaith Service held September 21, International Day of Peace, at Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City.

Nearly half a million people marched to save the only planet we have on the 21st of September at the People’s Climate March in New York City. After exceeding goals to stage the biggest climate march in history, the day ended with an interfaith service packing thousands into the largest Cathedral in the World, St. John the Divine. Leaders spanning the faith traditions of the world vowed there to commit unprecedented action to curb climate change.

In this historic moment the Parliament, in conjunction with partners Green Faith and Interfaith Center of New York, took part in the 3-day Religions for the Earth conference presented by Union Theological Seminary. Organized by Union Forum’s Karenna Gore, daughter of Former U.S. Vice-President and global environmental champion Al Gore, the conference that brought together more than 200 leaders of world spiritual communities and interfaith organizations also leveraged partnerships with the World Council of Churches, Religions for Peace, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the National Religious Partnership.

Months of planning and organizing- with Parliament Trustee Dr. Kusumita Pedersen at the core and Trustee John Pawlikowski advising- resulted in a great showing of support from the Parliament Board. Highlighting some of the ways that spirituality as a healing, connecting, and educational force can powerfully address the climate crisis were Rev. Andras Corban Arthen of the Earth Spirit community, who spoke on an Indigenous Peoples panel, Rev. Dr. Anne Benvenuti, author and educator, who discussed the spiritual connection of humans and other animals, and Phyllis Curott, attorney and Wiccan priestess, who led an opening session prayer. Parliament Trustee Emeritus Naresh Jain, who serves currently on the Parliament’s UN Task Force, was also in attendance. The Parliament’s Executive Director, Dr. Mary Nelson, connected with former Vice President Al Gore, as did Parliament Chair, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, who spoke at the closing Multi-faith Service.

What amplifies the voices of faith communities today is hoped to carry over into massive action at the forthcoming 2015 Parliament. Speaking to the Multi-faith Service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on the evening of September 21, Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid made a public commitment that the 2015 Parliament will take on climate issues and sustainable living as a prime focus.

The Parliament applauds the remarks offered by its partners,  especially those shared by Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations Jan Eliasson at the Religions for the Earth Multifaith Service. Concerning what spiritual communities who work together harmoniously can achieve, Eliasson said, “Faith leaders like you here today have an essential role to play. You can set an example of dialogue and of mutual respect. You can use your pulpits to convey important messages as we have heard today. You can reach across lines of faiths and across the lines of identities that might otherwise divide people. I ask you, I plead with you to continue to remind us of the ethical and moral dimensions of climate change. Such efforts related to higher morality are needed not only on environment, but in general, at a time when we are seeing so much of sectarian turmoil and hatred around the world. I thank you all for mobilizing the positive power of religion…”

Press Release from the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions

British Muslims Go Green: 100km Cycle Challenge and First Eco Fair

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Made in Europe  

Press Release: British Muslims went green this Saturday, 6th September, as Muslims from all over London took part in a 100km cycle ride from Mosque to Mosque. Muslims pray 5 times a day from dawn till dusk, and each ‘Salah’ prayer constituted a different stop at some of London’s most iconic houses of worship, from the East London Mosque, all the way to the al Manar Mosque in West London.

The ‘Tour de Salah’ challenge, organized by MADE in Europe, forms part of a wider campaign called ‘Green Up My Community’ supported by the City Bridge Trust and aimed at increasing awareness of environmental issues, as well as sustainable practice within the Muslim community. MADE is a grassroots organisation serving to empower young Muslims to make change within their communities, through campaigns and education. The Green Up Campaign is targeted towards Mosques, promoting awareness of climate change and its effects, as well as working with the Mosques to become beacons of environmental justice through efficient waste management and water and energy consumption.

One of the Mosques looking to take an active role on the issue is the London Central Mosque in Regents Park, which co-hosted the first Muslim-led Eco Fair with MADE. As the third ‘Salah’ stop on the map, this was an opportunity for people of all ages, family and friends, Muslims and non- Muslims, to gather for a day of fun and activities, and learn something new about the environment that we all share. With Mosques like Harrow Central, Kingston Muslim Association and the Palmers Green Mosque taking an active part in the cycling challenge, the future looks promising as more follow suit.

Environmental sustainability has become a topic of great urgency in the last few decades, and was cited as ‘one of the most serious threats we face’ by Prime Minister David Cameron. In the latest report by the UN, the effects of global warming were dubbed to be ‘severe, pervasive and irreversible’. UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon has called world leaders to mobilise on September 23rd to discuss their commitment to reducing carbon emissions. On September 21st, people from different walks of life all over the world, including London, will be taking part in a ‘Climate March’ to demonstrate to their respective governments just how seriously they want their leadership to respond to this imminent threat.

“To some extent, it is understandable that the Muslim community is not leading the Environmental movement simply because the Muslim world in the modern era wasn’t at the forefront of damaging it,” comments prominent Muslim theologian, Sheikh Shams. “However, now that we are aware of the issue, given what our deen (religion) teaches us, given the teachings of our Prophet, we need to quickly catch up and get to the forefront because our rightful position is to be leading on all issues of preserving the environment,” he adds.

The Eco Fair boasted a range of activities and businesses, ranging from the pedal-your-own-smoothie bike, to organic and eco-friendly soaps and cosmetics, to Fairtrade cakes, solar-powered phone chargers, and upcycling workshops. The Imam of the Mosque, along with Sheikh Shams who was also cycling the whole leg, both stressed the importance of environmental activism. For many attendees, it was refreshing to see an initiative like this coming straight from within the Mosques. “I think this is a much needed event in the Muslim community, because environment and sustainability are among the key principles in Islam yet the average Muslim probably doesn’t think too much about it,“ remarks Mikhail, a Science teacher from Leicester.

“I never realized how much of a contribution bottled water actually has on the environment. Since coming here, I’ve just been thinking that we need to make a change,” commented David Tsan, one of the cyclists upon arriving at the Fair.

“If there is one thing that we all have in common, it is the custodianship of this planet,” remarked Sarah Javaid, co-founder and acting director of MADE. “In Islam, we believe that we have been given the responsibility of caretaking the Earth as Allah’s vicegerents, and so we see no better cause to unite over. It is great to be working with Mosques, and to see them leading the way on such initiatives. We hope to continue our work with Mosques and really watch them pioneer sustainable change“

As the threat of global warming increases by the day, such initiatives are a welcome effort and a call for further action from both the faith and non-faith communities to stand united in preserving our planet.

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1.    MADE in Europe is a UK-registered charity which works to mobilise young Muslims to take action against global poverty through volunteering, campaigning and education.  For more info seewww.madeineurope.org.uk

2.    For more info on Tour de Salah: http://www.madeineurope.org.uk/get-involved/tour-de-salah

3.    For more info on the Eco Fair: http://www.madeineurope.org.uk/get-involved/made-fair

Interfaith Guided Hike - Photos

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Thank you for attending the Greening Sacred Spaces Guided Hike yesterday afternoon. The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive and everyone had a great time.
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As promised, we have included some links to the participating organizations that helped put this event together. We would like to thank them for their contribution and for making this event a success.
Greening Sacred Spaces (http://www.greeningsacredspaces.net/)
Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (http://www.trca.on.ca/)
The Don Watershed (www.DiscovertheDon.ca)
Khaleafa.com (www.khaleafa.com)
City of Toronto (www.toronto.ca/parks)
The speakers that presented were:
Margaret McRae - Toronto Field Naturalists (http://www.torontofieldnaturalists.org/)
John Wilson - Lost Rivers (http://www.lostrivers.ca/)
Baruch Sienna - Author of The Natural Bible (http://thenaturalbible.weebly.com/)
Emily Gordon - M.Div. student
Jennifer Gordon - Green Awakening Network (http://www.tucc.ca/churchdevelopment/green-awakening-network.html)
Muaz Nasir - Toronto Water
TRCA Staff :
Michael Charendoff - Project Coordinator, Don River Watershed (mcharendoff@trca.on.ca)
Lisa Ward - Coordinator, Multicultural Program Stewardship & Outreach Education (lward@trca.on.ca)
Liana D'Andrea - Stewardship Assistant (ldandrea@trca.on.ca)

Interfaith Guided Hike

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Khaleafa.com is a proud supporter of the upcoming Greening Sacred Spaces - Guided Hike. This interfaith stewardship activity will delve into the spiritual perspective on environmental and ecological stewardship. Spaces are limited, so sign up early to avoid disappointment. Join Greening Sacred Spaces for a guided hike at Taylor Creek Park! Conveniently located near the Victoria Park subway station and free of admission, this exciting event welcomes young adults from every faith background.

On this hike, you can look forward to guides from different faith communities and former members of the Don Watershed Regeneration Council. Religious leaders will address the following questions: “How does your faith articulate the need for stewardship of water and trees? How is that reflected in contemporary society?” You can also expect to participate in stewardship activities such as mulching, weeding, and picking up litter. Refreshments will also be served!

The hike will begin promptly at 2:00 pm at the Victoria Park subway station. Please wear closed-toe shoes and long pants. It is also advisable to bring a hat and a reusable water bottle.

This event is sponsored by Greening Sacred Spaces.

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