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Muslims Spearhead Environmental Efforts to Clean Up Cooks River in Sydney Australia

October 28, 2010

Muslim volunteers in Australia are leading efforts to clean up one of the most polluted areas of Sydney, highlighting the Islamic community’s growing involvement in environmental issues.

The Mizaan project, led by Nelley Youssef, is on a mission to clean up a stretch of Cooks River, one of Australia’s dirtiest and most contaminated rivers. It is nearing the successful completion of the Cooks River initiative and the Mizaan project is now setting its sights on other locations.

The volunteers have managed to tame several hundred metres of wild riverbank with the help of the local council, which has provided gardening tools, plants and expertise as well as chemicals and mulch. What was once a barren and forgotten tract of waterfront has been transformed, where native shrubs that were previously strangled by rampant weeds and undergrowth have been revitalised, along with populations of blue tongue lizards, frogs and birds.

“Islam encourages us to look after our environment because it is like the lungs of our body. Our responsibility and duty as Muslims is to look after the Earth,” said Ms Youssef, a member of the Al Ghazzali Centre for Islamic Sciences and Human Development, a Sydney-based community organisation.

“The reason why we are doing this is because there is a tradition of the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, where he has told us that we should be looking after … one of God’s creations and by looking after it you get rewarded for it and you have a closer connection with God almighty. It helps strengthen your faith as well. Taking care of our surroundings gives us all a real sense of belonging.”

The Mizaan ecology scheme has been running for three years and its dedicated band of enthusiasts has planted more 4,500 native trees, including dozens of different species, which have helped to fortify a crumbling riverbank, creating a lush sanctuary for animals and insects.

“It’s like a mini-forest. It is a good feeling and we are making a difference step by step,” said Murisa Hasanovic, 20, who arrived in Australia from Bosnia nine years after her father was killed in the civil war, and was eager to do her bit to spruce up a small corner of her adopted homeland.

“Basically whatever God has created, including the environment, is placed in our trust, so we have to take care of it. If we don’t we will be questioned about it. We are trying to play a part, as little as it seems.”

The Mizaan project’s success has caught the attention of non-Muslims, who have been keen to help nature thrive in the middle of Australia’s largest city. Kristin Kolodziej, 26, has volunteered as part of her rehabilitation following the amputation of her right hand, lost to a blood disorder.

“It is good to be out because I was in hospital recently for quite a while,” said Ms Kolodziej, who was right-handed before the ravages of a staphylococcal infection. “It is my reality now. I either deal with it or I choose to lie in bed every day and cry,” she added as she clutched a trowel and gardening glove during a morning’s hard labour.

The success of the Cooks River initiative has drawn praise from across the local community and presented a positive impression of Australia’s Islamic minority that is far removed from the tired stereotypes that persist of Muslims as closeted, religiously fundamentalist and anti-western. “This is a great way to introduce a new image of Muslims, particularly Muslim women,” said Norhan Youssef, 32, one of the volunteers.

“It is also a great way of introducing a new culture, a new religion or a new thought among society as a whole.”

Sources:

Phil Mercer, “Muslims keep Australia green” The National UAE April 17, 2010

“Mizaan Ecology – Cooks River Regeneration Project” Al-Ghazzali Centre

 

This piece is taken from the Islam Today website.

See on-line at: http://en.islamtoday.net/artshow-231-3589.htm