Posts Tagged ‘environment’

The Deployment of Climate Change and Control over Natural Resources in Current Radical Islamic Theory and Practice – Dr. Moshe Terdiman

October 16, 2014

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The Deployment of Climate Change and Control over Natural Resources in Current Radical Islamic Theory and Practice

by Moshe Terdiman

RIMA Climate Change and Conflict Papers, volume 1 (2014), Number 1 (October 2014) 

 

Introduction

During the last decade or so, radical Islamic organizations — Hizb al-Tahrir, Hizbullah, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar Dine, Boko Haram, Ansar al-Shari’ah, etc. — have been deploying climate change, competition and control over natural resources, and attacks against energy infrastructures in their fight against the local Muslim regimes across the Middle East, North Africa, the Sahel and the Horn of Africa as well as against Israel and the West. In addition, control over natural resources has proved to be a major source of income for some radical Islamic organizations. Moreover, radical Islamic organizations have been recruiting people who have been suffering from the loss of their livelihoods as a result of climate change effects.[1]

This article will give a short survey of this new phenomenon. It will be followed by a series of articles looking at each of the main radical Islamic organizations active in Africa and at their use of the environment in order to promote their aims.

The Ideological Level

On the ideological level, Hizb ut-Tahrir Denmark published a booklet in 2009 titled “The Environmental Problem: Its Causes and Islam’s Solutions”. Hizb ut-Tahrir is a pan-Islamic organization which was established in 1953 in Jerusalem and its goal is to unify all Muslim countries under a caliphate which will be ruled by Shari’ah law. Therefore, it is not surprising that in the framework of this booklet, Hizb ut-Tahrir blames the Western culture and its capitalist economic system for the ongoing environmental crisis and says that Islam is the only solution for this crisis. According to this booklet, the environmental crisis can be checked only under Islamic shari’ah rule, which will take care of the environment.[2]

Also Osama bin Laden, the late al-Qaeda leader, blamed the US and other industrial economies for climate change on an audiotape released on January 29, 2010. He said that “speaking about climate change is not a matter of intellectual luxury – the phenomenon is an actual fact”. He added that “all the industrial states are to blame for climate change, yet the majority of those states have signed the Kyoto Protocol and agreed to curb the emission of harmful gases. However, George Bush junior, preceded by [the US] congress, dismissed the agreement to placate giant corporations. And they are themselves standing behind speculation, monopoly and soaring living costs. They are also behind ‘globalization and its tragic implications’. And whenever the perpetrators are found guilty, the heads of state rush to rescue them using public money”.[3]

The Practical Level

Moving from ideology to practice, radical Islamic organizations are making use of climate change impacts in order to recruit people to their ranks as well as to convert people to their cause. For example, on February 24, 2010, Africa Review reported that many Boko Haram foot soldiers happen to be people displaced by severe drought and food shortages in neighboring Niger and Chad. Some 200,000 farmers and herdsmen had lost their livelihoods and, facing starvation, crossed the border to Nigeria, where some of them have been lured by the Boko Haram, which supplied them with salaries and food.[4]

Boko Haram is not the only radical Islamic organization which succeeds in luring people affected by climate change to its cause. Other radical Islamic organizations active in the Sahel – such as: al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb, Ansar Dine, and others – are doing the same. In June 2014, the new UN Special Envoy for the Sahel, Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, used her first briefing to the Security Council to stress the connection between the “extremely fragile” humanitarian situation” and the worsening regional security. She said that “unemployed youth are particularly vulnerable to religious radicalization, while extremist groups are increasingly investing in the development of violent indoctrination. Extremist and radical ideologies continue to spread in the Sahel region and are driving many young men and women into violence”.[5]

From these two examples, one is able to see that the causes for the eruption of conflicts in Mali and Nigeria and for the rise of radical Islamic organizations in the Sahel are not only political, social, religious and ethnic, but also environmental, having to do with the decrease of agricultural yields, the expansion of the desert into pastoral and agricultural areas, and water shortages caused by climate change.

Radical Islamic organizations are also using the environment and its control over natural resources (such as: water, land, oil, etc.) as a means to make profit and finance its activities. Al-Shabaab has been financing its activities partly from elephant poaching and the trafficking of ivory, which funds “up to 40 per cent of the cost [of al-Shabaab’s] army of 5,000 people”, according to Andrea Crosta, a director of EAL and co-author of a 2011 report into the links between poaching and terror groups.[6] Al-Shabaab has another important source of funding, which is the charcoal industry. It is estimated that al-Shabaab exports charcoal worth $500,000 per month to the Gulf states. Yet, the booming trade in charcoal with the Gulf states has been affecting the environment since nowadays there is vast deforestation in the areas under al-Shabaab’s control in south Somalia.[7] Another example in point is the Islamic State, which took control over oil fields in Syria and Iraq. These oil fields serve as a very important source of income for its activities and make it the richest radical Islamic organization in the world. Thus, its oil income can be between $1 million to $3 million a day.[8]

In addition, radical Islamic organizations are also using the environment and natural resources as a weapon in their fight against local opposition groups. For example, the Islamic State has been increasingly using its control of water facilities, including four dams along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, as a weapon to displace communities or cut them off supplies. At the same time, they have been pressing to expand their control over Iraq’s water infrastructure, and especially, Iraq’s largest dams – Mosul and Haditha.[9]

Finally, radical Islamic organizations have launched attacks against energy infrastructures as part of their war against the local regimes and the West. The first radical Islamic organization to launch such an attack was al-Qaeda. As part of its war against local Arab regimes and the West, al-Qaeda launched a suicide attack against the MV Limburg, a French 157,000-ton crude oil tanker, in the Arabian Sea on October 6, 2002. On February 24, 2006, it launched an attack against Saudi Arabia’s giant oil processing facility at Abqaiq, which failed. This was the first direct attack by al-Qaeda on a Saudi oil installation.[10]

Other radical Islamic organizations which launched attacks against energy infrastructures include  the Abdullah Azzam Brigade, which in July 2010 launched a suicide attack against the Japanese oil tanker MV M. Star in the Strait of Hormuz, injuring a crew member.[11] Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has been launching attacks against oil fields and pipelines in Yemen since oil is one of the main sources of income for the Yemenite government.[12] As of 2011, as part of its fight against Israel and the Egyptian regime, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which is active in the Sinai Peninsula, launched repeated attacks on the gas pipeline supplying gas to Israel.[13]On January 16, 2013, Katibat al-Mulathamin (the Masked Brigade), which is a splinter group of the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb under the command of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, launched an attack against the Tigantourine gas facility, which supplies 10 per cent of Algeria’s natural gas production.[14]

Summary

All these above mentioned instances show that in the last decade or so, the radical Islamic organizations have “discovered” the environmental factor and have been using it to promote its aims both in the ideological level and in the practical level. Not only they have joined the global environmental discourse concerning climate change and regarded it as yet another opportunity to blame the West for global injustices while stressing the role that an Islamic state ruled by the Shari’ah may play in checking the crisis, but they have also taken advantage of the impacts of climate change and its control over natural resources as both a source of income and recruitment of people for its cause as well as a weapon vis-à-vis the local population, the local Muslims regimes and the West.

Thus, it is very important to understand that the rise of radical Islamic organizations and the eruption of the conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere during the last decade or so have been driven and caused not only by political, economic, social, religious and ethnic tensions but also by the environmental factor.

The role played by the environmental factor in exacerbating existing problems to a boiling point is not new, especially within pastoralist societies in the Middle East and Africa who throughout history used to compete with agricultural societies and with rival groups over the control of and access to natural resources, such as water and land. Yet, nowadays, the importance of the environmental factor in the process of eruption of current conflicts and the rise of radical Islamic organizations has increased tremendously, especially since it is coupled with huge population growth and, as a result, with rising population stress over dwindling basic natural resources in levels unsurpassed ever before.  Furthermore, the inability of the states in Africa and the Middle East to address the impacts of climate change in particular and environmental issues in general has also turned the populations against their governments and helped radical Islamic organizations to convert some of them to their cause.

To sum up, although military intervention and the very difficult task of addressing the core political, ethnic, religious, economic and social issues may restore stability in Africa and the Middle East and may curb radical Islamic organizations in the short term, climate change will continue to play a major role and increase instability among these countries’ poor, especially the agricultural and pastoralist societies. As a result, there is also a need to focus on environment and resource dimensions of actual and potential conflict situations as a resource in helping stabilize these countries and curb radical Islamic organizations in the long term.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] This is an introductory article to the subject of radical Islam and its use of the environment in order to promote its aims. I have also started to work on a book on this subject, which will cover all the radical Islamic groups throughout the world which have been using the environment in order to promote their aims.

[2] See on-line at:http://www.khilafah.com/images/images/PDF/Books/EnvEng.pdf

[3] See on-line at:http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2010/01/20101277383676587.html

[4] See on-line at: http://www.africareview.com/News/Climate-change-fuels-Nigeria-terrorism/-/979180/1334472/-/vq4tja/-/index.html

[5] See on-line at: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/sahel-africa-climate-change-security-poverty-burkina-faso-439

[6] See on-line at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/illegal-ivory-trade-funds-alshabaabs-terrorist-attacks-8861315.html

[7] See on-line at: https://globalecco.org/financing-al-shabaab-the-vital-port-of-kismayo

[8] See on-line at:http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/07/28/baghdadis_hillbillies_isis_iraq_syria_oil_terrorism_islamic_state

[9] See on-line at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/islamic-state-jihadists-are-using-water-as-a-weapon-in-iraq/2014/10/06/aead6792-79ec-4c7c-8f2f-fd7b95765d09_story.html

[10] See on-line at: http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/al-qaeda-attack-on-abqaiq-the-vulnerability-of-saudi-oil

[11] See on-line at: http://cimsec.org/jihad-sea-yemen-al-qaedas-new-frontier/9733

[12] See on-line at: http://www.criticalthreats.org/yemen/aqap-and-suspected-aqap-attacks-yemen-tracker-2010

[13] See on-line at: http://www.islamistgate.com/663

[14] See on-line at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Amenas_hostage_crisis

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The Environmental Message of Hizbullah

January 25, 2012

                                           The Environmental Message of Hizbullah

by Moshe Terdiman

January 2012

Introduction

On October 9, 2010, Hizbullah’s Secretary General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, briefly came out of hiding to mark the end of Hizbullah’s campaign to plant million trees in Lebanon to restore the country’s forests. This campaign was organized by Jihad al-Binaa, Hizbullah’s reconstruction arm, and sponsored by the Lebanese Minister of Agriculture, Hussein Hajj Hassan. With a shovel on his hand, Hassan Nasrallah was shown on Hizbullah’s al-Manar television station digging a hole, planting and watering a small tree outside his home, which was destroyed by air raids during the July 2006 War. Hassan Nasrallah, who had been last seen in public in July 2008, was accompanied by the Lebanese Minister of Agriculture for the ceremony.[1]

Nasrallah gave a speech at the event in which he praised Jihad al-Binaa for its role in organizing this campaign. He said that “this is an ancient Jihad for Jihad Al Binaa. However and praise be to Allah Al Mighty it was an ascending jihad. Perhaps the only period of time in which the agricultural and tree-planting side retreated was in 2006 when Jihad Al Binaa was occupied with a greater priority – namely facing the repercussions of July War in 2006. This year the effort was advanced and made greater through the advertisement and the execution of the million tree campaign”.[2]

However, Nasrallah said that planting trees should not be organized and implemented only by Jihad al-Binaa, but “we must deal with it as an important great national issue which needs mustering all efforts. Hence was the cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture in Lebanon, the various municipalities, the youths’ societies and others”.[3]

He added that “We, Lebanese. Always extol the green Lebanon. Of course this will soon be a thing of the past”. According to Nasrallah, green Lebanon is not going to last much longer due to desertification, rampant building and environmental neglect.[4]

Another reason for that, according to Nasrallah’s speech, is that the trees have a very significant role as one of Lebanon’s natural defensive characteristic. In this context, he blamed Israel for setting trees on fire, shelling and destroying trees within the territories occupied by her in south Lebanon and the Biqa’ between the years 1982 – 2000. Also during the July 2006 War, Israel shelled many forests without any reason other than destroying one of Lebanon’s natural defensive characteristics.[5]  

Therefore, Nasrallah urged all Lebanese to follow his example and plant trees outside their homes. Nasrallah gave religious justifications to his plea by citing Islamic traditions and hadiths. He said that “afforestation is part of Lebanese national security”, since “Lebanon Protects the tree so that it will protect Lebanon”.[6]

The Planting Activities of Jihad al-Binaa

This ceremony marked the end of Jihad al-Binaa’s campaign to plant one million trees throughout Lebanon during the year 2010. The campaign would not be possible without the help of Syria. Its Ministry of Agriculture donated more than 800,000 trees for the project. The campaign focused on reforesting green areas burned during the July 2006 War. About 290,000 of the trees were planted in south Lebanon.[7] 

Jihad al-Binaa’s General Manager, Architect Muhammad Hajj, said a few days before the end of the campaign that “throughout 18 years, we have planted around 7,300,000 trees. The average increases yearly”. He stressed that during the past few years, Jihad al-Binaa had been successfully planting one million trees every year and the “one million tree campaign” in 2010 just emphasized this frame of work. According to him, in 2010, the tree plantings involved cooperation with around 4,700 groups throughout Lebanon including community groups, municipalities, organizations, farmers, associations and scout groups. This campaign is expected to continue to be conducted on a yearly basis, while each year a certain region will be prioritized.[8]

Architect Muhammad Hajj further said that the aims of the 2010 one million tree campaign are manifold: “its major aim is to enhance the environment and fight desertification, which has become a phenomenon in Lebanon due to the fires, cutting trees and other reasons. Therefore, this campaign pours into recovering Lebanon’s green cover”. However, this project had also other aims including education of the people concerning the importance of the land, of reconstruction, of recovering greenery and of resistance. Architect Muhammad Hajj mentioned that “the Holy Qur’an focused on the importance of reconstruction and agricultural works”.  But, according to him, the most important thing is the resistance aspect of the trees, since they have served as shelter for thousands of Hizbullah fighters.[9]

Architect Muhammad Hajj added that there have been efforts to make the Dahiyah quarter in Beirut green along with the process of its continued reconstruction following the damages that it suffered during the July 2006 War. These efforts are managed by Jihad al-Binaa in cooperation with the municipalities. He said that “the municipalities own few lands in the suburbs, and these are rather used for public services like building schools and organizations. Therefore, they work on planting small fields instead, and plant greenery on the sides of the highways, roads, and sidewalks. Due to that, one of the ideas the municipalities consider is to plant green field on the buildings’ roofs as well”.[10]  

Jihad al-Binaa’s Environmental Activities

Nasrallah’s speech as well as the interview conducted with Jihad al-Binaa’s General Manager, Architect Muhammad Hajj, shed light on the environmental activities of Jihad al-Binaa, which began already in the late 1980s and have been going on uninterruptedly ever since, except for the July 2006 War.

Jihad al-Binaa (Holy Reconstruction Organ) is an organ within Hizbullah which   provides support services to its members, new recruits, and supporters. These services range from medical care to financial aid, housing, and public utilities. It is divided into 8 committees. Three of these committees are engaged in environmental or environmental-related issues. The Water and Power Resources Committees has fixed over one hundred water and power stations from the Biqa’ to the South. The Environmental Committee has been active in studying and surveying polluted areas, while the Agricultural Committee has established agricultural cooperatives selling insecticides, seeds, and fertilizers to farmers at prices lower than the market price. The work of all committees is supervised by a technical and administrative committee, which is part of Jihad al-Binaa, whose main aim is to study and provide help for impoverished regions of Lebanon.[11]

Jihad al-Binaa’s environmental activity began in the late 1980s, when Hizbullah seized control of the Shi’ite Dahiyah quarter in Beirut after defeating the Amal faction. Then, the Hizbullah leaders found themselves responsible for finding immediate solutions for the social service crisis faced by about half million inhabitants of the quarter which was about to exacerbate even more because many families, who were displaced by the fierce fighting between the Shi’ite factions in the south, continued to find refuge there. During that period, which overlapped General Michel Aoun’s administration (1988 – 1990), the Dahiyah was almost completely cut off from water and electricity services due to neglect and fighting. As a result, about 40 percent of the water from Ayn al-Dilbin, the Dahiyah’s major source of drinking water, had been lost and its purity had been gravely compromised. In an attempt to supply the ever-growing populace, water authorities dug artesian wells but this ultimately resulted in contamination of the whole water network.[12]

On this background, Hezbollah decided to first deal with the severe public health hazards threatening the Dahiyah, i.e., the piling garbage and the short water and electricity supply, especially in the absence of any other effective local or central authorities. Already in 1988, it started to build daily garbage collection service to remove the mountains of waste that had built up over the years. This mechanism replaced a basic governmental function in several municipalities. This service operated five years until the Lebanese Sanitation Department started to get back on its feet. Yet, Hizbullah is still operating its daily garbage collection service and treats it with insecticides to supplement the government’s service.[13]

In addition, Jihad al-Binaa was engaged in the installation of drinking fountains and decent toilets at public school in the Dahiyah as well as in supplying its inhabitants with emergency water delivery and electricity. With help from the Iranian government, Jihad al-Binaa constructed public water containers, provided cisterns and employed several drivers to transport water to the suburbs from nearby sources, in addition to extending the water network by some 15,000 meters of water pipes. It built 4,000-litre water reservoirs in each district of the southern suburbs and filling each of them five times a day from continuously circulating tanker trucks. Generators mounted on trucks also made regular rounds from building to building to provide electricity to pump water from private cisterns. For that aim, Jihad al-Binaa has been purchasing the portable water from the Beirut Water Board on a daily basis and the cistern fills up from the main reservoir of Bourj Abi Haidar in Beirut. To this date, the inhabitants of the Dahiyah are still dependent on Hizbullah to provide them with drinking water.[14]

In order to solve the problem of regular supply of water for the residents of the Dahiyah, Jihad al-Binaa presented at the beginning of the 2000s a construction plan to build the Bisri Dam project on the Awali River, which would have the capacity of collecting 600,000 cubic meters of water, from which it would draw 120,000 cubic meters for the regular water supply of the Dahiyah’s residents.[15] The construction of the dam has not been finalized yet. On April 24, 2010, the Lebanese cabinet finally tasked the Council for Development and Reconstruction with completing the Bisri Dam Project despite its location near a major seismic fault line.[16]

Jihad al-Binaa has also been engaged in environmental activities in rural areas in south Lebanon and in the Biqa’. In these areas, Jihad al-Binaa has been focused on agricultural projects including training, laboratories and forestation projects. Indeed, already in 1992, Jihad al-Binaa started the “Good Tree” Project, which has been conducted annually since then. The project has involved planting trees in the different Lebanese regions.[17] As of 2003, Jihad al-Binaa was planting some 40,000 trees annually in each reforestation campaign.[18]

It developed an agricultural project in the Biqa’, which emphasized farming as a religious duty that met the needs of the Muslim people. Between 1998 and 2002, Jihad al-Binaa built or renovated seven agricultural center cooperatives.[19]As of 2004, Jihad al-Binaa served about 5,000 farmers across Lebanon, offering pesticides and fertilizers at cost as well as a free extension service. Its veterinarians held yearly vaccinations for cows, goats and sheep, and keep tabs on fish as well. Jihad al-Binaa is also engaged with organic farming to reduce environmental stress and help meet a new domestic demand for healthy food. It used to distribute every year about half a million forest and fruit-bearing seedlings in order to help combat desertification and prevent erosion.[20]

Summary

From the late 1980s, Hizbullah has shown itself to be really engaged in environmental activities in the Dahiyah, south Lebanon and the Biqa’, regions populated heavily by Shi’ites, and also elsewhere throughout Lebanon. These environmental activities have included public health, agriculture, and organic farming.

In the absence of governmental, regional or local and municipal authorities, Hizbullah had first conducted these environmental activities without any competition and, thus, succeeded to win the Shi’ite Lebanese allegiance and loyalty, which later on would be translated into political power in the Lebanese parliament.   

Alongside the abovementioned environmental activities, Hizbullah has also been engaged in planting trees. Indeed, trees are very important to the Lebanese. Trees, and especially cedar trees,  have been connected with Lebanon from ancient times. The cedar tree is the symbol of modern Lebanon and is shown on its flag. Lebanon without trees will not be the same country anymore. Hizbullah, as a Lebanese Islamic organization, has really worked hard on reforestation of the parts of Lebanon which have suffered deforestation and combating desertification is one of the stated goals of Jihad al-Binaa.

Yet, according to Hizbullah’s ideology, the greening of Lebanon has not been done for the sake of fighting desertification and afforestation of the country alone, but mainly as means of fighting against Israel. The trees are a main strategic natural element in the struggle of Hizbullah against Israel. The trees have been serving as a place of refuge and hiding for Hizbullah’s fighters. The forests’ canopy used to hide ammunition, rocket launchers and other fighting means of Hizbullah. Thus, the trees have been an inseparable part of the strategy of Hizbullah’s ongoing struggle against Israel.

Therefore, from Hizbullah point of view, planting millions of trees in Lebanon is not only important from an environmental point of view, but it is also important for ensuring its present and future role, as it used to be in the past, as a vital strategic natural asset in the struggle against Israel. Thus, the current plantation of trees and reforestation of south Lebanon, among other regions, might also serve from Hizbullah point of view as a preparation for the next cycle of fighting against Israel, when, as Nasrallah put it, “Lebanon protects the tree so that it will protect Lebanon”.  
 


 

[1] See on-line at: http://www.greenprophet.com/2010/10/hezbollah-nasrallah-plants-trees/; http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/wehbe091010.html; http://iloubnan.info/en/detail/20/51018

[2] See on-line at: http://www.english.moqawama.org/essaydetails.php?eid=4490&cid=214

[3] See on-line at: http://www.english.moqawama.org/essaydetails.php?eid=4490&cid=214

[4] See on-line at: http://www.greenprophet.com/2010/10/hezbollah-nasrallah-plants-trees/; http://iloubnan.info/en/detail/20/51018; http://www.english.moqawama.org/essaydetails.php?eid=4490&cid=214

 

[5] http://www.english.moqawama.org/essaydetails.php?eid=4490&cid=214

[6] See on-line at: http://www.english.moqawama.org/essaydetails.php?eid=4490&cid=214

[7] See on-line at: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/AUB+project+aims+to+instill+sense+of+appreciation+for+biodiversity.-a0216984413

[8] See on-line at: http://en.moqawama.org/essaydetailsf.php?eid=12310&fid=55

 

[9] See on-line at: http://en.moqawama.org/essaydetailsf.php?eid=12310&fid=55

[10] See on-line at: http://en.moqawama.org/essaydetailsf.php?eid=12310&fid=55

[11] See on-line at: http://ddc.aub.edu.lb/projects/pspa/hamzeh2.html#back33  

[12] See in Judith Palmer Harik, Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism, London: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2005, page 83. See on-line at: http://books.google.co.il/books?id=GhaRWhOowCkC&pg=PA90&lpg=PA90&dq=jihad+al-binaa,+agriculture&source=bl&ots=rKXGwjN4WZ&sig=QJkg_z31rxDVr1cjr53TqioA6rQ&hl=en#v=onepage&q=jihad%20al-binaa%2C%20agriculture&f=false

[13] See in Judith Palmer Harik, Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism, London: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2005, page 83. See on-line at: http://books.google.co.il/books?id=GhaRWhOowCkC&pg=PA90&lpg=PA90&dq=jihad+al-binaa,+agriculture&source=bl&ots=rKXGwjN4WZ&sig=QJkg_z31rxDVr1cjr53TqioA6rQ&hl=en#v=onepage&q=jihad%20al-binaa%2C%20agriculture&f=false

[14] See in Judith Palmer Harik, Hezbollah: The Changing Face of Terrorism, London: I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd., 2005, pp. 84-85. See on-line at: http://books.google.co.il/books?id=GhaRWhOowCkC&pg=PA90&lpg=PA90&dq=jihad+al-binaa,+agriculture&source=bl&ots=rKXGwjN4WZ&sig=QJkg_z31rxDVr1cjr53TqioA6rQ&hl=en#v=onepage&q=jihad%20al-binaa%2C%20agriculture&f=false; http://www.lebanonwire.com/0306/03060302DS.asp  

[15] See on-line at: http://www.lebanonwire.com/0306/03060302DS.asp

[16] See on-line at: http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArchiveDetails.aspx?ID=163124

[17] See on-line at: http://en.moqawama.org/essaydetailsf.php?eid=12310&fid=55

[18] See on-line at: http://www.lebanonwire.com/0306/03060302DS.asp

[19] See on-line at: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/2010/1006_jsou-report-10-5.pdf 

[20] See on-line at: http://www.internationalreportingproject.org/stories/detail/472/

 

The Launch of the Green Economy Initiative in the UAE

January 15, 2012

By Moshe Terdiman

January 2012

 

Introduction

On January 15, 2012, Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced the launch of a long-term national initiative to build green economy in the UAE under the slogan “A green economy for sustainable development”.

This initiative’s aims are threefold: to make the UAE one of the global pioneers in green economy, a hub for exporting and re-exporting green products and technologies, and a country preserving a sustainable environment that supports long-term economic growth. Sheikh Al Maktoum said that “our goal from this national initiative is clear, that is, to build an economy that protects the environment as well as an environment that supports the growth of the economy. We in the UAE, within the vision 2021, are striving to build a diversified economy based on knowledge and innovation, through which we can provide excellent employment opportunities to our citizens. Through this, we can protect our natural and environmental resources, and strengthen our competitive position in global markets, especially in the areas of renewable energy products and technologies on the green economy.” He added that “we are serious about the transformation of our development process to reach the first position on the global level. During the next nine years and up to the year 2021 we will launch a range of initiatives and projects in all areas to achieve our goal”.[1]

According to Sheikh Al Maktoum, the announcement coincides with the launch of the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, which will begin on January 18, 2012, in order to “reaffirm our commitments to the world of our serious endeavor to diversify energy sources and preserve the environment, as well as to become a model for all countries that want to strive to achieve the same goal”.[2] 

The green economy initiative consists of various programs, projects, legislation, and policies in six major fields, including: promoting the production and use of renewable energy and developing standards for energy consumption in the public and private sectors; encouraging investments in green economy and facilitating the production, import, export and re-export of green products and technologies; planning of green cities, green building, and environmental-friendly transportation; reducing carbon emissions from industrial and commercial sites, promoting organic agriculture, and maintaining biodiversity and the ecological balance in the UAE;  regulating the use of water resources, electricity, and natural resources, recycling water and promoting environmental education; and developing green technology, while its first phase includes carbon capture and conversion of water into energy.[3]  

UAE’s Vision 2021

The Green Economy initiative falls under the UAE’s Vision 2021 document, which was released by the UAE cabinet on February 7, 2010.[4] This document outlines the future challenges facing the UAE and how to best deal with them until the year 2021, when the UAE will celebrate its golden jubilee.

The UAE Vision 2021 specifically mentions the need to develop and promote renewable energy sources as one of the challenges facing the UAE. It says that “we want the UAE to sustain its drive toward economic diversification, as this is the nation’s surest path to sustainable development in a future that is less reliant on oil. This means expanding new strategic sectors to channel our energies into industries and services where we can build a long-term competitive advantage. Balanced growth must be fuelled by a sustainable range of energy sources, within which the UAE will ensure an important role for alternative and renewable options such as nuclear power”.[5]

Facing climate change and its effects on current and future generations as well as the need to protect and preserve the environment are central challenges which face the UAE, according to Vision 2021. It says that “in the face of humanity’s shared ecological challenges, we want the UAE to vigorously support international initiatives to protect the environment in full consciousness of its worldwide responsibility. As a global nation, the UAE is committed to playing its part in developing and implementing innovative solutions to protect and sustain the environment. New, energy-efficient technologies will harness the UAE’s pioneering role in the green revolution and reduce its carbon footprint. The government will act decisively to reduce the nation’s ecological deficit, promoting environmental awareness and responsible behavior among Emiratis. The UAE will mitigate the effects of climate change in order to safeguard its environment for current and future generations. The nation’s rich natural environment will be shielded from human-induced threats – both global and local – by preventive measures such as reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and regulations to defend fragile ecosystems from urban development. The Federation will safeguard Emiratis from harm in the event of large-scale natural or man-made environmental emergencies, guarantee the rights of present and future generations to clean air and water, and protect citizens from environmental health hazards. Anticipating the problems of tomorrow is the only reasonable way to preserve and enhance our way of life, acting with initiative in full awareness of our collective responsibility”.[6]

The Arab Green Economy Initiative

The Green Economy Initiative in the UAE has also been influenced by the Arab Green Economy Initiative, which was presented for the first time by Najib Sa’ab, the Secretary General of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED), at a special session held during the Global Ministerial Environment Forum, which convened in Nairobi on February 21-24, 2011. According to Najib Sa’ab, the Arab Green Economy Initiative aims at “transitioning from virtual economy based on real estate and financial speculation and depletion of resources, to the real economy based on sustainable growth combined with productive investment which creates new job opportunities”. Najib Sa’ab said that the Arab development agendas are facing demanding challenges, as populations grow fast and rapid economic growth strain institutional capacities and natural resources, such as water. He added that “Arab economies are requested to provide gainful employment to tens of millions over the next 10 years, alleviate poverty, address food and water security risks, drive economic growth, and adapt to climate change”. Sa’ab emphasized that these challenges demand strong action by Arab governments guided by a bold vision and concluded that a shift to a green economy can bolster the region’s economic competitiveness and diversify national incomes, while maintaining social stability, cultural identity, and environmental sustainability.[7]

The AFED is regarded throughout the Arab world as the leading and the most influential and important regional environmental organization that has become the main source of credible information on the state of Arab environment and policy options. According to its website, the “Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) is a not-for-profit regional non-governmental organization, grouping experts together with civil society, business community and media, to promote prudent environmental policies and programmes across the Arab region”. The AFED was officially established in Beirut on June 17, 2006, at the conclusion of a regional conference on Public Opinion and the Environment, organized by the Environment and Development magazine on the occasion of its tenth anniversary. The AFED is based in Beirut and has been endorsed by the Arab League and the UNEP.[8]  

The Arab Green Economy Initiative has won the backing of the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment (CAMRE) as well as other regional bodies, who have cooperated with the AFED to develop a joint Arab vision for green economy, which will be presented at Rio+20 Summit that will be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.

In the meantime, in October 2011, the Arab Forum for Environment and Development conducted its fourth annual conference on Green Economy in a Changing Arab World, held in Habtoor Grand Hotel, Beirut. The conference called on Arab governments to allocate a higher priority to agricultural rural development; to introduce a policy shift towards water demand management and fair water tariffs; to adopt national and regional strategies for energy efficiency, demand-side management, cleaner energy, and renewable energy;  to introduce municipal zoning regulations; to develop a national industrial policy that provides appropriate and favorable institutional and regulatory framework for low-carbon industries and research and development (R&D) capabilities; to make use of green solutions in buildings; to make sustained investments in mass public transportation in Arab cities; to adopt a resource management approach to municipal solid waste; to promote investments in converting organic food waste into compost and biogas, as well as waste-to-energy strategies; to develop a package of policy instruments to implement sustainable tourism practices in travel, hospitality, and recreational services, as well as community-based cultural tourism; to help in nature conservation and to support local economies. The conference also called on regional organizations and governments to activate the Arab Environment Facility and establish regional green economy initiatives, covering: research and development, renewable energy solutions, sustainable communities, cleaner production, sustainable agriculture, and regional transport networks.[9]

Summary

The UAE is the first Arab country to launch the green economy initiative. This initiative, which falls under the UAE Vision 2021 and under the Arab Green Economy Initiative, seems to be a natural continuity to the recent green economy initiatives in the UAE, such as the building of the Masdar City, the first green city in the world; the investment in the creation of renewable energy sources, including nuclear energy; and the development of greenhouse and organic agriculture. The UAE has also become the center of green building in the Arab world. Therefore, it has been only natural for the UAE to launch the green economy initiative.

Hopefully, more Arab countries will soon join the UAE in launching the green economy initiative, which has a good potential in some countries to boost even more socio-economic and environmental progress while in other countries it has a good potential to solve many acute and difficult socio-economical and environmental security challenges facing the Arab world.

Thus, future possible implementation of the green economy initiative in more Arab countries might shift the whole regional economy throughout the Middle East and North Africa into a green economy, which is much more sustainable than the current economy.


Swiss Business Council – Environment

December 18, 2011

Welcome to the Environmental Committee of the Swiss Business Council

The Swiss Business Council is the first business council in the UAE engaging in environmental conservation. With a specific environmental programme, we aim to involve our members and the entire Swiss community in the UAE to contribute to the conservation and improvement of the natural environment in the region.

In October 2009, the SBC formally established the SBC Environment Committee, which closely co-operates with the Swiss Business Hub GCC in Dubai, the Embassy of Switzerland in Abu Dhabi, and the Consulate General of Switzerland in Dubai.

On the occasion of the World Environment Day on 5 June 2010, the Swiss Environment Initiative was launched. For more information, please visit www.Swiss-Environment.org.

The winner of the “Swiss Business Council Environment Award 2010” is ABB UAE in appreciation of their valuable contribution to protect the UAE’s natural environment.

 

This piece is taken from the website of the Swiss Business Council.

See on-line at: http://www.swissbcuae.com/?rub=53

GHD – Abu Dhabi Emirate Environment

December 18, 2011

The Government of Abu Dhabi Emirate is committed to protecting and conserving the environment, and to protecting and promoting health and safety for all inhabitants of the Abu Dhabi Emirate.

As the Consultants for the Abu Dhabi Emirate Environment, Health and Safety Management System (EHSMS) Project, GHD has been working with the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency (EAD) since early 2007, to develop the EHSMS Regulatory Framework and associated Environmental Quality Standards and Technical Guidelines associated with water, land, air, noise, waste, biodiversity and health and safety.

In addition, GHD has been working for other clients on environmental impact assessment (EIA) projects and development of construction environmental management plans (CEMP’s) for a number of developments in Abu Dhabi. These projects have allowed GHD to gain a strong productive working relationship with EAD and a robust understanding of their environmental and permitting requirements and processes.

 

This piece is taken from the website of the GHD.

See on-line at: http://www.ghd.com/global/projects/abu-dhabi-emirate-environment/

Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI) – Our Story

December 18, 2011

Our Story

The lack of quality, quantifiable environmental data has proven a major hindrance to the global process of achieving sustainable development.

The result is that throughout the world socio-economic and environmental decision makers are being challenged to make vital decisions without the necessary data.

In this spirit, the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI) was launched on 2 September 2002, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as a Type II Initiative.

Today Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD)champions AGEDI locally, whilst the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) champions it regionally and globally.

Initially contributing to the development and launch of AGEDI was UAE’s concern about the approach and criteria used for the results of the Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI), produced by the World Economic Forum in February 2002. The UAE in this Index was ranked 141 out of 142 countries, with an ESI of 25.7.

It was recognised that the application of non-Region specific measures and associated indicators presented skewed results. The need to ensure readily accessible, accurate and relevant data from which to inform sound environmental management, monitoring and performance was emphasised.

Under the guidance of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan a Steering Panel was formed and entrusted with the responsibility of preparing the proposal to establish AGEDI. Made public on May 2, 2002, international dialogue then took place which initially promoted the Initiative in the United States and to the United Nations.

Today, AGEDI works with Partners, Members and stakeholders throughout the world to achieve a more sustainable future through ‘best-impact’ access to environmental and societal data. Our focus is on the support of developing countries and emerging economies. Amongst others our Partners (link to our partners subpage) include UNEP, EEA, MoEW and WWF-EWS.

We welcome you as part of our future.

 
 
 
This piece is taken from the website of the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI).
 
 

Sorouh – Environment

December 18, 2011

“With God’s will, we shall continue to work to protect our environment and our wildlife, as did our forefathers before us. It is a duty, and, if we fail, our children, rightly, will reproach us for squandering an essential part of their inheritance, and of our heritage.” Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, 1998

The Abu Dhabi Government considers that a more sustainable approach to building design is needed to meet the needs of future generations and to ensure sustainable development.

The Government recognizes the need to implement sustainable or ‘green’ building to consider all economic and environmental effects of construction. Green building minimizes the environmental impact of a building, while providing a safe, functional and comfortable living or working environment.

It embraces a holistic approach, sympathetically integrating the local and built environment with the underlining principles of minimizing the use of valuable resources, like water and energy. Simultaneously, it adheres to high standards of quality of performance in design, construction, operation, maintenance, and waste management.

The Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi is responsible for stipulating requirements necessary to implement green building.

Abu Dhabi’s sustainable buildings and communities program, Estidama, was launched on 28th May 2008 by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council in collaboration with the Environmental Agency of Abu Dhabi (EAD), Abu Dhabi Municipality, and Masdar – a global platform initiated in Abu Dhabi to identify solution to energy security, climate change and the development of expertise in sustainability.

 

This piece is taken from the website of Sorouh.

See on-line at: http://www.sorouh.com/en/article/abu-dhabi/abu-dhabi-environment.html

Sorouh – Estidama

December 18, 2011

The word Estidama means ‘sustainability’ in Arabic. However, the primary objective of the program is to ensure sustainable design, operation and maintenance of all types of buildings and communities in the Emirate.

Estidama Abu Dhabi’s sustainable buildings and communities program was launched on 28th May 2008 as a joint collaboration between the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council, The Environmental Agency, Abu Dhabi Municipality, and Masdar.
The word Estidama means ‘sustainability’ in Arabic.  However, the primary objective of the program is to ensure sustainable design, operation and maintenance of all types of buildings and communities in the Emirate. The first program of its kind that is tailored to the region, Estidama aims to promote a new “sustainability at large” mindset among the government, developers, operators and individuals.
Conceived to support the realization of Plan Abu Dhabi 2030, Estidama is initiated under the direction of Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council in collaboration with a number of government agencies and developers who share the vision to transform Abu Dhabi into the sustainable Arab capital.


Abu Dhabi
leads the world in creating the right environment for sustainable development, with specific sustainability principles. Sorouh Real Estate PJCS takes its role in developing Abu Dhabi’s future seriously, and follows these principles closely in its developments such as alghadeer and Shams Abu Dhabi.

Benefits of Estidama Program:
•    Reducing Energy Consumption
•    Reducing CO2 emission
•    Reducing Land Consumption
•    Raising the Quality of the Urban Environment
•    Reducing the Government Subsidies for Water and Energy
•    Sustaining the Image of Abu Dhabi

 

This piece is taken from the website of Sorouh.

See on-line at: http://www.sorouh.com/en/article/abu-dhabi/estidama.html

Geant Hypermarket Dubai – Environmental Policy

December 18, 2011

No-Plastic/ Jute Bag Campaign:

In order to encourage customers to reduce the use of plastic bags and look at alternatives i.e. environment friendly reusable jute bags, Geant / Le Marche introduced a 30 fils charge per plastic bag effective Feb 2008. The customer has the option of returning the plastic bag for which the amount of 30 fils shall be returned to the customer. The proceeds raised through the contribution by the customers are being donated to the EWS-WWF led Environmental education and awareness programmed. Reusable jute bags of 2 sizes are available at Geant / Le Marche at a price of Dhs 5/- & Dhs 7/- respectively.

Customer Awareness in Geant/Le Marche stores: 

Glimpses of the environment degradation and the impact on the wildlife due to usage of plastic bags have been put up in the form of posters across Geant/Le Marche stores. Additionally, other cashiers are trained to ask the customer whether they really need plastic bags.

Interactive Enviro-Spellathon:

Effective October 2008, Geant / Le Marche  supports the EWS-WWF Interactive Enviro-spellathon which was launched to educate the children about the natural habitats of the UAE and provides important lessons on how to care for and protect the local environment.

Art Competition:

In order to inspire young artists with “No-plastic” initiative coupled with artistic talents of young students from the schools across the UAE, Geant/ Le Marche also sponsored the environment art competition in May 2009. The various art works including the prize winning entry were on display in the Ibn Battuta Mall.  The best individual painting was the theme “Wildlife of the seas” and the student was awarded a laptop computer. A prize was also awarded to the best school for the highest standards of the entries.

Environmental Adventure Day: 

Students with the various art work entries were sponsored for an Environment Adventure Day where the students were given an opportunity to explore the natural habitat in the Fujairah Wadi which is home to several rare and endangered wildlife species.

Since February 2008, a total contribution of about Dhs 600,000/- has been made to the EWS-WWF and this initiative has continued to benefit UAE environment through the sponsored joint initiative of EWS-WWF & Geant/ Le Marche.

 

This piece is taken from the website of Geant Hypermarket Dubai.

See on-line at: http://www.geant-uae.com/supermarket_enviromental_policy

The Green Profile of the Grand Mufti of Egypt

October 31, 2011

     

   The Green Profile of the Grand Mufti of Egypt

   by Moshe Terdiman

   October 2011

Introduction

Sheikh Ali Gomaa is the Grand Mufti of Egypt since September 2003 and one of the highest ranking and respected religious authorities throughout the Sunni world. He holds the second highest religious position in Egypt, after that of Sheikh al-Azhar. As the Grand Mufti, he oversees the premier institution throughout the Muslim world for religious legal direction, Dar al-Iftaa.

Sheikh Ali Gomaa was born on March 3, 1952 in Bani Suwaif in Upper Egypt. After graduating from college, Sheikh Ali Gomaa enrolled in al-Azhar University. In 1988, he obtained a PhD from the al-Azhar’s University’s Department of Shari’ah and Law. During the 1990s, Sheikh Ali Gomaa served as a Professor of Juristic Methodologies in the al-Azhar University. In addition, as from the mid-1990s, he reestablished the tradition of giving informal lessons in the al-Azhar Mosque. In these lessons, Sheikh Ali Gomaa succeeded to convert Muslims who used to hold extremist views into Muslims who hold a more moderate Islamic approach. In 1998, Sheikh Ali began delivering the Friday sermon at Cairo’s Sultan Hasan Mosque.[1]

Sheikh Ali Gomaa has taken a very clear stance against extremist interpretations of Islam and has become one of the most explicitly anti-extremist clerics in mainstream Sunni Islam. According to him, the use of violence to spread Islam is prohibited and the problem of the radical Muslims is that they have not been educated in genuine centers of Islamic learning. As from the 1990s, he used to go to the prisons and work with radical Muslim prisoners, who denounced violence and embraced the Nonviolence Initiative.[2]

In addition, Sheikh Ali Gomaa is in favor of dialogue and understanding with other religions. He is one of the signatories of A Common Word between Us and You, an open letter dated October 13, 2007, which was written by Islamic scholars to Christian leaders, calling for peace and understanding between the followers of both religions.[3] Moreover, Sheikh Ali Gomaa is a signatory of the Amman Message, which gives a broad foundation for defining Muslim orthodoxy, states that nobody has the right to excommunicate a Muslim, and restricts the issuing of fatwas (religious rulings) to those with the scholarly qualifications to do so.[4] Furthermore, he has publicly asserted that the famous anti-Semitic book, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, is a forgery.

Sheikh Ali Gomaa also issued some controversial fatwas, whose aim is to strive to show the continued relevance of Islam for people living in the 21st century, such as: the permission to sell pork and alcohol in the West; the equal political rights enjoyed by men and women in Islam, including the right to become president of a modern state; and the prohibition of female circumcision.   

As part of his progressive and modern thinking and his wish to show the continued relevance of Islam for people living in the 21st century, Sheikh Ali Gomaa made Dar al-Iftaa a modern institution with a fatwa council, systems of checks and balances, a website and a call center, through which people may ask for fatwas even if they cannot come in person to the institution.[5]   

Sheikh Ali Gomaa’s progressive and modern thinking is also reflected in his statements and fatwas concerning the environment. In this article, I would like to focus on Sheikh Ali Gomaa’s environmental ideology and activity.

Sheikh Ali Gomaa’s Green Ideology

The question of how to utilize religious teachings to solve current environment-related problems has become a priority in Sheikh Ali Gomaa’s agenda. He believes that the religious traditions can offer us moral ways and principles for dealing with current environmental issues. In his speech in front of the Parliament of World Religions in Melbourne on December 10, 2009, which was titled “the Role of Religion in Preserving the Environment”, Sheikh Ali Gomaa said that despite the fact that “in our day we are struggling with a number of issues related to the environment such as climate change, the pollution of the air, oceans, seas, and waterways, and the challenges of feeding a growing global population” and despite the fact that “many of these issues are relatively new so that our forebears did not address them explicitly, our religious traditions do offer us worldviews and principles that aid us in finding solutions to our contemporary problems”.[6]

In order to stress this point, Sheikh Ali Gomaa used to cite in his speeches dealing with environmental issues one Qur’anic phrase and one hadith: “Do not sow corruption in the earth after it has been set in order: this is better for you, if you are believers” [7:85]; and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Those who plant a tree and patiently tend to it until it bears fruit will have the reward of giving charity for everything that it produces”.[7]

Sheikh Ali Gomaa has been outspoken on environmental sustainability. On November 2, 2009, on his speech at the Alliance of Religions and Conservation conference at Windsor Castle, Sheikh Ali Gomaa said that “it is a religious duty to safeguard our environment and advocate the importance of preserving it. Pollution and global warming pose an even greater threat than war and the fight to preserve the environment could be the most positive way of bringing humanity together. Environment-related issues ought to be a significant component of educational curricula. It is the duty of all religious scholars to acquaint themselves with the environmental crisis we are facing”.[8]

According to Sheikh Ali Gomaa, in order to reach environmental sustainability, Muslims should understand that their role from an Islamic point of view is to be God’s vicegerents or deputies on earth. As such, they are responsible to care for and maintain the world while benefiting from what the world has to offer. However, Muslims shouldn’t overexploit, use, and abuse the world and its resources for their own purposes since, as Sheikh Ali Gomaa said, “it is a shared right that God has established for all living beings and we do not have the authority to deprive even animals of their rights”.[9] In another speech, Sheikh Ali Gomaa elaborated more on this point and said that “according to the Islamic paradigm, human beings are the vice regents of God on earth and will be judged in the hereafter for their actions and held accountable for the way they handled the environment. Humankind is not free to consume or pollute carelessly. Preserving nature and preventing corruption in earth is one of the core responsibilities of all believers”.[10] In fact, Sheikh Ali Gomaa said that if the Muslims take good care of the environment, they will be rewarded with goodness, but if they abuse it and leave it to ruin, they will meet a frightful end as stated in the Qur’an: “those who break their covenant with God after it has been confirmed, who sever the bonds that God has commanded to be joined, who spread corruption on the earth – those are the losers” [2:27].[11]

Thus, according to Sheikh Ali Gomaa, “one of the key characteristics of humankind’s role as deputies in the world is balance. We must find a balance between benefiting from the blessings that the world has to offer us, and preserving the order that God has established. We must find a balance between securing our own needs while not depriving others of theirs, whether those others reside in different parts of the world, such as less powerful nations, or in different times, such as our children and grandchildren. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: All of creation are God’s dependents, and the most beloved of God’s servants to Him are those that are the most beneficial to His dependents. If we take seriously our role as God’s deputies on earth, not just by benefiting from the environment, but by preserving it and ensuring that other communities and generations will have the same possibilities to drink clean water, breath fresh air, and live in a world that is in harmony with itself and with ourselves, we may hope to be among those who are beloved to God due to their care for His creation”.[12]

In fulfilling their role, Muslims have to collaborate with followers of other religions, because, basically, all humanity shares the responsibility to preserve the world. In his speech at the Alliance of Religions and Conservation conference at Windsor Castle on November 2, 2009, Sheikh Ali Gomaa stressed this point by saying that “we envision a world that is environmentally safe for our children and the next generations where all nations of all religions live in harmony with nature and enjoy justice and fair share of God’s bounties”.[13]

From Ideology to Practice

Putting theory into practice, Dar al-Iftaa will be the first establishment in Egypt to be declared carbon-free by the end of 2011.[14] Sheikh Ali Gomaa mentioned this already in his speech at the Alliance of Religions and Conservation conference at Windsor Castle on November 2, 2009, where he said that “I am also very pleased to share with you that Egypt’s Dar Al Iftaa, over which I preside, has started taking practical steps to go carbon neutral in 2010.”[15] furthermore, Dar al-Iftaa organized and participated in international forums and conferences which deal with environmental issues, such as the Alexandria Conference on the Sacredness of Water to the Religions, which brought together Muslims and Christians.[16]

Besides, Dar al-Iftaa and Sheikh Ali Gomaa issue environmental fatwas. For example, in 2007, Sheikh Ali Gomaa issued a fatwa in which he prohibited the farmers from the burning of rice and cotton waste after the harvest. The farmers in the Governorates of Sharqiyyah, Gharbiyyah, Qaliubiyyah, Kafr al-Sheikh, Buhayrah, and Daqahliyyah –the six Governorates with the highest level of rice harvesting in Egypt – have been traditionally used to burn their rice and cotton waste in the fall of every year. The smoke which comes out of this burning together with the vehicle exhaust fumes and industrial pollution add to Cairo’s already heavy pollution and as from 1999 result in a dark layer of smog over Cairo which has been known as the “black cloud”, especially in the months of October and November. This smog has affected children the most. They tend to suffer from difficulty in breathing, lung diseases, asthma or eye infections.[17]

In order to fight air pollution over Cairo, Dar al-Iftaa issued a fatwa in which it prohibits the farmers to burn rice and cotton waste. The reason is that the burning of rice waste is considered by Sheikh Ali Gomaa as one of the acts that causes harm to the environment and, therefore, is prohibited in Islam. As a justification for this ban, the fatwa cited Prophet Muhammad, who said that “there should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm”. The fatwa condemns people involved in the practice and regards them as “causing destruction… without any justification and this is a major sin which the Qur’an forbids”. This fatwa concerns also those who wish to burn this waste to exterminate germs or insects in the land, because there are other methods that are less harmful. Dar al-Iftaa also requested government authorities to provide environmentally friendly alternatives to farmers to get rid of rice waste.[18]

As a result of this fatwa, the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs launched in November 2008 an awareness campaign targeting the farmers in the Governorates of Sharqiyyah, Gharbiyyah, Qaliubiyyah, Kafr al-Sheikh, Buhayrah, and Daqahliyyah using SMS and a hotline. Text messages saying that the burning of rice waste is bad for the environment were circulated among the farmers. The Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs also held a number of workshops teaching farmers how to recycle rice waste and safe methods of disposal. It also promoted other usage of rice waste such as animal feed, organic fertilizer and greatly supporting and promoting the industries which rely on the rice waste as a primary source of energy, such as paper production.[19]      

Sheikh Ali Gomaa’s environmental agenda has not been limited to Egypt alone. He took an active part in Muslim gatherings as well as in multi-religious gatherings, such as the Parliament of World Religions which convened in Melbourne on December 10, 2009 or the Alliance of Religions and Conservation conference which was held at Windsor Castle on November 2, 2009 and gave speeches dealing with the need to preserve the environment.

In these gatherings and conferences he has not spoken only on behalf of himself and his green ideology but has also represented all the Sunni Muslims. For example, in his speech at the Alliance of Religions and Conservation conference at Windsor Castle on November 2, 2009, Sheikh Ali Gomaa said on behalf of all Muslims that “we envision a world that is environmentally safe for our children and the next generations where all nations of all religions live in harmony with nature and enjoy justice and fair share of God’s bounties. We are committed to contribute to the ongoing global efforts dealing with climate change based on the Muslim Seven Year action plan that reflects Islamic principles and values. Muslim Association for Climate Change Action (MACCA) has been founded to be responsible for implementing the plan. The response to this action plan that we launched in Istanbul has been remarkable in a lot of ways and practical steps to execute the plan are underway. Major Islamic cities are to declare the Green status soon, such as Sala in Morocco and al-Madinah in Saudi Arabia”. Only at the very end of his speech, Sheikh Ali Gomaa spoke on behalf of himself and said: “I am also very pleased to share with you that Egypt’s Dar Al Iftaa, over which I preside, has started taking practical steps to go carbon neutral in 2010.”[20]

Together with other Sunni and Shi’ite religious scholars, Sheikh Ali Gomaa supported the Muslim Seven Year Action Plan on Climate Change 2010 – 2017, which was declared in Istanbul following an unprecedented gathering of some 200 key Muslim leaders, scholars, civil society members and government ministries from throughout the Muslim world which was convened on July 6-7, 2009.. This action plan proposes establishing institutional enabling framework; developing overall capacity to deal with climate change and environmental conservation; developing and enhancing communication, outreach, and partnerships; activating and reviving implementation of previous initiatives, plans, and declarations; investigating every level of Muslim activity from daily life to annual pilgrimages, from holy cities to the future training of imams; developing the major Muslim cities as green city models for other Islamic urban areas; developing an Islamic label for environmentally friendly goods and services; and creating a best practice environmental guide for Islamic businesses”.[21]

Sheikh Ali Gomaa also wrote a book titled “The Environment and Its Protection from an Islamic Point of View”, in which he put into paper his green ideology.

Conclusion

Sheikh Ali Gomaa has positioned himself at the forefront of the Muslim effort to tackle climate change, which he regards as the most threatening and important challenge facing humanity in the 21st century. He took practical steps so that Dar Al Iftaa, the premier Sunni institution, will be carbon neutral in 2011. He issued a fatwa prohibiting a common custom of Egyptian farmers for the sake of not causing harm to people and the environment. He gave environmental speeches in front of multi-religious gatherings, in which he has spoken in the name of all Muslims. All this makes Sheikh Ali Gomaa a central and leading figure in the Muslim effort to tackle climate change.

There is no doubt that Sheikh Ali Gomaa’s thorough Islamic education and knowledge helped him use Islamic texts in order to deal with current environmental problems. But, what has made him better suited to represent the Sunnites and, sometimes, all Muslims in multi-religious gatherings talking about the environment from an Islamic point of view has been his belief in dialogue, understanding and cooperation with followers of other religions.

From this point of view, Sheikh Ali Gomaa has not been only a Muslim environmental influential leader but also a worldwide influential religious environmental leader, who — through his example, speeches, and ideology —  has inspired many other religious scholars, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, to use religious traditions in order to preserve the environment.     


[3] See on-line at: http://www.acommonword.com/ 

[4] See on-line at: http://www.ammanmessage.com/