#Greening Up in Berlin

A diary of my #GreenUp experience:

My name is Lucie Jíchová and I recently attended a seminar led by FEMYSO alongside British NGO MADE in Europe, which took place in Berlin from the 16th – 21st December 2012. It marked the first leg of the campaign which aims to “Green up our communities” in the coming year, 2013, targeting at least 20 mosques in 10 European countries. In fact, there were more than 10 countries represented at the seminar itself: France, Italy, UK, Germany, Holland, the Czech republic, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Azerbaijan, Belgium.
The ‘Green up my community!’ campaign’s tagline was “Follow your deen, be green!” and this was the principle instilled in us throughout the seminar: how integral environmentalism is to an islamic lifestyle. It is a must, to be eco-friendly and to try to improve our current situation. We, as Muslims, have a duty to be a good example for all, and according to al-Quran pollution and wastage are prohibited/Haram! (al-Quran 29:30, 55:8, 4:32, 4:29, 17:35).
The programme was intense. The course trained young European Muslims in new campaigning tools and skills, and educated us about global development issues including climate change, trade justice and global inequalities. We were trained and empowered to change our habits and practices and those of our local institutions, mosques and communities through a series of interesting and interactive workshops and presentations.

Day 1: Monday 17th December

There were the usual introductions, and then we delved into the topic of ‘Environmental crisis: Can we really make a difference?’ which resulted in a resounded answer of “YES, WE CAN!” from all those present.This was followed by further presentations on Islam and the environment by Fazlun Khalid from IFEES (Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Science) which re-introduced us to some of the basic views within Islam on lifestyle and pollution. It soon became abundantly clear that Islam brings a message of peace with the environment (al-Quran 2:30) and that pollution is haram (al- Quran 28:77, 2:205, 7:31, verses about water: 21:30, 55:9). There are many hadiths talking about the environment, for example, Plant a tree even if it is your last deed:
‘Anas (May Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “If the Hour (the day of Resurrection) is about to be established and one of you was holding a palm shoot, let him take advantage of even one second before the Hour is established to plant it.” (Authenticated by Al-Albani)’

We were also lucky to have Dr. Mark Lawrence from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) come and speak to us about climate engineering. Ideas about religion and climate engineering are based on our basic understanding of the earth and its cycles. The current situation is horrible: in simple terms:
Development + Progress = Destruction + Pollution.
The primary question in our minds was now, “how do we fix this?”
These two lectures were followed by presentations by two german organisations, Hima and Nour Energy. Both of them are the proof that we can make a change, helping us to answer the question of how we can help. For example, Nour Energy has created projects such as Mevlana Moschee and Emir Sultan Moschee, both mosques that they have worked with in Germany to help reduce their carbon footprint. As a result in 25 years both mosques will avoid 606.600kg emission in total, which also means a large financial saving.
Hima is quite a new organisation, founded in 2010. They started with a question:How green is Islam? They concentrate their activities on giving lectures on Islam and the environment, organising Fairtrade breakfasts, cleaning up the city, iftars, planting trees, and similar actions. They also cooperate with other organisations from across the public spectrum that have similar goals like ‘Jews Go Green’.
It was an inspirational end to the first day.

Day 2: Tuesday 18th December

“God loves those who are fair and just.” Qur’an (49:9)
The theme of the day was Trade Justice and Islam. To highlight the importance of this issue we had the privilege of meeting Atif Choudhury from the Zaytoun Institute and Oussama Mezoui from MADE in Europe who not only explained to us the principles of Fairtrade but demonstrated the positive effects it can have. Buying Fairtrade products is recognised as giving sadaqa (charity). Not only that but it is in keeping with the basic ethics of Islam and living a just lifestyle which doesn’t impact negatively on others. Atif Choudhury’s organisation helps Palestinians to get their products (especially olive oil) to the European markets, giving them a fair price for their goods, thus helping poor Palestinian farmers maintain their land and livelihood and provides a fair living to their families. There are many examples in Islam which emphasise this aspect:
“Deal not unjustly, and you shall not be dealt with unjustly” Qur’an (2:279)
“A truthful and trustworthy merchant will be in the company of the Prophets, the upright and the martyrs.” (reported by Tirmidhi)
“Allah shows mercy to a man who is kind when he sells, when he buys and when he makes a claim.” (reported by Bukhari)
“Give full measure and full weight in justice, and wrong not people in respect to their goods.” Qur’an (11:85)

Day 3: Wednesday 19th December

This was a day of action. The baton was passed to us and we were asked to take on the challenge of change. We now tried to prepare our own local campaigns, bringing together our own ideas as we were inspired by the ideas of these three successful organisations- HIMA, NOURenergie and EcoMosque.
During the afternoon we also got a chance to visit the office of the Grüne Jugend (youth part of German green party) and the Sehitlik moschee/mosque. Further inspiration for our cause. This was the main aim of the seminar after all, to inspire us and help us take action for ourselves so we can go home and make change that will green up our own communities.

Day 4: Thursday 20th December
Now we really got stuck into our campaigns and building our own projects. We concentrated on practical things like building our campaign team, planning our campaigns, etc. Using the skills that had been imparted to us throughout the training session to do so. The seminar gave us the opportunity to take our ideas in hand and start building our campaigns even before we went home so that we were already rolling out a plan on our return.
We based these plans around the main ideas of the ‘Green up my community!’ campaign. There were many ideas; Firstly, we should all start doing basic things in our mosques/communities. For example, do not use plastic bottles, instead use tap water and carry a reusable bottle which you can fill up from any tap (in the Czech republic it’s definitely possible to drink tap water and it’s really not unhealthy like many assume!), turn lights off when you leave the office or your house, do not waste energy and water for nothing. Remember this is your Earth, you are Khalifa on it (caretakers) and so you must take care of it. In the same way this is your mosque, you must help change it. Help organize events and raise awareness. Everyone of us can help- buy food, glass cups, light bulbs, etc. We can also contact embassies and other NGOs to provide help, our children can plant trees or flowers in local parks.

A Note of thanks

On a more personal note, as a Czech Muslim I was very happy to get a chance to participate in this seminar that gave me such a great wealth of experience. I met amazing people from all around Europe who only reinforced my faith that I had chosen the right path when I accepted Islam as my religion. I wish I could meet more Muslims like them!
It was beautiful to pray in their presence, all together and at the same time. It was an excellent experience to work with them on our projects. I thank them so much for all their support and I look forward to our next meeting, insha’Allah, because, as I said before, these seminars were just the beginning….
A big thanks to all the participants and organisers. A special thanks to the IPC and trainers Najatte Kaaoiss (Belgium), Oussama Mezoui (UK), Sadia Kidwai (UK), Intissar Kherigi (UK), Julie-Noor Pascoet (Belgium), Saida Ounissi (France), Morad Bouras (Germany) and Ali Karaca (Germany).


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