by Derek Wall

Politics can get you down: banal arguments … shallow Machivellianism … the ruthless use of rhetoric to advance the careers of those whose psychological weaknesses make them long to be leaders.

This is especially hard to take when you are involved in ecological politics, which is based on the premise that without some pretty deep thinking and swift action, the whole of humanity will be in danger. But every now and again I come across people and movements that I find really inspiring.

One of these is the eco-Islam movement and this weekend will see a London-based conference event, Climate Change & Muslims: Developing a Grassroots Movement (part of the International Climate Conference at the London School of Economics).

Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, proclaims the importance of humanity’s stewardship over nature. The threat of climate change is of particular concern to Muslim activists today, for both practical and theological reasons. I am not a believer in any shape of deity, but I have to recognise the strength of the Koran where it states that “But waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters.” (Quran: 7:31).

The Sufi writer Hossein Nasr, in a series of important books, has been advocating Islamic environmentalism since the 1970s. The Quran states without ambiguity that humanity is to act as “caliph” to the rest of nature, ie not dominating, but rather working to preserve and maintain global ecology – humanity should make gardens instead of working to satisfy greed.

There are several environmental Islam groups in the UK, and Khalid Hussenbux, my colleague on the Green Party executive, has also been working hard to network the message. Muzammal Hussain of LINE, the London Islamic Network for the Environment, has organised this weekend’s Islam and climate change event, and further written an important study.

LINE runs excellent monthly meetings; Ewa Jasiewicz’ talk on the privatisation of Iraqi oil, was a recent highlight. It is planning an Islamic environmental awayday to look at green projects in Brighton and, in an imaginative action, its members dressed up in wetsuits to draw attention in Brick Lane to highlight the threat of rising tides to low-lying Bangladesh.

Other initiatives from green Muslims range from organic fastbreaking to an Islamic green farm in Oxfordshire.

The Sufi strain of Islam – poetic, meditative and tolerant – has long been linked to ecology; however Ecological commitment needs no specifically religious impulse, there are of course, many secular greens, yet eco-Islam, like other spiritual ecologies, both diversifies the movement and makes us think deeply about the big issues. Ecology ought to be about more than screwing in some energy saving lightbulbs and recycling paper napkins, for it surely prompts profound questions about humanity and the rest of “creation”.

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