Everywhere I look lately, I feel as though I can not escape negative press and stories about the second largest religion in the world. This sort of rhetoric is distressing and a little scary, especially in such a tolerant nation. What I don’t see in the presses is the positive impact Islam has on individuals and communities. Often the mainstream media picks up the sensational story and shies away from the positive, “boring” stories. However, aside from all the rhetoric and negative focus in the media, Islam, like any religion, has a positive impact.
One exciting new trend we have heard about in the Islam world is the focus on Green. More and more followers of this religion are focusing on the Quran’s lessons on the environment. Although unreported in the mainstream media, the Huffington Post recently published a fantastic article entitled “Muslims Go Green For Ramadan,” about one Israeli man who began an environmental movement within his religion. Mohammad Rabah created a national conference to educate imams on the greener side to the Quran, creating videos and other educational materials. Rabah aims to show imams as well as the world that the Quran teaches the ”importance of moderation, conservation and environmentalism.”
This idea especially becomes important during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, which already inspires conservation. Rabah’s message has been picked up by many in the Islamic community around the world, encouraging them to conserve everything from gas to water. The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago organized a “Green Ramadan” and even handed out “Green Ramadan Resource Packs,” which provided information on recycling and sustainable paper products. Zaher Sahloul, a chairperson on the council, relates his insight: “Our lives are becoming full of excesses and indulgences. We use fasting in Ramadan to cap our eating, our drinking and our impulses, so why do we not use it to protect our planet?“
Beyond the month of Ramadan, the Green Islamic Movement is spreading throughout the world. In the UK a group called Inspired by Muhammed focuses on the socially progressive teachings of Islam such as animal welfare, environmentalism, and human rights. Here in the States, there are several environmental Muslim groups such as the grassroots Muslim Green Team and the US capital city’s DC Green Muslims. Another exciting development in the Green Islam world is the construction of the now hotly-contested Park 51 in New York City, which will be the country’s first LEED-certified Islamic community center, a fact also ignored by many in the media.
It is interesting how religion, faith, and spirituality can tie into one’s commitment to the environment, but I think it is an important development. Our Earth is something we all have in common, no matter what creed or lack there-of we subscribe to. I think it is essential that we highlight the reasons people care about the environment, all groups that are involved in the movement, and make new, exciting developments known. I find it inspirational that so many Islamic groups and devotees are drawing from the teachings of this religion to better our environment. However, I do wish mainstream media and the public at large would pay closer attention to the positive side of religion and let go of their negative emotions, preconceived notions and stereotypes, so together we can focus on making our world a better place.