Spotlight: Kamran Shezad
The sustainability advisor and congregation member of the Bahu Trust explains how the charity won ‘Best Green Initiative’ at the British Beacon Mosque Awards.
The Bahu Trust describes its environmental work as ‘faith-based’ – what does that mean?
An estimated 80% of the world’s population associates themselves with a faith. A place of faith, whether it’s a mosque, a church, a synagogue or a temple, has the power to influence those who attend to worship. The majority of holy books and scriptures, such as the Quran, the Torah and the Bible, contain vast amounts of teachings on nature and the environment.
The Bahu Trust represents 22 mosques across the UK, and we are using these teachings to influence change in people’s behaviours around sustainability. An environmental message from their faith leaders has the potential to bring about change and is an added resource in the fight against climate change.
Your work is said to be inspired by the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change – tell us about that.
The declaration is a universal response towards climate change and its impact on our daily lives, which is grounded in Islamic principles that are common to all Muslims. It is based on Islamic environmental ethics and incorporates Quranic verses and examples from the prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is the responsibility of all Muslims to tackle human-influenced global climate change.
The declaration goes on to call on all Muslims, “wherever they may be, to tackle the root causes of climate change, environmental degradation, and the loss of biodiversity”. It essentially represents the ‘Muslim voice’ within climate change discourse, and has been drafted by Dr Fazlun Khalid, founder-director of the Islamic Foundation for Ecological and Environmental Sciences (IFEES/EcoIslam). Dr Khalid is one of the most influential and leading Islamic scholars on the environment.
What are some of the environmental projects the Bahu Trust has been involved in?
‘Talking the talk’ is very important, but it is just as imperative to ‘walk the walk’. The Bahu Trust has been highlighting to its community what actions they can take in order to move towards a sustainable lifestyle. It has taken steps to educate the community and raise awareness, which began by training our imams on the connections between their faith and their responsibility as stewards of this earth. Imams are potential change-makers, and they need to be well-equipped if the right message is to be given from the pulpit. Since then, 12 of our 22 mosques have installed solar panels and converted to renewable energy. Educational sermons and messages have been developed, and we have held plastic-free events and carried out community clean-ups of local streets.
Do you ever collaborate with people from other faiths?
We are involved with Footsteps – Faiths For A Low Carbon Future. It is a wonderful interfaith organisation in Birmingham that brings together members of the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu and pagan faiths, as well as people of no faith at all. The common ground between us all is that, no matter what our theological beliefs are, all our faiths tell us to care for the planet – we have a duty to be guardians of this Earth.
The network allows everyone to come together to share good practice and hold joint educational events.
Do you have any other future environmental projects planned?
The Bahu Trust is keen to expand on its existing work. A new module, ‘Islam and the Environment’, will be added to the supplementary school. We are looking to expand our educational resources to include web-based resources, videos and toolkits. The Bahu Trust is also looking to develop an ‘EcoMosque’ set of standards (in line with EcoChurch and EcoSynagogue) to give mosque management members some guidelines on how to green up their mosque and reduce their carbon footprint.
There are two important points here. First: Islam, as a faith, is essentially environmental. Second: Muslims have been found to be particularly motivated by their faith. The challenge is that Muslims are not always aware of the first point. Through educating Muslims into understanding the environmental dimensions and responsibilities of their faith, we can potentially bring two billion people on board to tackle climate change. We need everybody on the planet to work together for a sustainable future.