Muslim voices against climate injustice
Despite being disproportionately impacted by the climate emergency globally, Muslim communities are under-represented in the climate movement. A new campaign – Two Billion Strong – aims to change that and encourage more Muslims to speak up against climate injustice, as Zahrah Vawda and Nazia Sultana explain.
What does Two Billion Strong aim to do?
By bringing together influential Muslims in the community and Muslim climate activists and experts in the UK and globally, the newly launched Two Billion Strong campaign aims to increase conversations about climate change and increase representation of Muslims within the climate space.
We want to inspire Muslims to believe in their ability to change the direction of the climate crisis and demand their voices are represented, recognised and valued. Having a conversation is the first step to making change.
Where did the idea for the campaign come from?
The campaign was initially inspired by a Global Islamic Climate Movement campaign in Indonesia, which was supported by ‘social impact’ agency Purpose Climate Lab. One of the Lab’s objectives is to engage new and underrepresented audiences in climate action.
Its UK-based team was interested in piloting a similar campaign to mobilise the Muslim community in the UK and set about partnering with community activists and influencers to create Two Billion Strong.
The global Muslim community is two billion strong and counting. It’s also two billion people experiencing the impacts of climate change in many different ways. Ourselves and our families are on the frontline of climate change: we’re in the countries and communities that are being most affected.
We’re currently seeing people in the richest and most powerful positions across the globe turn a blind eye to solutions for the world’s many injustices. But we are also at a time of unity and resistance. We’re seeing movements and solutions from the community – our global community – in all corners of the world.
Why do you think Muslim voices have been underrepresented in the climate justice movement?
There is a lack of Muslim representation in the mainstream portrayal of climate change, and Two Billion Strong aims to change that. Mainstream media often show white, middle-class people at the forefront of climate change activism.
Understanding the intersectionality of climate and social injustice helps us understand why the mainstream portrayal of climate action can make it feel so inaccessible to many Muslims.
Climate change is also a topic that comes across less tangibly than other injustices – even though it’s happening now and impacting us in so many ways. Paired with the lack of representation of Muslims – and people of colour in general – in climate and environmental spaces, this makes it easy for the movement and its actions to feel distant and disconnected.
That’s not to say Muslim voices don’t exist in the climate justice movement. What we’re seeing from the campaign is how many Muslims are involved or interested in doing more.
Despite being so interconnected, the conversations around Islam and the environment often sit quite separately and that’s what we want to change: the practices in Islam, rooted in justice and love for the planet and people, are the same practices that can guide us toward a more equitable future.
Who is involved in Two Billion Strong?
Two Billion Strong is a collective of activists, experts and influential Muslims. Our activists include: Syed Jazib Ali, a documentary maker; Mohammed Nasif, an analyst for climate think tank InfluenceMap; and Amirah Iqbal, who works with EcoIslam (the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences) as a climate activist.
The campaign has also worked with actor and poet Ashley Belal Chin, cook and content creator Ilhan Abdi, and Mariah Idrissi, the world’s first hijab-wearing model.
What social media campaigns and events have you delivered so far?
On 13 January, we launched our first digital campaign, showcasing our climate activists and influential Muslims; each one produced climate change content on Instagram and TikTok.
Ashley Belal Chin produced a spoken word piece about the importance of looking after the Earth, book reviewer Aisha Yusuff showcased literature that explores Islam and the environment, and Ilhan Abdi demonstrated how we can be more sustainable when it comes to cooking.
On 15 February, we hosted our first in-person event in collaboration with Emerald Network in London called ‘Muslim Voices on Climate Action’. The panel discussion was also streamed live on Emerald Network’s social media channels.
We have also worked with Islam Channel, which gave our climate activists a slot on its ‘The Today Show’, a live talk show that champions and celebrates the achievements of Muslims.
From a personal point of view, why did you decide to get involved in the collective?
[Nazia] My identity as a Muslim plays a major role in my passion for caring about the environment. Islam is a holistic religion that provides Muslims with the framework to live an ethical, sustainable and moral life and I enjoy exploring Islam’s stance on looking after the Earth.
Joining Two Billion Strong was an exciting chance to work together with like-minded individuals and inspire Muslims to recognise the important role they play in tackling the climate crisis.
How can people get involved in Two Billion Strong?
We are encouraging Muslims to talk to their peers, family, mosque or community group about climate change – they can download a toolkit from our website for some talking points.
They can also get connected with our influencers, activists and experts through our website and Instagram page, as well as post on social media, tagging us @twobillionstrong and using the hashtag #TwoBillionStrong.
The more people talking about climate change, the stronger our movement will become.
Zahrah Vawda is a writer, media-maker and visual storyteller exploring nature and human connections. Her work sets out to explore local environments, challenge eco-stereotypes and highlight everyday nature.
Nazia Sultana is the founder of Sustainably Muslim – which aims to inspire and empower Muslims to serve the environment and their community through education and social action – and a speaker, workshop facilitator and consultant focusing on faith-based activism.
Photo © Khalil Musa
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Runnymede Trust