The road to Paris – COP21

This post is written by Zunaira Malik. She is an Islamic Relief volunteer and a passionate environmentalist. She is trying to raise awareness in our community to help us to save the environment and tackle climate change.

She went to Paris with Islamic Relief to attend the COP21 and this is her reflection on what she experienced. For the original post on the Islamic relief website please follow this link:


For those of us who are unaware, this month world leaders have been in Paris discussing law binding policies on how they will work to minimise climate change.

The first thing we did when we got to Paris was joining a conference called ‘People Power Action’ organised by Friends of the Earth International where different organisations and people represented the work they were involved in through art and took part in some amazing discussions. Muslim Climate Action were the only large Muslim group there so of course we made a masjid structure out of boxes (where there’s Muslims there’s a masjid structure). There were some fantastic discussions we were a part of and no doubt a great opportunity for dawah as we spoke about what our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught us, how our Islamic principles are so connected to nature and living consciously and it was great to see that people were presently surprised. We met and spoke to a Palestinian woman who works on climate change in Palestine which was truly inspiring. We were also captivated by Asad Rehman from Friends of the Earth speaking on stage addressing a few thousand people about how the struggle against climate change is linked with the struggle against injustice around the world.

The second day we were involved in digital activism. Something we weren’t all familiar with before but by the end of it I can safely say it was something we were definitely proud of being a part of. About a thousand of us in various locations in Paris were coordinated to over a thousand different addresses, where we used geolocation to make our mark on the map. You can check that out here.

In the afternoon, we joined fellow activists near the Eiffel Tower to take part in a big demonstration where we also met the leader of the Green Party Natalie Bennett who was really happy to see us. In light of the Paris attacks and tensions between the mainstream and Muslim community, people were genuinely happy to see us being unapologetically Muslim and being part of the climate movement. So much so a lady who looked to be in her forties walked up to me with her arms open. I assumed she wanted to hug me but then she holds my face and kisses me on both cheeks leaving a lipstick mark on each one. ‘Share it’ she says to me, this lady (who I assume was French) was beaming with happiness and I was so overwhelmed with what just happened all I could say to her was ‘thank you!’ That was the highlight of my weekend.

Throughout the weekend I had only positive experiences, mingled with the people from the other Muslim organisations and had fruitful discussions with fellow activists whether it was the Dutch couple at the conference, the guy who came up to me on the streets of Paris, the fellow Brit I met in our communal bathroom or the girl from Florida who needed a spare Euro and we ended up speaking about how she had come from Florida to represent black and minority communities.

So what now?

Why does Islamic Relief care about climate change and why did they send a bunch of their volunteers to Paris to take part in campaigning and activism? Well, being an international development organisation, it is only natural to care about one of the biggest threats facing some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Although the agreements made at the COP21 weren’t as we hoped, all of us came back super motivated and ready to make changes in our personal lives as well as raise awareness in our own communities.

One of the most important things I’ve learnt is that we cannot carry on living the way we do. Change will begin with us with our choices and with our passion and it’s happening right now. I was so pleased to have come home from Paris and see my dad ask me about the outcome of COP21 and my mum mention climate change and the goal is for the whole community to be doing this! Someone mentioned how Parisians were glad to see a faith group in a secular environment so openly represent their principles and link it to the climate change movement and that is exactly what we need. We tend to keep to ourselves and to our own organisations but now it’s time to be a part of the larger movement just like in Paris. This was the beginning of a journey and faith inspired action is exactly what we need more of to tackle climate change and injustice.

Written by Zunaira Malik

My Eco Iftar

I had an amazing Iftar experience recently, I attended an Eco Iftar, hosted by islamic relief. At this Iftar we learnt so much about how to be more ethical in an innovative and fun way. There was storytelling by a muslim theatre company. Fair trade, organic and ethically sourced honey, dates, chocolate, olive oil and much more was available to buy. There I discovered that in Oxford we have a halal, ethical and organic farm! I even had fun making my own smoothie by riding a (stationary) bike. We had a 3 course organic meal, including kebabs, rice, chicken curry and even an organic cake!

My favourite part of the Iftar was the the storytelling, the sisters who told us the stories were so good, they kept the audience captivated and I honestly hoped they would tell us more stories!

The story I will share with you was about how we are treating the animals in the world. This story was originally written 1000 years ago. She told us how some people got shipwrecked on an uninhabited island and discovered all the wildlife and lush green trees and plants. But eventually they got greedy and started working the animals so hard that they were dying, they began hunting and killing all the animals. So the animals went to the king of jinns to seek justice. So the king gathered the people and the animals and they both gave their side. After justice was given to the animals the king explained that we need to live in balance with the animals. He then gave signs in which we can see whether we are in fact living in balance with the animals. Just keeping in mind this story was written 1000 years ago it was just amazing to hear the signs. The first sign was that the animals will disappear one by one, the second was the water that we drink from streams and rain will become undrinkable, the third sign was the air in your settlements will become dangerous to breathe and the fourth sign was the sky will weaken so that the earth will become exposed to the sun. These were the warnings given so that when we see them we will know that we are not striking the balance. I loved how the sister told the story, she kept is captivated and explained such an important issue in an easy to understand way. We need to learn  to care for the animals and treat them properly.

The prophet (saw) said: There is none amongst the Muslims who plants a tree or sows seeds and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it but it is regarded as a charitable gift for him. (Bukhari)

Then the brother who started his own ethical, organic farm explained a it about how they run the farm. It’s a family business and they are so conscious about being ethical that even their home is built from the local natural resources, the walls are built from clay from the farm and even the roof is built. From straw which is locally sourced. All the energy is sustainable, they use solar, wind etc. Alhamdulillah not only do they treat the animals justly they also live in an ethical way.

He then left us with some important questions to reflect on;

1. Where is your food coming from?

2. Where do you get your energy from?

3. Where is your building materials/clothes from?

Allah says: Eat and drink from the provision of God and do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption. Quran (2:60)

We had sister Lotifa Begum explain how the way we live here, in the UK has a global impact. How the choices we make here affects climate change but it affects people half way across the world. An example she gave was how people who are already living in poverty in Bangladesh have had their homes flooded several times due to the climate change. Most of the climate change is a result of men. She advised us to do our part and make a conscious effort to be more ethical in our choices, to recycle more for example. As these drastic climate changes are causing disasters and from that even more poverty around the world.

We all need to keep in mind that the climate change and the polluting of the earth is also a disaster but it isn’t one that we’re used to seeing like an earthquake so we think it isn’t. Believe me it is most certainly a disaster.

Allah says: Do not pollute the earth after it has been so wholesomely set in order. Quran (7:56)

The prophet (saw) taught us about looking after the earth and being just with the animals. You can see this from the way he lived his life and taught his companions to live. Allah has explained to us in the Quran the the same concept. There are hundreds of ayahs in the Quran talking about the environment and how we should be on the earth. There are many Hadiths also explaining this.

The prophet (saw) said: The world is green and beautiful and Allah has left you in charge of it, so be careful of how you conduct yourselves (Muslim)