A few weeks back now I went with my friend Shafiq to meet Imam Mustafa at the South Manchester mosque. Two weeks later I went to speak with his kind permission during Friday afternoon prayers about the climate emergency, the destruction of the natural world, the loss of so much that we hold dear and the suffering this will cause, particularly to the poor. I also wanted to explain what Extinction Rebellion wants to achieve through non-violent direct action.
First I should say what an extraordinary experience it was. It was an honour to address the congregation during this important religious observance.
The mosque was originally a Methodist church. It closed in 1962 and is now the Didsbury Mosque and Manchester Islamic Centre. It has a congregation of around 1000 and on my visit there were indeed hundreds of people at noon prayers (Dhuhr) packed shoulder to shoulder.
I spoke for about 10 minutes after the sermons (khutbat al-jum’a) using the ample public address system. Then at the end of prayers that followed I spoke to a smaller group for around an hour. The group stressed that Islam teaches the importance of caring for the environment and living modestly.
I was asked whether it might be possible that the changes we are seeing could be non-anthropogenic (not caused by humans). You often hear this suggestion and I explained why that could not be the case - it is down to us. It was also suggested that this might be Allah’s judgement on our corruption. But, mostly I was asked practical questions about the solutions and what we needed to do next. Many technical solutions were raised and discussed within the group, but time and again the discussion came back to the teaching of the Koran to live a modest life. After the meeting I was sent a number of links on Islam and environmentalism that introduced me to the debate between muslim scholars. I have put two of them here, Why Islam and UN Environmental.
I am looking forward to more discussions with people from the mosque.