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OPINION: Islamic Climate Declaration could energise Muslim communities for shared cause

Muslim communities from around the world have issued the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change in Istanbul this month. Fachruddin Majeri Mangunjaya, Vice Chairman of the Centre for Islamic Studies, Universitas Nasional, Indonesia and Mochamad Indrawan, CDKN’s Indonesia policy advisor, report on the significance of the declaration, including for Indonesia’s 203 million Muslims.

On 18 August in Istanbul, Turkey, top leaders from the world’s Islamic countries and communities forged the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change, which proposes that oil- producing countries should curb fossil fuel extraction by 2050. The aim of the declaration is to encourage political leaders throughout the Muslim world to take a more proactive stance in tackling the challenges of climate change.

The Declaration outlines priority issues for interfaith cooperation, policy development and ways of reducing emissions. The Declaration mentions 100 percent renewable energy as a target – although during the deliberations, representatives of the Organization of Islamic Conference clarified that change has to be gradual, especially since technology transfer among countries will be needed.

The rationale behind the Declaration goes as follows: unsustainable consumption and production in some Muslim-dominated countries have prompted adverse impacts for the global environment. Fellow Muslim countries and communities such as those in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives and Indonesia—not to mention many African countries—are affected.

The consensus in Istanbul was that the scientific evidence base, including that of the more than 2,000 scientists from 154 countries participating in the process of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, provides increasing proof that climate change is human-made disaster. The sixth extinction event of all species on earth, which has been occuring during the past 10,000 years, is increasingly acknowledged as a serious threat. There is acute awareness that time is not on our side.

The Koran clearly presents philosophy for sustainability. To begin with, mankind acts as a “khalifah” (steward) on Earth that should keep the balance of the ecosystem, and with this role, mankind has accountability for ensuring the legacy of a sustainable environment. This opens the way to attaining the equilibrium (“mizan”) that the world needs as a prerequisite for sustainability.

The resulting Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change nicely complements the Papal encyclical of 18 June 2015, which calls for all religious actors and stakeholders to respond to climate change.

The Declaration has yet to involve all countries in the Muslim world. Thereby in many ways, the declaration is only a start, albeit a good one, too.   Optimists would consider that the protagonists behind the Declaration have experience in leading the Muslim communities in each of their countries, some for the order of 30-40 years, and so they have the weight to carry forward the Declaration’s commitments.

The Declaration was produced iteratively through consultations among Muslim scholars. The Declaration is not only important in expressing the science and faith that an individual Muslim should stand for. The Declaration also serves as scholarly obligation to remind all stakeholders such as state leaders, policy makers, governments, private sectors, and mosque imams to start climate change outreach to each of their respective communities.

Through the prism of a majority Muslim country: Indonesia

To a Muslim-dominated country like Indonesia, the declaration holds considerable significance. Although a secular country, 88 percent of Indonesia’s 250 million population are Muslims. The country has close to 800,000 members of the mosque council – among the largest in the world, and also hold around 20,000 Islamic schools (madrasahs). Indonesia is bracing itself to continue whittling down emissions from forests and peatlands and also to deal with increasing energy demand from the transportation sector as result of its recent economic growth.

The Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change will have many implications for Indonesia. For instance, the predominantly Muslim Riau province is continuously threatened by forest fire and smoke that spreads to other provinces and even to neighbouring countries. Extraordinary advocacy, including from the ulemas or Muslim scholars, will be needed to stem this kind of unsustainable practice; for instance, from the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI) and targeted towards governments at national and local levels. In this context, the Declaration may be used as an effective campaign tool.

During the process of developing the Declaration, Professor Din Syamsudin, the Chair of MUI has played an important role in galvanising regional support through the ulema network, and also in using and promoting the Declaration as an advocacy tool. In Indonesia itself, MUI has already been active for four years in building an institution to honour the environment and conservation of natural resources (the Lembaga Pemuliaan Lingkungan Hidup dan Sumber Daya Alam – PLHSDA).

In Indonesia, MUI has the experience of having issued important environmental edicts (fatwas) to the country’s Muslim community. One was a recommendation to the government and boarding schools for conservation of endangered species. Earlier this year, there was a decree promoting recycling and cautioning against littering. Demand and support for such decrees on the ground are indispensable. For instance, the ulemas of Aceh province have already asked for the endangered species fatwa to be produced in the form of pocket book. Local NGOs have been asked to help with dissemination.

As they say, though, “Rome is not built in a day”. Tackling environmental issues in a country like Indonesia – with its many development facets and complex multilayered government involving more than 500 districts and municipalities—requires time, patience, and persistence. MUI cannot achieve changes without support from government, and in turn, no government support can be effective without a shared vision and contributions from the private sector and civil society. The Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change will be a meaningful tool. How good it is will depend on the degree to which it is used on the ground: in the mosques and the Islamic school (madrasahs), bearing witness and bringing awareness of the changing climate.


Occasionally, CDKN invites guest bloggers to contribute their views on The views expressed are not necessarily those of CDKN or of its Alliance partners.

Image: Islamic boarding school, Indonesia, credit US Embassy Indonesia,


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