Green Masjids in America
By Aisha Qidwae
A growing awareness of everything environmentally friendly is taking place in mosques across the United States, which are joining hands with grassroots faith-based groups to encourage the mainstream society to work towards better environmental stewardship.
"It's so important for us as Muslims to take the lead in it,” Khalid Iqbal, Deputy Director of All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Virginia, explains.
Iqbal believes being conscious of the environment and going green is part of Muslims' moral responsibility. “It's so incumbent on each and every Muslim, not just because it’s a buzz word or in fashion."
His ADAMS Center embarked on an education campaign, by getting community member to recycle, plant more than 300 trees, cut down on water usage and change light bulbs inside the mosque.
ADAMS, working with their Sunday school, introduced a Green Mosque project. They reduced their carbon footprint by about 13% and their energy consumption by 21%, according to Iqbal.
In many other mosques, environmentalism is being encouraged by giving Khutbahs on sustainability, starting a recycling program, saving electricity by switching to LED lights, and reducing the place of worship's carbon footprint.
Some mosques are working with local interfaith organizations, such as the Interfaith Power and Light, to implement environmentally-friendly changes.
The first mosque in the nation to go green, the Mosque Foundation, located in Bridgeview, Illinois, installed solar panels to heat water on July 31st, 2008 and received an Environmental Hero Award for their commitment. The mosque improved insulation and got recycled-fiber carpeting as part of their renovations.
In Southern California, groups like the Islamic Environmental Group of Wisconsin, DC Green Muslim and Green Deen are educating the Muslim community and the broader public to implement a healthier and sustainable lifestyle.
Muslims, however, affirm that despite of the green mosques efforts to spread environmentalism, there is still a lot to do.
"There’s a lot of awareness that as Muslims we are the custodians on earth, but people don’t know how to do that," said Dr. Zaher Sahloul, the Chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) and President of Mosque Foundation.
Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, the Director of Outreach for the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center in Virginia agrees.
"It is not possible to have a real change if all we're doing is working with the level of individuals and faith based institutions. That's not enough," Abdul-Malik told IOL.
"We have to move to the level of public policy, where our voices are heard along with the chorus of others who are not part of the faith based movements to ask for changes in the system."
Imam Abdul-Malik testified at the Environmental Protection Agency's public hearing on global warming on May 18th.
As part of Muslim Action Day in Illinois on May 21st, 2010, CIOGC led about 500 Muslims to the state capitol to lobby for a cap and trade program, among other issues.
In Ramadan 2010, CIOGC led seven mosques in participating in a Green Ramadan campaign. One of the steps they asked members to do was to lobby their local representatives about environmental issues.
"When we started the campaign, we asked the mosques to sign pledges,” said Sahloul of CIOGC.
They also requested mosques to start a Green committee, incorporate environmentalism in a Friday Khutbah, start a recycling program, connect with faith-based environmental organizations, use solar energy for water heating and eat organic Halal food.
CIOGC plans to promote a Green Ramadan to mosques around the US next year. "We’re planning to use every Ramadan to push further in the Muslim community."
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