Islamic Environmental Activism in the United States and United Kingdom

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 3:40 PM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Rosemary HANCOCK , University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Social Movement theorists have, until recently, accepted after Marx that religion is the ‘opiate of the masses’ and inherently opposed to social or political change. The small but growing involvement Muslims in the environmental movement in the US and UK is a challenge to this belief. The emergence of specifically ‘Islamic’ environmental organizations (IEOs) in both the UK and US shows the engagement of certain Muslims in the Diaspora with grassroots activism, and with the contentious politics associated with environmentalism. This paper is based on the study of four IEOs and their participants, two from the United States and two from the United Kingdom. The IEOs participate in actions and projects that are remarkably similar to their secular counterparts, and show a similar critique of the effects of capitalist economics and industry upon both the environment and a concern for social justice. However, their underlying ideology is grounded in a unique interpretation of Islamic scriptures emphasizing the role of humankind as God’s representative on earth; the environment as a ‘sign’ from God in perfect, divinely ordained balance; and the necessity of following Islamic teachings in everyday life. The secular environmental movement and its organizations have heavily influenced IEOs, both in the framing of environmental crises, and in terms of their organizational structure and forms of action. Utilizing Social Movement Theory and comparative analysis, this paper argues that Muslim environmentalists bring an Islamic voice into the environmental movement, calling for significant social and political change based upon Islamic principles, while sharing with secular environmental organizations methods of mobilization, organizational structure, and aspects of ideological framing.