MCB’s Muslim Leadership Annual Dinner 2016 On Environment and Climate Change

Dr. Mozammel Haque

The Seventh Muslim Leadership Dinner 2016, organised by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), in partnership with Islamic Relief UK, was held at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, London Kensington, on Monday, 23rd of May, 2016. The Dinner event was attended, besides others, by His Royal Highness Prince Muhammed bin Nawaf, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Kingdom & Ireland, Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow; Dr. Rupa Huq, MP for Central Ealing and Acton, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Judge Khurshid Drabu, CBE and other dignitaries, media personnel and community leaders.


This year’s theme was ‘Together for an Eco-Friendly World’. According to Muslim Council of Britain, “This year the Muslim Leadership Dinner aims to highlight society’s roles and responsibilities towards the environment, energy and climate change.”


The event was started with the recitation of verses from the Holy Qur’an and then the Deputy Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Mr. Harun Khan, welcomed the gatherings.


MCB’s Secretary General

Dr. Shuja Shafi

The main speech was delivered by Dr. Shuja Shafi, the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain. In his speech, Dr. Shafi mentioned about the theme of this year Muslim Leadership Dinner event which is ‘Together for an Eco-Friendly World’.


Environment and Climate Change

About environment, Dr. Shafi said, “In the Qur’an, we are told that God has entrusted men and women as vicegerents on earth. Paramount here is our attitude to the environment. There are over 700 verses in the Quran that exhort believers to reflect on nature, to study the relationship between living organisms and their environment, to make the best use of reason and to maintain the balance and proportion God has built into His creation. Qur’anic verses describing nature and natural phenomena outnumber verses dealing with commandments and sacraments.”


MCB’s Secretary General also mentioned our Prophet’s Tradition about environment. He said, “Our blessed Prophet (SAW), is reported to have said: “If any Muslim plants any plant and a human being or an animal eats of it, he will be rewarded as if he had given that much in charity.”


“And yet, we as humanity have failed as God’s vicegerents of his earth as we witness the effects of climate change. The effects are seen more so in the Muslim world than anywhere else,” Dr. Shafi said.


While acknowledging the contribution of our aid agencies which are doing an amazing job in going to those affected, Dr. Shafi said, “It is important for all of us to be proactive in tackling climate change and be more responsible to the environment. That is why I am glad we are marking this theme tonight.”


Speaking about the Muslim community in Britain, Dr. Shafi mentioned, “Here in the UK, our mosques and our communities can and should do so much better to meet the challenge. There are a handful of our mosques who try to ensure they are run alongside green principles: using solar panels, using water in an environmentally favourable way, having an active recycling policy.”


“More of this needs to be done. As we collectively strive to improve standards in our mosques, I hope we can include green considerations as part of a package of measures that judges excellence at mosques,” he said.


Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said, “I also hope Muslims and Muslim civil society can come together to not only assist in green causes, but also use their connections to the Muslim world to help improve our environment.”


British Muslims and their Progress

Speaking about British Muslims and their progress, MCB’s Secretary General said, “As we approach the 20th anniversary of the advent of the MCB, we reflect on how Muslims and Muslim organisations have progressed.  We are hugely encouraged by their successes. At last year’s general election the number of Muslim MPs increased from to 13 - an increase of 60%.  What is more encouraging is that 8 of these 13 MPs are women.”


While speaking about the successes of the Muslim community, Dr. Shuja Shafi paid tribute to Sadiq Khan who is recently elected the first Muslim Mayor of London city. He said, “I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to one of our previous guests and good friend of the MCB, Sadiq Khan, to whom earlier this month Londoners entrusted the responsibility of running this great city.  His election as Mayor of London was an inspiration, not only to the whole country but particularly to Muslims.”


“Then we had Nadiya Hussain - the Great British Bake off winner who was bestowed honour of baking the Queen's 90th birthday cake. Malia Bouattia - recently elected President of the National Union of Students (NUS). Then there was Riyad Mahrez, named PFA’s Footballer of the year. Recently we heard of Dr Taj Hussain, elected President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine,” mentioned Dr. Shafi. .


MCB’s Secretary General “congratulated them and many more who contribute behind the scenes.”


Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and its work

As a Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Dr. Shuja Shafi informed the gatherings about Muslim Council of Britain and its work. He said, “The Muslim Council of Britain is a non-profit institution that is independent of government. It was established in 1997 by the community and for the community. From all walks of life, and from the different traditions of Islam, Muslims came together to establish this common platform. With our rich diversity, they wanted to give British Muslims one voice: to find common cause, to speak up for our shared interests. To fight for fairness, not favours for British Muslims. And to highlight the good work of our community.”


Dr. Shafi emphasized, “That aim is more relevant today than it has ever been before.” In this connection, he mentioned about second ‘Visit My Mosque Day’ which MCB initiated where over 100 British mosques from around the country opened their doors to the neighbours around them.


Earlier, Dr. Shuja Shafi mentioned about two distinguished figures that joined with the Muslim Council of Britain tonight to help MCB to explore the issue of environment and climate change. One of them was Caroline Lucas MP, Member for Brighton & Hove and former leader of the Green Party and Afsheen Rashid Kabir, Co Founder and Chief Operating Officer of ‘Repowering’. “These distinguished figures have worked hard to ensure that in this modern world, we change our ways to respect the Earth given to us by God,” he said.


Caroline Lucas MP, Member for Brighton & Hove

And former leader of the Green Party

The keynote speech on the subject was delivered by Caroline Lucas MP, Member for Brighton & Hove and former leader of the Green Party. She was requested to deliver the keynote speech on the subject climate change.


The former leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas, started by saying, “what I want to do first of all is to pay tribute to some of the wonderful Muslim environment groups who are now so active in this area – and it’s very nice to recognise many people in this room from recent climate marches and climate rallies.”


“I knew that environmental stewardship was very important in the Koran – but until Dr Shafi just spoke, I had no idea that no fewer than 700 verses are devoted to it,” she mentioned.


Effects of Climate change

Speaking about the effects of climate change, MP Caroline Lucas said, “The effects of climate change are not some distant possibility – they are impacting the lives of millions of people already. This April, global temperature records were broken yet again for the 12th consecutive month, the longest such trend since global record-taking began in 1880, as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported last week.”

“That means that the weather will become more extreme – with heat waves, droughts and storms causing death and destruction. From increasingly scarce resources to more extreme weather, climate change is here,” she said and added, “As the WMO’s Secretary General, Michel Jarraud, put it before the start of the Paris talks in November:  “We are moving into uncharted territory at a frightening speed.  The laws of physics are non-negotiable.””


Paris Talks & UK Policy

Former Green Party leader said there are some movements in the right direction. She mentioned, “In the Paris climate talks in December, almost 200 countries came together and agreed that we must seek to limit global warming to 1.5C. That’s a crucial recognition that a 2C temperature rise – as had been previously decided – would be a death sentence for many communities – even some countries – meaning misery and hardship for millions more.”


“We need to move away from an economy driven by fossil fuels, to one driven by renewable energy and energy efficiency.  And the good news is that such an investment will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, as well as tackling the scourge of fuel poverty,” MP Caroline Lucas said and added, “But, at the moment, our own Government policy is part of the problem; not the solution. On 12th May, the Energy Act – the latest introduction of changes to energy policy by this government – received Royal Assent.”


MP Caroline Lucas mentioned, “The Act takes forwards a new duty to maximise the economic recovery of oil and gas – and ends subsidies for onshore wind. This is in addition to: Slashing solar subsidies, Giving tax breaks for fracking and for offshore oil and gas drilling, Giving the go ahead for a whole new dash for gas / fracking. But it doesn’t need to be this way.”


“Recently, a study for Greenpeace showed that it is possible for the UK's power system to be nearly 90% renewably delivered by 2030, while electrifying 25% of all heating demand - and putting 12.7 million electric cars on the road,” she said.


Unburnable Carbon

Speaking about unburnable carbon, Member of Parliament Caroline Lucas mentioned, “Back in September, Mark Carney issued a blunt warning to the fossil fuel industry that investors face what he called “potentially huge” losses from climate change action that could make vast reserves of oil, coal and gas “literally unburnable.”  That’s because, to remain even under the 2 degree threshold, we – as a global population – must burn no more than 886 billion tonnes of carbon between the years 2000 and 2049, according to the International Energy Agency.  But the global oil and gas companies have declared the existence of 2.8 trillion tonnes of carbon reserves, and their shares are valued as if those reserves are burnable.”


“As the Carbon Tracker Initiative warned investors: ‘they need to understand that 60-80% of coal, oil and gas reserves of listed firms are unburnable’ – that is, if we burn them, the atmosphere will warm to a catastrophic degree,” said MP Caroline Lucas and added, “The threat of ending up with assets “stranded” by tougher rules to curb climate change could affect the nearly 20% of FTSE 100 companies in the natural resources and extraction industries. As Carney said, “Once climate change becomes a defining issue for financial stability, it may already be too late””.


Muslim Work

Speaking about the communities and groups fighting for social and global justice through campaigning on climate change, MP Caroline Lucas mentioned about the Muslim organisations fighting climate change. She said, “I’ve had the honour of having had many interactions with Muslim organisations fighting climate change. In particular, I was impressed by the foundation of Muslim Climate Action in September last year. Muslim Climate Action – and its member organisations – are aiming to coordinate and grow activity within the British Muslim community on climate issues.”


“For example, they held the first ever Friday prayer at Parliament Square on Friday 9th October to demonstrate a strong and united voice from British Muslim communities calling for action on climate change,” she mentioned.


Member of Parliament for Brighton and Hove, Caroline Lucas also mentioned about the publication of the Islamic Climate Declaration November last year. She said, “The Declaration calls for a rapid phase-out of fossil fuels and a switch to 100% renewable energy – as well as increased support for vulnerable communities already bearing the brunt of climate impacts.”


Speaking about another Muslim organisation which is doing wonderful work, MP Caroline Lucas said, “Muslim Agency for Development Education is doing wonderful work, including spearheading the Green Mosque movement, showing that we can all make a real difference in our communities. And, as you’ve heard tonight, the work of organisations such as Islamic Relief is vital in supporting those already affected by climate change.”


EU Referendum

Former Green Party leader said it is impossible to talk about climate change without talking about the current national debate on the European Union. She said, “The European Union has been at the forefront of efforts to tackle climate change. That is in no small part because climate change is a cross border issue.  Nature is no great respecter of national borders.”


What can we do? 

MP Caroline Lucas in her keynote paper said, “As we face the greatest challenge humanity has yet to confront – the challenge of acting to avoid the worst of climate change – we face an overwhelming question. What can we do?”


MP Caroline Lucas mentioned, “We need a major investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and greening our transport system. This could generate a million new Green Jobs.  We desperately need the government to lead the way on this, so we have to make our voices heard at the highest level. Countries like the UK – rich both financially and in terms of our bountiful renewable energy resources – should get there faster.”


“We need a major reduction in aviation, one of the fastest growing sources of GHG: the debate isn’t whether there’s expansion at Heathrow or at Gatwick.  The answer is clear – no new airports anywhere,” she said and added, “The science is also clear – that 80% of known fossil fuels reserves must remain in the ground – yet the UK is the only country in the G7 to be increasing subsidies for fossil fuels. These totalled £5.9bn in 2014, and must end.”


Concluding her keynote speech, MP Caroline Lucas said, “In all of this, we should remember that climate change will overwhelming affect the most vulnerable in our world – those without the resources to respond and adapt.  And, that its worst affects are yet to come: it is our children who will experience the catastrophic effects of climate change and ecological degradation. It is our duty and responsibility to those yet to be born, to tackle this crisis.”


After the keynote speech, Tufail Hussain made the Islamic Relief UK presentation and then Afsheen Kabir Rashid MBE, Repowering’s Co-founder Director and Chief Operating Officer spoke. Afsheen was instrumental in setting up the Muslim Women’s Collective in Tower Hamlets that seeks to empower women to play an active role in improving the environment.


Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra concluded the event with vote of thanks.