Jumma Mubarak and Reflections on the Islamic Climate Declaration

Who said the Art of Shadow Puppetry was dead?
Earlier this week, several mainly western NGOs held an event in Istanbul to develop and launch a joint, Islamic declaration on Climate Change.

I previewed it here.

The webcasts of the gathering were quite difficult to make any sense of, but the corporate communications teams have been busy and successful in messaging the symposium into the mainstream media. To be fair, many people just want a good news story about Muslims, and this air conditioned NGO theatre provides that.

Insofar as it is a confusing distraction from reality, the Islamic Climate Change Declaration functions in the same way as a few score people taking a well publicised Climate Change themed Dump on the Ummah, in order to attract Development Dung Beetles.

This is our Inconvenient Truth

Mistakeholding onto the rope of Allah

I have spent some time raising money and investing in one of the organisations (IR), watching it squander its human resources and grow to embody neoliberalistan, even while helping many people at the same time. It is not that I disagree with Islamic Relief's right to exist unharrassed, but it is important not to foul up the waters for others, blag your way through seriously complex issues and assume the role of a misleading gatekeeper. This is basic ummahtic adab.

It must be hard, being an Islamic Muslim NGO in such an Islamophobic, securitising and secularising environment, but it is harder if you are a street kid in Dhaka trying to survive to the next day without a policeman raping you, or a family in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa trying not to get drone bombed or massacred, perplexed that these UK brothers are patronising you with DFIDy climate adaptation hush money.

Pardon the spelling. [Credit: MTA]
Organisational work in the world is fraught with contradictions and it is harder to stand back and peel away when you find yourself in the position of believing that you are helping Muslims as part of your rizq ( Divine worldly provision). I don't think this malaise is particular to the Muslim experience, it just sucks because its mine.

The Story of The Whistling Lion

The turning point came for me regarding IR came when the organisation spazzed out a few years back over Assed Baig's exposure of a betrayal of mission to relieve people in Somalia. It came just after the scandal at the London-based Muslim Youth Helpline, where the leadership used the extremist card to cover its own incompetence, and subjected its victims, who were unpaid volunteers, to lawfare. On the face of it, IR is a less precarious an organisation than MYH, with much more support and understanding from the Muslim community, so one would have hoped they would have responded more wholesomely.

In my generally inconsequential judgement, instead of admitting fault, they went on a character assassination rampage, suggesting that their corporate image was far too important to them, and that they were not to be mistaken for the selfless inspiration of the Edhi Foundation and the urban justice martyr Parween Rehman of the Orangi Pilot Project. Kudos to it IRs founder Dr Hany for all he did, and all the sincere stuff they have got right over the years, but we do need different vehicles now, and for old vehicles to transform.

The trustees, individual donors, staff and management still need to reflect on Relief-gate and avoid believing their own and their sector's BS. Why do we lionise the Chelsea Manning's and Edward Snowden's and flame our own truth sayers? Because its hard that's why.

Perhaps self-preservation might provide better motivation. There are actually malevolent actors out there collecting evidence to screw Muslim organisations when the time suits them. Can folks learn what the ex Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman and company failed to?

Another thing that Relief-gate casts doubt on is the competence of airdropped and 'embedded' observers of development(ia) "field" work to understand what is unfolding before their eyes "on the ground". We could say that Nabi Khidr taught Nabi Musa this vital lesson.

This is why it is difficult for some, if not many, people to take IR's climate stuff at face value, despite the many lovely humans, barakah and sincerity that inhabits the place.

Back to the Declaration

Formatting facepalm
The text, when it came, was strewn with crucifix's, as if to convey a mystical sense about its inspiration and audience.

Another alarm bell rings when you search for the word justice and you only get the job title of the Lutheran participant.

1400 years of Islamic scholarship, coloniality, white supremacy and reparations were neither invoked nor addressed, lending the proceedings the odour of the vacuous tokenism that characterises this sector.

Enter The Corporate Nafs

The thing about developmentia, which is an inhibitor of our decolonisation so far, is that its so blatantly expressed in public communications.

On the promotional video reel --> , notice how the actual environmentalist, Fazlun Khalid, is featured hurriedly in order to make way for the IR advert for incorporation into the (white) world of  institutional donors.

I couldn't help but dwell on the exclusion of Black voice and the violation of the BDS campaign. And no, its not a petty operational oversight, its actually how this perverted theatre works, through us, to reproduce itself before we even clear our throats.

Its worth bearing in mind that,
  • A 2 degree average temperature rise across the globe will probably cook Africa by 4. 
  • The body of Black Liberation theology is a critical dialogue partner for the Muslims, 500 years plus downstream from 1492 and worse.
  • Current levels of global Negrophobia and Islamophobia amongst humanity suggest that Climate Refugee 'Concentration Camps' in the future are a real possibility. 
  • The spiritual reality of the batin and the zahir, the internal and the external plays out here. It is the turmoil inside some very powerful people has created this institutional, racist climate violence.

Reading the Text

The declaration text was a slight improvement on the draft, which was overly focused on Mitigation and European climate agenda. For a start, Adaptation to climate impacts featured (once). Some of the technical terms were defined  ( through they were unnecessary) and the diversity of the Muslim Ummah's experience of the impacts and contributions of climate change was acknowledged.

Happily though Islam does really shine through sometimes, despite the clunkiness and slapdash composition of the document which still gets bogged down in bullet points.

That triplet of Allah's name's is always going to be inspiring,  Al Khaliq, Al Bari, Al Mussawir - The Creator, The One Who Creates Out Of Nothing,  The Bestower Of Forms.

For the intellectually and spiritually underwhelmed
If you are looking for something a bit deeper, and mistook the stunt for something serious, I'd recommend the Ecology and Environment chapter of Tariq Ramadan's 2009 Radical Reform for a coherent, enlivening and practical read, and all of Seyyed Hossain Nasr's writings and lectures on the topic since the 60s. For creative depth and an idea of what could have been and could still be, there is always The Brethren of Purity's spiritual fiction novel The Case of the Aminals Versus Mankind before the King of the Jinn from the third Century of Islam.

GMOs and The Rights of Creation
One of my major beefs regarding the Istanbul Declaration is that it does not speak directly about Genetic Modified Organisms, which are and will continue to be foisted upon vulnerable societies as a Climate Solution. Farmers in Bangladesh and other places could do with a hand resisting this stuff, as their governments will kill them if they legitimately protest like UK groups do.

Our critique can be spiritual and jurisprudential as well as based on the malevolent corporate intention and health risk arguments. Other Muslim voices have stressed that our Rights of Creation discourse resonates with the Rights of Nature idea from the 2010 Cochabamba Declaration. Although the rights of ants to undisturbed habitation was affirmed in Istanbul, the Rights of Creation discourse wasn't developed enough. It has fascinating legal and scientific implication that I hear the People's Republic of Duriana have been exploring.

MSM Coverage
The coverage of the event has almost entirely been in 'the west', and its interesting to see how different agencies interpret it. Many are picking up on the total decarbonisation line, which apparently makes it strong. The twitter hashtag(firullah) is #Muslims4Climate

Ummahtic Tumbleweed.
Meanwhile I don't think anybody in the Muslim majority countries noticed. But what even if they did?

One question I haven't seen addressed is that often the civil society gangsters in such countries don't really like Islam, so nonsecular work is dismissed and denigrated to the point of hamstringing institutions, scholarship, dehumanising people and massacring them. This is very much the case in Bangladesh at present and gives a sadistic comedy value to Adaptation, Development and Disaster Risk Reduction there.

So What Now?
What I would like to see happening is not a bunch of western Muslim NGOs acting as UN Climate subcontractors, and getting their mates to retweet, but political and epistemic movement. One of the prerequisite of transformative adaptation that Tariq Ramadan points out is "The full and equal integration of all available knowledge".

We cannot really afford for the next generation of Muslim activists, scholars and political movements not to have a decolonial ecopolitics.

I believe that the next climate theatre is taking place in Paris, Oh Allah you have such a rich sense of irony.



My Jeremy Corbyn Resource Page

With some (corporate) opinion polls and analyses suggesting that Jeremy Corbyn could end up leading the Labour Party, many in the Labour-Tory establishment are busy shooting down that very possibility, whilst many others, call them the Loving Left, generally not of the establishment, are gaining confidence.

Meanwhile, in the world of government, the Conservatives are having a whale of a time, taking a dump on child poverty, ditching carbon mitigation incentives and framing the oppressed migrants in the Jungle Camp of Calais with old fashioned white supremacy. 

The public could use a strong opposition with some spine right now, and I feel that a Corbyn-led shadow cabinet, with social movements behind it, could produce that pressure and a platform for some sound ideas to gain wider appeal. 

I am quite fond of Corbyn, who I think has spoken at the majority of the public demonstration and rallies I have ever attended. He is the kind of person that a constituent can approach at any time and place, and he doesn't piss off people like Galloway does. He will appeal to Middle England, because he is a product of Middle England, and how decent it can be. I would hate for him to get Robin Cook'd or Dr Kelly'd.

We do not live in a fair world and mustn't expect defeated political foes to surrender upon the result of a vote. The Tower Hamlets Coup showed us what Labour, the City and the Conservatives are capable of. Currently the Labour Party is spamming its members and surveilling social media profiles of new arrivals for evidence of 'entryism' and 'infiltration'.

Which is why, rather that wetting oneself with glee, supporters and people of good will might best be advised to prepare for counter measures, and strengthen the assemblage of movements, people and resources underlying this political moment. 

I'm going to list Anti-Corbyn Propaganda here...

Terrorist Sympathiser
Soviet Throwback
Tory Wetdream


The International Islamic Climate Change Symposium: Khidr Shrugs

Climate Change is big trouble. As an Indian Muslim solar engineer from the USA put it to me recently, it will make what is happening in Syria look small in comparison. It is primarily a consequence of the system of fossil fuelled industrial development ushered in by European colonialism. The transformations required for human and non-human societies to address climate change with justice and dignity are pretty mind boggling.

Al Khaliq ( Creator), Al Bari ( Evolver), Al Musawwir (Fashioner)

The Muslim context is weird as ever. Let's think of it as a Qur'anicly ecological cosmology, and a set of growing embodied practices, traditions and texts in living connection to places, environments and peoples bearing a variety of colonial wounds, capabilities and power relations. Like much of the world, for the historical Ummah, the post1492 period has largely been one of political, intellectual and industrial annihilation at the hands and systems of European colonial aggression.

Add to this the reality that the Muslim position (Obese oil sheiks, national elites, NGO developmentees and diasporas aside) is largely still at the negatively impacted, trapped but perhaps unknowing victim level and you might say that, we have 'a lot of work to do'.

It is very important not to serve as the developmentor's developmentee.
Growing numbers of Islamic Society graduates don't seem to get it though.
( Source: The Developmentia Project)
Which is why I am not pouring green algae all over the International Islamic Climate Change Symposium that will take place next week in Istanbul, just a bit. After all, many critical minds within the UK Muslim community are legitimately pissed over a certain organiser's commitment to public relations, anti-politics and neoliberalism over service, depth and cooperation.

Great British Fake Off?

Given that Nabi Khidr (our Green Man) taught us the difference between the apparent and the real through Nabi Musa, I sometimes wonder why 'ecoIslam' is such a PRfest. Then depending on mood, whether eco and green prefixatives are just forms of Preventitude

A Summit in Istanbul, the Symbolic Centre of the Muslim Ummah

The International Islamic Climate Change Symposium is being organised predominantly by western NGOs, Muslim and otherwise, including Birmingham-based Islamic Relief Worldwide and IFEES, US-based Greenfaith and Beirut-centred Climate Action Network ( nice bunch of briefings and positions). I wish the gathering receives and delivers justice and wisdom, and will be tuning in.

The proceedings will be live cast here  (below) on Monday and Tuesday, tweeted on #Muslims4Climate and promises to launch a finalised Islamic Declaration on Climate Change. While not the first globally orientated Muslim statement on climate change, I don't expect anything as beautiful as the Pope's recent publication of social doctrine on social, spiritual and ecological justice Laudato Si (Praise Him), in fact I just hope it is a significant improvement on the first draft.

Highlights from the schedule, detailed here, include. (NB. Istanbul time is 3 hours ahead of BST)

  • A 5 minute opening remote address by Prod Seyyed Hossein Nasr, the spiritual and intellectual legend who has been writing about Islam, secularism, science, the sacred and the environment since the 60s. Monday 1045-1050 (Careful you dont blink or you will miss it.)
  • A session of Climate Solutions and the Power of Faith, featuring IIED and ICCAD's Saleemul Huq and CAN's Mohammed Adow. Monday 1130-1300
  • A short series of interventions from 'Muslim Faith Leaders'. Tuesday 1005-1020.
It is what it is, hopefully by the end of it some less familiar voices will be more familiar. Its not like they are going to march through Gezi Park crying 

Labbayk Labbayk Allahuma Labbayk.

What should be, however is another activity, where by the social, scholarly and political movements of Islam and the Muslims sensitise, hone and exercise their eco-politics and their creation-relations. It is not as if there is any lack of interpretive stimulus, whether through the experiences of Kelantan's floods, Karachi's recent heatwave or the coastal erosion and salinisation of Khulna.

A Decolonial Dua

Owner of Judgement, Everlasting, Protecting Friend
forgive us those foolish decisions,
which enclose noble futures,
as we make our way to the minbar.
Guide us in our knowledge adventures,
beyond the accumulation of certification
to generation, political epistemic emancipation.
Protect us from developmentors on the watchtower,
and their developmentees,
Preventing us, from helping us
Selling poverty pornography and non answers.


Salahudin Quader Chowdhury: No Executable Code is Associated with This Line

Earlier this week prominent Bangladeshi opposition politician Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury lost his appeal at the Bangladesh Supreme Court against the death penalty for convictions by the country's International Crimes Tribunals ( ICT). He has been in government detention since 2011, and the international press has detailed the torture he experienced at the hands and instruments of the British trained Rapid Action Battalion.

Hailing from a political family based in the port city of Chittagong, known as Islamabad in Mughal times, Chowdhury has served as an MP on 7 separate occasions and was a close adviser to the former BNP Prime Minister Khaleda Zia during her last stint in office. He was in his early twenties during the 1971 war year and according to his witnesses who made it through the tribunal's clumsy rigging, had been in West Pakistan for the duration of the period of the crimes for which he was convicted. The problem is that the Tribunal and the Supreme Court, with their characteristically warped view of the world, has refused to acknowledge his absence from the scene, as corroborated by many of his peers.

Given the maddening BS that we have been expected to swallow regarding people in 1971, BS thats resulted in the judicial murders of Abdul Quader Mollah and Muhammad Kamarazzaman, I think its high time to review the horror stories woven around Salahuddin Quader Choudhury in 1971 and unearth greater truths buried in the rubble of the Bangladesh Motanarrative.

A Roundly Criticised Show Trial

For years before the current Awami League regime came into power on the back of a diplomatic coup, I never thought that fair investigations, trials and resolutions would be possible. I felt that it was just an game of political emotional blackmail on account of the national liberation mythology.  It is a real pity that such a lot of lives, reputations and human horsepower have been dissipated to produce such injustice, but it goes with the territory and didn't have to be inevitable, we(pl) made it this way.

Criticisms of the conduct and integrity of the tribunals have been made by many of humble and of privileged backgrounds. For example there is the independent review by Geoffrey Robertson QC , the Economist of London's coverage of the chairing judge's collusion with a partisan activist and Bangladesh's favourite son-in-law David Bergman long archive of the tribunal's proceedings. Just a fortnight after he was given his original death penalty, an Early Day Motion was tabled in the UK Parliament highlighting the lack of due process in his trial and that of the late Abdul Quader Mollah, who was executed a few months later. It was signed by 32 MPs including people like Jeremy Corybn, Peter Bottomley, Diane Abbot and Michael Meacher.

A distinct political lineage to Year Zero 71sterism

SQC, or SaKa as he is alternatively known, is one of Bangladeshi society's intriguing characters. He represents a genealogy of politics that predates the rise of the Awami League and has never really been scared to give them the finger. His symbolic capital and privilege are independent of Liberation 1971 events and the rise of Bengali Nationalism. That is not to say he is an angelic figure, he still commands immense power over his political enemies from behind a cell.

As a London resident with a Bangladesh facing eye or two, I remember his amazing political insults and his unsuccesful bid during the BNP-JI regime for Secretary General of the OIC, which was viscerally resisted by the Awami League, and deludedly promoted by the BNP at the time. In retrospect it is good that Prof Ehsanoglu won that election, as the pro Islam and pro Muslim Ummah social and intellectual currents in Turkey were and still are in a better place than in Bangladesh.

What I am becoming more interested in is the condemned man's father, Fazlul Quader Chowdhury. The political orphans of Bangladesh, need to take as many of these political bypass figures closer to our hearts for the sake of past mistakes and wider possibilities of the future

He was a political stalwart for 3 decades through more interesting times, who didn't switch allegiance to the Bangladesh cause and died in prison in 1973 under dubious circumstances. There is a slightly hagiographic website about him here.

He was elected General Secretary of the All-India Muslim Students Federation in 1939, and was with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, just before he left for that important mission to rid India of it's colonial yolk during (Colonial) World War 2. Netaji was to offer to relieve the Bengal Famine with food aid from Myanmar, an offer which was refused by the British colonial authority, who censored it. A war crime by any standards.

Interestingly, in 1942 when Fazlul Quader was arrested, one Mujibur Rahman, a rising Bengal Muslim Student League leader, organised a student strike in solidarity with him. Decades later it is said that Fazlul Quader, by then an established trade union and political leader, was to reject Mujibur Rahman's offer of his daughter Hasina's hand in marriage to his son Salahuddin.

I would like to invite people to flesh out this proposal story, because it lends extra humour to some of Salahudin's comments over the years, helps us to understand Hasina's insecurity and more importantly, reminds us that the political elite and cosmology that Bengali Nationalism and its kitsch culture machine has inflicted on us is not the End of History.

There were and there are much more expansive and nobler horizons.

What is to be done?

We do not know how this is going to pan out, but we should speak out against the injustice being dealt to SQC on a matter of principle, not to mention support the family and other people in such predicaments.  We know how institutions in desh act with impunity and seek to destroy any who challenge their control and controllers. We also know how their family, NGO business and ideological networks assist them to tell the stories they want people to know about Bangladesh, and to be heard.

In this light, simply pointing out more accurate and reliable histories and principles of justice is where we should start.