What can we learn from Indonesian Muslim environmentalism? | Reviews | Eco-Enterprise


The Religion of the Twenty or “R20was recently held in Bali ahead of the G20 Leaders’ Summit (November 15-16, 2022), initiated by Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) President Yahya Cholil Staquf. Echoing the vision of the NU President, R20 General Chairman Dr. Ahmad Suaedy claims that religion could be the solution to global problems, including the climate crisis.

A critical argued that the R20 forum was problematic because it excluded Indonesian Muslim environmentalists and the real victims of environmental damage from the discussion.

Global Islamic leaders have supported climate action, although most of these actions have been discursive rather than concrete. They have unanimously engaged to reverse the effects of climate change. Some have collaborated with other faith groups through interfaith and faith-based environmental movements like GreenFaith, through the “Faith 4 Climate Justice”.

Given the criticism of the exclusion of relevant stakeholders and the novelty of the R20 initiative, it is unlikely that the next host, India, which, like Indonesia, is a large, deeply developing country vulnerable to the aggravation of climatic disasters, can bring a lot of concrete progress.

Nonetheless, the global Islamic community and Indonesian religious authorities can take a closer look at what contemporary Muslim environmentalists in Indonesia are doing to pursue environmental justice. Given the pressing dangers of climate change, government coordination with these grassroots eco-warriors could lead to better climate outcomes.

Muslim environmentalism is a term used by Professor Anna Gade, a scholar of religious and environmental studies, to refer to Muslims making ethical commitments to nature and acting in accordance with those commitments. It captures a cause of action to which Indonesian Muslims of all Islamic streams (Aliran) are seriously committed: there are already several Indonesian Islamic groups taking climate initiatives, at the national and local level.

At the national level, major Islamic organizations in Indonesia have established self-governing bodies to deal with environmental issues. For example, the Environmental and Natural Resources Council of the Indonesian Ulama Council (LPLH-SDA MUI) publishes sermons and rulings (fatwa) promoting ways to slow environmental damage by educating fellow Muslims about preventing wildfires and destroying animal habitats, and improving waste and water mismanagement.

In the long term, Islamic environmentalism can be a precursor to lasting social and systemic change to overcome climate issues.

Other agencies, such as the Nahdlatul Ulama Disaster Management and Climate Change Institution (IPLN NU) and the Muhammadiyah Environmental Council (MLH Muhammadiyah), usually do similar activities. At this stage, however, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and other religious authorities are neither involved nor openly supportive of these civil society actions. As a result, these environmental organizations are arguably slow to push the green agenda, let alone advocate for social change.

For a country like Indonesia, urban climate issues will often require a modern religious approach in addition to militant action. Ideally, all imams would leverage their pulpits to promote green causeswhile Muslim environmental activists would mobilize their grassroots networks.

For example, modern eco-religious groups like Ecodean and AgriCoran can engage the middle and upper classes of Indonesian urban neighborhoods on issues such as minimalism and sustainable agricultureand generally advise them to consume less.

They have also engaged social media savvy urban groups that have a deep modern Islamic identity, such as #PemudaHijrah, a movement for young urban Muslims aimed at fostering Muslim piety in religious congregations in urban neighborhoods. Another such group is the Nouman Ali Khan Network Indonesia, a local fanbase of Pakistani-American Islamic preacher and social media influencer Nouman Ali Khan.

However, secular or feminist environmental groups in Indonesia, which are more in tune with the broader global discourse on climate change, are less likely to engage or be engaged by Muslim environmentalists precisely because of their views. of the world very different. This limited collaboration has arguably slowed the momentum of Muslim environmentalists in Indonesia’s broader political sphere.

With regard to rural environmental issues, this author’s argument is that the Indonesian government and civil society need to adopt a more progressive approach. Worldwide, climate problems disproportionately threaten low-income and vulnerable groups, and ethnic minorities. On this front, there are encouraging signs that the existing organizational networks in Indonesia could serve as a basis for such progressive action.

Traditional religious groups, such as the Nahdliyyin Front of Natural Resource Sovereignty (FNKSDA) and Muhammadiyah Green Cadre (KHM), have established branches across the archipelago working with rural communities living in conflict or environmentally damaged areas .

In Pakel Village, East Java, FNKSDA works with the community to mobilize support to resolve an agrarian dispute between a local farmer and a plantation company. In February 2022, KHM joined with locals against police persecution of local activists who fought against andesite mining in Wada VillageCentral Java.

Although they are respectively inspired by the traditional values ​​of NU’s liberation theology and that of Muhammadiyah Progressive Islam, the climate advocacy of FNKSDA and KHM is more progressive than that of their employer institutions. The activists, many of whom are young, are comfortable mobilizing and working with other progressive environmental movements, even secular ones, such as Greenpeace, Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM) and the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (WALHI).

As a collective, green activists often clashed with others, even when they shared the same patrons. For example, young NU (Ansor) cadres in East Java were recently accused of blocking a Greenpeace campaign group traveling to Bali for the G20 summit.

Historically, environmental activists in Indonesia have faced various challenges, including the persecution activists and criminalization farmers who resist big business or so-called “progress” that destroys their environment.

If Jakarta is taking climate action seriously and developing an inclusive climate roadmap for all Indonesians, Indonesian religious authorities must consider deeper collaboration with activists from all sides, Muslim and otherwise. Every Muslim would ideally be an advocate for behavior change to live a sustainable lifestyle and social change to collectively overcome systemic inequalities.

Muslims from many Islamic streams can appeal to their local and national representatives to improve environmental policies. In the long term, Islamic environmentalism can be a precursor to sustainable social and systemic change to overcome climate issues and support Indonesia’s quest to become a true environmental superpower.

This article was first published by ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute as Pivot comment.


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