Lord Sheikh spoke at the Seminar organised by EcoMuslim on 13th May 2011 in the House of Lords and the subject of his speech was the environment. A transcript of his speech is below:
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.
This meeting has been organised by EcoMuslim and I am therefore going to speak on climate change and issues relating to the environment and also talk about the Islamic perspective on the subject of the environment.
I will also speak briefly about utilising funds generated by Islamic financial institutions for the betterment of the community.
Before I speak on the subject of environment I would like to say that about three weeks ago I visited Jerusalem and the West Bank.
There are two points that I would like to refer to which reinforce the acceptance of other religions in Islam.
In the 7th Century, the Muslims were victorious at the Battle of Yarmouk and conquered Jerusalem. The leaders of the city asked the Muslim generals that they will surrender the city to the leader of the Muslims and thus Khalifa Omar travelled to Jerusalem.
Khalifa Omar did not pray in the Church of Holy Sepulchre as he was concerned that if he prayed there the Muslims will convert the church into a mosque. He respected the Christian faith and prayed in the courtyard.
Khalifa Omar granted the people of Jerusalem a covenant of peace and protection and also said that the holy places of all religions need to be respected.
There is a mosque near the Church of Holy Sepulchre called Khalifa Omar’s Mosque and I have prayed at the mosque.
The relevant excerpts from the Jerusalem Declaration are actually displayed on the outside of the mosque.
I would also like to mention that when Salahuddin Ayyubi conquered Jerusalem in the 12th Century he permitted people of all religions to stay in the city and they were respected and had protection.
I am now going to talk about climate change and the environment.
I am passionate about the preservation of the environment and in fact when I was elevated to the House of Lords my maiden speech was on the environment.
I have also subsequently taken part in debates and discussions on climate change in the British Parliament.
Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge facing the world today.
The rising global temperatures will bring changes in weather patterns, rising sea levels and more instances of extreme weather.
The changes that are occurring are mainly due to human behaviour and the effects are estimated to have a larger impact on the climate as time goes on.
The problems that we face are global and thus we need to find global solutions to them that incorporate all of the countries in the world working together to try and combat climate change.
I am now going to talk about Islam and the environment. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has said:
‘The earth is green and beautiful and Allah has appointed you his stewards over it.’
This emphasises the fact that in Islam, the conservation of the environment is based on the principle that all the individual components of the environment were created by God, and that all living things were created with different functions.
Furthermore in Islam humans are expected to protect the environment since no other creature is able to perform this task.
Humans are the only beings that Allah (swt) has entrusted with the responsibility of looking after the Earth.
I would also like to quote another saying from the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) which is:
“When doomsday comes, if someone has a palm shoot in his hand he should plant it”
I would now like to state that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) instructed Muslims that even at times of war not to harm women and children.
Khalifa Abu Bakr also instructed them not to harm animals, destroy crops or cut down trees.
This highlights that the Holy Prophet and Khalifa Abu Bakr realised the value of nature and the importance of the preservation of the environment.
Climate change is possibly the biggest threat to life on the planet, and most of the effects are likely to be felt in Muslim majority countries.
For example there may be future water crises in the Middle East, flooding in Bangladesh, desertification of sub-Sahara Africa, submergence of the Maldives and much more. All of this will lead to more wars and produce environmental refugees.
In the United Kingdom, large steps have been taken to try and address the problem of climate change.
In November 2008 the Climate Change Bill was passed and thus became part of the law of the country as the Climate Change Act.
The Act states that the United Kingdom will attempt to achieve an 80% reduction in six different greenhouse gases by the year 2050 and also set a target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by at least 26% by 2020 against a 1990 baseline.
In passing the Climate Change Act, the United Kingdom became the first country to set up a long-range carbon target into law.
I sincerely hope that many other countries follow the lead of the United Kingdom and make serious moves towards reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.
The Committee on Climate Change was created which is an independent expert body to advise the Government on the level of carbon budgets and on where cost-effective savings can be made.
Earlier this week the Committee for Climate Change published its Renewable Energy Review which was requested under the Coalition Agreement.
It highlights a range of promising renewable energy technologies which could in future become competitive, including electricity generation from wind and marine, air and ground source heat pumps and the use of bioenergy for heat generation.
Analysis in the report highlights the importance of other low-carbon technologies for power generation, such as nuclear and Carbon Capture and Storage, which have a potentially major role to play in the required power sector decarbonisation to 2030.
The UK is the second most attractive clean energy market in Europe according to research conducted by the accountants KPMG.
The KPMG report says that the UK could become a top investment destination and there would be rewards for the investors.
There is a considerable appetite now for investors to financially support ventures where there is production of energy by renewable means and there is a clear opportunity for the coalition Government to secure the UK’s position as a world leader in renewable and offshore technology.
By investing in ventures to produce energy by renewable means and carbon capture, the investors would do three things:
1. Help the environment
2. Create jobs
3. Produce income for the investors
Yesterday the Minister for Energy and Climate Change opened the Mabey Bridge wind turbine tower manufacturing facility in Chepstow which will be a tremendous boost for the UK renewable energy industry.
The Government has also submitted 12 applications from UK energy projects to the European Investment Bank for consideration of funding but there will also be opportunities for private investors
A company called Vestas announced on Wednesday that it will commit to building the biggest offshore wind turbines in the world in Kent. The wind farms will be installed in the North Sea and English Channel.
I am actively involved in promoting Islamic finance both in the UK and overseas. Islamic finance is all to do with ethical forms of investment, and also investing in businesses and industries that are good for society and the environment at large.
Islamic financial arrangements work for the benefit of society and there are opportunities to invest in the generation of energy by renewable means.
As Islamic finance is growing at a rapid pace and I feel that banks and financial institutions who have accumulated Islamic funds can play a vital role in helping the environment and financially support projects which produce renewable energy and help to reduce emissions of carbon.
The funds invested will of course produce appropriate returns which will be of benefit to the stakeholders.
Finally we need to look at what we as people can do.
Climate change unites us all and each and every one of us will suffer if we allow runaway increases in our emissions to further damage an already ailing atmosphere.
We all need to protect our forests and everything green. We can undertake home improvements and cut down on energy wastage as well as recycle as much as possible.
We must remember that few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the end, the combination of all of those small acts will result in a big difference being made.