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TheStreet Open House

Some Wish Islam Would Inform Climate Debate

By MICHAEL CASEY and KARL RITTER

DOHA, Qatar (AP) â¿¿ At Friday prayers in Qatar's most popular mosque, the imam discussed the civil war in Syria, the unrest in Egypt and the U.N. endorsement of an independent state of Palestine.

Not a word about climate change, even though the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar is hosting a U.N. conference where nearly 200 countries are trying to forge a joint plan to fight global warming, which climate activists say is the greatest modern challenge to mankind.

"Unfortunately the Arab and Islamic countries have political and economic problems," said Adham Hassan, a worshipper from Jordan streaming out of the al-Khatabb mosque in Doha. "Islam calls for the protection of the environment, but the Muslim countries are mostly poor and they didn't cause pollution and aren't affected by climate change."

Of six mosques contacted by The Associated Press in the Qatari capital, only one included an environmental message in the Friday prayers, telling those in attendance to plant trees, shun extravagance and conserve water and electricity.

The Quran, Islam's holy book, is filled with more than 1,500 verses to nature and Earth. Yet the voice of Islamic leaders is missing from the global dialogue on warming.

That disappoints Muslim environmental activists, who believe the powerful pull of Islam could be the ideal way to change behavior in both poor countries, where many people's main source of information is the mosque, and in some wealthy countries like Qatar where Islam remains important even as rapid growth has made it the world's top per capita emitter of carbon dioxide.

"It's absolutely frustrating," said Fazlun Khalid, founder of the U.K.-based Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, which oversees projects around the world that use Islamic teachings to combat problems ranging from deforestation to overfishing.

"We get very little support from Muslims," he said. "They don't connect. We have to wake them up to the fact their existence is threatened by their own behavior. Modernity and the economic development paradigm is about dominating nature. Islam, as you are aware, is submission to the will of the creator. We need to remind ourselves that we have to submit."

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