Author wants to rebrand Muslims from terrorists to environmentalists
November 16th, 2010
08:00 AM ET

Author wants to rebrand Muslims from terrorists to environmentalists

Editor's Note: CNN's Maria Ebrahimji filed this Q&A.

Ibrahim Abdul-Matin is a second generation American Muslim, radio personality and a policy advisor in New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability.

In his new book, Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet, he challenges Muslims and non-Muslims to be stewards of the earth. He hopes the book will help rebrand  Muslims from terrorists to environmentalists.

Here's an edited transcript of our conversation:

What does Green Deen mean?

Green has become the catch-all word for being environmentally friendly. Deen in Arabic means religion but can also be translated to path or way. So a green deen is literally an environmentally friendly religion.

I use green deen to also mean finding inspiration in one’s faith to become more conscious about humanity’s effects on the planet. Islam is a green deen in many ways. First and foremost, Islam recognizes that while God is all-powerful, humans can and do impact the Earth.

Therefore, Islam provides guidance by way of the Quran and the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) on how to make that impact positive. This is basically what my book is about - what Islam teaches about protecting the planet.

Do Islam and other faiths have environmentalism in common?

Islam has a lot in common with other faiths as far as its environmentalist perspective. The principles of khalifah (stewardship) and amana (trust) are two examples.

I met an older Christian woman at the Washington, DC Green Festival in October and she described her understanding of humans' dominion over the earth as stewardship. She said that our role was to be responsible because we represent God.

She described khalifah almost verbatim as I describe it in the book. When I asked her why some people interpret dominion over the earth as control, she said, "because they don't understand that God has entrusted us with the planet."

Again, she described amana - our sacred trust with God - almost exactly as it's described in Islam. Simply put, she and I shared this essential message: if you love the creator, you must love creation.

Does a green deen have room for capitalism?

Critically, Green Deen looks at how the negative outcomes of capitalism have created pollution that we now have to clean up. Capitalism helped us overcome certain challenges but it created others.

We can tweak the money first and greed mantras to include different bottom lines, such as protection of the planet and public health benefits. The fundamental problem with capitalism, socialism, communism, and the other isms is that they reduce human beings to units of production. People are valued only by what they can produce.

Islam and other faiths base the value of a person on his/her relationship with the creator. A green deen affirms ambition, innovation, and competition, but not at the sake of the health and well-being of the earth and the health and well-being of humanity.

Thankfully, we are resourceful and can look at this as an opportunity. There is a market for making a building more energy efficient. There is a market for cleaning up oil spills. There is a market for finding greener, healthier and cleaner ways to live as we are already living.

Have your ideas gained traction in the U.S.?

Absolutely. In fact, my idea was to show how the idea of Islam being a green deen has been in existence for quite some time and that Muslim Americans have been and are using their understanding of Islam to protect the planet.

In the book I profile several Muslim Americans and how they are committed to reducing waste, thinking innovatively about energy, saving water and supporting local and organic food systems, all because they believe it is their duty as Muslims to do so.

For example, Qaid Hassan (of Chicago, Illinois) and Yasir Syeed (of Sterling, Virginia) are both young Muslims who strive to provide healthy, organic, and halal (lawful) meat for the Muslim community.

They developed partnerships with farms that treat animals well. Qaid and Yasir will tell you that in Islam, animals are not seen as raw materials here simply for human consumption. Animals have a noble role on this earth. They too worship God and are slaughtered for food only because God has given permission and has set standards and requirements of how to do so.

The animals must live a good life - allowed to roam free, eat grass and be communal with each other. One cannot slaughter animals consecutively. There must be time and space between each. The animal has just given its life for a human’s benefit. Reflection on the weight of this act is necessary. My book also makes a case for vegetarianism supported by Islamic teachings.

As my Muslim brother Zachary Twist says about his vegan lifestyle, “my relationship with Allah does not depend on eating meat.” There are a growing number of Muslim vegetarians in the country. Qaid’s Whole Earth Meats , and Yasir’s, Green Zabiha are doing well and gaining support everyday within the American Muslim community and beyond.

You have said that your father taught you that the “earth is a mosque, and everything in it is sacred.” What have you done in your own life to adhere to that?

I have always lived within my means. For example, ten years ago I was an Outward Bound instructor. My job was working with young people to foster personal growth through experiential learning in the wilderness. I made less than $10,000 that year but I ate healthy, slept well and lived a full life.

My job helped to feed me spiritually so I didn't need to fill up on material possessions to feel valuable. You see, treating the earth as sacred does not mean buying expensive organic fruits or hybrid cars. It means being conscious and aware of our consumption patterns, and reducing what we use in the first place. This is just as important, if not more, than properly disposing of what we've used.

How does your book contribute to changing perceptions of American Muslims?

 This is a core mission of my book. Look, everyone wants to know where the moderate Muslims are. They’re everywhere. They go to work, they go to school. Frankly, they’re boring - which is why the media doesn’t do any stories about them.  Why would CNN do a story on Ali the doctor who spends his evenings watching ESPN?

So I’m creating the story by writing this book. I’m highlighting Sarah the Muslim who believes in recycling. As more and more Muslims come forward, describing the positive ways they are contributing to society - and they are, they’re just not advertising it - I believe people will stop focusing on the tiny percentage of Muslims who are extremists.

I hope my book will re-label Muslims from terrorist to activist or, even better, environmentalists. I want Muslims to be known as the people who save water.

As an American and Muslim, do you feel your identity is more challenged now than after 9/11?

 No, I don’t feel that my identity has been challenged more or less because of 9/11. I am a black man in America; my identity is already filled with considerable challenges. However, my identity as an African-American Muslim also creates an opportunity.

The nation wants to know: Is Islam compatible with America? Well, look no further than the 2.5 million black American Muslims in the United States. I find it interesting and, frankly, annoying that as the conversation about Islam in America has turned heated and the presence of Muslims in America questioned, the voices of the enormous black American Muslim population have not been heard or considered.

The American Muslim community is more diverse than immigrant Arabs and South Asians. The community is the most racially diverse in the country and includes East Asians, West Africans, people from all parts of the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe and even white Americans.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Books • Environment • Houses of worship • Interfaith issues • Mosque

soundoff (98 Responses)
  1. Ashtonz Yeisleym

    With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright infringement? My website has a lot of exclusive content I've either created myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my authorization. Do you know any ways to help protect against content from being stolen? I'd genuinely appreciate it.

    July 4, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  2. Kasim Kopuz

    This is great and i believe it represents core values of Islam which are rooted in the ancient tradition of Abraham. If we look at the world today as two camps, one of those who involves directly or indirectly to promote war, killing and destroying the life of innocent souls and beautiful nature, i would name them RED CAMP (because of their direct or indirect support of bloodshed and destructions of nature) and those other camp who would promote peace, justice and conservation of human souls, natural beauty and resources, and i would call this GREEN CAMP. I believe those who follow the path of Abraham, (Jews, Christian and Muslims) are bound to be in the camp of GREEN, because very core message of Abraham was to be in peace and harmony with God, self, fellow human beings and nature. and avoid the RED CAMP. Respectfully, Kasim.

    June 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  3. Muneef


    November 18, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
  4. patti

    sorry... typo: http://wwwtwosetsofbooks.blogspot.com/

    November 18, 2010 at 10:02 am |
  5. patti

    This book is a front used by a front group to promote interfaith and "green." It has ties to HAMAS-tied CAIR and the Muslim World league. http:wwwtwosetosofbooks.blogspot.com/

    November 18, 2010 at 9:56 am |
  6. Reality

    As posted by another blogger some months ago:

    Deport all USA Muslims to Israel and deport all Israelis to the USA. Problem solved!!!

    November 18, 2010 at 9:12 am |
    • Muneef


      Don't know but maybe that proves to be a fine solution to the dramatic situation being suffered at both sides? Sorry guys only an opinion no harm done!

      November 18, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
    • Muneef


      On a second thought I think it would be wiser if you highly educate these Muslims and non Muslim immigrants generations of American nationals...and then depute them to their own countries to hold key posts towards applications of promotions and developments of their own nation towards peace,justice and prosperity..? Maybe then you will find them crowding you move to their own countries while maintaining their American or European or Britain national citizenship? Maybe when you do that you will insure that the financial assistance that are contributed to those countries are spent as projected and planed for and to defeat poverty and rad-ical igno-rance. 
      Think that would have helped all the third world countries more than defense weapons and wheat..! By that these countries will feel the difference and surely the third world nations would be most thankful and appreciative for their developments to those countries supported and assisted them by supplying highly educated,skilled and trained leaderships of their own nationals in key Gv posts who are supposed to take them forward overcoming their poverty leading them to leave behind their indifference's,hatred,anger and fears and become more open for integration although maintaining their own cultures and Religions beliefs..?!
      Those deputed ones main task is to destroy the two main enemies of these third world countries:
      The first worst enemy to mankind is financial and soul poverty caused by injustice,ignorance,conflicts,wars and famines...!
      The second worst enemy is corruption that consume the national treasury and and exhaust  economy leading to deep poverty to the compressed majority leading them to undertaking acts of ter-rorism and pir-acy that thrives in smug-gling,traffi-cking,kid-napping and blac-kmailing beside many sorts of illegal activities org-anized or not.
      If poverty was a man I would have k-illed him. (Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib)
      No one better than this page I found to defines the true deep meanings of the word poverty: 

      November 18, 2010 at 6:43 pm |
  7. Muneef

    @Sum Dude.
    Thanks for your stand as I had a sudden disconnect to my Internet service I couldn't continue last night,but as I can see it was a bless.. Thank you again.

    November 18, 2010 at 5:29 am |
  8. Reality

    Since khan and all the other Muslims out there are responsible for the Iraqi and Afghani conflicts, let us send them the bill. If they cannot pay, we simply deport them to said countries.

    November 18, 2010 at 12:04 am |
    • Muneef

      Thought Petro Dollar is paying the bill after all these wars in the area keeps the oil prices up to gain more revenue for oil lords at yours and area?

      November 18, 2010 at 6:05 am |
  9. Iqbal khan

    Wake up America! LOOK..

    Cost of War in Iraq & Afghanistan

    November 17, 2010 at 9:04 pm |
  10. MicheleG

    wonder why cnn is allowing muneef to r@p3 this blog?

    November 17, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
    • Sum Dude

      You think Muneef is bad? You haven't been around here very long, have you? The "this just in" blog has a guy called "Medhi General Dr Bad" who carpet bombs that blog with psychotic ramblings on a "cyclical" basis.

      Everyone is free to post. That means anything. Only the moderation filter, the "report abuse" buttons, and people's self-control make any difference here.

      November 17, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
    • MicheleG

      Thanks. I should have known. Too bad that excesses like that can't be somehow controlled. But when civility and manners are not included (or required) I guess we get garbage. Thanks again....

      November 18, 2010 at 5:17 am |
    • Muneef

      Now a days Garbage is being recycled to become environmentally friendly product, it is called the Green Way or Green Religion?! We are to sift,sieve,riddle,screen all sort of Garbage into processing it to become the final environmentally friendly product that can save humanity, environment & universe ...? May God Guide All to Light.Amen.

      November 18, 2010 at 6:29 am |
  11. MicheleG

    When the sadistic judicial excesses and murders stop maybe you have a position worth listening to, but until then I, for one, will ignore you. Stop the murders. STOP the sadism and murders!

    November 17, 2010 at 7:11 pm |
  12. Muneef

    Not again ?? Well you say some thing rather than shutting people up?

    November 17, 2010 at 6:55 pm |
  13. MicheleG

    shut up muneef.....

    November 17, 2010 at 6:50 pm |
  14. Iqbal khan

    And the best and must watch....

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3776750618788792499#AND THE LINK TO ALL THIS IS:

    November 17, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
  15. Iqbal khan

    Also check...

    November 17, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
  16. Iqbal khan

    No one have any solid proof that muslims were behind 9-11 crimnal attacks! check.... Read and then Listen the whole interview...


    November 17, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
    • dutchblitz

      Except for the fact that on October 29, 2004, Bin Laden personally claimed responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.


      November 17, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.