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7 - Understanding Islamist Environmentalism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 October 2023

Emmanuel Karagiannis
Affiliation:
King's College London
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Summary

The Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Hizbullah, Hamas and al-Qaeda/ISIS have been increasingly preoccupied with environmental and environment-related themes. Consequently, Islamists have been addressing land and water issues, tree-planting, animal rights, pollution control and energy. They have offered proposals and suggestions to tackle problems that are affecting the environment and the population’s quality of life. It is a clear trend indicating a change of direction for political Islam, which is becoming more responsive and engaging. However, each group has adopted a different scale of environmental engagement depending on its priorities and areas of operation. The priorities are set by electoral programmes or other documents, and the areas of operation are determined by ideology and circumstances. Hence, there are three types of Islamist environmentalism: localised, globalised and glocalised.

To begin with, the Muslim Brotherhood has formulated a localised agenda focusing on Egypt’s ecological challenges. Notwithstanding its pan-Islamic claims and credentials, the organisation has not addressed global environmental problems (for example, climate change, ocean pollution). In fact, the Brotherhood’s environmental policy is bound by geography. Pan-Islamism is in reality an elusive construct. This is hardly a surprise since the Brotherhood was founded and developed in Egypt. The Ikhwan aspired to come to power and succeeded in doing so; control of the state has been their ultimate political goal. Thus, the Brotherhood’s scale of environmental engagement is local. The ban of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 has not changed its priorities: the group still concentrates on Egyptian affairs.

Likewise, Hamas has maintained an interest in local environmental matters. Although the group claims to represent all Palestinians, the confrontation with Israel has changed its perceptions and priorities. Hamas is now trapped, both physically and cognitively. Despite its pan-Palestinian rhetoric, the group has increasingly focused on the area under its control. Since coming to power in 2007, the formulation of Hamas’s environmental policy has been due to the deteriorating conditions in Gaza. Consequently, Hamas’s scale of environmental engagement is local.

ISIS has also shown interest in local issues only. The group claims to fight a regional war that is sanctioned by God. In this context, water can be used as a weapon and trees can be destroyed to undermine the enemy’s willing-ness and ability to fight.

Type
Chapter
Information
Why Islamists Go Green
Politics, Religion and the Environment
, pp. 176 - 203
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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