Malaysian Youth Delegation members met with the Mufti of Federal Territories, Datuk Seri Dr. Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri earlier this week. The purpose of the meeting was to engage with the office of the Mufti which holds authority over the religious affairs of Islamic communities in Malaysia.
We had the opportunity to converse over topics pertaining to climate change and how awareness level among Malaysians is currently low. The discourse on climate change in Malaysia is currently trapped inside a bubble among demographics which predominantly consists of educated and urban youths. Although climate change will ubiquitously impact people everywhere in the near future, it is not talked about enough in Malaysia.
Climate scientists predict that in Malaysia, vast areas will experience water shortage, extreme variations of rainfall, extreme heat, sea level rise, dry spells in certain areas and severe floods in others. In fact, the worst floods in Malaysia for the past 30 years have all occurred since the year 2003 and it does not look like the situation will ever let up.
These phenomena will destroy infrastructures, affect everyday access to jobs, strangle the country’s economy, and more importantly, threaten future livelihood. All this has not even included other external threats which will definitely arrive at the country’s shores like global food shortage, the climate refugee crisis, and so on. Thus, putting the climate crisis at the top of the national agenda is an urgent task.
However, challenges in communicating the climate crisis is immense. One of the main problems is that a lot of the materials related to the climate crisis are disseminated in English by using expressions and terminologies which are difficult for lay people. This further constricts the access to climate crisis discourse. Therefore, by engaging with figures like the Mufti, MYD hopes that people in the religious sector will increasingly pick up the discussion on the climate crisis and utilize their platforms to further the discourse in their own creative ways.
MYD members Saef and Aqil with the Federal Territories Mufti, Datuk Dr. Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri
The Mufti’s office received our engagement effort very well. During the brief session that we had, the Datuk Mufti concurred with our sentiments about the lack of awareness of climate crisis in Malaysia and expressed his concerns over other environmental issues as well. The Mufti opines that above everything else, the stress on the individual responsibility of Muslims is important so that they play their roles in supporting environmental and climate crisis causes.
Following this idea, he quotes a verse from chapter 8 of the Quran: “And fear the Fitnah (affliction and trial) which affects not only those of you who do wrong (but all people).” He explains that the Fitnah can also be understood in the form of environmental disasters like haze from wildfire or even sea level rise, thus explaining the importance for everyone, not just certain individuals, to act.
He is optimistic that individual responsibility, when collectively awakened, can help reduce carbon emissions across various societal and economic levels. For him, when a Muslim individual possesses this sense of responsibility, they will incorporate and implement climate positive attitudes within any form of capacity or authority that they have in companies, organisations or institutions.
The Mufti also notes that he is saddened by the state of environmental consciousness in Malaysia where plastic pollution is ravaging our rivers and oceans, and unbridled greed is driving businesses to invade forests and natural habitats to extract resources.
He adds that the consequence of this unrestrained way of life is unfortunately symbolized by the extinction of animal species such as the recent demise of Malaysia’s Sumatran rhino, Iman. The Mufti agrees that even though the environment goes through processes of natural change on its own, catastrophic environmental disasters in the recent past, including climate change, are undeniably caused by humans. This, he said, is exemplified in a verse from chapter 30 of the Quran: “Corruption (disasters) has spread on land and sea as a result of what people’s hands have done..”
In the end he concludes that humanity’s current mode of existence is unsustainable and in his words, “tidak alami”, which means disconnected to nature. Reiterating his optimism, he says the solution is to begin with planting a sense of responsibility for nature in every Muslim individual, as each individual is able to reverberate change across all sectors.
MYD is glad to have engaged with the Mufti and received his opinions and wisdom. We hope that this engagement will translate into a more intensified commitment by the religious sector to help raise awareness in our society in the battle against the climate crisis.
Written by: Saef Wan
Edited by: Arief bin Johan Alimin