Category Archives: Ethical

Aquila Magazine: Berlin – Filled To Its Creative Brim

D8 Destination Berlin

Front page teaser from my little guide to Berlin for Aquila Style Magazine. For the full thing, you’ll need to download a copy for a very reasonable couple of dollars! See here and here’s a  couple of photos to tempt you further… 2012-12-02 10.31.33

2012-11-29 15.22.07

Carousel at Berlin Christmas Market

More Walls to tear down - the Berlin Wall and portraits of dictators

Aquila Magazine: Ancient Innovation For Modern Problems

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Here’s a sneak peek of my latest article for Aquila Magazine’s Earth Issue. It’s all about indigenous populations making the most of their ancient traditions to cope with an increasingly unpredictable climate. As well as highlighting the continued importance of ancient water tunnels (called aflaj) in Oman, I spoke to an expert on community adaption in Bangladesh about the floating gardens (called baira) which are providing a lifeline to flooded communities. There’s also a snippet on the amazing work of Hassan Fathy in Egypt…

Aquila Earth Issue

Want to read more? Well all you have to do is download (how eco is that?!) a copy of the latest Aquila Magazine here. It’s only a couple of dollars for a mag jam-packed with goodness. Go on, you know you want to!

SISTERS – The Green Edition: Faith, Families and Features

Screen shot 2013-03-26 at 20.27.29After lots of work and even more enthusiasm (well done Brooke!) the very lovely and very special green issue of SISTERS is out. It’s bursting with green quizzes, features, top tips for your home and also a round up of some great eco-Muslims organisations. I’ve  contributed an article on the issue of population growth and ask the whether large Muslim families are a blessing or a curse. Read on for more and also to download or buy your own copy.

Large Families SISTERS page 1Large families SISTERS page 2

Discover: Do’s & Don’t’s for an Eco-friendly Hajj

This is OFFICIALLY the first article I’ve ever written for children and I can honestly say, it was lots of fun. It was difficult to really really tone down the vocabulary and say things simply and clearly but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to speak to young Muslims about the environment. A great opportunity from an up and coming magazine called Discover. Check it out here. To read the article, just click on the image above.

SISTERS: Muslimahs Dig Into Fresh Food

arwa aburawa green muslims sisters muslimah food growing green eco environmental

arwa aburawa green muslims sisters muslimah food growing green eco environmental

Green Prophet: It All Grows In Kuwait – Organic Gardening In The Middle East

it-all-grows-gardening-organic-kuwait-alzainah-food-middle-east-greenAlzainah Albabtain, a 22 year old student, is growing her own food in the scorching heat of Kuwait and wants others to give it go too

A green fingered student from Kuwait is taking the blogosphere by storm with her ‘It All Grows’ blog. Filled to the rafters with gorgeous photos of lovely fruit and veg, recipes, and gardening tips, Alzainah wants to prove that “good fruits and vegetables don’t have to travel across the world to make it to your plate.” I caught up with her to find out how she got hooked on gardening and her insider tips for growers in the Middle East. Continue reading

E-IR: How Can Islam Help Us Tackle Climate Change?

With the latest scientific findings predicting even more drastic changes to the earth’s climate[1] and the complete failure of the UN climate summits to agree a fair and decent deal on cutting the world’s emissions,[2] it is clear that we are running out of time to tackle climate change.[3] Rather than a steady increase in attention and action, it seems the world’s government are slowly going quiet on climate change, distracted by more pressing concerns such as unemployment and the economic recession.[4] The most recent UN COP17 conference in 2011 at Durban, South Africa, failed to put climate change back on the world agenda and big players such as the US and China don’t appear to be taking their responsibilities seriously.[5]

One topic that has been given a recent boost by this desperate state of affairs is geo-engineering which is defined as ‘the deliberate manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract anthropogenic climate change’.[6] Indeed, a field experiment which consists of spraying sun-reflecting chemical particles from a balloon into the atmosphere over Fort Sumner in New Mexico to artificially cool the planet has just been given the all clear.[7]

However, embracing geo-engineering as ‘Plan B’ is not only dangerous as the outcomes of planetary-scale experiments are highly uncertain; it is undemocratic, irresponsible and ignores the fact that we have a perfectly good ‘Plan A’ – to cut our emissions. We just need better ways of convincing people to do that. One area that is commonly overlooked when exploring ways to encourage greater climate awareness and action is faith and religion. Islam, in particularly, which is perceived as the faith of oil-rich sheikhs is sidelined with sparse academic research highlighting the insights Islam has to offer an environmentally vulnerable planet. Continue reading

SISTERS Magazine: Green Couples and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Here are the latest articles I’ve penned for SISTERS magazine for your reading pleasure. It was great fun to do some proper digging around Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) which is a topic I’ve read about over the years but never really investigated properly. I want to say a huge thanks to Kate Harvey, a Muslim mother of two from Maine, who spoke to me about her personal experiences with MCS and what Muslims can do to help. I also really enjoyed talking to Jake and Laila Thornes from Manchester over a cuppa about their eco lifestyle as they were such a sweet and humble couple mashalla.

Green Culture and The Middle East: Trash Theatre, Eco Cartoonists and Nature Literature


Over at GreenProphet.com, I have been enjoying a writing stint covering more cultural issues across the Arab world. It’s been really fun and I’ve loved writing about the region’s growing environmentally-conscious cultural scene. I’ve spoken to Lebanon’s Trash Theatre which looks at how people (consciously and unconsciously) deal with garbage and the entire set, props and costumes are upcycled from trash the artists collected. 10453: A Story About Life in 1 km2 of Trash is a (B)IM project and will be touring the coast of Lebanon with IndyACT which is a local environmental organisation.

I’ve also written about Tunisia’s anonymous cartoonist ‘Z’ whose iconic pink flamingoes were inspired by his campaign to protect the bird’s natural habitat from Gulf-style development. That post in particular got some negative comments from people asking me whether I supported his more controversial work on Islam in his home country. I may not agree with everything he draws but I do support his environmental work and I also support his right to draw whatever the hell he wants. It’s a free country after all, isn’t it?

I also covered a short story by Qatari-based Autumn Watts in which she talks about the state of animal rights in Qatar and also the hidden animal cities across Doha. Her story ‘The Cities of Animals’ is a must read. In it she talks about the dark and abandoned places that animals such as birds, cats and horses learn to live and also harsh ‘kingdom’s of asphalt’ where they die. Here’s a snippet of the story and also what she told me inspired her to write it.

City of Birds 

In Qatar, the birds have built their own hidden city. They live in the towers and stairwells of an abandoned palace. Their feathers carpet the ground. They build nests in the sinks of the empty bathrooms. Leave their clean, thin bones in the white sand of the courtyard. They say djinn live there, but this isn’t true. There is no room for djinn in that papery dusk of a thousand sleeping wings. The call to prayer wakes them, sends them winging aloft. I once stood in the wind of their passing. The blink of shadow and light.

Autumn Watts: “The Cities of Animals was inspired by a few things; for one, my Doha urban exploration with Kristin Giordano. The “bird palace” really exists; it was a beautiful, magnificent old derelict that we found our way into, only to discover hidden generations of pigeons living there undisturbed: layers and layers of feathers and nests and eggshells.

“Another thing was the terrible plight for street animals in Doha. I work with a local rescue organization called Cats in Qatar, which is entirely donation and volunteer driven. Street life here is extremely harsh, and there’s a shockingly high rate of abandoned animals, especially Persian cats. People will pay a lot of money to buy these status breeds, who are bred to be docile and human-centered, and then get tired of the cat or move away, and they dump them on the street. The poor things don’t stand a chance. Saluki dogs are another common dump–again, too many to count. And I’ve seen abuse injuries and other horror stories.

“But finally, what made this story crystallize was this line from Qur’an 6:38: “There is not an animal on Earth, nor a bird that flies on its wings, but they are communities like you”. Islam instructs compassion and care for animals, which is really beautiful to me. I think there’s a basic moral failing in what we’ve done, and what we continue to do, to animals and the environment–not just here in Qatar, but everywhere in the world.  As a species, we’ve fallen short in so many ways, and there’s a deep, resigned sort of sadness in that.”

: Qatar bird photo via Kristin Giordano

:: For the full articles and more, you can follow my work at GreenProphet.com here. 

SISTERS: A Clean Plate & A Clean Conscience This Ramadhan


Arwa Aburawa looks at the food we throw away every Ramadhan, and easy ways to stop us from scrapping leftovers into the bin

Let me paint you a picture. It’s Ramadhan time. Somehow, and you’re not sure quite how, the holy month has managed to sneak up on you and catch you completely unprepared. You have meals to cook, people to invite, a spring clean to sort, and you also want to leave plenty of time for going to the mosque for Taraweeh prayers and reading Qur’an. The last thing you need is extra work on your plate. As such, embracing a green and food-waste-reducing iftar is probably unappealing. However, green Muslims, such as Sarrah Abulughod, insist that Ramadhan is the perfect time to look at food waste and ways to do something about it.

“In many Muslim communities, Ramadhan has become a time of great waste, not only of food, but of our natural resources as well,” explains Sarrah. “It is very easy to picture the after-iftar rush to prayer where you pass piles and piles of styrofoam overflowing from the trash bins. This scene is so opposite to what we as Muslims should be reflecting on during this holy month. As a response, a small group of people decided to take a stand, and introduce the concept of Green or Zero-Trash Iftars.”

In Washington DC, one small group of ‘Green Muslims’ has been hosting Eco-Iftars for the last couple of years, and they are keen to get more Muslims thinking carefully about the food wasted during Ramadhan. Indeed, the group’s formation was catalysed by a zero-trash potluck iftar that was held during the Ramadhan of 2007. Sarrah Abulughod, who volunteers with the organisation Green Muslims, explains that the main aim of the Green Iftars is to raise awareness of how much trash we produce and food we waste in a single meal. With this in mind, you can then reflect on how much garbage we produce as a community of Muslims during Ramadhan alone.

Indeed, whilst the statistics on food waste in Ramadhan are hard to come by, the ones available are worrying to say the least. In the United Arab Emirates, it is estimated that food waste peaks in Ramadhan with 500 tonnes of food thrown away every day. In Bahrain, 30 per cent of all food purchased for Ramadan will be thrown away. In fact, it is believed that most households buy 30 to 40 per cent more household products than they need at this time. And yet, there is little effort to stop this waste, despite most Muslims being aware that throwing food away is a sin. It states in the Holy Qur’an:

“Eat and drink but waste not by excess, for God loves not the wasters.” (al-A’raf:31)”

The Zero-Trash Iftars promoted by Green Muslims are actually relatively easy to implement at home– it’s the larger and more public iftars that are problematic. Even so, Sarrah states that Green Iftars can work on lots of different levels. For example, guests are asked to bring a dish to pass around in a potluck style, but participants can take it to the next level by bringing local or vegetarian food. Everybody is asked to bring their own dishes and cutlery, so that plastic and paper plates and cups are not used and then dumped in landfills. “Depending on your audience, it is often fun to take the idea just one step further to help people understand the idea on a deeper level,” says Sarrah.

“During the meal, we often discuss our impact on this planet and reflect on the many ayat in the Qur’an that speak of Believers as the vicegerents of this Earth.” The end of the iftar is another key part of the process. Unlike most iftars when the trash is the last thought, at a Green Iftar the group measures how much trash they actually produced as they clean up together, and separate the trash from the compostable and recyclable items. “It is often very eye-opening and going through this exercise together as a community is helpful in starting people on better individual habits,” adds Sarrah. Fundraising at the Green Iftars has also enabled the Green Muslims group to purchase their very own set of travelling dishes, cups, and cutlery that can be borrowed out to various groups. The group remarked that the Green Iftar set, which caters for 500 people, will hopefully educate communities about the ease of going green and reducing waste during the month of Ramadhan.

3 Simple and Practical Tips to Cut Food Waste

1. Reduce

Reduce the amount of food you buy in the first place. If you think about it, it is deeply illogical that most Muslim households feel the need to stock up on food during Ramadan– the month of fasting. So, shop as you normally do, and don’t feel the need to buy more for Ramadhan. If in doubt– leave it out (of the shopping basket, that is).

2. Reuse

Food leftovers can be a tricky thing to deal with, as some people refuse to eat even one day-old food. One way to deal with this is to limit the food you cook (be on special guard when cooking

during Ramadhan) and the second is to think about what foods are more likely to be eaten as leftovers. Personally, I find that lasagnes, pastas, soups, and certain curries taste just as lovely the next day. So cook accordingly, and serve up some creative remixes of leftovers at Suhoor when everyone is too sleepy to notice.

3. Recycle

Composting food leftovers can be a tricky process and something you may not be willing to invest in. However, one small trick is to compost small amounts of food in tightly sealed plastic bags, and then use the compost to boost growth of what you have planted in your garden.

Wishing all our readers a Green Ramadhan and ‘Eid Mubarak!

Arwa Aburawa is a freelance journalist based in the UK who writes on the Middle East, the environment, and various social issues. Arwa is also the Eco-Islam Affairs Editor at Green Prophet, the leading news site on environmental issues in the Middle East.

: Top image via Hamed Saber/flickr.

:: This article was originally published in SISTERS Magazine/July 2012.