It is not very often that the Qur'an gets good press. So, when I saw the curious headline on the BBC, "Koran saves turtles", I was intrigued and, momentarily perplexed. Upon reading the article, I remembered that I had heard about this project a while ago.
CARE wanted to save the coral reefs and the sustenance of local fishermen in Misali and Pemba Islands of Zanzibar. These fishermen had been using guns, dynamite and deep nets to catch fish with disastrous results for the ancient coral reefs. A joint effort by the Zanzibari govt., CARE, EU and African Wildlife Foundation established the Misali Island Conservation Association to try and develop sustainable ways of fishing among the local communities.
Zanzibar is over 95% Muslim with heavy Arabic, Indian and Shirazi influences. Which has been the result of extensive migration and settlement from Arabs, Persians and Indian since, at least, the 13th century. In the 1860s it became a British protectorate and was lost to the world after independence in 1963. In recent years, it has opened up to tourism and other small industries. Trying to save the coral reef and the livelihood of the fishermen came out of the efforts to revive the local economies. Islam became the language through which environmental education was conducted. Led by Ali Khamis Thani, the Islamic Conservation Officer of CARE, and Ali Abdullah Mbarouk, of a Misali NGO, the Islamic Environmentalism Project entailed friday khutbas and madarasa workshops by trained 'alims extolling the virtues of protecting the environment, of living in sync with nature, of respecting bio-diversity.
And, the project is a success. As the BBC piece showed, they are saving the reef, the turtles and increasing the catch, all because of an innovative and contextually sensible approach. Instead of blindly imposing reform, it helps to give respect to the beliefs and desires of those that you wish to help or educate. It reinforces my belief that there are much more nuanced and effective ways of combating jihadist than bombing Iraq.
I saw something ages ago about a programme to conserve seahorses? (I think it was seahorses) in a particular area, which were being fished at disastrous levels (for the Chinese medicine market); instead of imperiously dictating that this is terrible and must be stopped, it worked by accepting that this was a local economic necessity, and working with local fishers to introduce working methods that would sustain seahorse populations while maintaining their livelihoods. I wish I could remember more of the detail, but the point was that this was working because it worked with, and supported, local economies and cultures.
The article about Yeman was a great read. Thanks.
Yemen. Yemen. Yemen.
Herein lies the key, I think, to defeating the American right's programs--historically, the American progressive crowd is most successful when it takes the moral high ground. Usually, this high ground has been found using a holy text as a map--the Bible figured prominently in the arguments of Abolitionists, Suffragettes, Anti-Hooverites, Civil Rights Leaders, etc. Indeed, the right's obsession with abortion and hot male on male action, while Biblically-inspired, has more to do with a collective rural aversion to sexual permissiveness (which has agrarian economic roots) than Biblical injunction. The Bible, specifically my stomping grounds of the New Testament, rails at a near constant frequency against economic injustice and heterosexual divorce, while treating war as the consequence of either a wayward culture or the inevitable decline of a world beyond redemption. Left or Right? Right and wrong.
Great post. I think this is an excellent example of the role religion can play in the public sphere. I'm glad the project was not carried out by politicians.
There has been a number of events where people of Zanzibar found the names of Allah in cakes. This incidents only happenned to CUF members who they have been deprived of their election victory by the ruling party CCM for three consecutive terms. CUF have enough evidence to believe that the ruling party rigged the election/ The CUF members believes that this is the sign of Allah telling them He is with them.