The U.S. Youth Climate Strike (USYCS) is a grassroots organization that leads demonstrations and climate justice action by youth activists nation-wide. They have anti-capitalist roots and a mission to bring justice – not only for the environment, but for the marginalized communities affected by climate injustice as well. We spoke with members of the Muslim Caucus about the intersections between their faith and climate justice along with how the youth is still managing to take a stand during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The biggest difference for USYCS given the COVID-19 says Sabreen Tuku, a USYCS organizer from Washington state, is the inability to have a physical strike while everyone is in quarantine.
“Moving everything online has been kind of a struggle because you’re not really striking and kind of lose momentum in a way, but it’s also kind of cool because I think we get to reach more people,” Tuku said. She explained the barricade that social distancing has set on physical organizing efforts.
Her fellow Muslim Caucus member and organizer, Salma Abdi, elaborated on the communication hurdles that come with an online strike compared to physical strikes. She said, “Strikes are intimate things, you get to meet different people, you get to have different conversations and see their perspective when it comes to the crisis or why they’re fighting for climate justice. Whereas now it’s online, it’s not as personal and you won’t get to meet new people and it’s so much harder to expect numbers and what your impact is going to be compared to in-person strikes.”
Tuku optimistically highlighted the opportunity that online organizing can offer. It enables organizers to reach even farther than just those in attendance at strikes, and becomes far more accessible to anyone that wants to get involved.
Faridah Azeez, an organizer for USYCS in Massachusetts, emphasized that any youth can get involved even at the local level. Although state chapters are holding events for Earth Day 2020 all of this week, many are abstaining from events on Friday to respect the first fasting day of Ramadan.
Azeez said that people “can go online, search up your chapter, and try to get involved that way too.” She was referring to the several state chapters of the Youth Climate Strike scattered across the United States that welcome all support and involvement in their climate justice efforts, which you can find more information on here.
The intersections between the urgency for climate justice and the teachings of Islam are evident in the Quran, “And do not commit abuse on the earth, spreading corruption” (Qur’an, 2:60). There are plenty of hadith from Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) concerning the treatment of the environment. Nedwa Abdi, a member of the Muslim Caucus and USYCS Minnesota’s outreach director, finds that her Muslim identity indeed has an influence on her activism, saying “Islam teaches us, if we see an injustice, try and fix it and not just be a bystander. And so I try to channel that into my activism.”
Sabirah Mahmud, also an organizer for USYCS in Pennsylvania, spoke to us about her motivation to fight for climate justice, and how the effects of climate injustice impact all of us in some way.
Mahmud expressed, “The thing that got me involved is the fact that my family in Bangladesh experiences so many of these climate disasters, and that forced me to get involved.”
Mahmud pointed out the importance of representation in the climate justice movement. People that have the closest ties to communities that are being affected, and people within those communities themselves, have the strongest capability at making a real impact; which is why groups such as the Muslim Caucus are imperative in amplifying their stories. Speaking to anyone passionate about turning the climate situation around and making change that may be deciding whether or not to get involved, she said, “If they need something to push them, just look at their own story, look at their family heritage, look at where they come from, and that’s where they’ll find it.”
Even in the middle of a pandemic, these Muslim youth are putting in the work to ensure their message is being heard across the country. The USYCS is holding virtual presentations and events throughout quarantine, and just in time for Earth Day 2020! You can learn how to get involved in the cause and participate in these events through the national website and on their social media.