RT Both for the Wisconsin Muslim Journal
Four million people worldwide marched on September 20 as part of the global Youth Climate Strike. What the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel called a “significant crowd” hit the streets in Milwaukee, filling five city blocks while marching from City Hall to the North Point Water Tower for speeches and a rally.
The next day, on Saturday, September 21, Day 2 of a week of action, the climate group 350.org held a rally at the Milwaukee County courthouse with speeches by the local activists behind the city and the county’s recent commitment to 100 percent clean energy and equitable green jobs.
Huda Alkaff was among the speakers on Saturday. Alkaff is the founder and director of Wisconsin Green Muslims and a green-energy spokesperson for the Muslim community.
George Martin, a long-time climate justice and civil rights activist in Milwaukee, was the emcee for the event, which featured a roster of speeches from local organizers and politicians who made the commitment to 100 percent green, renewable energy happen. Milwaukee County Supervisor Supreme Moore Omokunde, a strong proponent of the task force, stayed at the top of the steps holding a UN flag until rain forced George Martin to end the rally.
In Afro-centric shirt and long gray dreadlocks, Martin made a key observation when he announced that he always learns new and important facts at rallies. That’s probably why the group of about 100 local activists and concerned members of the public stuck it out, despite the weather.
The crowd learned that Mayor Barrett has committed Milwaukee to being 25% Green by 2025. The mayor also mentioned the green rooftops and restaurant gardens springing up in downtown Milwaukee – currently they number 19 – an innovation that is invisible from street level.
Martin himself revealed some surprising facts about the US military’s role in climate change. It is the largest contributor to Climate Change in the world, he said, “contributing 5% of the world’s carbon.” He also said that, “The US military is the largest consumer of energy in the world.”
“It’s all connected,” as George Martin said.
Huda Alkaff revealed her share of surprising facts as the last speaker of the afternoon while high winds turned to rain.
Alkaff began her talk with – “In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful” and the words, “Assalamu Alikum – Peace be with you all.” She acknowledged that September 21 had been designated an International Day of Peace, but pointed out that “efforts . . . to end conflict and promote peace” are stymied by “environmental injustice and climate injustice . . . With the urgency of now, it is critical for us to work for light, peace, justice, healing and love for all.”
Alkaff, whose modest clothing helped protect her from the elements, gave an unabashedly Muslim speech. “Three weeks ago, with the sighting of the New Moon, the Islamic New Year 1441, Hijri, [was] ushered in,” she said. “It’s a new year. A new beginning where we, Wisconsin Green Muslims, are renewing our commitments to reducing our ecological footprints. We are with the global Paris Climate Accord and more. WE ARE IN!”
The light drizzle turned into raindrops as Alkaff talked about how “solar energy can bring people of faith together to care for Earth – our common home – and each other to save money to reinvest in their missions.”
She also asserted her group’s support for the task force. “As a member of the Milwaukee Equity and Climate Alliance, we celebrate the Joint Milwaukee City-Milwaukee County Task Force on Climate and Economic Equity,” Alkaff said, “we are committed to move forward toward a just and equitable 100% efficient and renewable energy future for all.” And she repeated her shout of, “We are in!”
Wisconsin Green Muslims, a 14 year-old environmental organization, works in partnership with Renew Wisconsin on the Wisconsin Faith and Solar Initiative, which began in 2016. Madison-based Renew Wisconsin has worked with more than thirty churches and faith-based and community organizations statewide on the installation of solar arrays and the conversion to renewable energy.
Another interesting fact Alkaff revealed in her energetic speech was about the Financing the Future Summit in Cape Town South Africa two weeks ago, which focused on divestment from fossil fuels. Alkaff said that the “joint North-American-United Kingdom Muslim delegation delivered the first-ever religious ruling (fatwa),” in which they “acknowledged and affirmed the 2016 fossil fuel divestment commitment made by the Islamic Society of North America, the largest Muslim organization in USA. I told you . . . We are in!”
Alkaff, who lives in West Bend, declared that through the Faith Communities for Equitable Solar Initiative, Wisconsin Green Muslims, in partnership with Renew Wisconsin, reached “nearly 4,000 people from 18 different faith traditions and spiritualities, providing solar education, consultation and assessments, with over ten completed solar array installations on diverse institutions’ roofs and properties in Wisconsin.”
Faith Communities for Equitable Solar is “focused on two pathways, energy efficiency” through conversion to solar and “solar training to living wage jobs, primarily for women and [people] of color,” Alkaff said in a follow-up email.
Wisconsin mosques are interested in renewable energy, Alkaff says, but so far none has made the transition. “Funding the project is always the barrier,” she said. “For example in Milwaukee, the Islamic Da’wa Center is interested, if funds are available. I have given presentations there.”
The efforts of Wisconsin Green Muslims and others are providing important impetus for grass roots change. Alkaff was recently named by the Sierra Club and Women’s Earth Alliance as one of 24 women who will participate in the US Grassroots Environmental Accelerator Program.
In July 2015, Alkaff was honored as one of 12 “Faith Leaders on Climate” by President Obama. Since then, many of the President’s initiatives to end the horrific impacts of climate change have been canceled out or countermanded by the current occupant of the White House.
That is why grassroots change, like that demonstrated by Wisconsin Green Muslims, remains critical. The ravages of climate change are accelerating, as seen in the mass migrations, the continuing impact of floods, increasingly destructive hurricanes, droughts, famine, and genocidal warfare.
But events like the Youth Climate Strike and Saturday’s rally in Milwaukee offer real hope, from a public committed to climate action.