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Meet the Senegalese Imam Waging a “Green Jihad” Against Pollution

The waste problem in his city has become unbearable, so Youssoupha Sarr is calling on his congregants to do something about it.

Screencapture from Al Jazeera English segment.

An imam in Senegal is mobilizing his congregation in an aggressive “jihad” against... pollution. In his suburb of Dakar, Imam Youssoupha Sarr has become increasingly anxious about the waste problem, which has spilled itself out onto the streets of the city. Plastic bags litter the neighborhoods and garbage piles lay untouched for weeks, growing and multiplying at impressive rates. Even a local nature reserve is cluttered with human debris. New anti-litter laws have done little to abate the accumulation of garbage.

"This isn't just a local problem, it's a global issue. One the Muslim world is ignoring!" Imam Sarr, known as the “Green Imam,” sermonises one Friday.

At his local mosque, Imam Sarr has been positioning the anti-pollution struggle as an inherently Islamic one to his congregants, calling for a green “jihad.” Al Jazeera English went to Dakar and met the environmentalist imam, who is taking his activism to the prayer halls of Senegal.

“Islam is clear,” he told Al Jazeera English. “Any form of pollution or aggression towards the environment is a sin and clearly forbidden. People need to be reminded of this.”

In the mainstream Western press, the word “jihad,” which means “struggle,” is used to refer to acts of physical war within a religious context. But within the Qur’an, the word is more frequently invoked in reference to a spiritual struggle—one that occurs within the hearts and minds of people. Imam Sarr is hoping he can win the hearts and minds of his own Muslim neighbors by appealing to their religious imperative to protect the earth.

“God has handed out to humanity the responsibility of conservation of nature and other creatures on this earth,” he says. “As Muslims, it’s our duty to protect the environment.”

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