Muslim woman labelled 'terrorist' pushing for climate justice

Nana Firman a Muslim outreach for Our Voices, a global faith and spiritual climate action network in the US, speaks at COP27 at Sharm El-Sheikh City in Egypt on November 16, 2022. 

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Nana Firman's mission is to push for climate justice.
  • During the recently concluded COP27, she joined other faith communities' leaders to raise a red flag on the suffering of millions of people due to climate change.
  • As a Muslim woman, her journey to becoming a climate change justice activist has not been a walk in the park.
  • She was labelled a 'terrorist' for writing an opinion piece criticizing the US during the Donald Trump presidency.

One may have easily mistaken Nana Firman for the hundreds of volunteers working at the recently concluded in the Sharm El-Sheikh, in Egypt.

But the Muslim woman from the US, dressed in an orange hijab and a matching long black gown, was always on the move crisscrossing the massive conference halls in the Egyptian resort city. Her mission? To push for climate justice.

“I'm here (Egypt) as a member of a civil society called Green Faith as their senior Ambassador. I have joined other faith communities' leaders to raise a red flag about the suffering of millions of people impacted by climate change, but could not be here to state their case," said Ms Firman when she spoke to Nation.Africa in Egypt.

The 52-year-old is originally from Indonesia but now lives in California State.

“People who make decisions like government heads of state or business people don't know what people have gone through as a result of the consequences of climate change," added Ms Firman who is a member of the Green Mosque Initiative for Islamic Society of North America.

Heat waves

She continued: “Behind the walls of this conference, the leaders are taking their sweet time to negotiate on loss and damages, and delaying to make commitments as if we have all the time in the world,” she said, noting that people are suffering as a result of the climate change crisis while the kings of polluters seem not to be bothered.

“The COP27 was touted as African COP of implementation, but there is no white smoke coming out of the chimneys of these conference halls. It will be too late as the world today, is dominated by fires, drought, floods, heat waves, hunger and famine."

"Climate change is not about the future anymore. It's about now and the future generation. Millions have been displaced from their homelands. Many people have migrated from their original homes resulting in a humanitarian crisis."

Despite hers being a single Muslim woman's voice, she said she would not be deterred from making the strongest voice to the leaders at COP27.

Social media

“They must heed the cries of the global South by making a strong and ambitious commitment. We cannot afford any more suffering. We have no time. People are suffering and many have lost their lives and their homes,” she said.

Ms Firman, however, noted that as a Muslim woman, her journey to becoming a climate change justice activist has not been a walk in the park.

Her bare-knuckle approach to fighting environmental degradation has seen her character assassinated in social media in her home country in the US, where she was labelled a terrorist for pushing for climate justice.

“It has not been easy. I have gone through hell on social media. I was once trolled and bashed. I was labelled as a terrorist because I wrote an opinion piece criticizing the US for threatening to leave the Paris Agreement during the Donald Trump Presidency.”

She, however, withstood the insults and threats and continued advocating climate change justice inside and outside the US.

"The insults and character assassination were bad, but that did not stop me from pushing my climate justice agenda. I will continue pushing irrespective of whatever labels are put on my name," she added.

Mother Earth

“I’m here because it is a calling. Climate justice is a moral and ethical issue. I believe we must care for Mother Earth. That is the gospel I strongly advocate and preach here at COP27," she said.

Her Muslim faith, she explained, has been her greatest motivating factor that keeps her going.

"I don't want to answer at the end of my life for doing nothing when I saw bad things being committed against Mother Earth. I want my Muslim community to be on the frontline to protect the climate."

She noted that one doesn’t need to be a biologist or study environment, to push the climate change agenda. “You can be anything but the responsibility lies in the hands of all of us irrespective of our professions or status in life," she said.

Ms Firman explained that she is engaging deeper with the Muslim community and they should not sit and watch, but be active participants in fighting the climate change crisis.

"COP27 is happening in Egypt, which is predominantly a Muslim country and the next COP28 will be held in Dubai. This allows the Muslim world to spearhead the definition of what is climate justice and translate it into global justice," she reiterated.

Ms Firman is working with young people and women who understand that the climate crisis is a crucial issue and is about their future.

Climate crisis

"I tell young people not to allow anybody to steal their future. Muslim women should be involved in matters of climate change. If we don't care as Muslim women, we shall have children who don't understand climate justice and that would translate to bad leaders."

"I live in California, which has suffered climate crisis devastation including fires. I cannot open the window when these fires occur due to smoke. I cannot get fresh air. I have experienced water rationing because of drought."

Ms Firman is a graduate of Industrial Design at the University Bridgeport, in the US, and has a Master's degree in Urban Design from Pratt institute in New York. She is currently doing her second master's in Islamic studies.

"I want to dig deeper into Islamic teaching about climate change and the environment because I believe this is an issue we need to put as top priority."

She said she is happy the US is back on the COP27 table and must take responsibility, as a heavy polluter, by funding and sharing technology to solve the climate crisis instead of giving empty statements.

This article has been published with support from a MESHA/IDRC grant