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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Strategic CSR - Religion

The article in the url below reports on what it claims is “the first fatwa broadly covering ecosystem conservation”:
“In January, a holy voice rang out across Indonesia’s archipelago of lush, tropical forests and teeming mangroves. It came in the form of a fatwa, an Islamic edict, which instructed Muslims to stop the illegal trafficking of wildlife.”
The fatwa is designed to apply a little divine pressure to produce changes in behavior that are not being achieved through other, more traditional, market and social forces:
“As the head of the fatwa-issuing council said: ‘People can escape government regulation, but they cannot escape the word of God.’ This notion is being recognised more and more by secular organisations such as the World Bank and the United Nations, which partner religious-based environmental sustainability programmes.”
This is a good thing, right? Well, it is good as long as you believe there is value in religious leaders telling us what we can/cannot do or should/should not do:
“Will the fatwa work? Perhaps yes, given that other religious decrees have succeeded where secular conservation campaigns have failed. In Zanzibar last year, for example, an Islamic-based environmental campaign finally convinced fishermen to stop dynamiting coral reefs.”
In short:
“Initiated by the aid and development organisation Care,which recognised that its secular efforts were not achieving results, the campaign raises the question: do religious-based environmental programmes have practical and psychological advantages over secular organisations for inducing behaviour change?:
The more important point, I think, is not whether it will work, but to focus on the underlying mechanisms that allow fatwas to dictate outcomes and then decide whether that is something with which we are comfortable. It seems to me that it is hypocritical of us to herald the announcement of fatwas that seek to advance goals we support, but denounce fatwas that seek to advance goals we do not support. A more consistent response from The Guardian on this issue, therefore, would be a little more suspicion about any form of religious edict that supersedes our individual right to self-determination. It seems to me that we cannot pick and choose the fatwas we support. Either we believe in fatwas as some form of binding word from God that should be used to advance social policy, or we do not. Agreeing with some while denouncing others is hypocritical and, quite frankly, takes us down a dangerous road (just ask Salman Rushdie). The article hints at the darker implications of fatwas when it notes that:
“Psychological pressure can, admittedly, be key, with fatwas and other religious edicts resting on this to a degree. But, is a holy decree only successful in so much as it conjures fire and brimstone, inducing fear among followers?”
There is also the danger of encouraging religious intervention in questions of science. Again, supporters of this integration of “religion and natural science” need to appreciate the consequences when religion rejects science as well as when it embraces it.
Take care
David Chandler & Bill Werther
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Indonesia's fatwa shows religious duty can be a route to sustainable behavior
By Kathryn Werntz
March 24, 2014
The Guardian