Temple of Understanding celebrating our 60th Anniversary in 2020
Imam Saffet Catovic on the Climate Emergency
Saffet Abid Catovic is an American Muslim of Bosnian-Anglo descent. He has an MBA and worked for a major New York based U.S. Corporation as Budget Director until 1992, when he left his career to help the people of his ancestral Bosnia and Herzegovina to be free and survive the genocidal campaign wrought against them. He was one of the founding members and organizers of Bosnia-Task Force (BTF) – USA which worked at the grass roots, community, regional and national level on many fronts to put an end to the genocide. BTF was an alliance of ten organizations which included the following groups: the Ministry of Imam W Deen Mohammed, the Islamic Society of North America, the Islamic Circle of North America, the Bosnia Action Committee-Chicago, the Majlis Shura of New York, the Islamic Shura Council of Greater Los Angeles, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan, the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, the National Community and the Balkan Muslim Association.
Saffet also served in several senior level capacities in various ministries in the Bosnian government during the war and post Dayton period including as Minister Counselor for a number of years at the Bosnian Mission to the United Nations. After completing his tenure of service to the people of Bosnia in 2001, he continued to work to alleviate the suffering of people victimized by war, poverty and natural disasters by working as a director for an international humanitarian organization. Currently, he is a management consultant in the area of commercial real estate management and investment.
Saffet has completed his MA in the area of Religion and Society at Drew University in Madison, NJ in May 2018 with high honors. At Drew Saffet serves as the Imam (Muslim Religious Leader) and acting Muslim Chaplain and is also the Advisor to the Muslim Student Association. He is also a member of the Universities Religious Life Council and serves as a Religious Advisor on matters regarding Islam and Muslims to the University Administration. Currently he is a fellow at GreenFaith, the premier inter-faith coalition for religious-environmental leadership and their Senior Muslim Advisor for matters relating to Islam, Muslims and the Environment. Saffet has lectured and spoken to national and international audiences about Islamic teachings on the environment, and applied his GreenFaith training to launch Green Muslims of New Jersey, a unique program which has become the basis for the environmental outreach efforts of the Islamic Society of North America. Saffet serves as Chair and co-founder of the Green Muslims of New Jersey (GMNJ) the only such inter-organizational Muslim community grass roots environmental association in New Jersey. He also serves on the board of the Islamic Society of North America’s (ISNA) Task Force on Green Mosques (re-named ISNA Green Initiatives) and represented ISNA at COP 22 Meetings in Marrakech in November 2016 where he announced ISNA’s commitment to divest from fossil fuels, making it the first national Muslim organization to join the global divest/re-invest campaign. He is also the author of an essay on Energy Ethics from a Muslim perspective titled: “Indeed the World is Green and Sweet; Walk Softly on the Earth”: Towards an Islamic Energy Ethic and Praxis web published in the Light for a New Day: An Interfaith, Global Energy Ethics Essay Collection. He also represented ISNA at the COP23 meetings in Bonn Germany where he was member of a high level inter-faith delegation that presented a multi-faith statement on sustainable living entitled “Walk on Earth Gently” which he also helped draft (http://www.interfaithclimatestatement.org/). His most recent essay in the area of Islam and the Environment is: “Islam, Nature and Geoengineering: Let there be no altering of the work wrought by Allah” was included in a multi-essay – multi-faith report titled Playing God? Multi-faith Responses to the Prospect of Climate Change ((read or download the PDF) released at the UN COP 24 United Nations Climate Negotiations in Katowice, Poland in November 2018. He was a core member of the Drafting team and driver of a Fatwa (authoritative Religious Ruling) on Fossil Fuel Divestment adopted and put forth by the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) – the leading body of Islamic scholars and Jurists in North America. This historic first of its kind ruling along with a similar statement by British Muslims was publically released by the joint North American-UK delegation at the historic Financing the Future Summit in Cape town South Africa in September 2019, attended by members of the UN and 300 officials, climate activists and NGO representatives from over 44 nations. (https://financingthefuture.global/statement-of-fiqh-council-of-north-america-on-fossil-fuel-divestment/)
Saffet also Co-Authored the web based Muslim Green Worship Resources and author and editor of other scholarly works on Islamic Ecology and Islam’s teachings on the Environment available thru the GreenFaith website. Saffet was also a consultant to the Drafting Committee of the International Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change “Istanbul Declaration” issued in August 2015 (http://islamicclimatedeclaration.org/islamic-declaration-on-global-climate-change/). He is also a founding board member of the Global Muslim Climate Network (GMCN) officially launched at the United Nations in NYC after high level meetings with UN General Assembly President and the signing by 175 nations of the historic Paris climate change agreement on Earth Day – April 22 2016. He was appointed as a member in January 2017 to the Parliament of the World’s Religions (PWR) - Climate Action Task Force (CATF) and serves as a member of the Parliament of the World’s Religions Board of Trustees since March 2019.
Saffet was named in July 2018 by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (brand new research) - Muslims for American Progress as an inter-faith innovator for his work in the greater New York area on the Environment and Environmental Justice issues.
Saffet is a recipient (May 2019) of the New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Award for his commitment as a faith leader for his efforts in youth development through the administering of Muslim Scouting programs and advocacy around environmental issues. The Jefferson Awards are the nation’s oldest and most prestigious recognition program for volunteer/public service, and are the official recognition program of the United States Senate.
Saffet has also written numerous articles published in a variety of journals and magazines on subjects concerning Islam and Muslims over the years. In addition, he has presented various papers at different forums and conferences including universities and professional conferences and webinars on diverse subjects including: Bosnian Muslims; Islam and the Environment; Islamic Scouting and the BSA; etc. He is also a well known Khateeb (Imam and Friday Preacher) in Muslim communities throughout the greater New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania metropolitan area.
He also serves on the boards of several institutions including: The Center for Islamic Life at Rutgers University (convener of the Muslim Chaplaincy at Rutgers)-Founding Board Member; Shia-Sunni Alliance of New Jersey (Alliance of 25 Masajids and Organizations in New Jersey); Green Ramadan-NYC; Founder and Scout Master of Boy Scout Troop #114 (New Jersey's First Official Muslim Boy Scout Troop); Religious Emblems Chair of the National Islamic Committee on Scouting (NICS); Board Member of the Islamic Council on Scouting for North America. He recently completed his service as a member of the Board of Overseers of the Islamic Society of Central Jersey (ISCJ), one of New Jersey’s largest mosques; Founding member - Jersey Renews, a broad-coalition of labor, faith, community and environmental organizations. He is a founding member of the Statewide Clergy Council of Faith in New Jersey (FiNJ), a growing multi-faith and multi-racial network of faith leaders and faith communities working together to advance a social and economic justice agenda across New Jersey and serves as a member of their Board of Directors. He has worked in the area of religious education including as an adjunct teacher of Religious Studies in Noor-Ul-Iman School – one of the nation’s premier full time Pre-K-12 parochial Islamic Schools - for over 15 years (a position he left in 2013 to complete his course work towards his MA/PhD). He along with his wife and two other community members from the Islamic Society of Central Jersey (ISCJ) co-authored the weekend school’s Islamic studies text book series I am a Muslim that is used by the over 600 students who attend annually.
He is also a contributing scholar to the MAPS (Muslims in the American Public Square) project of The Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He was selected by the Obama White House to join a select group of Faith Leaders from across the country to advise on issues related to Environmental Stewardship and Climate Change. He was the Muslim congregational captain and an organizer of the historic Peoples Climate March – NYC 2014 and also one of the national Muslim organizers of the Peoples Climate March – DC April 2017. He also served this in the summer of 2016 as the Director of the historic first ever National USA Muslim Scouts Jamboree which was held in the Poconos and attended by Muslim Boy Scout Troops from as far away as Texas, Virginia and Georgia and with representatives of 14 different nations from around the world.
He is married and the father of five children and two grandchildren as well.