Channa Biran + interview with
Solidaritree & XR Muslims
An interview between XR Muslim & Naz Hye, Content Creator at Solidaritree
XR Muslims are an informal and inclusive group of Muslims who meet on a regular basis.
Our main mission is to raise awareness of the climate and nature emergency within Muslim communities. We brainstorm and organise activities together and seek to expand the network of Muslim (and non-Muslim) organisations we work with.
We asked some questions to Solidaritree, a creative environmental network led by women of colour. Here’s what Naz, Graphic Designer and Content Producer for Solidaritree, told us about the organisation.
For anyone who has not yet come across your work, could you share with us the story of how Solidaritree began, and the work you are currently doing?
Solidaritree is a creative environmental network led by women of colour with backgrounds in environmental science, content creation, graphic design and policy: we champion community partnership and collaboration, challenge exclusionary narratives around the environment and the distribution of resources, and communicate the urgent need for change.
Our mission is to amplify and connect with BIPOC communities and other underrepresented environmentally focused groups and individuals, to work across sectors with an intersectional and inter-generational approach, to ensure that the communities most impacted by environmental changes are considered and included in the decisions which affect them.
It is led by WOC. Lois who is Co-Founder, Creative Director and Engagement Officer. Charise, also Co-Founder, Head of Research and Community Outreach. Naz (myself) is a Graphic Designer and Content Producer.
We came together after joint frustration over the lack of diversity and inclusive spaces for our communities within the environmental sector/movement. Lois, Co-Founder, had met Charise through a film project about the lack of diversity within the environmental sector and the experiences of BIPOC working in these white-majority spaces. Lois and I met through university and had many discussions about being disappointed and were passionate about creating a difference. This is how Solidaritree was born.
Recently we have worked on a virtual game project with Dare Festival. The Isthmus Project is intended to be a discursive workshop experience involving a tabletop game about the systems that control land access in England. The project is a collaboration between us (Solidaritree), and Abby + Alice, a set and experience design duo specialising in interactive theatre. We also have a video series focusing on growing your own fresh produce with Hafsah Hafeji a Horticulturist based in Leicestershire. We have started a newsletter, jobs board and are working on blogs and events.
Why do you feel it is so important to support and lead groups championing inclusivity in the environmental sector?
The environmental sector is dominated by the white middle class for a variety of reasons, some being access to green spaces and the desire to work in these spaces, another is economic in the lack of viable pathways for those from low income households to enter the sector without first completing unpaid internships or another is not knowing the right people. It is so important that the voices of communities who are most impacted by environmental issues are included in the discussion, BIPOC folks have lead environmental justice movements through grass root groups for a long time now and will continue to do so, we are here to make sure these spaces are known about, that communities are empowered to take up space and use their voices on environmental issues and to create a more inclusive space for individuals from these communities, our communities.
We recognise that there is a lack of representation for faith-based environmental groups, whether this is Muslim or other faiths. It is important to have a space that acknowledges the connection between faith and the environment and we want to create that space. However, we also want to uplift organisations that are already doing this work. We spoke to Wisdom In Nature, who are a good example of the type of group we try to amplify.
You can check out our interview with them here.
How do you find time to connect with nature? And any tips for urban residents seeking to do the same?
I take regular walks to parks, grow my own food or plants when I can. I do have some green open spaces very close to where I live so I am quite lucky in that aspect. Recently I have been getting into growing my own food. I am growing tomatoes, peppers and basil. I don’t have a garden and have a pretty small kitchen so I am trying to use my space as best as I can and grow food in any sunny spots around my house. This is a tip I would pass along to others in small spaces is that you can grow many things such as spring onions, lettuce and other leafy greens just on your window sill. This has made me realise you don’t need to have a lot of space to connect with nature in a small way. It has been a really therapeutic experience for me, particularly during Ramadan.
What recipe have you decided to share with us, and what is your connection with it?
I am sharing a Channa Biran recipe, which is a dry chickpea recipe with lots of spices. During Ramadan we need a lot of protein, so we try and incorporate this into our diet from various foods other than just meat. It is a staple side dish during the month of Ramadan in Bengali homes. It feels special making these recipes as it feels like a celebration of my Bengali heritage. In the past year I have been committing myself to eat more plant-based and educate myself on the importance of it. My family are not as keen on eating plant-based food as they think it can be quite plain. However, slowly I have been incorporating plant-based recipes often using Bengali spices, with lots of flavour and depth that the whole family can enjoy.
A classic dish served for iftar in Bengali homes. It is typically quite a dry dish served on the side with kitchuri/kitchdi.
Here I have used white chickpeas, but you can mix it up and use black chickpeas.
½ tsp of cumin seeds
2 tbsp of oil
4 sliced green chillies (or to your taste)
1 onion diced
1 chopped tomato
1tsp minced ginger
1tsp minced garlic
1tsp salt (or to your taste)
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp coriander
½ tsp garam masala
2 cans of chickpeas
Coriander (for garnishing)
1 tbsp of lemon juice
- Heat the oil in a shallow pan and fry off cumin seeds for 2 minutes
- Add in onions, garlic and ginger and fry off till onions become soft and transparent (5-8 mins)
- Add chillies and fry them off (2 mins)
- Add chopped tomato and saute till tomatoes breakdown and become soft
- Add your spices, salt and fry off for another 5-8 mins
- Place washed chickpeas, cover with a lid for 10 mins and stir occasionally
- Finish with lemon juice, check for salt and garnish with coriander and fresh chillies