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Indonesia: The home of "Green Islam"

Can Quranic teaching save the planet? Many in the world's most-populous Muslim nation think so.

Still Guluk-Guluk remained the only one of its kind for more than a century. It’s been only in the last five years, just as global awareness of climate change and other environmental issues have increased, that “Green Islam” here has really taken root.

Attendance at Guluk-Guluk has ballooned from 1,200 to more than 6,500 students. And a number of those new environmentalists have gone on to open their own schools in cities all over the country.

There are now ever-growing networks of pesantrens going green, making Indonesia the unlikely pioneer of environmental Islam. The Indonesian government, recognizing the potential benefits of having the country’s 17,000 pesantren adopt some form of environmentalist program, has begun to vigorously promote such curriculums.

State Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta announced earlier this month that about 90 pesantrens in Central Java would take part in his new “eco-pesantren” pilot program, with the hope of broadening it to still hundreds more in the coming year.

Hatta said there are about 4 million students attending pesantrens, the world’s largest network of Islamic boarding schools, who could take what they learn back to their home towns.

“Indonesia is really the world leader in this area,” said Ali, adding that Islam generally trails other major religions in faith-based environmental initiatives.

At Ilmu Giri, the results of their environmentalist education have already begun to show.

Not long ago this hillside had been stripped bare by logging, which in turn gave way to a series of landslides that obliterated nearby villages.

“I remember the stories my parents told me about those landslides,” said Wardoyo, a young Ilmu Giri student who grew up here. “Now, Pak Nasruddin teaches us that if we have to cut down a tree, we must plant two more.”

Within several years of the school’s founding, the small farming community managed to “re-green” the entire hillside. Anshory’s students now plant thousands of trees every year.