Ismail the “Environmentalist Imam” is on a mission to clean up Fethiye to preserve it for future generations.
According to the latest reports in the national and local Turkish media, Ismail Baloğlu, a 65-year-old retired Imam, who lives in Fethiye, invited his old school friend of 30 years to visit him. He was looking forward to showing his friend the town where he lived and take him to the beautiful beaches and forests.
But when the two men visited these places Baloğlu was ashamed by what he saw.
There was, he said, rubbish everywhere.
He told the media is was about time things changed and people started taking responsibility for the environment.
An Environmentalist Imam
The retired imam, not only sees Turkey as his homeland, he also sees the country, like the rest of the world, as the creation of Allah, and the planet as the wonderful gift of Allah for humans to care for and protect.
In Islam, as with the other Abrahamic religions, humans are the guardians of the natural world for future generations.
Baloğlu is taking his role as guardian very seriously, so much so, that the Turkish media are calling him the Environmentalist Imam.
A friend of Fethiye
He told reporters:
As a friend of Fethiye, I am completely ashamed and embarrassed. Fethiye is a tourism area but the roads and beaches are covered with garbage. There are bottles, cans and plastic everywhere. Some of Fethiye’s most popular places, like Lover’s Hill* for example are full of rubbish. If, as it is said, Turkey is 99% Muslim, we, as Muslims, are responsible for this. It is our responsibility to keep our country clean. Cleanliness is one of the most important rules of our faith.”
An important message
The retired imam has now taken matters into his own hands. He is driving around using his own vehicle to collect the rubbish. He says he knows that this isn’t enough and he wants schoolteachers to instil children and students with the important message of not polluting the environment.
He also wants to see sermons at Friday prayers being used to deter people from throwing litter and dumping garbage and encourage a more responsible attitude to the environment.
* Lover’s Hill is the view point on the mountain overlooking Fethiye on the way to the Kaya Road.
The headline photo for this story was taken in Girdev Yaylası. It says ‘Leave this [place] as you want to find it.’