Sunday, December 26, 2004

PMU-NA Debate Blog & The Neo-Salafi Label

Salaam 'Alaikum

The folks over at PMU-NA Debate have a post on Ahmed Nassef's appearance on Dayside with Linda Vesser on Faux News the other day, as well as something that we mentioned a few weeks ago.

As you know, Nassef & Co labeled their critics at PMU-NA debate "neo-Salafis." We questioned the use of this label, as we believe it is meant to effectively shut down any examination of criticism of and valid concerns about the PMU. By labeling one's critics (or even those who question) as adherents to extreme sects of Islam, what Nassef & Co have done is delegitimize their concerns and consign them to the loony bin. No one with an ounce of knowledge about Islam and politics today can honestly put the folks at PMU-NA Debate in the same category as bin Laden, but MWU did it anyway. Why? The idea that a man like Farid Esack is a "neo-Selafi" extremist is laughable to anyone who knows him or who is familiar with his work, but for those people (non Muslim journalists especially) who don't, it's a very effective way of scaring people away from approaching him or any other critic for their point of view.

This method of dealing with questioners and critics reminds the author of the way extreme Muslim groups deal with questioners and critics. The words ("neo-Salafi, extremist" vs "kafir, mutbada'") may be different, but the purpose and ends are the same -- to shut down communication, questioning, learning, criticism. "You're either with us or against us."

As you know, Nassef appeared on Faux News the other day and said that "not all, but many mosques are run by people who have extremist views on women, etc." To my knowledge he has not clarified, even on MWU, what qualifies as "extremist" nor what he meant to include by "etc." (nb: I do not check MWU every hour or every day to see what Nassef has said during my absence, so this may have changed by the time you read this).

His attempts to defend his Faux statements on the blog raise even more questions, as he appears to be relying on a survey taken by CAIR, an organization MWU has consistently criticized and mocked; a survey that many Muslims felt was not a comprehensive or reliable portrait of American masajid. How can CAIR be the agents of the Evil Empire (Saudi Wahabiya), but at the same time, be a reliable statistical source? Is this like trying to have your cake and eat it too?

When Muslims go to the media (or the government) and tell them that the majority of our masajid are run by extremists, who are they serving? Do such declarations help the Muslim community? Do they make our masajid better? Do they help the government and neo-con think tanks? Do these claims only serve to confirm the biases and hatred of Muslims by racists and right-wingers?

Many of the responses that I saw from Faux viewers on MWU are from people who appear to be laboring under the mistaken idea that Muslims in this country as well as the Middle East have not been speaking out against violence and terror, and that Nassef and MWU are the lone reeds. Again, the last I saw, Nassef did nothing to correct this gross misconception.

Ask the Muslim Society of Memphis, TN who's been helped by the perception that our masajid are teeming with extremists. They can't even find a place to bury our dead brothers and sisters. But those racist individuals who opposed the cemetary can now hold up Nassef and say "See, even their own people call them extremists." (Because no matter if Nassef intended it or not, people are already interpreting and remembering his statements at Faux News as being a slam on masasjid in general, not the views on women held by those who run the masjid).

As with the masjid arsons and the murder of a pregnant Muslima in Louisiana, I suspect that this incident (which, for now, is the only one of the above incidents where anti-Muslim hate was clearly present) will go unnoticed by MWU. But maybe we'll get another feature on how the rest of us need to loosen up sexually.


Blogger bloggerism said...

I appreciate the strong comments on this page regarding the PMU. But as I stated before in another post, more needs to be done. I think the critics of PMU need to build a coallition that will not only expose this organization - as you are effectively doing. But this word needs to also get out to their sponsors - in this case the Harvard University Pluralism Project, see:

A letter and/or a petition asking them to withdraw their association given the issues you've identified above would be a very good start. You should ask Harvard University, if they are aware of these concerns - and what they are going to do about it... You should draft a strong but professional letter to them.

1:27 AM  
Blogger bloggerism said...

I just noticed that Farid Esack is writing for the Ihsan blog.

5:48 PM  
Blogger izzymo said...

Salaam alaikum Bloggerism
Thanks for your comments. Harvard University is actually notorious for supporting programs that undermine a lot of traditional forms of education so their support for PMU is not surprising. Christine Hoff Sommers wrote a scathing book about some of their women's studies programs in "Who Stole Feminism."

I am not sure what their motives are or if they think that a secular institution can really modify Islam in America but it wouldn't be the first time Muslims were preached to by non-Muslims about our religion and how we should live it.

1:00 AM  
Blogger Leila M. said...

no arguments on this post at all.

(going to harvest some points, there. Thanks)

1:40 AM  
Blogger bloggerism said...

Salaam - is there anyway to contact you off this blog? Especially "Living Traditon" and Risama? I think we need to get a group together that would be willing to address these issues directly, and respond to any more garbage that comes down from PMU (I'm sure we have not heard the last of their nonsense). I'm sure there are others who would be willing to take a stand.

The problem with PMU is that they are not just "one more group" - the have access to all kinds of money, and media - that they will use, and in the process place many Muslims in danger.

2:24 PM  
Blogger Yusuf Smith said...

Salaam bloggerism:

Risama is Izzy Mo. I think "Living Tradition" is Saraji. Hope this helps insha Allah.

5:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Salaam 'Alaikum

I do use "Living Tradition" to post to the blog, but it's not "my" name per se. I'm not sure I see the value in forming a group to respond to PMU in the long run, b/c all I can see is that they wish to provoke certain responses and controversies within the Muslim and non Muslim communities. The last I checked, their website wasn't even working anymore.

The best response to something like PMU is to reach out to Muslims and non Muslims with friendship and love, invite them to dhikrs, halaqas, dinner parties, and these things. That's my opinion anyway.

12:38 PM  
Blogger izzymo said...

Well put, UZ

3:28 PM  
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2:32 PM  

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