Thursday, May 05, 2005

Risama's Thoughts on Muqtedar Khan's Article

As someone mentioned in the last entry, Khan’s recent criticism of MuslimWakeUp.com is a little weak. He does make some valid points but he is also a board member of the Progressive Muslim Union. I get the feeling that he wants to express his point of view but also protect his position on the board. I have edited and inserted my own thoughts within the article. I also highlighted some comments that I thought were very problematic. You can read the whole article at his website.


KHAN: Muslimwakeup.com [MWU], a very popular Muslim e-zine has definitely enriched and shaken up the American Muslim public sphere and is also being noticed by Muslims overseas. Along with the book Progressive Muslims, edited by Prof. Omid Safi, Asra Nomani’s mosque protests, and Amina Wadud’s leading of Friday prayers, MWU is easily one of the key Progressive Muslim moments in the history of American Islam. Thus MWU has clearly carved a place for itself in the American Muslim public sphere.

RIS: I have to disagree. I think that MWU.com has carved out a place within the American mainstream media, but they haven’t made any significant changes within the American Muslim community. The Progressive Meetups in most cities across America do not get off the ground. New Orleans is a good example of this. Dr. Max wrote a scathing review of one meeting he was fortunate enough to attend. But as far as for the foundational efforts of building schools, interfaith and charity work, it’s the average Muslim who does not have the media connections to get any credit for his/her work in the community.

KHAN: Before I make my arguments, I would like to state in the interest of disclosure that I am connected with both the Progressive Muslim movement and with Muslimwakeup.com. I am on the advisory board of PMU and several of my articles have been published by MWU in the past.

RIS: As I stated before, that might all change once they decide that Khan’s dissent is a liability. The PMU/MWU can dish out criticism but as they have proven in the past, they obviously can’t take it.

KHAN: This article should be read as advice from someone invited formally to sit in an advisory position and be read and engaged in the spirit of constructive criticism. I am essentially reporting, with some analysis, the criticisms of MWU that I receive. There are other nasty and eminently false allegations being made by some mainstream Muslims about MWU being a conspiracy of Rand Corporation and Neoconservatives in the US. I ignore them. There is no room for rational discourse with those who subscribe to conspiracy theories. For them their own imagination serves as evidence and it is irrefutable.

RIS: Oh how I wish that their connection to the RAND Corporation was just some horrible nightmare! But what else I am supposed to think when one of their board members, Aiman Mackie, is a former employee of the RAND Corporation. There’s also the fluff piece on MWU.com with Cheryl Bernard where they let her run the show. No tough questions about the RAND report for the woman who is arrogant enough to think that she can change Islam. I wish that the PMUNA were a bunch of plucky Muslims with really strange ideas about Islam rather than an arm of the puppets who are manipulating foreign and domestic policy to change Islam and to divide Muslims.

KHAN: The conclusion that I can draw from all these debates and discussions is that while majority of Muslims sympathize and may even endorse the agenda of Progressive Muslims (1) seeking gender justice, (2) struggling for social justice, (3) advancing a moral inclusivist theology, and (4) opening the doors of Ijtihad for reinterpretation of Islam in the contemporary context, they strongly oppose the method and style of MWU. I repeat, most American Muslims seem to sympathize with the causes that underpin the philosophy of Progressive Muslims, but they strongly disapprove of MWU’s style. This raises the question, will MWU in the long run undermine the very movement, the Progressive Muslim movement that it seeks to promote.

RIS: Okay, I can agree that their style, if you can call it that, is appalling but I don’t think that’s why many Muslims are put off by them. Islam already promotes gender and social justice so why is any reinterpretation needed for something that can already be used for good. The Qur’an admonishes us to care for the poor, oppressed, and weak so why do we need ijtihad when we can simply start living according the Qur’an and Sunnah? I think Muslims are put off by the MWU because they want to “change” or “reinterpret” Islam when many of us believe that Islam is fine the way it is. All we need to do is to learn it and practice it in our daily lives and then we will see improvement within our communities.

KHAN: Style--There are several aspects of style that seems to bother average Muslim readers. The tendency to immediate mock and ridicule prominent American Muslim leaders and organizations – a song that calls Siraj Wahhaj a f*g is often cited. Most people have no problems with criticism, but they object to the complete lack of Islamic adab. Regardless of what ploy MWU editors may use to defend this – “oh it is under the section satire, or humor “ – the distasteful content speaks or rather stinks for itself. This is not the Islamic way.

RIS: I second that. Don’t mess with the shayukh, imams and teachers who have been establishing the deen of Islam long before Islam was a blimp in the media radar. They could imitate the Sunnah by getting their point across with adab but they aren’t exactly pro-Sunnah anyways.

KHAN:--Islamic content: The manner in which many articles on MWU approach debates on Islamic theological issues are also an issue with many readers. Remember these are not complaints from fans or regular readers. These are complaints from most mosque related mainstream Muslims who have visited MWU once or twice to gauge what progressive Muslims are up to and have been turned off.

RIS: Not exactly. The aforementioned complaint has been made by those who were frequent readers of the e-zine, myself included.

KHAN: The most commonly cited examples of this flaw in MWU articles are Hussein Ibish’s responses to Hina Azam and Louay Safi. They are read as insulting and above all completely and absolutely devoid of any Islamic content. They seem to be written by someone who knows nothing about Islam and on a more scary level, does not really care for Islamic sources at all. Many Muslims also seem to recall that Ibish had declared on national TV that he was an agnostic and did not practice Islam or something to that effect. I agree with the traditional Muslims’ argument that Progressive Muslims are methodologically weak, essentially because the progressive Islamic jurisprudential tradition has yet to begin.

RIS: But Farid Esack is considered a progressive Muslim scholar so what’s all this stuff about progressive jurisprudential tradition not having any beginnings? And if they care to start a progressive madhab of sorts, why put a self-proclaimed arch-secularist on your board. No one on the PMU has any training in Islam outside of the American university structure so obviously, the creation of progressive “fiqh” is not one of their concerns.

KHAN: Sex--This is a source of great contention. Many Muslims have a problem with the discussion of sex itself, others have a problem with how some prominent Islamic personalities have been dealt with in some of this sex columns. I think the sex columns do more to establishing the personality of MWU with their fan base and may not directly undermine the progressive Muslim movement as long as they do not seek to reform theology through fictionalized discussion of sex.

RIS: The sex column DOES undermine the progressive Muslim movement because it portrays as them as sexually immature adults who think that placing scholars in their erotica is the height of wit.

KHAN: Intolerance--This is the irony and tragedy of the Progressive Muslim Movement, that it is accused of intolerance. Most Muslim readers argue that MWU while preaching loftily for tolerance and inclusion are vociferously intolerant towards Muslims who disagree with them.

RIS: BINGO!

KHAN: Progressive Muslim Union and Muslimwakeup.com do not have any formal relationship.

RIS: I refuse to believe that Mr. Khan is that naïve. It is no coincidence that some of the writers of MWU.com are on the PMUNA. Or that many of the contributors of Omid Safi’s book Progressive Muslims have written for MWU.com. The fact that Ahmed Nassef is on the PMUNA establishes the connection whether Mr. Khan wants to acknowledge that or not. Or let’s put it like this. Amina Wadud is a board member of PMUNA. Amina Wadud’s prayer service was promoted by MWU.com. Ahmed Nassef is the editor of MWU.com. His media consulting firm promotes the media stunts and books of Asra Nomani who is a contributor to MWU.com.


Nomani’s pseudo-feminist struggle against the Morgantown masjid has been covered by MWU.com. Asra Nomani has a group called Daughters of Hagar where Saleemah Adbul-Ghaffur, former managing editor of Azizah Magazine, is a member. Saleemah Abdul-Ghaffur is also a member of PMUNA.

Sarah Eltantawi, former member of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, is a Daughter of Hagar, MWU contributor and PMUNA member. Michael Muhammad Knight, imitator of Ibrahim Hooper (CAIR), taunter of Siraj Wahhaj, and friend of Asra Nomani, is a frequent writer for MWU.com and a member of the PMUNA. Mohja Kahf, erotica writer for MWU.com is a member of PMUNA. Subhan’Allah, do you need more proof?

8 Comments:

Blogger Umm Zaid said...

Salaam 'Alaikum

Agree with you on the "carving out a place" comment. What place?

Khan says: "There are other nasty and eminently false allegations being made by some mainstream Muslims about MWU being a conspiracy of Rand Corporation and Neoconservatives in the US."

Umm Zaid wonders: Who is making these? I have seen people note the coincidence that what they do / say follows exactly what "Civil Democratic Islam" advocated, and others, including myself, noticed that they barely ever talk about the report (one that had Muslims all over the world talking)except for one fluff piece w/ Benard (complete with glamour shot). It's not a nasty allegation or a conspiracy theory to wonder why only some things are worth their attention, but others aren't. I don't think there's some vast conspiracy b/c I haven't seen any evidence of it. I really don't think the guy from American Muslim Perspective is saying that either, but it seems that Khan has learned from the pit-bull attack dog tactics of his colleagues at MWU on this one.

1:37 PM  
Blogger Umm Zaid said...

Salaam 'Alaikum

Khan writes: "The conclusion that I can draw from all these debates and discussions is that while majority of Muslims sympathize and may even endorse the agenda of Progressive Muslims (1) seeking gender justice, (2) struggling for social justice, (3) advancing a moral inclusivist theology, and (4) opening the doors of Ijtihad for reinterpretation of Islam in the contemporary context, they strongly oppose the method and style of MWU. I repeat, most American Muslims seem to sympathize with the causes that underpin the philosophy of Progressive Muslims..."

UmmZaid: This, IMO, is a false argument. What is "seeking gender justice?" What's "struggling for social justice?" These things are framed so vaguely... well, who doesn't want gender justice? I've never met anyone, not even a hard core Salafi, say that they want injustice. What Khan isn't doing is saying what *type* of "gender justice" MWU is talking about vs. what yer Average Muslim Joe is talking about. If you're going to put it so vaguely then yes, of course, it would "seem" that most American Muslims agree with that.

And that "opening ijtihad" thing... is that becoming their slogan like the people of Dawatus Salafiya have a slogan? Because it doesn't mean anything. It's buzzwords. I've never met a regular Joe / Jane Muslima who blathers on about the need for "new ijtihad."

The key words "most American Muslims seem to..." also stood out for me, if only to highlight the chasm that appears to exist b/t regular Jane and Joe Muslim and the "pro-regressives." Out of touch with the community.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Umm Zaid said...

Salaam 'Alaikum

"Why didn't you just write a new post?"

UZ: "eh... leave me alone."

Khan writes:"Sex--This is a source of great contention. Many Muslims have a problem with the discussion of sex itself..."

UZ: I think what "many Muslims" have a problem with is the adab-less and extremely public and mocking way that MWU and their tag-alongs discuss sex. It's an imitation of the way it's discussed in our Jerry Springer culture. I think, personally, based on my experiences, that "most Muslims" don't have a problem discussing sex, but in more private settings, with good taste and adab (of course, it's been written on MWU many times over that "adab" is another term for "gender oppression" so....). There is a doctor whose name I can't recall who discusses issues or answers questions about sexuality on MWU occasionally. I think most Muslims are okay w/ that sort of thing. It's putting Tabari in the situation he was put in, it's the mock up of Bukhari that is so dadgum offensive. I'm (not) surprised Khan can't recognize this.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Umm Zaid said...

Salaam 'Alaikum

Khan writes: "I think the sex columns do more to establishing the personality of MWU with their fan base and may not directly undermine the progressive Muslim movement as long as they do not seek to reform theology through fictionalized discussion of sex."

UZ: There's that out-of-touch thing showing its face again. Everytime the subject of MWU comes up among friends, on lists, on boards, the "sex column" is the FIRST thing that people complain about, the thing that turned them away from MWU more than anything else. I hear complaints about it all the time. It's an attention getting technique, and it's working... b/c I personally think the goal was to offend and tick off large segments of the American Muslim population, not draw us in or establish solidarity with us. Then, when people are inevitably offended, the attack pack moves in and starts mocking and name calling anyone who voices mild objections to the pieces (let alone vociferous objections).

1:48 PM  
Blogger DrMaxtor said...

Khan really annoys the heck out of me, whether its his dishonesty or the shallowness of his writing.
He is no better than the MWU crowd when it comes to dealing with criticism. His responce to Khaled Abu Fadl is a prime example of this. Gummy bears indeed.

3:27 PM  
Blogger raining4days said...

Assalam Alaikum,

Daniel Pipes put PMUNA in his extremist list lol http://www.iviews.com/Articles/articles.asp?ref=IV0505-2686

wasalam

10:26 PM  
Blogger altaf said...

Salaam

Daniel Pipes is distraction, everyone focuses on him, and they don't see these other nefarious groups that are being formed, Omid Safi (the chair of PMUNA) keeps talking about his group being on Pipe's list of "extremists" - as if that is some kind of an endorsement. I think Pipes was deliberately created, so that groups like PMUNA could claim legitimacy by pointing to Pipe's list/"endorsement."

Thanx for doing this response - i need to do mine as well, sometime middle to late next week.

Altaf

3:24 AM  
Blogger Yusuf Smith said...

As-Salaamu 'alaikum,

:Daniel Pipes is distraction, everyone focuses on him, and they don't see these other nefarious groups that are being formed, Omid Safi (the chair of PMUNA) keeps talking about his group being on Pipe's list of "extremists" - as if that is some kind of an endorsement. I think Pipes was deliberately created, so that groups like PMUNA could claim legitimacy by pointing to Pipe's list/"endorsement.":

How interesting. But it also goes to show how little a Muslim needs to do to get onto Pipes' list of so-called extremists. "They will never be satisfied with you ..."

5:04 AM  

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