Saturday, April 30, 2005

Standing Alone in Morgantown: Thoughts & Impressions of Nomani's Latest

Salaam 'Alaikum

It was originally going to be a book review, except for two problems. One is that I do not have the book on hand to refer back to (for page #s and quotes and the like), and the second was that I was unable to complete the entire book in the time that I had. Still, I had some thoughts and impressions that I came away with and wanted to share them.



Asra Nomani is a breath of fresh air in the genre of "progressive Muslim" writing. Don't get all up in arms over that. Nomani is a gifted and engaging writer, even if I don't agree with most of what she says. The One Who Created her endowed her with a talent that she has put to use. As I was reading her latest book, I got the impression of a writer who enjoys communicating her ideas and things she's witnessed with people. Her style is fresh and fast paced. I've read other "progressive Islam" books and articles over the years and have found that they generally tend to fall in one of two categories: stilted, amateur prose or pretentious, psuedo-intellectual muckity muck.

For that reason alone, her book was much easier to read than the writings of people like Asma Gull Hasan or Muqtedar Khan. I was also pleased to find the text refreshingly free of the fifty cent words and references to European philosophers that fill some other "progressive" writings and lead so many to believe that the movement is elitist and classist. Nomani is a down to earth person trying to reach other down to earth people.

My other impression based on the book is that Nomani comes off as achingly sincere in her search for the heart of Islam. The Nomani who is portrayed in the book is desperately searching for something. The problem is that Nomani also reveals herself to have about as much knowledge about Islam and the community in the US as the average journalist does. Going by what she writes of herself in the book, this is a woman who chose to put herself outside of the community and has held little interest in getting to know it until professional and other obligations forced her to. I also cringed at the constant name dropping in the book, particularly that of murdered journalist Daniel Pearl and his widow, Marianne. I've noticed it in other articles and editorials Nomani has written, and at one point in the book I found myself thinking, "OK. You knew Daniel Pearl. I get it." Nomani does the same with other individuals she's met along the way.

As a reader, I wondered if she didn't drop these names to bolster her own credibility. After all, she can't point to a resume of Islamic education, or years of community involvement. By her own admission, she didn't even really start getting involved in the Ummah until three years ago. So it seems as though Nomani uses the names of people like the Pearls and other more established Muslim activists as part of an attempt to sell herself to readers as a credible activist. I don't know why she gets the amount of attention she does from mainstream media sources, but I can guess that her connections with other journalists, coupled with a willingness to go to supply the press with sensational stories plays a large part in it. And too, her book company has a PR department and they're not afraid to use it.

But for a regular Muslim woman like myself, instances of Nomani's ignorance about mainstream organizations, about Islamic practices, and other things left me wondering why I should be expected to let Nomani speak for me? I do not agree with everything the ISCAIRNAMASPACs of the world do (nor would I ever join any of these organizations), but at least they have established track records of working for and with the Muslim American community to point to.

On a similar point, and related to some of her recent public actions, she refers to several Muslim Americans in the book as "Martins and Martinas," as in Luther. In fact, Luther is invoked several times in the book, as he has was in the "99 Precepts" stunt she pulled at Morgantown masjid just before the book came out (cough cough cough). Nomani and her friends in the "prog" movement and the mainstream media want to paint a picture of an Islamic reformation, one that deliberately ignores history and reality. If Luther were here today, of course, he'd have nothing nice to say about "Islam's Martin Luther" (nor she of he). The Reformation in Europe set into motion roughly 200 years of war, persecution, and witch burnings. The Europe that emerged from the Reformation became the cradle of Communism and Socialism and left much of Western Europe and North America with a Cafeteria Christianity that is often watered down and that spawns further sects and schisms every time Bob disagrees with Revered Joe's Scriptural interpretations. Why would Muslims want to go down that lizard hole?

Second, if there has been a "reformation" movement in Islam, and a "Muslim Martin Luther," then he came at the end of the 18th century, his name was Muhammad Abdul Wahab. The "Wahabiya" reformation has caused some of the same problems that the European reformation caused, namely persecution, extremism, and an ignorance of the diyn as traditional methods and sources of knowledge were discarded or destroyed. One wonders if today's version of "progressive Islam" isn't anything more than a natural result of Abdul Wahab's "reformation," just as liberal Anglicanism and Unitarian Universalism were a result of the European Reformation. Who on earth would want to lay claim to the legacy of Luther in light of all that?

Nomani (and others who support side-by-side mixed gender prayer) uses her experiences at the three Sharif places as evidence that separation is un-Islamic. The problem is that the awqaf authorties at Makkah and Madinah have long said that separating 2.5 million pilgrims is logistically impossible, and so there is an expiation there. In addition to that, jama'at prayers there are separated into sections, and there are always seperate areas for women to pray, outisde of jama'at. Think about it. Have you ever watched five daily prayers, or Jumu'ah, or Tarawih from Makkah and seen women praying side by side with men in any part of the Haram or Masjid an Nabi? I'm also not sure about the claim that Haram Sharif is completely mixed, as I have never seen a prayer broadcast from there where men and women were praying together. Hajjis and others can tell me if the logistic problems that the awqaf directors refer to are women praying wherever they can in the masajid during tawwaf or outside of prayer times (say, greeting the masjid).

As a Muslim reader, the fact that Nomani decides not to use her journalist's skills and connections to speak to the administrators of the awqaf or find out why things are differently there shows an intellectual dishonesty and a willful ignorance. I felt that she wasn't trying to get me, her Muslim reader, all of the information that was available to her, and I felt that she was trying to mislead her non-Muslim readers into thinking that the 'ulema haven't had the slightest idea what they're talking about for the last 1400 yrs (which is, naturally, a common tactic in particular "proggie" circles). When Nomani writes that she is willing to go to the NYT, WSJ, CNN, etc. to "expose" Morgantown and publicly castigate a community that has largely rejected her efforts, but she is curiously unwilling to do the same to find out information about Islam or Shari'ah that might make her uncomfortable, what one is left with is a glaring double standard.

As I went further into the book, the sincerity became an issue for me. Nomani does seem to yearn, but as she rips into conservative and mainstream Muslims like Ibrahim Hooper for not paying enough attention to her or the issues she discusses with them, she turns a blind eye to the very bad behavior of particular individuals she references in glowing terms (a young man who is known for impersonating the aforementioned Hooper chief among them). Can you really complain about conservative Muslims saying nasty things about someone if your own friends do the same? It comes across as "Do as I say, not as I do."

And then yesterday, friends pointed me to a letter that was published in the Dawn last week. Nomani has written in her first book, and said on several other occasions, that she is a direct descendant of Allama Shibley Nomani of Pakistan. Now, however, Allama Shibley's own granddaughters are saying that this is not true.

Progressive Muslims of Morgantown's Meetup lists Sohail Sultan of North Nazimabad, Karachi, Pakistan, as a member, but there's two problems with this. One is that anyone can log into Meetup and join as a member with any name they choose. You can join Knit-Wits of Terre Haute Meetup as William Shakespeare. So I wouldn't say that his name on their roster is any proof of her claim of direct descent from Allama Shibley. Anyone who knows anything about Allama Shibley's family could go online and log in and join the Meetup under that name. It's even possible that Asra Nomani herself has nothing to do with the Meetup site, although I doubt it, since I've read at least one report of the Progressive Muslims of Morgantown's meetings written by Nomani.

The second is that the very letter sent to the Dawn repudiating Ms. Nomani's claim of kinship was written by Sohail Sultan's wife -- Momna Sohail Sultan, the youngest granddaughter of Allama Shibley. Why would Mrs. Sultan write a very public letter with such strong words as extremely embarassed," and "in no way connected to the Shibli family" if her husband is a member and supporter of the group?

Reading that letter yesterday, coupled with the problem of her double standard and her being a journalist at the WSJ tarnishes her sincerity for me. The WSJ is a reputable paper, no doubt, but outside of matters of finance, it's not one that I would consider a reliable source. And Nomani was not a financial writer.

Finally, I was extremely uncomfortable with the talk of lawsuits and lawyers at the end of the book. Nomani hints that she is gearing up to file a First Amendment lawsuit against the Morgantown Islamic Center, saying that they have violated their non-profit status because they are denying her her First Amendment right to worship by insisting on a balcony for women. For Muslims, and for Americans in general, the mere idea should be extremely troubling for a few reasons.

What a lawsuit of this nature would do is call upon a jury or a judge to render a verdict on Islamic practices - in essence, get a branch of government involved in matters of religion, and decide for Muslims what is and isn't acceptable. It is ironic that Nomani seems to approve of one branch of gov't violating the First Amendment rights of Morgantown (and other) Muslims in the name of the First Amendment.

A lawsuit like this would help put a crack in the wall separating the government from religious practice, something that the Religious Right in our country has been trying to do for years (see last week's prayer rally for fundagelical Christian judges for an example). After masjid balconies, what would be next? Rules about proper dress in the masjid? And after Muslims, then what? Rules about who can and can't take communion in an Orthodox church? Would Orthodox Jews be expected to stop separating men from women in the synagogue?

And then one wonders why Muslims should be held to a tougher standard than others. After all, no one has sued the Roman Catholic church for "restricting the right" of women to lead masses. Or the Southern Baptist Church for refusing to ordain homosexuals. When one enters what is essentially a private insitution (after all, mosques and churches are not public squares), doesn't one agree to abide by a certain standard of behavior set forth by the administrators or owners of the institution? A Protestant can not enter a Catholic church on Sunday and begin to preach or witness the worshippers for his religion. Why, then, should a woman be allowed to disrupt Friday prayers -- or be condoned for attempting to force an entire community to bend to her will?

The second major problem with her hints at a forthcoming lawsuit is that they are done in light of the Rand report and several other steps taken by the gov't to change what Islam is or teaches. To my memory, Nomani says nothing about the Rand report in her book, much less that she supports enacting it, but as with other friends of hers, everything she is saying and doing follows exactly what Benard suggested.

The objective of the report, and of the "change Islam" cabal in the government is to divide and conquer Muslims. What sort of Muslim would willingly play along with that? I guess that it's the same types of Muslims that went along with the colonizers -- people who saw some power, money, or other benefit in it for them, regardless of the consquences for the Ummah or the nation. And what sort of self-professed political liberal would play along with a game promoted by the Religious Right and the neocon cabal? Their politics and goals are only odious when it comes to 'Iraq or trying to put prayer in schools, but it's okay when it's Islam? Yuck.

Despite her engaging writing, her pleasant manner, her seeming sincerity and eagerness, it was the double standard and the lawsuit business, combined with the publicity hound activities in the press, that put me off Nomani -- more than her ideas about Islam. I don't see hope in this vision that Nomani sets forth for the American community. I see a future where Muslims and others would find their religious beliefs and practices subject to government approval, and where Muslims who don't goose step are persecuted and isolated (as they have been among the so-called "Wahabiya" reformers). It's not a future I want for my children.

Monday, April 25, 2005

The Straw Men of the PMU

I've been wanting to write something regarding Hussein Ibish's response to Dr. Hina Azam's outstanding and generally well-argued article A Critique Of The Argument For Woman-Led Friday Prayers, but I simply haven't had time. Due to this, a more Rested Heart has beaten me to the punch and done a fine job at that:

The Straw Man and the Progressive Muslim Union

While I think there are some assumptions and other serious flaws that undermine Ibish's attempted refutation, especially for those of us who value the eternal more than the temporal, it seems that my points in this regard will have to wait for a later day, insha'llah.

Before closing, I'd like to mention that the other day I read the comments of a self-professed liberal Muslim who said that they were yet to read a convincing argument that woman led prayer is not allowed. I'm not sure if going through life putting the cart before the horse whenever it suits your own fancy necessarily classifies as self-delusion, but it certainly could. Self-delusion is a scary thing because one is inherently unaware that one is suffering from it. I pray that Almighty God protects us all from that...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Article: The Trouble With 'The Trouble With Islam'

Salaam 'Alaikum

Stanford student on the problem with Irshad Manji and the status of Muslim organizations at Stanford U.

The Trouble With 'The Trouble With Islam'

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

PMUNA Debate Blog

Salaam 'Alaikum

Has some interesting new stuff. Mosey on over and check it out.

Progressive Muslim Union of North America Debate Blog

(Funny that both PMUNA Debate and LT picked up on the US News report. Hope others do too).

Article: US Gov't Spends Millions to Change Face of Islam

Salaam 'Alaikum

Anyone who doesn't believe that the gov't is pouring tons of money and time into the so-called "reformist" movement "within" Islam is naive or blind or both. Anyone who thinks the Rand report was a nice piece of reading, but that it has nothing to do with current so-called "reformist" movements or gov't spending and activity is naive, blind, or a liar.

US News & World Report Hearts, Minds, and Dollars : In an Unseen Front in the War on Terrorism, America is Spending Millions...To Change the Very Face of Islam by David E. Kaplan

"In at least two dozen countries, Washington has quietly funded Islamic radio and TV shows, coursework in Muslim schools, Muslim think tanks, political workshops, or other programs that promote moderate Islam. Federal aid is going to restore mosques, save ancient Korans, even build Islamic schools. This broad engagement with Islam has raised questions about whether the funding is legal, given the constitutional line between church and state....

"But the breakthrough finally came last summer, sources say, when the NSC began reworking the White House's National Strategy for Combating Terrorism. In 2003, officials had released an earlier, public version of the document, but there is a larger, classified edition that includes annexes dealing with key objectives, among them terrorism finance and winning the war of ideas. Staffers rewrote the ideas section with bold, new language and fashioned it into a strategy called Muslim World Outreach. Aimed at strengthening the hand of moderates, the plan acknowledges that America has done poorly in reaching out to them. But it goes one big step further, stating that the United States and its allies have a national security interest not only in what happens in the Islamic world but within Islam itself, according to three sources who have seen the document. It further states that because America is limited to what it can do in a religious struggle, the nation must rely on partners who share values like democracy, women's rights, and tolerance. Among those partners: allied Muslim states, private foundations, and nonprofit groups.

Approved by President Bush, the Muslim World Outreach strategy is now being implemented across the government. But it has stirred controversy. "The Cold War was easy," says a knowledgeable official. "It was a struggle against a godless political ideology. But this has theological elements. It goes to the core of American belief that we don't mess with freedom of religion. Do we have any authority to influence this debate?" The answer, for now, appears to be yes. "You do it quietly," says Zeyno Baran, a terrorism analyst at the Nixon Center who advised on the strategy. "You provide money and help create the political space for moderate Muslims to organize, publish, broadcast, and translate their work....

"One solution being pushed: offering backdoor U.S. support to reformers tied to Sufism, a tolerant branch of Islam... (see related article, "The Enemy of my Enemy," about US gov't funding designed to gain the support of Sufis).

"Also on the grants list: Islamic think tanks that are fostering a body of scholarly research showing liberal Islam's compatibility with democracy and human rights."

Of course, this is an article that refers to Radio Sawa and Al Hurra TV as "bright spots," when the truth is that al Hurra is the least watched Arabic-language channel in the ME (everyone knows what it is) -- "reaching viewers" and having them actually watch and believe what you air are two different things -- and that while Sawa's music selections are popular, people literally turn the volume down or turn the radio off altogether when the news comes on (I've actually witnessed this first hand). So take what is beneficial and truly informative from it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Iman Muhanna Update

Salaam alaikum,

So far all leads to Iman Muhanna Muhammad's murder are cold. Some suspected that the murder may have been tied to a brother-in-law who was in line to possibly replace Yasser Arafat after his death. The reward sum has been raised to $45,000 dollars which is particularly high since better leads have been offered for lower sums in the past. Insha'Allah, justice will be done. La howla wa laa quwatta illa billah.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Reflecting on the Prophet (sallalahu aleyhi wa salaam)

It’s Rabi’al Awwal. This is the month that some Muslims take the time to reflect on the life and message of our Prophet Muhammad (may blessings and peace be upon him). As Muslims who love him and hope for the day we can see him in Jennah, it is very upsetting to hear lies, accusations and slander launched against him to this very day. Some of it is from ignorance but much of it is from anger and jealousy. So many refuse to recognize that he was the best of creation and an example for all mankind. I won’t get into whether or not the Mawlid is halal or haram. You can research and find fatawas on that yourself. But I think few us would argue that reflecting on the Prophet (sallalahu aleyhi wa salaam) is a bad thing.

If we think that the beating that we are taking in the media is bad, think about all the horrible and nasty things that were done to Habib'Allah. He went from a man with respectability and honor to a man whose character, sanity and manhood were totally debased by his enemies. Not only did he suffer to bring the message of Islam into this world but his family and followers did as well. But through it all, from his fall to his rise, he remained fair and obedient to Allah subhana wa ta’ala. He didn’t care what people thought of him because of his fear and devotion to Allah subhana wa ta’ala.

The days ahead look very frightening but this is not the time to hide. This is time to take up spiritual arms and to cloak ourselves with the Sunnah. Remember how the enemies plotted against him time and time again and he was victorious? So many people have slandered him and slandered Islam and yet Islam continues to grow. Muslims are everywhere imaginable and in places wouldn’t suspect. Allah subhana wa ta’ala is amazing. As Muslims in the West, we must first and foremost change ourselves and stop taking our cues from the worst of this culture. We have to continue to work, study, make dua, give in charity, guard the prayer, and wage war against the nafs. Let us show our neighbors that Islam can offer a viable and sensible alternative to this society which is so enamored with glamour, sex and conspicuous consumption.

We are and will continue to be attacked from within and outside of the umma. The RANDies of MWU/PMUNA will launch all kinds of media tricks and outlandish accusations just to get us to fall in line with their agenda. They will set up the psuedo-clashes of progressive vs. regressive, liberal vs. conservative and religious vs. secular. What will they do next? Allahu alim. I have some thoughts on that but I don’t want to give them any ideas since they are aware that this blog exists and that we poke holes into their theories time and time again.

Please take some time to study the Sirah and Hadith. Let's try our best to make the Messanger (sallalahu alayhi wasalaam) proud and to make Allah subhana wa ta'ala happy. This world is distracting with all of its responsibilites wiht our families and friends, but remember that Allah subhana wa ta'ala is the goal and Allah subhana wa ta'ala is closer to us than our jugular vein.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Community Reform Spotlight: Yan Taru

We at Living Tradition, are always advocating that Muslims put their words to action. So often, this society is all about fluff and no substance. We want to shine a light on those are active and working to improve their communities for the sake of Allah subhana wa ta’ala. A sister dropped a message in one of my blogs and I was led to a very wonderful website.

It is http://www.yantaru.org/ and we suggest that you check it out. It’s a Muslim women’s organization whose example is that of the great scholar, scribe and daughter of the Nigerian Sheik Usman dan Fodio. Her name was Nana Asma’u was under her father's reign as the leader of the Sokoto Caliphate, she educated numerous people within the land, teaching them the virtues of the Sunnah and the Qur’an. She was an excellent poet and teacher who created a class of female students called the yantaru. They have chosen this awesome woman as a role model for improving and empowering the lives of Muslim women.

If you check out their website, you will find a fashion contest for modest clothing for their clothing line called Taqwa (there's a idea for our Pakistani-Canadian beauty queens). They are also hosting a writing contest for literature and raise charitable funds through their clothing label and other sales. Please check out these sisters when you can.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Who needs a reformation?

If I had a penny for every time I heard that “Islam needs a reformation with its own Martin Luther”…well you know how the rest of the line goes. Even if we ignore those who utter such words, such a proposition needs to be confronted and corrected.
I personally do not sponsor to the monkey-see monkey-do approach of many proggies who believe that the answer to all of humanity’s ills lies in a pre-packaged western one-size-fits-all solution. You definitely won’t find a solution feasting on a bagel and cup of frapachino at Starbucks.
Indeed, to demand a “reformation” in Islam following in the footsteps of the Protestant “reformation” of Europe reveals a blatant ignorance and arrogance about the history of that event. Were Muslims burning books in a bonfire ? Did they murder untold numbers of woman accusing them of witchcraft ? How about burning heretics at the stake ? Did Muslims initiate and execute murderous Crusades ? Certainly not, this in itself should be enough for a sensible person to reject calls for reformation. If I remember right, Muslims did not alter themselves or their faith to liberate Jerusalem, they united under the banner of Islam to expel the crusaders. So what explains the present ills of the Muslims ? The answer lies in what made the Muslims of the past victorious over their enemies despite overwhelming odds, an unshakable belief in the Holy Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet (s.a.w). It should come as no surprise that as Muslims embraced the dunya, the unseen help of Allah was denied to them. Indeed, the failures of the Arab and Islamic world today is nothing less than the absolute failure of progressivism whether it cast itself as Kemalism, Nasserism, Marxism, Ba’athism, Pan-Arabism, or any other imported and imposed notion of “progress.” You would think that anyone with common sense would ditch such failed systems of thought and governance by now instead of carrying on about religious reformation like a trained parrot in a cage.
Oh we’ve had our share of reformers, mind you. Under the guidance and protection of the British, Mirza Ghulam Ahmed declared himself a prophet to the Muslims of India, declaring all those who didn’t accept him as kafirs. To this day the Ahmediya cult enjoys a privileged status in England. Over in North America, Noble Drew Ali and Elijah Pool declared themselves as messengers of the Supreme. The NOI freely operates in the US, with neither its activities or theology under any real scrutiny. Cant let the “angry black mooslim” stereotype go to waste can we? One does not need a RAND corporation report to see that there have been numerous attempts by the enemies of Islam to create and promote schisms in the name of “reformation.” Today we have a new generation of “reformers,” a veritable gooftroop of charlatans, opportunists, and liars falling over themselves trying to jump on the moderate/progressive bandwagon. Whether it’s Pakistan’s bumbling semi-literate General-in-chief with his “enlightened moderation,” or the regressive definition for Muslims put forth by a group of pseudo-intellectual leftist extremists in cyberspace, “reformation” is in, common sense and honesty are out. And you cant have a good ol’ reformation without your very own Martin Luther, and there’s no shortage of candidates. The gamut runs from catamite Canadian supporters of terrorism to well to do academics who like to fancy themselves as “Muslim Kissingers.”
There’s plenty of talk about revitalizing intellectual thinking and grand ijtihad like schemes coming from the usual suspects. These are really just convenient buzz words and catchy phrases, which in reality bear little resemblance to their true objectives. Who says intellectual tradition and philosophical inquiry are dead within the ummah? Ever heard of the late Sheikh Ahmed Deedat? How about Dr.Zakir Naik, a man whose ability to debate and present facts has scared off the likes of Taslima Nasrin and other paper tigers? I could go on about the Maryam Jamilahs, Haroon Yahyas, Hamza Yusufs of this ummah but I think the point has been made.
Haskalah was defined as 18th century Jewish “enlightenment,” a movement amongst Europe’s Jewish elite to assimilate their community. Theodore Herzl, the founder of zionism even proposed the mass conversion of Jews to Christianity, in essence rejecting the “otherness” of Jews and the acceptance of their “Europeaness.” This defines a key part of zionist thought which identifies Judaism through race rather than religious affiliation. While Muslim proggies haven’t yet proposed religious conversion, they are following the same path of assimilation through appeasement. Perhaps they forgot what happened to Europe’s Jews.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Progressive Sexual Ethics: Take Two

Okay, I already addressed this subject before some time back. And since sex is one of the biggest distrations of the dunya, I wanted to take a stab at it again. I call it a big distraction because while Muslims are suffering in all parts of the world due to poverty, war and disease, PMUNA and MWU would convince us that what the umma needs is more pornographic stories about Muslims doing absolutely ridiculous things. There's one story in particular where an Egyptian girl is inpregnanted by her drunk, theiving African-American lover. Of course, in the story, rather than blaming herself for being so naive (amongst other things) she blames the Qu'ran for her eventual guilt.

Sorry, kids. It looks like you can't have your cake and eat it, too.

Not now. Not ever.

You see sexual intercourse is one of the wonderful gifts of Allah subhana wa ta'ala and just like any gift, you can use it for good or evil purposes. When Allah subhana wa ta'ala made it clear that fornication was a sinful trangression, He wasn't being a big party pooper ruining your fun. He is not a big meanie who hates to see His creation to have any joy, excitement or pleasure. The boundaries are set up to protect us. Abstinence until marriage protects both the man and the woman. But it protects the woman more so because no matter how much this current society tries to resocialize gender roles, women will always receive the brunt of jugdement. Notice how Asra Nomani gets all the negative attention while hardly anybody mentions the man that abandoned her. What she did wasn't right but both partners are equally guility in light of the Qur'an and sunnah.

But it is the woman who bears the child for 9 months and is, by biological selection, the primary caregiver. Fathers are important and essential but its the bond between mother and child that is hard to break. Maybe that is why it is so easy for some men to walk away, because they haven't had a life growing inside of them. It is the woman who has to make the diffucult decision to have an abortion or not. And while making this decision, she usually does it alone. Ask any teenage mother and she'll tell you all about it.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that their "Sex and the Umma" column is intended to wake us up but in reality, it puts us to sleep when it comes to what's really important.

You want a dose of reality?

I got a new job working right across the hall from the Sexually Transmitted Diseases Clinic. Everytime I walk by the clinic to run an errand or grab a bite to eat, the room is usually full. The people are young, many are in their late teens to early twenties. Both genders are represented with a little more women than men. They all have the same look on their face--fear and worry. They are scared that they have something that will kill them and it's a feeling that I would not wish on my worst enemy.

That is reality.

As Muslims, we are obligated to advocate social and sexual responsibility not matter how unpopular it is. Anything else is ghaflah. No Muslim should feel ashamed or think that Islam needs reform for the sexual ethics that have been promoted by Islam and other faiths for hundreds of years. Allah subhana wa ta'ala knows His creation better than we do and knows what is best for us.

Only few questions remain. How can a movement which claims to be setting us free is actually setting up the Muslim world for the same ills of Western society? What could we possibly want with epidemic numbers of STD transmission, divorce, out of wedlock pregnancy and strife between men and women? What is so regressive about abstinence and proper birth control usage in an age when twelve year old girls are contracting syphilis? It's a shame because Muslims can offer an alternative that has been forgotten by some in other faith communities. But as MWU and PMUNA have made clear, this is not about changing the world for the better but rather conforming to a society which is considered by some to be in state of cultural and social decay.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Undoing of PMUNA Board Member Muqtedar Khan

So, the Amina Wadud controversy has abated. I am sure that some blogs and forums are still fuming over the widely covered media event but just like all facets of pop culture, it is easily consumed, digested and then quickly discarded. But some of us are still feeling the sting of insults from the Progressive Muslim Union and its attempts to brand any dissent as retrogressive and backward. Despite the claims of tolerance and free expression of opinion, people who have written for them or posted comments that did not fall in line with their agenda were attacked or had their words deleted. This is not merely for those who leave comments but for those on their board who either disagree on a certain idea or have no opinion to offer on the matter. Welcome to the stage Muqtedar Khan, author on many books about Islam such as American Muslims: Bringing Faith anfd Freedom and webmaster of ijtihad.org, a website calling for freedom of thought and independent thinking.

You see, Muqtedar Khan had the gall to not comment on the Amina Wadud imamate. He did not approve of it or condemn it. Rather, he decided not to give an opinion because his focus is on public policy and politics, not matters of worship. Brothers and sisters, this is mutiny. You can not be on the PMU Board and disgree with its aims or even question the aims. But not doubt, Captain Jawad Ali, writer and past editor of MWU.com, wrote a stunning piece in which branded Mr. Khan as a chicken. He literally wrote the words “pwak, pwak, pwak” as he derided him for staying out of the fray.

I know our ulema do not always agree with each other. Many scholars find Yusuf al-Qaradawi to be incorrect on certain issues. But that is what is great about Islam. You can disagree on certain issues as long as they don’t against the Qur’an and Sunnah. That is why there are many schools of thought and different philosophical reasonings throughout Islamic history. But if you plan on being a leader in the Muslim community, you can’t go around stink palming people you disagree with or calling them chicken. Some people may think it’s cute or even funny but few will take you seriously. And if people are willing to tease someone who is supposedly “on their side,” what kind of venom do they have stored up for the people who are considered idelogical enemies. You know some of things written about Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Imam Zaid Shakir and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on their website. The mark of a Muslim is that other Muslims are safe from his/her tongue. You can speak your mind in their presence and you don’t have to worry about gheeba.

It makes me wonder if such a movement can survive if it tries it’s hardest to alienate and dismiss those who have a different approach. I am not saying that I agree with Muqtedar Khan’s works or ideas. I’m not saying that I disagree (and hopefully that’s allowed). But when it comes to the people who I take my knowledge from, I want there to be a little less sarcasm and more humility. I don’t want to be a part of a group whose leaders are more nafsy than myself. May Allah subhana wa ta’ala guide all the people of the PMUNA to good conduct, right behavior and the avoidance of slander.