Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Hijacking Tragedy

Last year I wrote a piece on the collaboration of Neocons and “progressive” Muslims in the war against Islam. I received some negative comments demanding “proof” despite those cited in the post. Well here it is, 2 weeks after the tragic events in London. While responsible Muslim organizations in the US and UK were calling for calm and patience, Ahmed Nassef wasted no time claiming that the culprits had be Muslims. In fact, he said that no evidence was needed to reach such a conclusion. Not to be outdone, the ever imaginative Tarek Fatah announced that this was all thanks to Muslim extremists, the type who beat him up when he was a college student back in the 1960s. The poor fellow certainly knows how to hold a grudge. What could have given them the impression that Fatah was a Marxist?

Humor aside, why would these two men make such statements before even most of the world’s media? Are they so eager to counter the insidious right wing lie that Muslims didn’t condemn 911 or are they merely trying to get some free PR? But wait, the culprits have been identified as British Muslims, so in retrospect they were right, correct? Sure, but keep in mind that dead men tell no tales, even if they leave a ton of documentation which miraculously survives multiple explosions, the sort of which took numerous lives that infamous day. And we haven’t even factored the Netanyahu pre-warning yet. Call me a skeptic if you will, but in a world of imperial preemptive crusades, mythical WMDs, phony elections, the Downing street memos etc , is it really a stretch to disbelieve what we’re being told ? I, for one am not buying it anymore.

So who benefits from all this? Certainly not the Muslims, that’s for sure. British Muslims unlike their American counterparts are highly organized and a political force to be reckoned with. They had nothing to gain from this tragedy. After being discredited, neocons have now received a lifeline. Proggies have also stepped up to the plate. There are now renewed calls for attacks on Iran and Syria, as well as Islamophobia. Both groups vehemently deny that the war in Iraq could have anything to do with this. In their opinion, any deviation from the official plot is an act of delusion, the stuff that conspiracy theories are made of. Unfortunately for them these questions aren’t going away, and its not only Muslims, but many non-Muslims who are demanding answers.

Let there be no room for confusion, we Muslims condemn ALL terrorism ALL the time, unlike those who cheerlead the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, woman and children in Iraq and Afghanistan, yet cry foul when one of their own falls. Let there be no confusion that we condemn ALL acts of torture, unlike those who refer to such acts as “fraternity pranks.,” yet decry acts of retaliation which these same crimes yield. Its high time for Muslims to stop entertaining hypocrites, liars and those who don’t mean them any good. Its time to speak the truth no matter what anybody thinks.

The status of Progressive Meetups

I received the following email this morning from the people at Meetup.com :

(The Meetup Group you joined, The Chicago Progressive Muslim
Meetup Group, hasn't had an Organizer for some time and has
been closed.

Since meeting others who share your interest in Progressive
Muslim is important to you we've added you to the Progressive
Muslims Notification List. That means you'll get an email when
new Progressive Muslim Meetup Groups start near you.)

Apparently theres only so much coffee and irrelevence our friends in the pro-regressive movement can stomach. Look for more media stunts to fill in the void.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Women Friendly Mosques: A Note

Salaam 'Alaikum

To clarify, for our readers' benefit:

Shahina Siddiqui, the principal author of the recent "Women Friendly Mosques" initiative that was released jointly by three organizations (not solely by CAIR) also wrote and published on the issue of masjid access and fairness long before Asra Nomani did. Many are unaware of this fact, possibly because Ms. Siddiqui's original research is not widely available (and certainly not from one of the big publishing houses).

As far as we know, until Nomani took up the issue, the editor of this blog, Umm Zaid, and Shahina Siddiqui were the only two in North America who had written about and been published on this specific issue (in 1999 and 2001, and in 2001, respectively).

CAIR's release of this paper (not brochure), then, is not "Jamal Come Lately" but rather, an example of an organization obstensibly dedicated to civil rights teaming up with two long term, established women's and family's rights groups, Women in Islam (headed by Aisha Adawiya) and Islamic Social Services Association (which Ms. Siddiqui works for) to address an issue that had already been discussed and talked about by at least two of those organizations.

On: Collectively Speaking

Salaam 'Alaikum

There seems to be a wee bit of confusion over what this blog is. Or rather, who we are.

Living Tradition represents the viewpoints of four individual people with their own views and opinions: Abdur Rahman Squires, AJ Suhail, Kelly Izdihar Crosby (Risama), and Dr. Max. The editor is Saraji Umm Zaid, whose main goal is to mess around with the template. Our individual posters often post observations and / or comment on publicly available material that they believe will be of interest or use to our readership.

We do not collectively "promote" anything unless it is published under our collective editorial voice, as "Living Tradition." For example, we recently posted a translation of Sheikh 'Ali Goma'a's fatwa on women-led prayer, in order to make that opinion more widely available to people who may have not known where to find the translation.

We do not always agree with one another. We have different perspectives on different issues. We're okay with that; we hope you are too. (Not that there's much you could do about it if you weren't...)

Friday, July 08, 2005

Totally Boring Tech Stuff

Salaam 'Alaikum

People using MSIE, Mozilla, Firefox, Opera, and Safari, can you go to a post below, click to read the comments and tell me if the formatting is messed up? I am seeing the comments area (the part where you read, not where you post) all wrong. I don't know what is causing it.

I hate fiddling with Blogger's pre-fab templates b/c I always manage to mess them up. Maybe I can find / make an original template w/ graphics and then upload the graphics to another server, that way we can ... you know... give me an excuse to make a new template.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Tarek Fatah and the Canadian-Islamic Court Controversy

Who is Tarek Fatah?

According to the blurb on the PMUNA website, Tarek Fatah is a founding member of the Muslim Canadian Congress and lives in Toronto, Canada. Born in Pakistan, Tarek Fatah was a student leader in the sixties and early seventies; twice being imprisoned by successive military governments. A biochemist by education, Tarek started his career as a journalist with the Karachi SUN in 1970 and later went on to be an award winning investigative reporter for Pakistan TV.

(I just wanted to insert the blatant fact that many of the members of the PMUNA are not Islamic scholars. They are mostly journalists with no classical training in Islam. Many of them have not even taken classes on Islamic studies within a Western university.)

Since coming to Canada in 1987--after a ten year stay in Saudi Arabia--Tarek has been active in politics, serving in Ontario Premier Bob Rae's staff and running for the Ontario legislature in 1995. He is host of the Muslim Chronicle TV show since 1996, which airs Saturday nights on CTS-TV. Tarek is also a frequent guest on many TV shows and has written for the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, TIME Magazine, in addition to the online magazine, MuslimWakeup.Com.

Tarek and his friends set up the Muslim Canadian Congress after 9/11 to counter the growing influence of fundamentalist Muslim organsiations. The MCC is a grassroots organization of activist Muslims in Canada who believe, among other things, an end to the gender apartheid practiced by some Muslims, and a separation of religion and state around the world; including Muslim countries.

Let’s talk about the the Canadian Muslim Congress and it’s efforts to fight religious family courts in Canada. Some of the goals in the mission statement of the Muslim Canadian Congress are as follows:

The Muslim Canadian Congress is a grassroots organization that provides a voice to Muslims who are not represented by existing organizations; organizations that are either sectarian or ethnocentric, largely authoritarian, and influenced by a fear of modernity and an aversion to joy.

Okay, the above statement is very arrogant. Only the Muslim Canadian Congress can bring happiness and joy to the Muslim Canadian masses?

Here is how the Muslim Canadian Congress defines what is a Muslim, which isn’t very different from the PMUNA. We are an organization open to all Muslims who agree with our mission statement. We define a Muslim as any person who identifies himself or herself as a Muslim.

So, none of that La ilaha ill Allah stuff counts here.

We believe that fanaticism and extremism within the Muslim community is a major challenge to all of us. We stand opposed to the extremists and will present the more humane and tolerant face of our community.

“Muslim” extremism is a threat to all of us, Muslim and non-Muslim, but is it the only threat that exists? What about the evangelicals in America who seek to shred the Constitution a little? They spend a lot of time with our current president, who just happens to be the most powerful man on Earth. Aren’t they are threat, too? What about those who are so fanatical about gross capitalism that they will do anything to make more money while others suffer. Extremism is not just a religious disease. And the whole “humane and tolerant” face of our community, only the MCC can do that? Not CAIR-CAN? It’s not as if the remants of the Taliban live in Missisauga.

We look forward to building communities free from the ravages of racism, intolerance, ignorance, disease, and poverty, and where religion becomes a force of joy, enlightenment, democracy, peace and bridge-building, rather than hate, oppression, war and division. We support the aspirations and dreams of the peoples of the developing countries throughout the world.; a dream of dignity, democracy, freedom from poverty and political oppression, and a just and lasting peace. To achieve this and resist the steady re-colonization of the developing world, we will work closely with like-minded groups in building an anti-imperialist movement.

What Muslim, what human being, doesn’t want this? Who doesn’t want a world free from bigotry, oppression, hatred and poverty? Some of us just feel that in order to achieve this, we don’t have to abandon religion but rather live with our beliefs while respecting the beliefs and lifestyles of others.

But here is the part that I want to focus on...We believe in the separation of religion and state in all matters of public policy. We feel such a separation is a necessary pre-requisite to building democratic societies, where religious, ethnic, and racial minorities are accepted as equal citizens enjoying full dignity and human rights enunciated in the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

So, because of the aforementioned objective, Tarek Fatah and the Muslim Canadian Congress is fighting against the establishment of religious courts in Canada. Even though they claim that no religious group should have their own court, they tend to focus on Islamic courts rather than religious courts of Jews, Christians and Ismailis, whom have had their own systems for years. They have only begun to make an uproar over Sharia but have tended to leave their criticism of other courts to themselves. How convient.

From the details of their website, they don’t want Islam to influence secular governments or secular ideologies but they are quite content with the reverse. They currently sponsored a women-led prayer on July 1st and are supportive of gay marriage. So, they are okay with Islam, as long as they can bend to suit their desires and interpretations. It's okay for secular governments to tell Muslims (it's never any other religious group) how to pray, how to select imams (always women), what to believe and how to dress (France, Tunisia, Turkey). Last time I checked, seperation of church and state (or mosque and state) goes both ways.

He even has a blog tracking his battle against the Islamic family courts at www.muslimchronicle.blogspot.com. Out of all the responses to his blog, there was only one person who challenged some of his opinions. So far the commentor’s claims have been left unanswered. (bold emphasis mine)

Heathen Chemistry said...

Hey Mr. Fatah!

I too wrote something about this issue that you may want to hear about. Also, I am not someone with a political/religious agenda like the articles on your blog (christian science monitor talking about sharia?? A bit too bias??) My thoughts are posted in my blog, but also I am attaching it here!

The Law of The Land

Well, through my journeys it seems that in order to improve the legal system one must challenge it. Through challenging it, legal system is strengthened and this provides a more fair and just system. Recently, Ms. Marion Boyd (former NDP minister) has stated that it is possible for a family arbitration system based on Muslim principles to be used in Ontario as long as all parties involved consent to this legal system and it isn't contradictory to Canadian Law. This to me seems feasible, and I have nothing against such a system being set up, as long as there are checks and balances to keep it from going out of control. Heck, even the Canadian Jewish Congress supported Boyd’s decision, if only different faith groups could unite on other issues.

But on a serious note there are still those who oppose it, primarily Tarek Fatah (a well known NDP supporter and the President of Canadian Muslim Congress) and Alia Hogben (President of Canadian Council of Muslim Women). I am not sure whether they oppose only laws based on Muslim beliefs or the concept of religious arbitration all together. I mean Fatah has stated that he practices Sharia (laws based on Muslim beliefs) and he has stated that he doesn't support two tier legal systems (counterspin, 2004). I respect his views I have nothing against people who don't like the idea of having two tier services. What I do object to is the assumption that all forms of Sharia are inherently unjust. Well, to be honest Muslim’s in the modern era have had many problems implementing a legal system based on their beliefs, and in my opinion it is primarily based on a mixing of cultural traditions and due to authoritarian regimes that use Islam as a means to oppress others.

Therefore based on my understanding of Islam, I can honestly say that this legal system has the possibility to work in Ontario as long as there are checks and balances.Now the question arises of the misuse of Sharia... It is possible, but like I said before if there are checks and balances then there shouldn't be a problem. Also, two important things should be pointed out now, the first is that Sharia is already practiced (unofficially) in Ontario. There are religious leaders giving legal opinions on various issues, with the set up of a centralized court, there will be a more public and transparent form of Sharia being practiced, instead of it happening in an unregulated environment, with the potential for misuse. The second point is that the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice (the organization pushing for an arbitration court) is primarily made up of men and women who were educated in the Canadian legal system and are themselves moderate Muslims.

The most well known members of this organization are Syed Mumtaz Ali (first Canadian lawyer to swear on the Qu'ran) and Faisal Kutty (Son of scholar Shaykh Ahmed Kutty). Therefore it seems like it isn't the Taliban who is coming to Canada, it is just a group of regular Muslims who want the same rights that are given to the Jewish, Catholic and Ismaili communities.Overall, there I am not opposed to having people have their own laws to govern themselves, as long as those laws are just. However at the same time I do encourage the critics to continue their crusade against the establishment of this court, because it is my hope that their opposition will improve and strengthen the Muslim legal system and hopefully Muslim law in Canada will be a beacon of hope to all Muslims around the world!

Well, if a secular non-Muslim can see the possibility of these two systems, religious and secular, co-existing in harmony, why can't some of us Muslims see that? Why can't Mr. Fatah and Mrs. Hogben see that. You know what, this post needs a "Part 2" because there's just too much information for this one entry.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Muqtedar Khan resigns from the PMUNA

Well...can you blame him? He joined looking for dialogue and progress. Instead, he received insults. I don't think I could have endured those public attacks for as long as he did but patience is a virtue. Maybe his more reasoned outlook could have brought some common sense to the table but, they felt it was better to attack him than to engage him as a human being.

It's a sad commentary on the state of affairs in the American umma. It's all the more proof to show that when the American government is finished with its designs on the Muslim world, the PMUNA will be discarded, disbanded and ignored by the media whose attention they so desperately seek.

Are those cracks I see in the foundation? Words in italics are my added emphasis. All thanks to the folks at the PMUNA Debate.

Dear Omid (Safi)

Assalamu Alaykum,

Lately I have found the environment with Progressive Muslims Union extremely oppressive, abusive and hateful. I have found both PMU and MWU extremely intolerant of difference and disagreement. This is the only Muslim group where people who believe in the teachings of the Quran are ridiculed and those who express ambivalence about it even about the existence of God are celebrated.

But lately the culture of takfir and the absolutely lack of basic adab and simple etiquette that is becoming a defining characteristic of PMU has become suffocating. I have been extremely critical of many Muslim organizations, specially ISNA, AMSS and CAIR organizations that are routinely ridiculed by PMU members who feel that they are morally superior to all Muslims -- both in private and in writing but have never, ever been abused by any of them and most importantly never ever been made to feel that I do not belong. It should not be a great loss to PMU.

Even though I was member of the advisory board for a year, I was never consulted even once on any of its decisions. The advisory board never met even once and we never even had a single meeting with the executive committee. It is a sham anyway.

My close interaction with PMU has taught me three things, (1) that clearly I am not sufficiently indifferent to the teachings of Quran and the traditions of the Islamic heritage to be a "good Progressive Muslim"; (2) I was too gullible to believe in its empty claims of openness and tolerance for different perspectives. And (3) I have also learned that I am completely opposite in nature to most of the members of PMU. For example I believe that a rational argument precedes the moral judgment.

PMU is operating with a set of moral principles randomly acquired from Marxism and/or postmodern cultural trends and is treating them as absolutely moral truths, and are now looking for arguments [hopefully with some Islamic content] to justify them. PMU members unleash fanatical rage when this is questioned and resort to abuse, distortion, false accusations as a substitute to argument.

I can understand, sympathize and participate in exercises of Ijtihad that seek to reassess "human understanding" of Islam. I have been advocating this for over a decade. My website Ijtihad was launched in 1999. But not to observe Islamic values after recognizing them as such to me is a sin. I cannot for example in good conscience approve of alcohol consumption by those who acknowledge it as forbidden. To demand that I do so in order to remain a member of the community is exactly the kind of oppression that I though we had come together to fight. I have been very prolific in presenting my views and opinions on myriad things Islamic or otherwise and hence there is very little about my politics that can be claimed to remain unknown. So when PMU invited me to join the advisory board, it was with full knowledge of my positions, so why the uproar now over my refusal to toe the party line.

I have never, ever, hesitated from expressing my views and dissenting with any majority in every organization that I have worked with. But, the extent of intolerance that I have experienced from members of PMU has been shockingly unexpected and unprecedented. I have come to this sad realization that PMU's moral claims on social justice and tolerance and the "big tent approach" are shallow and indeed false. PMU is just another organization as intolerant and closed as any in our society.Please liberate me from the oppressive and intolerant culture of PMU and accept my resignation from the advisory board with immediate effect.

Your Brother in Islam

Muqtedar Khan, Ph.D.