Sunday, November 28, 2004

Where Do We Go From Here?

As Muslims living in the West, though we deal with the onslaught of racism and prejudice, have a greater advantage than many of our brothers and sisters overseas. That’s not to say that every Muslim country is an awful place to live but that Muslims in Great Britain, Canada, Australia and the United States have the wonderful opportunity to live out our Islam…for the moment. If we are politically involved, with enough influence, we can change domestic and foreign policy. Since these nations separate state from religion, the individual Muslim is responsible for his/her spiritual growth and is not forced to comply with the state’s example of religious or secular piety.

But what are we offering our brothers and sisters oversees, the ones who are living under brutal, fanatical regimes— religious or secular? Whether it is Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Uzbekistan or Sudan, there is not one single country that is applying Islam in any meaningful way. For many, an Islamic state is not taking care of the poor, making sure the leader was elected by the people or ensuring that women have access to education. No, for many it is enforcing draconian laws of dress code and backward, patriarchal traditions rather than embodying the noble example our Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wasalaam) and heeding the words of the Qur'an. Because of this dire situation, the responsibility of bringing true Islam into this world relies on us, Western Muslims, because despite the difficulties, we are more liberated politically and socially. But instead of being a beacon, an example to those whose understanding of Islam is tragically flawed, some of us have decided to embrace the same cultural norms of Western society that is currently brining havoc to the family, global society and the human soul.

The recently formed Progressive Muslim Union, North America, seems to have as one of their main aims the wholesale breakdown of Islam itself. One of the many troubling aspects is that this group wants to redefine Muslim as merely a person who says he/she is one. Forget that a Muslim is a someone who believes La ilaha il Allah, Muhammadur rasul Allah. There is the rejection of all Hadith and ignoring all those annoying verses from the Qur'an that command us to take moral responsibility for ourselves and loved ones.

Instead, Muslims should start dating, fornicating and lose all sense of modesty. They might tell you that that is not their goal but if you read "Sex and the Ummah" at MWU, you will see what I mean. The headquarters website, MWU is a collection of articles— half addressing political issues and other half taking about how we Muslims are so screwed up (except, of course, for them, the "enlightened" ones).

And there is the even scarier aspect of asking people like Nawal al Sadawi (who thinks that the French head scarf ban is justified), Fareed Zakariya (who thinks that the American occupation of Iraq with its 14,000 Iraqi body count is not swift enough in doing its job of bringing Western-style democracy) and the Hasan family (the socially liberal, politically conservative "Muslims for Bush" team that gave kudos to Islamophobe Incarnate Daniel Pipes) to sit on their board. Even though they took back their request, that doesn't mean these people will refuse to contribute financially to their "progressive" cause.

What exactly are they offering the international Muslim umma? Are they creating programs to feed the poor? Are they addressing the problem of women’s spaces in the masjid without running to The New York Times every time things don't go their way? Can they really want to include all Muslims but always remain willing and able to mock those who actually believe in Islam and who do not think it is a good idea eliminate pillars, change the shahada and go against Shari'a? No.

But what they do offer is badly written pornography about Islamic scholars. They will bash CAIR, ICNA, and ISNA because they covet the influence that these groups currently have. They will write vicious articles about Muslims for Time magazine, The New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and others. They will “air out our dirty laundry” at universities, political forums and book signings (yes, this group is all about the book deals) but will never address predominately Muslim audiences or come to a masjid near you. And just like the intolerant extremists who scream "munafiq" to anyone who doesn’t agree with what they believe, will just delete and ban your comments. So much for open dialogue.

When are really going to line up behind the Qur'an and Sunnah? When are going to let Allah subhana wa ta'ala be our guide? This movement is no more than an attempt to divide Muslims within the political and social spectrum. What is the point of saying you are Muslim when you don’t pray, fast, believe in God, read and BELIEVE in the Qur'an and follow the Prophet's (sallalahu alayhi wasalaam) example as your guide? "Muslim" is just reduced to a cultural tag with no meaning and it only confuses non-Muslims who stare in awe as to why you would remain a Muslim in the first place.

But I won't say that some of the concerns of the Progressive Muslim movement are not valid. We have to deal with racism and sexism in the umma. We do have problems in the way we run our masajid, from women's prayer sections, masjid management to ego-tripping on masjid boards. But they are wrong if they think that Harvard University or any other secular institution could care less about whether your mosque has a female imam. When the "war or terrorism" is over and Americans are not fed a steady diet of scary Muslims, we will be back to square one with all the same problems as before.

The formation of such a group only means that we are not practicing Islam correctly. If we were, we wouldn’t have tension between immigrant and African-American Muslims because we would be reflecting the wonderful example of the Sahabi (may God bless them all). There would be no sexism because women would have active involvement in the masjid and we would be respected as intelligent individuals following the tradition of Khadijah, Aisha and Fatima (may God bless them as well). We would fight against riba, a blight on the American economy that puts millions of hardworking people into debt. We would have enough riba-free institutions to show others that there are alternatives to an overly aggressive capitalist market. And in a time when millions are dying from AIDS, it is really isn't responsible or progressive for Muslims to start advocating pre-marital sex. Remember how the Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wasalaam) said that if we want to stay out of trouble we should control the mouth and the genitals? And whether you are gay or straight, is it really too much to ask for people to start using self control and personal responsibility?

But irresponsible ranting about bringing a box of beer to an Islamic convention just to prove how "radical" you are? There is nothing radical, progressive, or forward thinking about advocating alcohol consumption because millions of people do it all the time. Or "oooh, I used the F-word on an Islamic website. I am soooo non-conformist." Actually, you are conformist. You are just conforming to someone else’s paradigm, not the Islamic one. Or holding progressive Muslim meet ups where only a few people show up and some of its members are only worried about "hooking up" or going out on a date.

If the progressives or any other Muslim group wants to change the world, we must change ourselves. We must start by looking within and believing that we have much good to offer this world. We can bring social, economic and political justice to the world but like this. Not by working with those who are complicit in the destruction and murder of our brothers and sisters overseas by linking up with neocons and RAND corporation types. Let's offer a living tradition in America that is true to Islam and not to any other standard but its own.


Blogger Borges said...


8:31 PM  
Blogger Flanstein said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:08 PM  
Blogger foodi said...

MWU's time is up..

This Blog's is just starting..

3:54 PM  
Blogger foodi said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:56 PM  
Blogger Abu Turab said...

MashAllah, i totally share your sentiments with regards to modernist groups. They hold themselves in high-esteem for bringing in a 'cultural' revolution to Muslims, when in reality, all they are doing is regurgitating the thoughts and words of Orientalists and Western foreign policy makers. They plan but Allah is the best of planners.

6:10 PM  
Blogger izzymo said...

Well put Jinn. Allah (swt) is indeed the best of planners. Thanks for stopping by.

10:54 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Nawal al Sadawi? Are they serious? Does she even still call herself a Muslim?

5:33 PM  

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