Monday, September 26, 2005

Lessons Learned...

Svend White, former Secretary of The Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy ( CSID ) - a United States Government's State Department funded organization (according to sources) has written an article on the PMUNA that is worth a read.

White makes some good points in his article, however - there are some important aspects of the PMUNA that he leaves out.

A critical piece he does not address is how the PMUNA fit in perfectly with the Rand Report and the US agenda to "change the face of Islam." These reports reveal a strategy to manipulate and divide Muslims, and to use certain "good Muslims" to promote United States policies in the "mid-east". This, in some quarters, has been dismissed as "conspiracy theory." However, the kind of attention that the PMUNA got from the mainstream corporate media cannot just be explained by "screaming headlines sell" (as White suggests in his article).

The United States corporate media performs an ideological function, and, in this context, their role was and, is to create and give wide space to the "good Muslims." While there were other organizations that attempted to fill this role, most notably those associated with Daniel Pipes and Stephen Schwartz's Center for Islamic Pluralism. It was PMU that showed the most promise, because of the support given by high profile academics such as Omid Safi (former Chair) and Amina Wadud (former advisory board member). Both these individuals have since resigned from the PMUNA.

During the debate on NPM, the problematic use of media hype was pointed out by one contributor:

If we assume that Ahmed (Nassef) and PMUNA are aware of the problems of media (and its specific position vis-a-vis "bad" and "good" moderate Muslims) in the heart of the empire, then I can't help feeling as if they are engaged in something entirely unethical.

For "progressives," the general aim has been understood to be one that undermines power and authoritarian structures, either at the political, social, or economic level. From this it follows that the reliance on the US media, certainly a core ideological institution of US imperial power, is to effectively depend on one form of power (a very powerful one in fact) to try to confront another form of power ("islamic orthodoxy," a far weaker power).

Whether or not Ahmed (Nassef) or Omid (Safi) have this intention or not is irrelevant.
Right now, in a situation where Muslims in the US do have their backs against the wall and are being told to get their act together or else, showcasing oneself as the "progressive muslims" amongst the herd of reactionaries is to have the practical effect of using the imperial ideological system for one's "progressive" purposes. This might undermine one form of "power" (Muslim institutions such as ISNA, male-female mosque dynamics IN THE US), but strengthens a far more powerful propaganda system that's not shy of using force and violence.

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In this day and age, concerned Muslims, especially in the United States, might want to become more aware of how the US media functions - a good starting point is Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman's classic book: Manufacturing Consent.

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