Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Omid Safi's crossroads

In a widely circulated e-letter, Omid Safi, the founder, and former chair of the Progressive Muslim Union has complained that he was placed on "moderated status" on the PMU "discussion" (sic) list.

This, effectively meant that all of Safi's post would have to be first approved by (amongst others) Tarek Fatah, before the list gets to see the contents (aka: censorship).

"Not only had I not been informed about this, the list moderators have explicitly disagreed letting the folks on the PMU list know that they are placing people on censored status.

I have had a lengthy discussion with Pamela (Taylor) about this, and my crime is in fact not in anything that I have said, but in something that I might say. "
So, now there is apparently yet another splintered group of people - this time exclusively selected by Omid Safi to discuss this "moderated status."

Now, the only reason this is worth mentioning is to point out the absurdity of this situation - the notion of "progressive islam/muslim" has fallen to a new low : The founder of the Progressive Muslim Union is left arguing with Tarek Fatah and Pamela Taylor about why he has been placed on a moderated status, with an exclusive group of invitees watching the spectacle and chiming in!

Mufti Omid Safi has also promised a "state of the union/progressive muslim" address in the near future! Do we really need more sanctimonious talks? Have we not had enough of loud empty words and grandiose statements?!

Safi is at a crossroads - and it is time he made some choices - he can carry on lengthy debates, and engage in intrigues, on this and that lists, and go about attempting to save and reform PMUNA, maybe making backroom deals in the process with his choice list of invitees. (So much for transparency.)

OR he can get to the business of social justice in the real world!

If Safi is to seriously live his words (and not just say them) it will mean him leaving his comfort zone, and perhaps, begin working within prisons (plenty of work needed on gender justice over there) with taxi drivers, with homeless people in shelters and those living under bridges.

Safi might begin to take strong stands against those "moderates" and "progressives" Muslims, who are joining the Bush/Blair regimes - and point out that there is nothing "moderate" or "progressive" about becoming advisors to those who are invaders and occupiers.

And he has to stop this nonsense about "athiest" Muslims and what not...such thinking reeks of a tribalist mentality - reducing Islam to a mere "cultural heritage."

If Safi himself cannot leave his own comfortable environment, culturally, socially, and psychologically, then who is he to make such grand calls for "reform Islam" and "progressive Islam" and so on and on... ?!

The choice is for Omid Safi to make - he can continue with these petty intrigues, arguments, and fights with the current PMUNA board members, or he can move towards the real world - where the rest of us are living.

The train is moving, and leaving the station - and, as Howard Zinn, has said, in describing the contemporary US situation: there is no such thing as being neutral on a moving train.

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