Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The PMU NA litmus test and shahadah

Recently in an article on alt.muslim, Dr. Hesham A. Hassaballa wrote:

According to Br. Ghazali, the PMU was formed by "some professed moderates who embrace the simply proposition that 'you are a Muslim if you say you are a Muslim -- for whatever reason or set of reasons -- and that no one is entitled to question or undermine this identity.'"

The statement, as it is written, implies - and I wholly concede my possible error - that there is something wrong with the proposition that "you are a Muslim if you say you are a Muslim." Is there a "litmus test" for being a Muslim besides "la ilaha illa Allah"? I did not know of one. When Usma bin Zayd (r) killed the pagan - who was just moments before mocking the Prophet - that said "la ilaha illa Allah," the Prophet became very angry, and he continued to repeat: "Where will you go from 'la ilaha illa Allah' on the Day of Resurrection?"

It appears that the good doctor is indeed in error, but not about brother Ghazzali's statement. The doctor apparently is not aware of the PMU NA litmus test that explicitly *does not* include "la ilaha illa Allah." Infact, the recently formed PMUNA Yahoo discussion list is upfront about this test:
"We affirm that a Muslim is anyone who identifies herself or himself as "Muslim," including those whose identification is based on social commitments and cultural heritage.

For the PMUNA this includes athiest, and agnostic "Muslims." Infact, one of their invitees to the advisory board was Tariq Ali, who considers himself to be an athiest. And Hussein Ibish, who is the vice-Chair of PMUNA, and is also a self-proclaimed "agnostic."

Perhaps the good doctor can do some additional research about the PMU NA litmus test?

Meanwhile, those familiar with the divisions within the Jewish community, will recognize this as an attempt to create Muslim equivelents of "secular" or "reform" Jews.

Omid Safi, who is chair of the Progressive Muslim Union has also been upfront about this during an interview with their media outlet Muslim Wake Up:

MWU!: Are we in the beginnings of what will eventually become a new “progressive” school of thought in Islam with its own institutions—much like the experience of the “Reform” and “Conservative” Jewish movements in the US?

Omid Safi: My intuition tells me, yes. When you look at other traditions here, like among the various Jewish trends, there are always vigorous debates, but by and large, no one has a cow about it. So what’s to keep us from having the same thing?

And so there you have it...Yes, Dr. Hassaballa, there is another litmus test - it is the PMU NA litmus test.

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Wadud media event - A planned provocation (?)

Norman Griebel writes (excerpts)

Wadud’s prayer was organised from the website MuslimWakeUp. Participation in the Friday prayer was only possible after having previously registered at this website – without a doubt this alone would constitute a further affront to the Muslim faith.
The editor-in-chief and also owner of MuslimWakeUp is Ahmed Nassef. In December of last year he took part in a conference entitled “Bridging the Divide" organised be the Brookings Institution. That the event took place under the aegis of the "Saban Center for Middle East Policy", named after its founder, the Israeli Media-mogul Haim Saban, was only mentioned in passing.

On the occasion of this Conference a new organisation, the "American Muslim Group on Policy Planning" was created. Even if no precise information is available about AMGPP, an article published by Muqtedar Khan on his Website Ijtihad more than suggests - at the very least - that Khan is one of the founders, as well as Nassef.

(Note: Khan is on the board of advisors of PMUNA, and Nassef is the Executive Director of PMU)

In the article Khan presents the goals of the AMGPP - amongst them "Support of the USA in its war against terror" as well as the taking over of a "leading role in matters of public diplomacy and public relations in name of the state Department"; furthermore the AMGPP should work as "spokesperson for American policy, concerns and interests”. And officials from the and US Ministry of Defence took part in the conference alongside officials from the State Department.

The inevitable outcry to be expected from the majority of Muslims certainly lends itself to the further representation of Islam as fundamental, backward, radical und mysoginistic. Furthermore this event also lends itself exceedingly effectively to the task of spreading division within the Muslims community.

Click here to read complete article

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Wadud, PMU, and Muslim Wake Up

Ahmed Rehab writes (excerpts):

The American-Muslim community is under relentless scrutiny. It is facing intense pressures on many fronts and so is desperately in need of leadership that will unite its members against the injustices they face. It certainly is not in need of leadership that selfishly distracts its focus and wastes its limited energy on campaigns that do not address any of the real problems plaguing our daily lives.

By insisting on taking up fringe causes and overlooking the pressing causes simmering to be served, Wadud does not only undermine the real issues of relevance to her constituency but earns for herself a reputation as an extremist eccentric in the process. As such, she effectively marginalizes herself, robbing herself of the credibility sorely needed to make any symbolic gesture far reaching and change-inducing - historic as it may be.

For PMU/MWU, it’s yet another opportunity to cater to the vociferous calls of the ominous Western critics of Islam who are currently sitting comfortably at the apex of America’s social and political pyramid dishing out reprovals and approvals of Muslims. The MWU folks seem to crave so desperately the much-coveted seal of approval: the “Good Muslim” badge that initiates Muslims into mainstream society as “good ol’ Americans”.

For now, it seems that when it comes to that cause, Wadud and the Progressive Muslims are shooting for the stars, leaving behind a sorry planet called earth. Moreover, they are doing it for all the wrong reasons.

Click here to read complete article

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Who is Aiman Mackie?!

Aiman Mackie is on the Progressive Muslim Union North America (PMUNA)'s board of directors. Here is a blurb about him from the PMU website:

Aiman is a specialist in international security and development. He is currently the Program Manager of the Middle East Bridges Program at the EastWest Institute's New York Centre, with specific focus on Israeli-Palestinian issues. Aiman previously worked at the Ford Foundation, where he managed the Foundation's International Cooperation portfolios, including a project that sought to promote the role of U.S. religious communities in the foreign policy arena.

He has also worked for the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica
and the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies in Beirut. Aiman holds a Master's in Public Policy and in A.B. in Political Science and French Studies, both from the University of Michigan.

Click here to read the Living Tradition Blog's piece on Mackie. (Thank You!)

More on the PMUNA cast of characters coming soon ---- see side bar for more info. on a couple of their advisiory board members: Muqtedar Khan, and Ziad Asali.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Amina Wadud Praying....And those who are watching her.

Amina Wadud, PMUNA advisory board member, praying at the controversial Muslim Wake Up event organized by Ahmed Nassef, Progressive Muslim Union, North America (PMUNA) Executive Director.

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Rand Report's Birthday!

Abdus Sattar Ghazali write

March 18th marks the first anniversary of formal release of the Rand Corporation report on Islam, entitled Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies.

The report has two fold agenda: 1. Try to create a version of Islam that suits the post 9/11 western agenda. 2. Creating divisions in the Muslim society at home and abroad.

The Rand Report recipe to achieve this objective is to encourage and promote the so-called modernist Muslims and play one section of the society against another to split the society. In another report released in December 2004, the Rand Corporation elaborated on the second point and recommended playing the two major Muslim sects Sunnis and Shiites against each other to achieve policy objects.


We are experiencing the re-emergence of Orientalism of the 19th century aimed at forcing the Muslims living in US to abandon the basic tenets of Islam. This neo-Orientalism is coming in the shape of such research documents as the Rand Report which questions the authenticity of Islam’s holy scripture, the Quran. Even a fake version of Quran is now available in print. It was distributed in a private school in Kuwait.

At the same time, we see cropping up of some Muslim groups such as Free Muslims Against Terrorism, Progressive Muslim Union of North America (PMUNA) and Center for Islamic Pluralism which are not only challenging the basic tenets of Islam but also challenging the established Muslim organizations.

Click here to read more

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Palestinians worldwide condemn Ziad Asali

"From under the garb of hollow US democratization, Asali has in effect been diligently advancing the neo-conservative plan for the "New Middle East", where nations and people are reconstituted against their will."

Ziad Asali is founder of
"American Task Force on Palestine" (ATFP) , and a member of the board of advisors of the Progressive Muslims Union, North America.

A few weeks ago he was quoted in the Forward Newspaper that Palestinians should abandon their right to return.

This, by the way, is not the first time Asali has made such a statement. In our Comment on PMUNA we mentioned that he had made a similar statement at an UN/NGO conference in September 2002.

It should be noted that just a few weeks back, Ahmed Nassef, the executive director of PMU NA, and editor of Muslim Wake Up, made an appearance at an Hillel conference. An activity that the Hillel organizes, is a "birthright Israel trip" .

So, did the the PMU NA executive director advocate a similar right to return for Palestinians? Apparently not! The only mention he apparently made about Palestine was an oblique reference to "a certain international conflict." Click here to read more!

Ziad Asali's statements has prompted a large number of Palestinian grassroots, community-based organizations and associations created and run by refugees, in Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Europe and the US to issue a statement of their own, denouncing Asali's proclamations.

Statement to the Public Regarding Ziyad al-Assali's Statements on the Right
of Return for Palestinian Refugees

The Global Palestine Right of Return Coalition (and its constituent organizations in historic Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Europe and North America, including Al-Awda), and in conjunction with the Right of Return Congress and the listed signatory popular organizations and committees representing various Palestinian refugee communities, join the Arab-American community in declaring that various statements and false representations by the president of the Washington-based "American Task Force on Palestine" (ATFP) Dr. Ziad Asali nullifying the Palestinian right to return and demeaning the Palestinian and Arab people are reprehensible and entirely outside the consensus of our people.

The Right of Return is an inalienable right affirmed by the international community annually since 1948. No single person, group or government have the authority or mandate to forfeit this individual and national right.

In reality, voices such as Asali's are part of a larger concerted effort to introduce a false veneer of moderation as a replacement for the legitimate inalienable rights of the Palestinian and Arab people, represented by their right to return, sovereignty and self-determination. Through organizations
like ATFP, Asali has gone even beyond the Geneva Accords, the Nusseibeh-Ayalon Agreement and other such attempts that violate fundamental, inalienable and natural rights that are enshrined in international law.

Click here to read complete statement

The Amina Wadud Controversy: Part II

Amina Wadud is on the advisory board of the Progressive Muslims Union, North America --- there are a number of articles circulating all over the web on this controversy. A couple of articles worth checking out are:

Do Female Prayer Protests Miss The Point? by Dr. Aslam Abdullah

Muslim women who suffer from all kinds of ills that a patriarchal society has imposed upon them have often been betrayed by those who claim to be religious leaders, or by those who want to denounce religious establishment for its lack of commitment to Islam. Indeed, both have betrayed Muslim women. During the last several decades, both have watched Muslim women lose their dignity while they have conducted debates about Islam and its relevance for the world at large. Both have failed to identify with those invisible beings whose whole existence has become subject to the prevailing ignorance.

True empowerment will not come from imposing this new controversy. Rather, it will come when intellectuals who are genuinely concerned about the plight of women identify with women at the grassroots level.

And Sunni Sister's blog on the issue My Prayer is the Prayer of a Woman:

Once, Yusuf ibn ‘Isam was questioning a teacher named Hatim at a circle of knowledge in a masjid in Khurasan. He asked him what is meant by having a spiritual experience in prayer, to which Hatim responded, “It means that you set the Garden of Paradise to your right, the Fire of Hell to your left, the Bridge beneath your feet, and the Balance beneath your eyes, and (that you worship) the Lord as if you could see Him, for, even if you do not see Him, He does see you.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “When performing the Salat, one is conversing intimately with one’s Lord.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

Saturday, March 05, 2005

A South African view of the PMU NA

Na'eem Jeenah writes in a South African news monthly, Al Qalam:

"Last year, three South Africans were invited to be on the Advisory Board of an organisation that was about to be launched in the US, the Progressive Muslims Union of North America. Quite an honour. However, after much reflection, istikharah and many emails, all three – Ebrahim Moosa, Farid Esack and I – declined."

Less than two months ago, a new organisation was launched in the US – the “American Muslim Group on Policy Planning (AMGPP)”.

(Ahmed Nassef, the executive director of PMUNA is also part of this group).

According to Muqtedar Khan, the group’s founder: “Its foundation is based on the premise that the American Muslim community is not only capable of providing valuable assistance to the US in the war on terror but can also play a pivotal role in helping build bridges of confidence, trust and communication between the US and the Muslim World.”

Let’s get this right: this Muslim “leader” is suggesting that American Muslims should be helping the Bush government in its war against the world (a.k.a War on Terror)! What does that mean? Supporting the occupation of Iraq? The war against Afghanistan? The torture in Guantanamo Bay, Baghram and Abu Ghraib? The erosion of civil liberties in the US itself? The wholesale privatisation of Iraq to American companies?

Click here to read complete article

Meanwhile, Ahmed Nassef, the executive director of the PMUNA has made an appearance at the Hillel . The appearance received positive coverage in the Los Angeles based Jewish Journal . And, of-course, on Nassef's own website, MWU.

A comment on MWU said:

"I am surprised, Ahmed Nassef, that you trumpet this event as you do. My experiences with them (Hillel) were at campuses in North America (during a speaking tour 2 years ago organised by the Vancouver-based Palestine Solidarity Group) when I spoke on Palestine and, more particularly, Israel as an Apartheid state. At one Vancouver campus, they repeatedly tore down the posters so that by the time the event happened, it was dominated by about 80% Hillel supporters.

At some other campuses they heckled, tried to disrupt and refused to listen. In Berkeley, members of Hillel joined a campaign to boycott a dinner organised by the Boalt Law Foundation. The dinner is the main annual fund-raising event to raise funds for disadvantaged students to study at Boalt Law School. The BLF's crime? They co-sponsored my lecture there. After much trauma for the BLF and Palestinians and Palestinian supporters at the university, a joint letter was issued. The complainants, including the Hillel members, could not even use the term "Palestinian students" in the letter; it had to be "students of Palestinian descent".

Click here to read more!