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.

Click to read more
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.

Monday, September 19, 2005

And over on the other side of the pond...

The Blair government, that more than often follows the foot steps of the Bush administration, seems to be busy playing its own version of divide and conquer, and some Muslims are only too happy to comply.

Are we all extremists now?! MPACUK asks the question:
No sooner had the British Government said jump; some Muslims responded by saying in true colonial subject style, “Yes Sir how high would you like us to jump”. To some Muslims, saying No to Government is simply not in their vocabulary. To them, just being in the presence of Government Officials is an awe inspiring experience. Others are involved for the progression of their political party careers and to serve their Leader, Blair. Many others are on board to milk the system for their own pet interests and projects. There is also another group of participants, a new breed of Muslims seeking to become Islamic consultants in the manner of Race consultants (so the recommendations will inevitably involve commissioning out identified areas of work). These Muslims have made, or wish to make a career in an Islamic Relations Industry to rival the race experts. Of course there are also many that are sincere but politically na├»ve, and then there are also those who genuinely believe that their version of Islam is the true one, and has been hijacked by extremists who need to be countered.

Click here to read more of this interesting article

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Progressive Thugs Exposed!

Ahmed Nassef, executive director of Progressive Muslim Union North America, ran an article on his website titled "ISNA thugs" on the ISNA convention this year.

Naseeb.com - picked up this article, and also ran it on their site.

Along with the article, there was this graphic:

Ahmed Nassef apparently changed the graphic showing only a muscular arm - but Naseeb.com has the full graphic.

It is interesting to note the depiction of this Muslim "thug" that feeds on the stereotypes used against Muslims: bearded, angry, and style of the cap worn mostly in the northern areas of Pakistan, and Central Asia (note the anti-immigrant tone of the graphic, and the article).

This graphical depiction might as well be something that would appear on a rabidly anti-Muslim site - but instead it appears on a supposed "liberal" "progressive" site. The right wing news station, FOX would be proud of these "progressives."

However, this is not surprising, since naseeb.com features regular articles by Muslims For Bush (who were also invitees to the Progressive Muslim Union advisory board).

And in an interview with the then chair (now resigned) of PMU, Omid Safi, they failed to ask some very critical questions.

Check out two articles exposing the pro-regressives (both very good articles - read 'em).

A point by point refutation to the Muslim Wake Up/Naseeb.Com article:

Sheila Musaji writes ISNA? Thugs?

and

Dr. Maxtor's blog MWU & Naseeb, irrelevent co-conspirators

Another article by Sheila Musaji - MWU/PMU - Progressive voices?

Musaji concludes with the following:

These sorts of tactics can only hurt the cause of Progressive Muslims and I do not want to be associated with individuals or organizations that show so little professionalism or concern for truth and rational discourse.

By now, North American Muslims (and elsewhere) should be aware that these PMUists types of "Progressive Muslims" do not have a cause!

Friday, September 09, 2005

A brief history of the PMUNA

Early October/ late September of 2004 - Ahmed Nassaf, Omid Safi, Hussen Ibish, and Sara Eltantawi announced themselves as the executive board of a new Muslim organization calling itself "The Progressive Muslims Union, North America."

They sent out a packet of information to a prospective board of advisors. Among the invitees were Seeme and Malik Hassan, founders of Muslims For Bush, Fareed Zakariyya - Nawaal al-Sadawi, Ziyad Asali, and Muqtedar Khan.

The inclusion of these individuals - and others who have publicly stated that they are not Muslim (Tariq Ali) resulted in an impassioned debate/conversation on the direction this new organization was going to take. Much of this debate has taken place on a discussion e-list The Network of Progressive Muslims (NPM members, see archives beginning October 21st, 2004.)

Recently, Omid Safi has stated that they did not invite Fareed Zakariyya. However, during the debate on NPM, the invitation to Zakariyya was one of the main points of contention, and Safi never denied the invitation at the time.

On November 12th a group who were strongly arguing against the PMU direction, issued a public statement outlining their concerns. This blog was founded on the same day, and the debate on NPM was made public. However, because of list/moderator restrictions, most of the discussions were removed. A few sections of that debate is available with permission of the authors of those e-mails.

Another noteworthy blog, critiquing the PMU and “progressive islam” in general, Living Tradition, was founded earlier on October 25th:

In these days, both non-Muslims and Muslims are being presented by the squeaky wheels with two options: reactionism, in the form of Wahabism / Salafism and Islamism, or religious iconoclasm, in the form of "Progressivism." Both sides throw up a smoke screen when it comes to the sources of Shari'ah, the methodolgies of fiqh, the 'aqida of Islam, and more in an attempt to sway their listeners to their particular approach to Islam.

As a reaction to the public statement, Ahmed Nassef, the executive director announced on his web site Muslim Wake Up that the critics of the PMU were “neo-salafis.”

On November 19th, the PMU formally announced their advisory board, leaving out a number of controversial invitees.

Sometime mid to late December, Muslim Wake Up was hacked, and the Executive Director appeared on the right wing FOX network to announce that “not all, but many mosques are run by people who have extremist views on women etc..." (emphasis added).
On December 13th yet another “moderate Muslim” group was founded – with the then advisory board member Muqtedar Khan, and Executive Director Ahmed Nassef playing an active role in the organization.

February 2005, Tarek Fatah, who was, at the time, the moderator of NPM, took the e-mails he had access to (about 200+) and started a new e-list called PMUnet. Fatah was removed as moderator from NPM, and soon he left the NPM list.

Early to mid March, 2005 – the PMUNA created the Amina Wadud media event – subsequently, Wadud resigned from their advisory board. A number of articles appeared on this event and many are linked from this web site.

March 15th dozens of Palestinian groups condemned Ziad Asali who was on the advisory board of the PMUNA. Hussein Ibish, the then vice-chair of PMUNA is a senior fellow at Asali's organization.

"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."

On April 20th – US News and World Report came out with an investigative report on the Hearts, Minds, and Dollars In an Unseen Front in the War on Terrorism, America is Spending Millions...
To Change the Very Face of Islam.


Late June/early July – the PMU shahadah was updated, and this resulted in the first of a number of resignations from the PMU board: Muqtedar Khan.

Mid-August a new website was founded that included a blog by a just resigned from board: Michael Knight – who stated in his first entry:

If the Prophet wouldn’t have liked it, then in 2005 the Prophet is wrong, s*!@ on him.

August 23rd – three of the founding members: Omid Safi, Hussein Ibish, Sarah Eltantawi resigned.

Late August – there were no more advisory boards – and Omid Safi found himself at a crossroads.

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.