Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Conceit of Proggies (Farish Noor)

Farish Noor's recent article does a good job of highlighting some of the very problematic attitudes of proggies.

Farish Noor, however, himself is not entirely innocent of these attitudes - during the Amina Wadud media stunt - he basically pronounced a fatwa that any dissenting opinion with regards to the event was a "non-debate." This, even though there were substantial counter arguments that were presented by Islamic scholars regarding the event. The issue here was not whether one agrees or disagrees with the respective positions, but about totally ignoring critiques based on an Islamic framework and methodology.

A blogger noted that:

In Noor and Hamzah's case, the "non-debate" is actually the startling assertion that no debate is possible, on the grounds that almost every Muslim outside the MWU/PMU fold is intellectually incompetent. Thus, in a single sweep, Muslim scholarship around the world is reduced to dunderhead status.

However, it is encouraging to read Farish Noor's recent article where he notes that:

The distinction between ‘progressive’ Muslims and ‘conservative’ Muslims may not have been invented by the Neo-Cons who rule the roost in the White House, or the repressive regimes that blight the landscape of the Muslim world, but it cannot be denied that they have also profited from such distinctions. President Bush Junior’s warm embrace of the concept of ‘progressive Islam,’ and his establishment’s support for ‘progressive Muslim’ issues and personalities comes at the cost of expelling other Muslims from the domain of the civilised, rational, normal and acceptable. Already we have seen many a repressive Muslim government or regime hijacking the terms ‘progressive’ and ‘moderate’ in order to whitewash the authoritarian structures of power they control, and to sell themselves as exemplary models of ‘progressive Islam’ at work.

While he makes an important point above, he then again uses terms such as "Muslim conservatives" and "fundamentalists" in his otherwise very good concluding paragraph:

And let us not forget that those ‘Muslim conservatives’ we are so inclined to banish beyond the pale of civilised community are fellow Muslims who are likewise grappling with the challenges of the globalised age we live in. By engaging with Islamist conservatives and fundamentalists, we ensure that the frontiers of discourse and dialogue remain open, and the possibility of genuine constructive change remain with us. The alternative is the exclusionary politics of expulsion and non-dialogue, a deafening silence that divides the Muslim world and dooms our efforts to uplift humanity as a whole.
If these labels were artificial, and exclusionary before, they are even more irrelevant today. Those who Noor, and others would label "traditional" or "conservative" Muslims are the ones who are doing the very real work of service to the Muslim community in a variety of domains. These areas include gender, racism, environmental concern, domestic violence, consumerism, and not allowing Islam to be "reformed" and divided up by the neo-cons. There are other areas that also need to be addressed, no doubt, and much more needs to be done.

If we are to use the label "progressive Muslim" then that should be used for those who are truly active and connected within Muslim communities - and do the much needed work with a sense of love - no matter how many warts our community might have. And quite frankly most of those who have appropriated this label (especially the PMUNAists) do not fit this description of service.

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