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Uber hyped 'Progressive Muslim Union' a bust as three more founding members resign

September 10, 2005

MIM: The Progressive Muslims Union is getting progressively smaller. The much touted Muslim group seems to have locked horns with each other and just about everyone else in the Muslim community who opposed the 'revamping of Islam' by a bunch of Islamist yuppies who held their media debut in a trendy New York cafe proclaiming their agenda as 'Islam lite'.

Progressive Muslim Union:
Three funding members of resign

The Progressive Muslim Union of North America (PMU) suffered a major setback when three of its four founding members resigned from the PMU Board of Directors on August 24, 2005 saying that "the PMU is not a forum that will allow us to successfully pursue the agenda we envisioned at its founding."

The three founding members, who resigned in an open letter, are: Omid Safi, Hussein Ibish and Sarah Eltantawi. Ahmed Nassef, Executive Director of the PMU and Editor-in-Chief of the controversial website, is the fourth founding member.

One of its board member, Dr. Muqtedar Khan, quit the PMU board on July 1, 2005 saying that he found the environment with Progressive Muslims Union extremely oppressive, abusive and hateful. In an open resignation letter Dr. Khan said: "I have found both PMU and MWU ( extremely intolerant of difference and disagreement. This is the only Muslim group where people who believe in the teachings of the Quran are ridiculed and those who express ambivalence about it even about the existence of God are celebrated."

Amid wide media publicity, the PMU was launched in New York on November 15, 2004 "to challenge reactionary voices within the community that try to limit choices for North American Muslims, or which preach a chauvinistic and paranoid worldview."

USA Today reported the formation of PMU with the headline: Progressive American Muslims push for reinterpretation of Islam. Washington Post described it a push from the progressive wing for American Muslims. And New York Times called it "a little late, but a stand against hate."

Many of its critics saw that the PMU as a trogan horse to promote a new version of Islam as envisaged by the neo-Orientalists of the Rand Corporation and to dislodge established organizations of the American Muslim community, such as the Council on American Muslim Relations (CAIR) and Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). They argued that the empire is quite literally seeking to create compliant Muslim subjects – at home via intimidation and "friendly" organization-building, and abroad through brute force.

The MPU had a bumpy start as many invited to join its advisory board either declined the request or were dropped because of their support to Bush administration's policies in Iraq. Among those who are dropped from the advisory board are Seeme and Malik Hassan, founders of Muslims For Bush website. Their son Mohammad Ali Hassan wrote an article entitled: The Muslim World's Savior (referring to Mr. Bush), that included this sentence: "I believe Bush is bringing liberation not war." Another person not included in the board is Fareed Zakariyya who wrote in Newsweek (August 5th, 2002) that the invasion of Iraq is "the single best path to reform the Arab world." Nawaal al-SadawI, an Egyptian writer, was also dropped. She has campaigned for the enforcement of the hijab (head scarf) ban in French public schools. For many Muslims enforcing the wearing of hijab is as reactionary as a ban on wearing it.

Farid Esack, a South African theologian who teaches at St. Xavier University in Cincinnati, stunned the PMU organizers by refusing an invitation to join the board. He didn't want to work with those who, although they might defend gender equity and homosexual rights, also support Bush's "expansionist" policies. In a critique of the PMU, he pointed out that the PMU's emphasis on diversity and pluralism rather than justice and liberation shows its ideological lines clearly.

In their resignation letter, the three founding members pointed out that the PMU has not developed in the direction that they had envisioned and worked to promote.

Here is text of the resignation open letter:

It is with heavy hearts, but out of a deep conviction that there is no other choice at this stage, that we -- Omid Safi, Hussein Ibish and Sarah Eltantawi, three of the four founding members (along with Ahmed Nassef) of the Progressive Muslim Union of North America (PMU) -- hereby tender our resignations from the Board of Directors of PMU.

We helped to form PMU in the hopes that it would develop into an umbrella organization representing a „big tent" for Muslims with a very wide variety of religious, political and social attitudes who are drawn together by a spirit of pluralism and compassion to develop and contribute a new voice to the conversation about Islam and Muslims in North America.

Our intention was to create a space in which Muslims could pursue a multivalent critique of power, standing against injustice within Muslim societies, among Muslims in North America, and with regard to the foreign and domestic policies of the governments and societies in which we live.

We wanted to be as vigorous in challenging injustices in the Islamic world, and the deeply-rooted racism and sexism that lurk within our own community, as we rightly are in condemning the abuses of U.S. foreign policy and the assault on civil liberties in the United States.

We also wanted to create a forum for a respectful but critical engagement with Islamic practices and classical and modern interpretations of Islamic doctrine, as well as how Islam has functions as a social text, especially in our own societies at the present time.

We intended PMU to help to develop an independent, and spiritually and intellectually sophisticated, Islamic discourse that is distinctly North American, while remaining true to the essential teachings and values of Islam; one that responds to the challenges and context in which North American Muslims live, as opposed to discourses that are mainly derivative of ideas and agendas formed long ago and/or far away.

The hope was that these two missions would compliment each other, and serve to give a voice to a large section of the community hitherto underrepresented. In both cases, our intention was to help to enrich, broaden and deepen the conversation in the North American Muslim community, and to unleash the power of a set of ideas that have been largely dormant among us in recent years: the Islamic values of tolerance, compassion and equity, that is to say, the spirit of justice that lies at the heart of Islam.

Unfortunately, PMU has not developed in the direction that we had envisioned and worked to promote. We readily accept our share of the responsibility for this, and do not seek to blame or second-guess any of our former colleagues. They are entitled to develop PMU in any direction that they see fit. However we have become convinced that PMU is not a forum that will allow us to successfully pursue the agenda we envisioned at its founding, and that this is not likely to change. We believe that the vision that we outlined

in the PMU mission statement and that informed the founding of PMU remains vital and urgently needed, but has yet to find a vehicle for its effective expression. We remain committed to the values and goals of that mission statement, and we will continue to work to help develop and implement a progressive agenda for American Muslims.

We wish PMU all the best, offer it our support and encouragement, and hope that it will to grow into a vital and important organization that represents a significant constituency among North American Muslims.

Omid Safi
Hussein Ibish
Sarah Eltantawi

MIM: See also:

Radical Islamist Muqtedar Khan resigns from the Progressive Muslims Union citing citing 'oppressive and intolerant culture'

The Pro'paganda'gressive Muslim Union - Islamists in Yuppie clothing & Muslim Wake Up! - Sex in the Umma

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