Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Why say "Progressive Muslim"?

One comment on my post of yesterday titled "Canadian Progressive Muslims on 9/11" was in the vein of "Why say that Progressive Muslims condemn this and that; why not condemn it as Muslims?" (Paraphrasing here.) And it is something that comes up often. And a question worth addressing. So here goes:

Believe me, I understand where that question is coming from. I have been there.

But I find it much more intellectually honest for a group to say "Look, we're not saying we speak for all Muslims; but here's what we think." Too often very conservative people say things that only 5% of Muslims would completely agree with; and, on the other side, very liberal/progressive people say things that only 5% of Muslims would completely agree with--and claim the mantle of moderate or mainstream Muslims. Take the policies of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for example. Or the regime in Iran. Or take Irshad Manji. If Irshad Manji said, forthrightly, "Look, I am not saying things that most Muslims might agree with, but I have something to bring to the table" instead of her holier-than-thou-more-human-than-thou spiel, she might be a good addition to the conversation. That's the difference I see between
her and El Farouq Khaki, one of the co-authors of the piece I forwarded.

As to whether there is such a thing as a "Progressive Muslim", and isn't there just one True Islam which, in its pure form is pretty darn progressive to start with, personally, I don't ever say "Progressive Islam" or "Moderate Islam" or anything; I always talk about Muslims. For example, the two organizations I quoted both have the word "Muslim" in their name, not "Islam". As I have said before, the funny thing is, it is the people that most often complain about, for example the use of the term "Islamic Terrorism", or "Islamic Fascist" that also name organizations "Council for Ameican Islamic Relations" and "Islamic Society of North America" and so on.

Islam is one religion. As a Muslim, I believe it is universal enough to have facets to appeal to all types of people. Some people love the rituals and find them the most fulfilling part of the faith; others love the message of social justice and service and find that the most important part; to some it is an emotional appeal; to others a rational appeal; yet others a moral one. [I am not being excluvist here; other faiths and ideologies have similarly diverse followers.] And you have people who are more ritualistic Muslims, others who are more social-minded ones. It is only when one group or the other believes that only their interpretation is valid or acceptable and that others' grasp of the faith is either not significant, or misguided, or, in the extreme, so wrong that they don't deserve to be accepted in the fold that problems start.

Wallahu Aalam, as we Muslims traditionally used to say more often, before the modern exclusivist and arrogant attitudes gained so much ground; only a Omniscient and Omnipotent Supreme Being can have perfect knowledge, the rest of us are just blind folk trying to feel up the cosmic elephant. We are told that there was a time that even every formal fatwa ended with those words. Today, even the least read of Muslims claims that they are certain that what they think and do is the one true and perfect Islam.

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