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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Anonymous said...

Islam Progressive? In your dreams.

What exasctly is progressive and liberal about Islam? The intolerance? Discrimination? The hate and anger in the Quran towards non-Muslims? Could it be the many vile stories about Islam's dear prophet in the hadiths? Or are hate, murder, torture, plunder, slavery and rape "Propgressive " values?

I see the Pope has said a few mild words abiout Islam and MOhammed, and Muslims are saying he is being hateful. Well, when Muslims start treating others the way they expect to be treated, we can then talk and work together. Until them, forget it. I will tell Muslims the truth about Islam - not that they care.

I have no faith in Muslims, except that they will lie and deceive others and themselves.


John Kactuz

iFaqeer said...

Thank you about your comments. Did you get a chance to read my next post:

That's how I think we should behave. All of us people of faith. But I am not for a moment closing my eyes to the fact that members of all faith and ideological communities (remember Stalin or Mao or...?) have acted in the opposite spirit.

And while I have grown to have great respect for the office of the papacy, and I have to admit I have not read or heard the recent statement from the current Pope in detail, it is curious that he should use Islam to highlight fanaticism and oppression. Humility would have lead one to look inwards, not outwards.

Thanks again for stopping by.

ifreen said...

Salaam, faqeer,

I found your discussion of "why say progressive muslim" interesting, but I tend to side with the commentor.

I was something of a closet muslim for a year or two before I found out about the progressive movement. This was because of my internal conflicts with the practice of Islam as I was raised versus core values about gender equality and acceptance diverse forms of sexuality. Since I found out about the movement, I felt more or less liberated because of the realization that the my choices were not limited to practicing in that particular way or not practicing.

I also went out of my way, when asked about religion to describe myself as a progressive muslim. However, I more recently decided that this is a disservice to myself and perhaps the progressive movement because it circumscribes my views and principles as less than fully muslim.

I agree with you that no one person/group can or should pose to speak for all muslims. However, and unfortunately, it seems like only the more liberal, if you will, people of any group tend to follow this guideline. Which tends to make the playing field a little uneven, especially in a world where everything tends to get reduced to the smallest and most stereotyping soundbyte.

That is my two pennies.

much peace,