Thursday, November 18, 2004

The controversy on "Progressive Muslims Union"

I came across this really interesting article on BBC News: “The fourth world toilet summit opens in Beijing with declarations that having a loo is a human right…The founder of the World Toilet Organisation, Jack Sim, said that when it came to sanitation, people ought to demand more.”

A new organization that has been causing quite a stir amongst Muslim circles is Progressive Muslim Union (PMU). It’s mission is: “to provide a forum, voice and organizing mechanism for those in the Muslim community who wish to pursue a progressive religious, intellectual, social and political agenda. Progressive Muslims have not yet developed sufficient platforms from which to advocate their views within the Muslim community and to the broader North American society.” They welcome Muslims from all backgrounds and walks of life including gays. I’m sorry, but just because one supports gay rights, does not make him/her progressive. The media has caught on this organization really quick and many Muslims are quite disturbed because they don’t represent many “progressive” Muslims. This calls to question what exactly does progressive mean & does it have to fit the Western model? I believe that progressive means when Muslims are willing to interpret Islam according to changing circumstances; but just because one is secular doesn’t pray, fast, wear Hijab or drinks alcohol, doesn’t make them “progressive” & other Muslims who abide by Islamic laws “regressive.”

I have received 2 conflicting e-mails about who the board members are. One says, “ Hussein Ibish is probably the most visible and recognizable face of the Arab community in the US and Canada; Omid Safi is author of the book, "Progressive Muslims" and is professor of religion at Colgate University; Sarah Eltantawi was until recent, the Communications Director of MPAC--Muslim Public Affairs Committee; Mona Eltahawy is a columnist for the London based Sharq AlAwsat and writes for the Washington Post; Ahmed Nassef is Editor-in-Chief of and has written for the Christian Science Monitor; Aimen Mackie is a young lawyer; Naeem Mohaiemen is editor and publisher of and the producer of a film on the persecution of Ahmadiyas in Bangladesh; Gina Rauf is an artist and was featured in a NYT story; Tarek Fatah. The other e-mail stated that a few progressive scholars & activists were denying the invitation to be on the board because of the selection of individuals such as, “Seeme and Malik Hassan, founders of Muslims for Bush, who have praised Daniel Pipes. Their campaign included an article on, `The Muslim World Savior,' (referring to Mr Bush) wherein Seeme Hassan writes "I believe Bush is bringing liberation not war”; Farid Zakaria from Newsweek whose public imperialist credentials are impeccable and whose only problem with the empire is that it is doing an inefficient job; Nawaal al-Sadawi who has campaigned for the enforcement of the ban on hijab (head scarf) in French public schools; Ziyad Asali who, at a UN/NGO conference on September 2002, publicly denied the right of return to Palestinian exiles and refugees; Muqtedar Khan, who wrote that "as soon as it became clear that Muslims were behind 9/11, I told my wife `there goes my chance to be this country's first Muslim Henry Kissinger.” It goes to show that Muslims in North America are not a homogenous group and hold different religious, social & political views. All I hope is that PMU won’t be sought by politicians & the media as a representative for all Muslims in this part of the world.

Juan Cole on the resignation of Powell & the Rice’s appointment: “Powell wanted to devote great energy to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict after September 11, and for a brief moment seemed to have Bush's ear, but then Bush capitulated to hard line Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Powell was never able to make any headway…Powell was not enthusiastic about a war on Iraq, and his own doctrine called for the US to go in with massive force if it did go in. Instead, Rumsfeld sent in only 100,000 troops, laying the ground for the subsequent disaster…I saw Lawrence Eagleburger on CNN Monday evening say that he thought Condi Rice was not right for Secretary of State because she had been in the White House for four years and, he implied, would be incapable of offering George W. Bush independent advice…Rice seems to me to have two major drawbacks as Secretary of State beyond her inability to challenge Bush's pet projects. One is that she is an old Soviet hand who still thinks in Cold War terms. She focuses on states and does not understand the threat of al-Qaeda, nor does she understand or empathize with Middle Easterners, about whom she appears to know nothing after all this time. The other drawback is that she is virtually a cheerleader for Ariel Sharon and will not be an honest broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Powell was much more fair on such issues, though he wasn't exactly pro-Palestinian either.”

From Informed Comment on Fallujah: “Propaganda reared its ugly head on several occasions. US-installed CIA asset Iyad Allawi, the "prime minister," said he was sure there had been no civilian casualties in Fallujah…it is impossible that there aren't civilian casualties, and probably quite substantial ones. In addition, some reports speak of Marines using heat detectors and shooting at any buildings they think inhabited…The generally pro-American Saudi daily, Asharq al-Awsat, has a long piece on the sufferings of civilians in Fallujah, based on telephone interviews and eyewitness accounts by Iraqis. The article is extremely suspicious of American motives in having taken the Fallujah hospitals and in having kept the Red Crescent and other aid agencies away from the city…As for the apparent murder of a wounded guerrilla by a Marine, it was horrible. I fear that the attitude of the other troops, which wasn't exactly shock, suggests that these sorts of murders of prisoners are not uncommon…It does concern me that the wounded and bleeding guerrillas were just stacked up in that mosque awaiting medical attention, apparently for days…Ash-Sharq al-Awsat writes of Fallujah, and I paraphrase: Whatever the number of families that stayed in Fallujah, they are suffering now from lack of food, water, and aid. Although the US and Iraqi military authorities insist they have taken the city with the exception of some pockets of resistance, they refuse to allow Red Crescent aid trucks even into the areas they say they control.” From Electronic Iraq on the issue: “At least 800 civilians have been killed during the U.S. military siege of Fallujah, a Red Cross official estimates. Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of U.S. military reprisal, a high-ranking official with the Red Cross in Baghdad told IPS that "at least 800 civilians" have been killed in Fallujah so far. His estimate is based on reports from Red Crescent aid workers stationed around the embattled city, from residents within the city and from refugees.”

In other news from Iraq, “US forces arrested on Tuesday the deputy head of Iraq's interim parliament and a high-ranking member of a Sunni political party after a dawn raid on his Baghdad home…The arrest was linked to pressures exerted on the Iraqi Islamic Party because of its opposition to the military offensive against Fallujah…Last week, the Iraqi Islamic Party withdrew from the interim government in protest over the US-Iraqi full-scale assault on Fallujah.” More heartbreaking news from Iraq is the murder of the murder of Margaret Hassan, the head of the relief group CARE. From the Christian Science Monitor: “the EU's departing development commissioner condemned the execution of Mrs. Hassan, and says that, "This kind of savagery makes it almost impossible for relief agencies to continue their crucial work in Iraq." …Hassan had lived in Iraq for 30 years, had married an Iraqi, and had been an outspoken opponent of US sanctions against Iraq…Sir Harold Walker, former British ambassador to Iraq and former chairman of the board of CARE said that aid workers would be unwise to continue in Iraq for the time being…The Scotsman reports that other humanitarian experts believe that the murder of Hassan "confirmed warnings" of the politicization of aid by the US government in Iraq. Politicization of aid has become an issue of increasing concern among aid groups…the intentional politicization of aid by the US-led coalition in Iraq and beyond, in the post 9/11 world, has destroyed this neutrality. This neutrality used to be the best guarantor of our safety and allowed us to work with all people in need.” French President Jacques Chirac told BBC News: “he is "not at all sure" the world has become safer with the removal from power of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. In a BBC interview Mr Chirac suggests the situation in Iraq has helped to prompt an increase in terrorism…He also signals that be believes Britain's support for the US-led war has brought few dividends…Speaking in Washington on Monday, Mr Blair called for Europe and the US to bury their differences over Iraq.”

In Palestine, from the Jordan Times: “HAMAS ANNOUNCED TUESDAY it would boycott the election of a successor to Yasser Arafat as head of the Palestinian Authority, further clearing the path for Palestine Liberation Organisation leader Mahmoud Abbas in January's contest…"This election is a continuation of the Oslo process which has already failed and is finished." … The smaller Islamist movement Islamic Jihad had confirmed on Monday that it would not contest the election slated for Jan. 9. The decision by Hamas is a major boost to Abbas' hopes of being elected to replace Arafat…while polls show that Fateh remains the most popular of the Palestinian parties, its support has been eroded in recent years amid growing disillusionment at the performance of Arafat's administration. Some polls have shown that Hamas now enjoys more popularity than Fateh in its Gaza stronghold.”