In the Name of the 49, the Beloved, the Lost
Part 3 presents the Progressive Muslims. In some ways, this is more of a list of resources for LGBT Muslims, solo progressive Muslims, and others who are looking for a view different than the mainstream Sunni view.
In 2015, research by the Pew Center found that 45% of American Muslims believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society. That means that 45% of American Muslims are kafirs according to the teachings of Hamza Yusuf and Yasir Qadhi.
The same study found that 52% of American Muslims support marriage equality. So maybe the majority of the American Muslim community isn’t as conservative as its leaders (and our media?) would have us believe. Maybe people like Hamza Yusuf and Yasir Qadhi don’t really represent or speak for American Muslims at all. After all, the mosque going Muslims are already a minority (53% of Muslims report they go to the mosque once a month or less) – so who are these men speaking for when they’re on TV and in newspapers?
Muslims for Progressive Values, USA
A grassroots organization that promotes human rights and a re-reading of the Islamic traditional texts, MPVUSA has perhaps been the most vocal organization challenging Islamic homophobia post-Pulse. They are one of the only groups of Muslims in North America that offer nikah services to same-sex couples.
Their No to Homophobia campaign calls upon Muslim community leaders to pledge to eliminate discrimination and to refute homophobic teachings in their masajid, and they also provide a wealth of resources for LGBT Muslims and their friends.
In 2013, Ani Zonneveld, the founder and president of MPV-USA, voiced her support for marriage equality in the Huffington Post, arguing that the Islamic marriage contract doesn’t specify that the two partners must be of two different sexes.
After the Pulse Massacre, Ms. Zonneveld masterfully called out CAIR and the rest of the Muslim mainstream on their varying claims of standing in support with LGBT people’s rights:
“The murderer of 49 party goers at Pulse in Orlando should be attached to your ‘Islam.’ An ‘Islam’ that raised him to believe that homosexuals will burn in hell, that you cannot be Muslim and gay; and that killing homosexuals is killing out of kindness.
“Yes, this is your twisted version of Islam and it is not that much different than Da’esh’s ideology. It is your ‘Islam’ that has traumatized so many gay Muslims, that has alienated, ostracized and demonized them to the point of self-hatred. Self-hatred leads to mental health and suicidal tendencies, not an un-common by-product of your hate-filled theology toward homosexuals, a by-product exhibited in the killing at Pulse.
“You don’t get to wash the blood off your hands on this one.
“Your Orlando Declaration is clever. You have borrowed from the Israelis who claim any criticism of Israeli policies, even constructive ones, are anti-Semetic. You have learned the art of defelection of responsibility from the best.
“You claim to hold the Prophet Muhammad’s teaching in high regard. How about living up to it for once?
“Spare us the robe, the beard, and the superficial religiosity. “
The Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity was created out of a session at Creating Change, which is an annual conference of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and post Orlando, called for people not to blame Islam and for existing Muslim allies to work against homophobia. That’s all I could find, which was surprising for me.
A burgeoning space for LGBT Muslims (their website isn’t up yet), this post on Out Muslim’s Tumblr blamed colonialism for the Pulse massacre.
Based in Fremont, CA and Chicago, IL, Ta’leef offers programs in education, particularly for converts, as well as a program to help Muslims recently released from prison re-integrate into society. They had nothing to say after the Pulse massacre about homophobia in Islam, which is surprising given their emphasis on converts. An article online by an attendee after the Pulse shootings indicates that in general, they are accepting and welcoming of LGBT people.
M Muhammad Knight
“The Taqwacores” was, in retrospect, a seminal piece of literature in the Muslim American landscape (a sparse landscape, admittedly), particularly for those born after about 1977. Written by the former Muslim enfant terrible (now a Harvard graduate pursuing his PhD) and unforgettable pain in Hamza Yusuf’s neck, the book gave birth to what is now known as the Taqwacore movement of Muslim punk and hard core bands and gave those Muslims who felt that they didn’t quite mesh with the predominant ISNA/MAS/CAIR/ICNA masjid community a guidebook to making their own road. MMK didn’t have much to say on his own, but did retweet a lot of LGBT and progressive Muslims after the Pulse massacre.
Haroon S Moghul
Haroon Moghul is a PhD candidate at Columbia, and a commentator on Islam/Muslim issues on television and in newspapers.
In the wake of the Pulse massacre, he called upon the disaffected Muslim middle to start building sustainable organizations that promote integration with US society, noting that most masajid are empty except on Friday afternoons. Such organizations would be a bulwark against extremism, under which he included homophobia. He wrote another piece for Haaretz about Muslim homophobia, but I can’t access it because I’m not a premium subscriber.
Feisal Abdul Rauf & Daisy Khan
This couple founded the Cordoba Initiative and WISE (under the rubric of ASMA, the American Society for Muslim Advancement), but made national headlines when they tried to establish an Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan called Park 51 (known as the “ground zero mosque”).
After the Orlando massacre, Mr. Abdul Rauf wrote of mercy and compassion and acceptance, but said nothing about the homophobia widely taught among Muslims, especially in the masjid community. This is disappointing mainly because he’s spent a career offering an alternative to that mainstream community; first, as the imam of Masjid al Farah in lower Manhattan (which is led by a woman) and now in his attempts with the Cordoba Initiative. Writing in the New York Daily News, Ms. Khan spoke of combating extremism and Daesh, but nothing about more pedestrian teachings here at home.
I couldn’t find any writing by Mona Eltahawy in relation to LGBT people and she tweets so much I could not be bothered to go through her Twitter feed. A quick search using a Twitter look back tool shows the usual liberal tweets about LGBT rights, including a link to a Washington Post article about LGBT Muslims.
Thus ends my knowledge of progressive Muslims with any sort of name recognition.