Good Muslim, Bad Muslim by Amina Wadud

August 21, 2014

No doubt about it, the news of late has been dismal, heart breaking, soul crunching. Pick a place or theme and see where you end up: Ebola in parts of Africa, Israel and Hamas; Ferguson, Missouri; Ukraine, U.S., and Russia; unaccompanied minors from the south crossing over into U.S. borders; the assault of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) on Christians, Kurds, Yazidis, Shi’ahs and journalists. This list could (should) be augmented by many other conflicts and areas of strife which have been on-going for longer than the last several weeks.

I don’t know about you, but I draw my weary attention to the latest news each morning with knots in my stomach and a heavy weight on my shoulders. Meanwhile, even if I am not directing my attention to the news per se, the same events are all over social media and I confess I check into facebook and twitter each day even when I try to maintain a casual posture over usage and to keep upbeat attitude in how I engage (or ignore) the latest hash tag or hot button issues.

For weeks I have been thinking I should blog about an important lesson I have learned as best articulated in the book by Sharon Welch: A Feminist Ethic of Risk. In a world riddled with problems of proportions greater than can be solved by any one person, one group, one country or over one life time, how does one continue to be ethically engaged, avoid crippling despair and pointless cynicism, or just plain fall into apathy?

Welch outlines the problem of an ethical model that is predicated on success in the face of inherent crisis, obvious human rights violations, or even catastrophes of nature. The success is achieved in part as a result of an on-going imbalance of power. This imbalance operates on the basis that any intervention will guarantee the sought after results: tyrants will be put down, enemies of the state will be subdued, and the victor will come home to accolades of support. This presumes that all others are not equal and so if any should transgress “our” territory or sensibilities, we will just go blow them away. (This by the way is the set-genre of US hero films). All it takes is for our hero to come into his or her full prowess and all evil doers will be vanquished, order and beauty will be restored. In short, we can go on about our lives unconcerned about lesser mortals because not only are we safe from terror or the threat or terror, we have proven we have the means to kick butt should any arise.

Naturally she compares this model with patriarchy and imperialism.

Liberal Oxford imam counters the “Muslim McCarthyists”

Dr. Taj Hargey, “a clean-shaven imam from Oxford”, who describes himself as a “thorn in the side of the Muslim hierarchy”, has won a libel claim against a conservative Muslim newspaper. The Muslim News published an article that claimed he belonged to the Ahmadiyya sect which many in his faith believe is heretical.

Dr. Hargey has made many enemies because of his liberal brand of Islam, which he preaches from a small assembly hall. Unlike most British imams who insist on segregation during Friday prayers, Dr. Hargey allows men and women to pray in the same room. He believes Muslims should not feel compelled to grow beards or wear a veil and last November his mosque became the first in Britain to allow female Islamic scholar Amina Wadud to lead Friday prayers.

After winning the lawsuit Dr. Hargey said: “This is a watershed moment in the struggle between liberal Muslims in the UK and the extremist views … [of] a foreign-educated clergy. Progressives like me are described as heretics in order to ruin our credibility. It’s a form of Muslim McCarthyism that is used to root out anyone who dares question these unenlightened, tribal and foreign forms of Islam.”

US academic first woman to lead Muslim prayers in UK

It was, said the organisers, as historic and radical an act as Emmeline Pankhurst chaining herself to railings outside the Houses of Parliament. But for others a Muslim service led by a woman was sacrilege. Amina Wadud, an American academic, yesterday became the first woman to lead British Muslims in mixed congregational prayers and deliver the Friday sermon. Wadud, who converted to Islam more than 30 years ago, addressed a group of about 15 men and women at the Oxfordshire Masonic Centre. It marked the start of a two-day conference on Islam and feminism but, more significantly, broke 1,500 years of tradition regarding a woman’s place in the mosque. Wadud, who received death threats and worldwide condemnation following a similar service in New York three years ago, said: “There is nothing in the Qur’an or the hadith that forbids me from doing this. The prophet did it himself during his time, when he assigned a woman to lead a mixed prayer. “This is not a movement, it is just a reality. It is part of the living tradition of Islam, Islam has not died. It is important British women take up the mantle and fulfil the possibility of prayer leadership.” The Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, which organised the event, anticipated demonstrations and these fears secured a police presence. Wadud, 56, a professor from Virginia Commonwealth University, stressed the importance of prayer. Seeing her flock were outnumbered by the media and sitting away from her, she told them: “I’m not going to bite you, I promise. It would make me feel better if you were closer to each other.” They duly shuffled together. Rawand Osman, 25, who travelled from Birmingham, said: “It’s good for the psychology of Muslim men to start seeing women in these positions.” Taj Hargey, chair of Meco, claimed conservative imams in Oxford threatened to disown Muslims attending the prayers. Riazat Butt and Niki Nixon reports.

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