Sunday, April 21, 2013

Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) and a Washington imam for gay marriage

by Salman Hameed

Globalization and modernity are bringing issues of freedom of speech and religious freedom to the forefront everywhere, including in Muslim societies. There is and will be an intense debate about the shaping of "the" Islamic response to these changes. However, as has been the case historically, we are going to see a variety of responses. The focus in much of the discussions will be on the nature of faith - public versus private. The new trend of using "insult to Islam" to persecute a broad range of opposition - from non-orthodox sects to atheism - is one of the battlegrounds on the nature of contemporary faith in Islam. The issue of homosexuality, certainly, is another location where we are doing to see an intense debate over the meaning of faith in the 21st century. But even apart from such hot-buttion topics, Muslims are taking diverse stands on a whole variety of issues. Can and should women lead men in prayers? Is it necessary to sacrifice animals for Eid al Adha? And of course, then we have also Punk Islam - and all bets are off with punk!

In the US, there is now group called Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV). They are being equated with Reform Judaism and with Unitarian Universalism. They have nine chapters so far and I think they are have a tremendous potential to grow and to address some of the contemporary issues in religion and society. Perhaps, most importantly, they provide an inclusive umbrella to Muslims with diverse values. This is how they define their mission:
Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) is an inclusive community rooted in the traditional Qur’anic ideals of human dignity and social justice. We welcome all who are interested in discussing, promoting and working for the implementation of progressive values — human rights, freedom of expression, and separation of church and state — as well as inclusive and tolerant understandings of Islam. 
It is absolutely refreshing to see the presence of such a group!

One of their members is an Imam in a mosque in Washington, D.C. He is gay and supports gay marriage in the US. This is phenomenal! About a year ago, I had a post about a French imam who supervised the wedding of two Muslim men. I thought at the time that this cannot be the only place incident of this nature, when there already are Muslim LGBT groups (such as The Muslims Alliance for Gender and Sexual Diversity) and outspoken activists like Irshad Manji.

The Washington Imam's support for gay marriage fits perfectly in this context. It is also a nice contrast to the low-level of discourse (predominantly from the Republicans) on gay marriage in the US. Here is the story from the Washington Post:

Imam Daayiee Abdullah arrives by bus, sweaty and lugging a green bag stuffed with a
Koran, two books of poetry by Persian mystic Rumi and three Islamic prayer rugs. Tonight, he’s speaking to a room full of young, gay activists and progressives after a screening of the documentary “I Am Gay and Muslim” at the Human Rights Campaign’s bright white Equality Center in downtown Washington. 
But when the openly gay imam takes the stage, he stuns even this audience.
“I think we’re at the start of a movement: a more inclusive Islam in America,” says Abdullah, who runs Washington’s Light of Reform mosque and is thought to be the only publicly gay Muslim leader in the Western Hemisphere. 
“So if you have any same-sex marriages,” he says with a soft smile and a shrug, “I’m available.”
Some young Muslims in attendance mumble, “Wow!” and “Seriously?” 
As more states legalize same-sex marriage, it’s easy to forget that segments of society, particularly in immigrant communities, regard homosexuality as a potentially deadly secret — one rarely revealed to relatives in places like Sudan or Saudi Arabia, where being gay can be punishable by death. 
For many gay immigrants, the values of their adopted and native countries are at odds. The gay Muslim Americans who live relatively public lives in the Washington area are a case in point. They date openly, and are often out at work, but when it comes to getting married, they don’t dare share the news with family back home, who could become targets of abuse or economic boycotts — and even jailed — if it became common knowledge. 
Abdullah, an African American convert to Islam who is part of a national network of progressive Muslims, is the keeper of their secrets. He quietly helps gay Muslim couples get married, counseling them beforehand and keeping the ceremonies low-profile.
Read the full article here.


Akbar said...

It is like a proclaimed evolutionary biologist supporting creationism. Just saying :-)
I hope his entertaining rampage continues.

Mohamed said...

This is incredible! Almost surreal...

Interesting to see if this movement catches on or fizzles out...either due to threats or lack of interest.

I live in both the US and in the Middle East, and I can honestly say the way Islam is practiced in the US is a lot closer to my heart.

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