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April Newsletter 
In This Issue
MPV's 2009 Retreat: Building a Progressive Muslim Community
MPV Petition Update
Featured Article: Who Speaks for Muslims? By Dilara Hafiz
Art by Salma Arastu
Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur joins our Advisory Board
A Poem by Mahmood Jamal
Books We Like!
Congratulations Dalia Mogahed!
MPV's Retreat 
July 20-21, 2009
Sarah Lawrence College
"Building a Progressive Muslim Community" 
Join us for a spiritually uplifting and engaging weekend as we explore this year's theme, "Building a Progressive Muslim Community."
The retreat will include a variety of skills-building workshops including media engagement, political advocacy, and discussions on spirituality as well as social activities. 
Registration deadline is May 31, 2009. Please download the registration form here (PDF).  
This retreat is intended to be an intimate gathering. Our maximum capacity is 40. Please register early to insure that we can accommodate you.

Some of the program highlights are:

 - Workshop on political advocacy led by Jihad F. Saleh, a Congressional Legislative Assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives,  who will share insight and tips on how to effectively advocate to elected officials; role playing involved.
- El-Farouk Khaki, human and refugee rights lawyer, will discuss grassroots strategies and events planning.  
- Community Building: Brainstorming and sharing of ideas session with heads of progressive American affiliates.
- As part of our skills-building program, Pamela Taylor, co-founder of MPV, will conduct a hands-on workshop on writing letters to the editor that get published, getting your work published as a guest columnist, and establishing yourself as a credible resource for reporters.
- Screening of the film 'Sedition', which profiles two young spoken-word artists who grapple with issues of racism and censorship, and offer their thoughts on the power of poetry to effect social change. The featured artists, Boonaa Mohammed and Rafeef Ziadah, perform their poetry, tell their stories, and artfully challenge viewers' thinking about education, bias and freedom of expression.
- Kristin Sands, Professor of Islamic Studies at Sarah LawrenceCollege will give a talk entitled "Spirituality and Social Activism".
 MPV Petition Update
Join MPV and Sisters in Islam's effort to End Violence Against Women in the Muslim World
"Only when women and girls can live with dignity, in safety, not fearing bodily harm from family members, and with freedom of conscience as the Qur'an demands, can a country rightfully call itself 'Islamic.'"

MPV and Sisters in Islam (Malaysia) are calling for action against domestic violence, acid attacks, honor killing, female genital mutilation and forced marriage. 1500 years ago the Qur'an revealed specific verses condemning violence against women. Yet in many Islamic countries and communities around the world, domestic violence continues to be perpetuated. Punishment for these crimes is often weak, if enforced at all. We find this unacceptable and are calling for a change. Please read our petition and help us mobilize a grassroots campaign to end violence against women. Click here to read and sign the full petition. 
 Who speaks for Muslims?  
By Dilara Hafiz
You've probably heard that Islam is a decentralized religion, that there is no recognized clerical hierarchy or no one person with authority to speak on behalf of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide. I've always viewed this organizational structure with appreciation that as a Muslim, I am personally empowered to understand the dictates of the religion in my own cultural & national context.

However, after 9/11, it quickly became evident that this very absence of a religious leader left many non-Muslims shaking their heads over what they perceived to be the overwhelming silence from Muslims in the condemnation of the 9/11 attacks. Irrespective of the many Muslim voices which did speak out - it's clear that these voices were not heard, especially in America, a land where the media thrives on sound-bites & vivid imagery which do little to explain the complexities of world affairs.

As an American Muslim who is signed up on numerous blogs and e-mail lists, I hear the voices of condemnation, I read about the interfaith initiatives, and I'm aware of the volunteer & community-building projects thriving across the country. My two children & I even co-authored a book about the basics of Islam in order to dispel stereotypes about the religion and its followers, so believe me when I say that Muslims are proactively trying to engage in the dialogue. In January 2009, the United States Institute of Peace published a report titled Islamic Peacemaking Since 9/11 which extensively outlines the numerous Muslim initiatives in this regard.

Daisy Khan, Executive Director of the ASMA Society (American Society for Muslim Advancement) in New York is one such tireless advocate for education and authentic Islamic thought. Along with her husband, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, they are leaders in the field of prominent American Muslims who are striving to pursue religious harmony, yet even they face obstacles in receiving the media coverage which their efforts duly deserve. Muslim activists, authors, artists, average citizens - we're all around you - but what do we have to do to break through the pervading atmosphere of willful misunderstanding about Islam in America?

As a religious group, American Muslims are not a monolithic block - they are as diverse as American Jews in terms of differences in orthodoxy and observance, yet the media continues to define them by the radical acts of a few. To compound the issue, most non-Muslims remain unaware of the vibrant debates over interpretation and self-identity within the Muslim arena.

Who speaks for Muslims? I can only speak for myself when I try to explain the basics of Islam at book-signings, lectures, and Islam 101 classes. This ongoing dialogue is important to those non-Muslims who are curious about learning the facts of a religion which is often perceived as foreign or even un-American (my children are third-generation Americans). Our book, The American Muslim Teenager's Handbook, is in over 750 libraries and on a growing number of school and college curriculums as a handy, non-proselytizing resource on Islam, yet some Muslims themselves glance at the cover and dismiss us as 'not Muslim enough'.

The diversity which we firmly believe is inherent in Islam lends itself to not only our shadings of skin-color, but also the wide acceptance of personal interpretation. For example, the jacket cover of our book includes pictures of a variety of American Muslim teenagers - some in hijab, some not wearing hijab, some holding basketballs or guitars or i-Pods, some just smiling confidently into the camera - basically a snapshot of the unique teen experience. The welcoming accessibility and inclusiveness of this image resonates with my sincere belief that an American Muslim cannot be narrowly defined by any one image.

And yet, a fringe element within the Muslim community is bent on adhering to a definition of Islam which has no room for music or non-hijab wearing girls. Our book IS judged by its cover and summarily dismissed by these 'representatives of true Islam' - an irony which probably remains lost on them as the rest of us continue to strive against their narrow interpretations through our interfaith discourse and active involvement within our neighborhoods and communities - all activities which they do not engage in as they are loathe to leave their Muslim bubble. These critics love to condemn outspoken Muslims who endeavor to follow the fundamentals of Islam - belief in God and doing good deeds. Whose image of a Muslim is more valid in this global world, one who strives for peaceful co-existence through education and dialogue or one who is busy enforcing the minutia of dogma?

Explaining Islamic belief to anyone who is curious remains my foremost goal during this time when our voices are desperately missing in the media. However, it's sad when our attempts are met with active condemnation by the very people whose children and grandchildren will one day benefit from the acceptance and tolerance which will eventually come to Muslims in America. Just as Jews, Catholics, and Mormons struggled for their place in this pluralistic nation, one day our time of struggle to be recognized as American Muslims will be over too, no thanks to the intolerant minority who sit on the side-lines passing judgment on the rest of us.
Dilara Hafiz is the Vice President of the Arizona Interfaith Movement and co-author of The American Muslim Teenager's Handbook.
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"Spring has Sprung II"
Salma Arastu 
Salma Art
SALEEMAH ABDUL-GHAFUR joins our Advisory Board


1. What issues would you like to see addressed in Muslim communities?
Gender equity-it's no secret that gender equity is a major problem in the global Muslim community.  For too long, Muslim women have been socially and politically disenfranchised in Muslim societies and in non-Muslim societies.  This treatment is incongruent with the revealed word of God and the example of Muhammad.  Now, more than ever, Muslim women must seize the platform and live self determined lives by any means necessary.
2. What makes you tick?
I love my work.  I work to save lives.  I activate faith-based groups around the Millennium Development Goals; I ensure that Muslim women have space and voice in their homes, communities and societies, and I build bridges across faith lines. 
3. What attracted you to Muslims for Progressive Values? What excites you most about being a member of our advisory council?
I find MPV's core values to be very appealing because they are aligned with promoting a just and prosperous world for everyone.  We need more chapters of MPV around the country and world, and I'm happy to help in any way that I can. 
4. Tell us about your work with Malaria No More and other causes you are passionate about?
I lead faith-based engagement for Malaria No More, which means that I work with communities that identify with a particular faith around ending malaria-related deaths.  Malaria is the number one killer of children in Africa, more than HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis combined.  It kills and maims millions of people each year and is particularly deadly for pregnant women and children.  Indeed this curable and treatable disease zaps 12 billion in GDP from the African continent each year.  We know that if we boost the fight against malaria we can advance six of the eight Millennium Development Goals. 

5. How does your activism support your spiritual growth and vice-versa?
I try to focus on projects that directly help other people.  It's a good way to keep perspective on the blessings of my life.  And I must say that knowing the abundant life God wants everyone to live fuels my work as well. 
Check out Saleemah's biography here.
You & I
© Mahmood Jamal  
You want to speak of War
I want to speak of Peace
You say Punish
I say Forgive
You speak of God's Wrath
I speak of His Mercy
Your Quran is a Weapon
My Quran is a Gift

You speak of the Muslim brotherhood

I speak of the brotherhood of Man

You like to Warn others

I like to Welcome them

You like to speak of Hell

I like to speak of Heaven

You talk of Lamentation

I talk of Celebration

You worship the Law

I worship the Divine

You want Silence

I want Music

You want Death

I want Life
 You speak of Power

I speak of Love

You search out Evil

I warm to the Good

You dream of the Sword

I sing of the Rose petal

You say the world is a Desert

I say the world is a Garden

You prefer the Plain

I prefer the Adorned

You want to Destroy

I want to Build

You want to go Back

I want to move Forward

You are busy Denying

I am busy Affirming

Yet there might be one thing

on which we see eye to eye

You want Justice

So do I
Books we like!
1. "Extraordinary Women from the Muslim World"
Book Image
Extraordinary Women from the Muslim World tells the stories of the following thirteen women who overcame adversity to make their unique contributions to society, art, politics, literature, spirituality and human freedom: 
Khadija bint Khuwaylid (pbuh), Aisha binti Abi Bakr (pbuh), Al-Khansa, Rabi'a al-Adawiyya, Arwa bint Ahmed al-Sulayhiyya, Sultan Razia, Nana Asmau, Tjut Njak Dien, Halide Edib Adivar, Umm Kulthum, Sabiha Gökçen, Chaibia Tallal, Shirin Ebadi.

2. "The Lyrical Line"
zainah and sara

An art book with paintings and poems by Salma Arastu.

Congratulations Dalia Mogahed!


Dalia Mogahed

MPV would like to congratulate Dalia Mogahed, Executive Director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, on her appointment to President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
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