Postscript to Muqtedar Khan’s resignation from PMU

Due to my own increasing ambivalence about PMU/MWU in recent times and my conclusion that this exchange is ultimately unconstructive, I have decided to remove my previous postings on the topic. 

I continue to feel that the wording and tenor of Muqtedar Khan’s resignation letter"–his scathing statement is already being disseminated on the Internet (e.g., LivingTradition, American Muslim Perspective)–were inappropriate and problematic coming from a scholar dedicated to reform and what he calls the "progressive agenda  and I remain concerned about what I consider to be his at times inconsistent politics.  Also, while I think the issues I raised about his role as a pundit and tendency to oversimplify important issues  were legitimate concerns, I do not wish personalize things (even if I’m not sure how that can be avoided).  So I’ve removed those postings, as well.  Perhaps I’ll revisit the topic later, when I have the time to explore the issue in more depth.

The exchange with various parties over PMU and the resignation has also gotten me thinking about whether I really want to be defending PMU, even from criticisms that are not entirely fair.  I reacted strongly to Muqtedar’s  attack partly out of a sense of fairness but primarily out of concern that its wide-brushed rhetoric helps reactionaries undermine reform and marginalize minorities within the community, but I also can’t help but wonder whether the PMU and MWU are not having the same effect at times. 

On a tangent, this unfortunate episode also illustrates for me how much tension there is between some of the promising ideals that the Progressive Muslim Union aspires to (e.g., as found in Progressive Muslims) and the PMUs ambiguous profile.  PMU is clearly a very "big tent", and I wonder sometimes whether that tent is spread so wide that a coherent platform and worldview is impossible.  Only time will tell.

  • Safiyyah

    I’m glad you removed those posts re: Muqtedar A. Khan’s resignation. Somehow I felt the tone wasn’t right, and you ended up spending a great deal of time trying to justify your stance.
    Looking forward to reading your other posts inshaa Allaah.
    Take care,

  • Svend White

    Thanks, Safiyyah. I understand and respect the sentiment, even if I personally don’t think that there was anything wrong with the substance of what I said (considerably more could’ve been said, and I suspect many wish I did).
    Black and white norms of adab don’t translate easily into the context of the modern mass media. The Prophet (pbuh) didn’t have to contend with talking heads and soundbytes. Also, I’m not sure that the fact that we happen to be in a small community and often know each other should change the discussion. (I should be as free to critique MK’s ideas as I am to critique anyone else’s I read in the paper.) Public feedback can’t all be gushing praise, especially when you’re in the thick of debates.
    I do think think that public figures should expect to receive frank feedback (not all of which will be positive), especially figures who are themselves known for making sweeping public statements which impact others. If you can’t take the heat, don’t stir things up with controversial statements.
    So I do reserve the right to revisit this topic once I’ve figured out how best to do so, and when I do, I doubt the substance will be all that different.
    Part of the problem is that the ambiguity if not inconsistency of MK’s politics and public persona make any attempt by other Muslims to critique him seem to be a personal vendetta. When someone presents himself as “all things to all men”–one day bashing significant portions of the community, the next defending it–it complicates the debate enormously and creates a lot of confusion.
    As I said before, I don’t believe that collegiality or adab should stand in the way of accountability. Sometimes uncomfortable facts must be debated publicly.