The backlash continues

The saga continues, alas.

Apparently, total agreement with (or silence concerning) Muqtedar Khan’s inconsistent politics is now
part of the Shahadah, and some people appear committed to browbeating me into recanting my heresy (last posting: "The Last Word on Muqtedar Khan and PMU").

Someone who signed on at July 26, 2005 12:13 AM as
MMamdani wrote a nasty comment (read it in its entirety here) that,
as eager as I am to move on, requires a response :

Akram, you now officially qualify as a stalker, a cheap, in ethical and devious, small minded individual, determined to malign one of the most important American Muslims voices in this country, and also one of the rising stars on the Islamic intellectual horizon.

I am a "stalker" now, for writing about a prominent (and very outspoken) media personality’s politics in my own blog.   

Like many bloggers, I believe in something called free speech and holding
public figures accountable for their actions that affect the public.  If that seems like reprehensible
bid’a to some, that’s simply not my problem.

This is the third or fourth time you have attacked Dr. Muqtedar Khan, and what is more indicative of your cheap character, you repeatedly delete all the responses that your readers make. Do you do this to all your posts or you have just deleted the defense of Dr. Khan by Muslims, some of whom were known scholars in the discipline of Islamic studies.

I deleted those postings because I decided that some of my language was
overly harsh (hardly a rare occurrence on the Internet, as one hurriedly types
message on the fly) and I needed to partly reword it to be more fair.  Typepad
(the blogging service I use) doesn’t allow you to delete a message without
deleting its comments, so they are gone, as well..

In the spirit of open debate, though, I will see if I can’t repost all the

If you had left them they would have belied your false claims.

I didn’t find them particularly convincing as a rebuttal to my points, but you’re entitled to your opinion.  Several were were non-sequiteurs ("He’s a great scholar of fiqh–How dare you criticize his politics??"), ad hominem attacks on me (I’m a "nobody’, a "hack", a "nurse" second-guessing a great surgeon, …),  or vague appeals to emotion. 

You constantly accuse him of blamign it all on isam and Muslims, well you are wrong and a liar!

Actually, I accuse him of inconsistency, of periodically writing things which make it easy for others to blame Islam and Muslims.  He  doesn’t do it himself (though his "Memo to American Muslims" came pretty close).  So I accuse him of reinforcing many of the pernicious myths and doublestandards that permeate mainstream media coverage of Islam and Muslims.  There’s a big

Here are some examples which ptove you entirely wrong, and yes they are not academic writings, they are op-eds written at the height of 9/11 fever in prominent media:

See for yourself [Akram will soon delete this posting to, the shameless hack!].

Fear of attack on Muslim civil Rights — fist by any Muslims as early as sept 17, 2001 in Detroint Free Press and Baltimore Sun:

Attack on Bush again in Sept. 2001:

Explaining the root causes of Muslim anger again in early 9/11 days, completely contrary to your claim that he blames it all on Muslims. I read this in and have been a fan of his courage since then:

I could go on and on: But these few examples should be sufficient.

Well, we obviously disagree. 

I think his analysis tends to basicly serve established interests and crowd out sharper, more independent analysis.  Imagine the good that would be done if the New York Times ran  SoundVision’s Abdul Malik Mujahid’s painstakingly researched and eye-opening commentary on post-9/11 Muslim civil rights instead of Khan’s eloquent but ultimately toothless discussion in "putting the American in ‘American Muslim’".    

[In a way, that NYT piece encapsulates this whole debate, as it is not without its insights and eloquence.  It is the lack of additional perspectives in the mainstream media that makes it problematic.  If it appeared in a media context where more critical voices like Mujahid's were heard with some regularity, I wouldn't have a problem with it.  I wouldn't feel like an opportunity had been lost for real dialogue, real debate about our problems.  ]

First of all, there is the "Good Cop/Bad Cop"
routine I mentioned before, which if one accepts as a premise would explain much
of this.  Second, I think a closer reading of his writings reveals their
dissent to be very safe and carefully limited in scope vis-a-vis the Beltway
consensus.  This is actually rather tame stuff when you consider the gravity of the problems, misconceptions and doublestandards that are at work.   

Unless someone wants to commission me to write an in-depth study, that’ll
have to suffice.  I have other things to do with my time than parse these
essays line-by-line to satisfy critics.

Readers who wish to understood the extent of Akram’s perfidy and meanness can read Dr. Khan’s columns at and

"Perfidy"!  I think you’re getting a little carried away.  Questioning MK’s politics is treasonous??

I also know that he regularly speaks at the annual conventiosn all the main American Muslim organizations, CAIR, MPAC, ISNA and works with them. It is indicative of the acceptance of his ideas by the community.
People Like Svend are nursing personal grudges,

Well, politics makes for strange bedfellows sometimes. 

No, this isn’t personal.  I find him quite likable and believe his
intentions to be good, but that doesn’t change how problematic some of his
politics are or how they need to be openly debated. 

Also, if I was simply out to get him, I wouldn’t be writing this in my blog,
which is read by a handful of people.  I’d be writing a systematic expose
for a publication (a la the Z Magazine piece). 

perhaps they even maintain sectarian hatred since Akram is an Ahmadi Muslim and Khan a Sunni Muslim.

Aha, the plot thickens!  Yeah, that’s a big problem.  Something needs to be done about all these
Ahmadis running around persecuting Sunnis. 

But, seriously, it’s interesting to see how the sectarian club is being
broken out here, even though this question has no bearing whatsoever on what I’ve written
about Khan, or the views and causes I’ve advocated elsewhere.

Talk about a cheap, ad hominem attack.  I guess you can be a
liberal reformer and still play the same old takfir game.

Perhaps it’s a compliment.  Resorting to this kind of below-the-belt
punch is generally a sign of being unable to respond to your
opponent’s arguments.

I’m not going to dignify this by getting into personal beliefs about secondary matters that are
open to interpretation and which are nobody’s business but my own,
but I will note for the record that I no Qadiani. 

In fact, I am no less a Sunni
Muslim than Khan or anybody else is, as I believe in the Sunni Aqeedah,
including the Khatm an-Nabiyin (the Finality of Prophethood). And I accept Hazrat Abu Bakr as-Saddiq (ra),
Hazrat Umar Farooq (ra), Hazrat Uthman Ghani (ra), and Hazrat Ali ibn Abu Talib (ra). 

Ergo, I am a Sunni Muslim.

Let us see if he deltes this post and writes another last word on Khan.

You’ll notice that I haven’t at any point chosen to disable comments–which
can easily be done in Typepad merely by clicking a checkbox–even though I expected
to receive abusive responses.  Unlike some people, I believe in and am
comfortable with public debate.

I suggest that we just agree to disagree.  I’m sure we both have better things to do.

P.S.  I have not yet succeeded in finding a copy of the previous comments, as they were deleted along with my postings.  I checked Google for a cached version and also tried, but to no avail. 

Here’s my recollection of some of the most salient comments that were lost:

  • "This Svend guy is an idiot who’s jealous of Muqtedar and just trying to promote himself."
  • "Diana Eck of the Pluralism Project gave a talk at my school.  She was asked what she thought of Muqtedar and she called him a ‘national treasure’."
  • "Svend, I have read and enjoyed your blog up to now, but your nasty comments on Muqtedar have just ruined it for me."
  • "Normally, I don’t comment on such things but this link was forwarded to me by a student.  I am appalled by your atttacks on an up and coming scholar.  I have reviewed a chapter by him on Imam Shafi’ for an upcoming work and I must say that I think it was b brilliant.  You are like a nurse questioning the work of a successful surgeon who has performed many successful surgeries." [Pastes in his long cv.]
  • "This guy is a nobody who’s trying to make a name for himself by attacking one of our scholars."

This is the best I can do.  The point is that a number of readers vehemently protested my comments.

BTW, if anyone can think of another place online where I could find a cached copy of those pages, please let me know and I’ll repost them.

  • Brandy Whitehouse

    A couple of years ago I heard Dr. Khan speak at the Department of philosophy, at Harvard on Islam and Democracy and was, mashallah, very impressed, with him. I have since followed his work and admire him for his steadfast committment for Islam and Muslims. I was a bit disappointed when he joined PMU, but alhamdulillah, I am happy that he has resigned. I pray that scholars like him continue to take bold steps and maintain their integrity and dedication to true Islam.
    Brandy Whitehouse (Farzana)

  • Svend White

    I can see how you might feel that way. If he was more consistent, I’d probably share your sentiments.

  • Mockingbird

    Svend, if you had deleted actual arguments with evidence, that would have been different. Thanks for upgrading the quality of discourse and deleting ad hominem attacks. I’m tired of people tiptoeing around goons and bullies. Why are Muslims unable to think critically about things? A little critique of Muqtader Khan and people blow up as if the Quran and the Prophet had been attacked. Even Umar RA encouraged critique of his own policies. Is MKhan above the khulafa?

  • purpletiger

    What strikes me as totally disingeneous (sp.?) about your statements about Muqtedar Khan is that you only brought this up for discussion – after his excellent letter regarding the horrible “Progressive Moslems Union”!
    You knew about his inconsistent politics- at the time he was appointed to the PMU – but you remained silent! You also know about PMUNA’s horribly inconsistent politics, and you remain silent about them as well, why?
    You make no mention at all about PMUNA’s inconsistencies politics, and attacks on those who criticize them. Why? Democracy is safe when PMU attacks their critics, but is in danger when PMU critics point out your failings?
    Well, because you are part of the PMUNA, and are one of their supporters. So, only after Khan leaves the PMU (and for once, he did the right thing, and deserves due credit) – you proceed to attack his politics, and how he was not a good fit for PMU.
    Actually, he and others on there, including yourself, are a perfect fit for those goons. Your politics are just as inconsistent and two faced, as the rest of the PMUNA.
    BUT kudos to Muqtedar that he did realize that those people are acting like a bunch of crazed fanatics that they are. One of these days, when you are attacked in the same way as Khan was – maybe you’ll realize the same… meanwhile keep up your crappy apologia of the PMUNA -.

  • Svend White

    Thanks for the comment, PurpeTiger.
    I’m not dedicating my blog to discussions of MK’s politics and ideas. I shared some concerns and am now moving on. So we’ll just have to agree to disagree.
    BTW, MK and I have had rather lively debates about some of these issues on various Muslim e-mail lists over the years (NPM, PIDL, etc.), so your assumption that I’ve been silent is incorrect. I just didn’t have a blog then.
    This impression you seem to have that I’m some kind of PMU insider, leader, or notable supporter also mistaken. I’m just on a mailing list, and it’s one of many (far too many, I sometimes think as I look at my clogged inbox) mailing lists that I’m on. I read it because I’m interested in the topic, and I regularly disagree with what I read there, like many other lists.
    I certainly aspire to support many of the legitimae causes (tolerence, women’s rights, etc.) that PMU tries to promote, but that doesn’t mean I agree with PMU’s specific platform or accept its leadership.
    I criticized MK because I thought his behavior deserved criticism, not to defend PMU. A key factor in my decision to take down those messages was that, even though I do think MK deserved criticism for certain matters, I realized I didn’t want to be seen as defending PMU.
    I am not much of a fan of PMU, and have kept my distance from the organization (though I’m on good terms with some of its members and leaders), even if I occasionally agree with it on some matters (hey, there are questions I probably agree with the Taliban on, too; that doesn’t make me a kindred spirit). I disagree strongly with CAIR on some important matters, too, but that doesn’t mean I support unfair attacks against it.
    I agree that PMU’s been inconsistent. I’d even go further and say that it’s been quite irresponsible at times, too (e.g., I’m still frustrated about how carelessly the Amina Wadud case was handled and made into a media circus that senstationalized the discussion of a serious and legitimate question; and I found the Asra Nomani media campaign that it promoted really counterproductive). But it’s not my job to discuss everything under the sun everytime I blog. I reacted to MK’s letter, and the problems with that letter, because that was what was in the news.
    To be quite honest, I’m angry at PMU for tainting and trivializing the whole concept of “progressiveness” in the Muslim community. I don’t think that the sometimes adolescent antics and secularist rants of some PMU leaders ultimately support real reform in the community. While I know that there are some mature, well intentioned Muslims involved in PMU, I think that PMU has undermined many of the causes it seeks to champion.
    So this charge that I’m simply a PMU defender is misinformed (even if it may be an understandable guess, given the circumstances), whatever you may think of my views.
    It’s far more complicated than that. I respect some of the people involved in PMU, but I don’t consider PMU to be particularly important in the scheme of things. Perhaps it could have been, had it evolved differently, but now I think it’s unlikely to have much of an impact on the community, and I don’t think it’s producing new thinking (despite all its rhetoric about reform).
    The interesting thing is that there are mainstream Muslim scholars and leaders who are in some ways doing far more important and radical work now from inside the community. That’s of far more interest to me.