MPAC's Holds 3rd Annual Convention

December 20, 2003

Amina Wadud
Amina Wadud

Plenary I was dedicated to Women, Religious Authority and Democracy in Islam. Speakers on this panel included Amina Wadud, author of Qur'an and Woman and Professor of Islamic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Wadud asserted her belief that women's rights were an integral and authentic part of Islam, and her belief that women can be religious authorities along with men. The panel also featured Dr. Gasser Hathout who discussed the compatibility of Islam with Democracy. He made the important point that the relevant question is not "What does Islam Say about Democracy?" but, "What should Islam say about democracy?". Islam's compatibility with democracy, he said, was preempted by both local political corruption and the legacy of colonialism, which for centuries denied self-determination to Muslims and Arabs. Muqtedar Khan discussed his idea that Sharia (Islamic law) should only be elaborated via Shura (consultation).

Plenary II was dedicated to the very important topic of extremism, both religious and secular. This panel featured Amy Goodman from Radio Pacifica's Democracy Now. Goodman showed a brief video discussing the importance of a free press during a time of war. Her video illustrated a huge discrepancy in the way national media presented the war, showing sanitized video-game like images, and the way the international press presented the war, showing the devastating human toll the war took on the Iraqi people through graphic images. Omid Safi, professor at Colgate University and editor of "Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender and Pluralism" indicated the need to protect the socially marginalized and the need to continuously strive for a more compassionate religion. Dr. Hussein Ibish, Communications Director at the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, asserted the need for religious freedom and used the latest ban on religious apparrel in France as an example of secular extremism.

In addition to the two plenaries, MPAC for the first time conducted a straw poll of over 800 Muslims to gauge the Muslim vote in the 2004 election. The results of MPAC's poll will be available shortly.

The convention was received in different ways, but MPAC was proud to have organized a convention that featured open and frank debate on the pressing topic of Progressive Islamic Thought and Human Rights.



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