Progressive Muslim Union
The Progressive Muslim Union (PMU) is the result of almost two years of conversation and collaboration between a group of North American Muslims who are committed to representing and renewing our community in all its social, ideological and political diversity. PMU members range from deeply religious to totally secular, sharing in common a commitment to learning, political and social empowerment, a commitment to justice and freedom and a concern and love for the Muslim community.
The PMU was a controversial organization. PMU's definition of Muslim (including "based on social and cultural commitments" according to PMU's principles) differs radically from the usual definition, which is purely based on faith. While some Muslims on the far left accused it of cozying up to pro-Bush Administration personalities, conservative Muslims are uncomfortable with its liberal positions, which include a call to jettison those parts of traditional Islamic scholarship that are seen as "wrong" according to Western mores, as well as a call by some to "reform" Islam by interpreting the Qur'an in light of modern wisdom and scientific knowledge. Other Muslims objected to the call by some PMUNA members to define atheists with cultural or social affinities to Muslims as "Muslims."
A number of the original Board members departed the Progressive Muslim Union in the summer of 2005 due to an inability to reach agreement on a number of controversial issues, most notably the degree to which Progressives should engage more conservative Muslim organizations and scholars. Former Board members Omid Safi and Laury Silvers continue to support Progressive interpretations of Islam outside of PMU but taking a more tradition-oriented approach.
These differences came to a head in March 2005, when PMU endorsed a mixed-gender prayer led by a woman imam, Professor Amina Wadud. The prayer was co-sponsored by the progressive Muslim online magazine Muslim WakeUp! and Asra Nomani's Muslim Women's Freedom Tour. The event, which was attended by about 150 congregants in New York City and heavily covered by international media, became a huge controversy, galvanizing both supporters and detractors around the world.
Opponents, in particular M. A. Muqtedar Khan, argued that reform should be restricted to social matters, not matters of worship. Supporters, however, asserted that nothing in the Qur'an, the Muslim holy scripture, prevents a woman from leading mixed-gender prayers, and that restrictions are based on outmoded cultural and patriarchal notions.
PMU's co-chair, Pamela Taylor, reinforced PMU's position when she joined hands with the Muslim Canadian Congress and the United Muslim Association to be the first woman to deliver the Friday sermon and lead the mixed-gender congregation in a mosque on July 1, 2005.
PMU is now defunct, due to a schism. In July 2005, board member Muqtedar Khan resigned. In August 2005, three of the four founding members, Omid Safi, Hussein Ibish and Sarah Eltantawi resigned along with Laury Silvers and Michael Muhammad Knight (Ahmed Nassef was the fourth founding member). When Michael Muhammad Knight resigned, he predicted that PMU would collapse within one year.
In December 2006, chair Pamela Taylor and executive director Ani Zonneveld resigned from the board, citing unreconcilable conflicts with board member Tarek Fatah. Soon after, Fatah, who controls PMU's e-mail discussion list, blocked posting by list members.
- Muslims for Progressive Values
- ProgressiveIslam.Org an on-line Muslim commons now affiliated with Muslims for Progressive Values.
- PMUNA Debate A critical look at PMUNA and other Progressive Muslim related matters
- What is Progressive Islam? - Article by PMU co-founder Omid Safi
- ProgressiveMuslims.com offers critiques and alternatives to the PMUNA-style movement, on the basis that "progress" means social justice for all