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Muslim Wake Up (sometimes abbreviated MWU!) was a website founded to promote progressive and reformist ideas within Islam. Their website was cofounded by Ahmed Nassef and Jawad Ali in January 2003. It published articles contributed from affiliated columnists as well as guests on its main page as well as opinions on its blog. It also organized special events and served as a discussion forum.
Both Muslim WakeUp! and the associated website of the Progressive Muslim Union of North America were inactive as of 2009.
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Although the web presence of Muslim WakeUp! began in 2003, the organization has its roots in social movements in the late 1980s in Southern California. The group, which included founder Ahmed Nassef, organized events and demonstrations protesting against oppression, bigotry, and racism, especially when such ills affected Muslims. The group also began challenging Muslim leadership in Los Angeles to make their voice heard on justice issues domestically and abroad. The collective successfully took part in a first-of-its-kind three-day radio broadcast celebrating Muslim peoples and cultures.
Although its editors are primarily from the United States and Canada, '"Muslim WakeUp!' has a universal mission to bring together people of different faiths and from different regions of the world. This universalism comes from the idea that Islam is first and foremost a monotheistic religion, and that all who believe in one God and one humanity should be free to exchange ideas and learn from each other. The group’s mission is to celebrate cultural and spiritual diversity, tolerance, and understanding. They take part in online and offline events: sponsoring speakers, publishing articles and pamphlets, creating a forum for discussion, disseminating information about events, etc. They see themselves as Muslim opponents of intimidation, authoritarianism, dogmatism, oppression, bigotry, sexism, and racism. In this, they are noted for reaching out to minority groups within Islam such as the Ismailis and gay and lesbian Muslims.
The site has a "Hug A Jew" section, which shows solidarity with Jewish individuals sympathetic to Muslim concerns. The contributors have written about Sunni-Shi'ah relations, and are critical of figures who in the name of Islam condemn other peoples, be they other religions, groups within Islam, or nationalities and cultures.
Co-founder Ahmed Nassef came to prominence as a spokesman for progressive Muslims in general. He was interviewed on C-SPAN, Fox News, and NPR, as well as published by the Christian Science Monitor, and was featured in articles by the LA Times and the Voice of America. Nassef was educated at UCLA, and later resided in New York. He also co-founded and is co-chairman of the Progressive Muslim Union of North America (PMUNA).
Friday prayers led by Amina Wadud
The website along with close affiliate, the Progressive Muslim Union of North America, helped sponsor a Friday Jumu'ah prayer service in New York City led by a female imam, Dr. Amina Wadud on March 18, 2005. Dr. Wadud, who is professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, spoke largely about the history of Muslim women who held power, prestige, and were well educated. The event was originally to be held in a Mosque, but after that location and a backup art gallery received bomb threats, the prayer was moved to the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine. This activity sparked intense debate; it was condemned as well as applauded by Muslim groups and individuals throughout the world.
On July 1, 2005, Progressive Muslim Union co-chair Pamela Taylor led a similar Jumu'ah at United Muslim Association Mosque in Etobicoke, a suburb of Toronto. The Union has created a listing of major proponents of women led prayer, which includes Sheikhs from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Spain. They also have a listing of other instances of women led prayer.
MWU! has been criticized by Muslims from across the political spectrum. Critics have taken issue with what they consider to be the website's lack of depth in Islamic theology, unnecessarily offensive style, and intolerance of the views of other Muslims.
Some have accused Muslim WakeUp! of serving as a front for American neoconservatives, or at least of having harmed the progressive Muslim movement in North America. After MWU! co-founder Ahmed Nassaf announced the founding of the Progressive Muslim Union (North America) in November 2004, progressive Muslims who had refused to serve on the PMUNA board of directors published a statement describing their concerns "that this venture is a Trojan horse for 'religion-building' along the lines of 'nation-building' now being witnessed in Afghanistan and Iraq where people with no organic links to Islam, to the Muslim community or to the progressive movement become instruments of 'humanizing' the so-called primitive Muslims."
- Muqtedar Khan, "Is Muslimwakeup.com Undermining the Progressive Muslim Movement?" May 2, 2005.
- Progressive Muslims: Friends of Imperialism And Neocolonialism
- "A Comment on the Formation of the Progressive Muslim Union of North America"
- Aziz Poonawalla, "Cowards hack MuslimWakeUp!" City of Brass, Dec. 17, 2004.