Op-Ed on Amina Wadud and Progressive Muslims

April 9, 2005

Source: The Boston Globe


On April 9, 2005 The Boston Globe reported, "nearly two weeks ago, Amina Wadud, an African-American activist and a professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, deliberately broke with Islamic tradition by leading a mixed-gender prayer service in public in New York City -- an act most male Muslim jurists consider unIslamic. She says she planned the prayer and sought publicity before the event, even though learned sheiks had issued warnings that her action would constitute heresy, in order to advance the rights of Muslim women. Now, she says she faces death threats, inspired in part by fatwas against her...

So why did Wadud do it, even realizing beforehand that her life could be threatened?

One reason is that Wadud sees herself as a leader in a movement of 'progressive Muslims,' a small minority in America skilled at airing their views in the media. These 'progressive' Muslims believe that patriarchal tendencies in Islam are used merely to oppress women, not to remain true to the holy texts written centuries ago that form the basis of the faith. But this perspective is not shared by a majority of Muslims.

Another reason is that, as an African-American Muslim, Wadud reflects the views of some black Muslim women in America whose ideas are not always shared by immigrant Muslims."