When Dr. Wafa Sultan demanded respect from a Muslim cleric after being called a heretic, I cheered her on. When she criticized the Muslims who react violently in typical knee-jerk fashion, I was smiling with glee. And she nailed it when she said Muslims should learn from the example of the Jewish community who command world respect with their accomplishments despite decades of anti-Semitism and the decimation of the Holocaust. How could anyone disagree with that? But when Dr. Sultan in her LA Times interview is quoted as saying Islam is beyond repair, riddled with teachings that exhort Muslims to kill non-Muslims, subjugate women, and disregard human rights; when she says “I don't believe you can reform Islam,” and that the only reason the vast majority of the world’s Muslim population is peaceful is because they can’t read Arabic and don’t know what the Quran teaches, that’s when I stop cheering. I’m a practicing Muslim. I’m peaceful. I don’t have any intention of killing off non-Muslims, and I don’t believe my religion asks me to. In fact, Islam teaches me to value every life, and that murder – of Muslims or of non-Muslims – is wrong. And there are about 1.2 billion of us who agree with me. What is it with people? Why can’t so-called intelligent people make the distinction between theology and human nature? Muslims throughout the world read the Quran and find a message of peace, of social justice, and of compassion and care for all people. They are inspired by verses regarding the equality of all human beings, and particularly the equality of men and women, to eradicate misogynist, racist, and classist discrimination. Is it Islam’s fault that human beings are cruel, sexist, or violent, or is it the fault of human beings, who all too often ignore the teachings of their religion? Dr. Sultan says, “Islamic scriptures are riddled with violence, misogyny and other extremist ideas.” When she quotes snippets of Quranic verses dealing with warfare out of context and in isolation, then she is doing exactly what the militants who use the very same snippets to justify their actions do – distorting the message of the Quran. How is that going to reform anyone’s mind? There are so many Muslims in America challenging unjust cultural traditions, confronting the established American Muslim institutions in religious practice, and calling for a humane implementation of Islam. The Progressive Muslim Union is one such organized entity. It is considered a pariah by some Muslim organizations because of its insistence that a woman’s spirituality is equal to that of a man, its advocacy for the human and civil rights for all, its unwavering commitment to the separation of church and state, and its promotion of freedom of conscience and religious practice. Why are these progressive Muslims not on the front pages of American newspapers and news channels? Why aren’t non-Muslim organizations throwing money at progressive groups if change within Islam is what they claim to be advocating? What is it about Dr. Wafa Sultan that so intrigues the American media? Is it because she is an ex-Muslim “tattle-taleing” on her “people?” Is it because she has rejected a religion, which many in this country have branded as “the enemy?” Or is it simply because she’s a feisty, gutsy, woman? If it’s the latter, I can introduce you to many feisty, gutsy Muslim women who believe that reform is best achieved from within. We’re not that boring you know! Ani Zonneveld

Singing and Speaking for the Soul of Islam

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singer / songwriter / producer / activist

I'm really excited about this new collection of songs in a new genre "Islamic Hymns". I'm co-writing & co-producing it with George Landress with backing vocal arrangement by Michael Mishaw. The music borrows from classical music with lots of choral arrangements. The lyrics is in English and Islamic in content. 

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