Frank Parmir managing the MPV-HRC booth at ISNA's 54th annual convention in Chicago, June 30th, 2017.

Frank Parmir managing the MPV-HRC booth at ISNA's 54th annual convention in Chicago, June 30th, 2017.

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MUSLIMS FOR PROGRESSIVE VALUES CALLS ITS REMOVAL FROM ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA’S CONVENTION “HYPOCRISY”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE [Los Angeles, July 5, 2017]—Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) calls out the hypocrisy of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in its claim of supporting gender equality and LGBTQ rights. ISNA expelled MPV and its partner, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) from its annual convention in Chicago on June 30th.

Despite having previously been approved for a joint booth, ISNA ordered MPV- HRC to tear down our booth and to vacate the premises within the hour at its 54th annual convention, June 30-July 3, 2017, titled “Hope and Guidance Through the Qur’an.”

ISNA’s mission states that it strives to be “an exemplary and unifying Islamic organization in North America that contributes to the betterment of the Muslim community and society at large.” Precisely because of this vision, ISNA granting HRC a booth at the convention was seen by MPV as a step forward and an attempt to live up to its mission.

Despite having approved HRC’s application for a booth, after about five hours at the booth and after having received many positive responses from ISNA attendees about the HRC/MPV display, ISNA organizers and Conference Director Basharat Saleem asked that the HRC/MPV booth be shut down, given “that the convention was a religious, private, and family-oriented event” and that “we don’t fit in”. Basharat also claimed that we had been obliged to send in our materials for review, when there is no such clause in the agreement.

In an attempt to have ISNA reconsider its decision, MPV and HRC representatives requested a meeting with Mr. Basharat. While they waited at the Exhibit Office, two security personnel and a police officer arrived to watch over them. Security then escorted them to a “secured location” in the convention, and oversaw them during their conversation with Mr. Basharat and Farhan Syed of the ISNA Executive Council.  

According to Syed, “ISNA took issue with MPV’s mission as antithetical to their beliefs, as well as HRC’s resources.” The materials cited as offensive to ISNA were MPV’s brochures for #ImamsForShe — a campaign established in partnership with Imams worldwide, to address misogynistic interpretations of Islamic scripture and traditions that have led to human rights violations carried out in the name of Islam against women and girls across Muslim-majority countries and within Muslim communities in the West. ISNA representatives also objected to MPV’s brochure of principles, which includes advocacy of female imams, inclusive prayer spaces for all including LGBTQ, freedom of expression, and freedom of conscience; HRC’s “Coming Home to Islam and to Self” and “Coming Out as a Straight Supporter” booklets; and the MPV/HRC’s guide designed to help LGBTQ people on the journey toward living fully in their sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression, within their faith and its traditions.

In the past, ISNA has declared itself to be a proponent of women’s and LGBTQ rights, and in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando by a self-hating gay Muslim man indoctrinated with homophobic teachings, many ISNA member mosques claimed to be “supportive of LGBTQ rights.” This incident not only puts the spotlight on ISNA and its member mosques’ true policy toward LGBTQ Muslims but also their discriminatory and intolerant version of Islam as a whole.  

Without acknowledging the absolute rights of women and LGBTQ Muslims and of the diversity of Muslims, ISNA cannot continue to claim to represent North American Muslims. When misogynistic and homophobic teachings in Islam are often used to demonize Muslims and Islam, ISNA’s policy and theology of intolerance only adds fodder to our adversaries.

MPV also calls on ISNA to adopt our #ImamsforShe campaign, requiring imams to preach against forced marriages, against female genital mutilation and cutting, and for an egalitarian interpretation of Islam.

MPV calls on ISNA to adopt MPV’s #NoToHomophobia campaign, doing away with homophobic teachings that demonize LGBTQ Muslims and that commits the organization to providing the kind of leadership that strives toward the full inclusion of LGBTQ Muslims within the larger Muslim community.

Anything short of this endorsement is a betrayal of the many American Muslims who endorse and support gender equality and LGBTQ rights in Islam.

We all must strive to help the oppressed as that is a central tenet of Islam. “And what is [the matter] with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah and [for] the oppressed among men, women, and children who say, ‘Our Lord, take us out of this city of oppressive people and appoint for us from Yourself a protector and appoint for us from Yourself a helper?’" (Quran 4:75).

MPV is a faith-based, grassroots, international human rights NGO that embodies and advocates for the traditional Qur’anic values of social justice and equality for all for the 21st century. As a progressive Muslim voice, MPV participates in civil discourse, engages with the media and government entities, and partners with both Muslim and non-Muslim progressive organizations.

Contact Jordan Elgrably, Communications Manager, jordan@mpvusa.org.