I have heard Progressive Muslims criticized for not coming forward after 9/11 (2001) to demonstrate clearly to Americans in other walks of life that the jihadists did not accurately represent the spirit and faith of Islam. Many observers have said that our nation’s media suppressed those Muslim voices with stories that encouraged reconciliation. The news organizations instead favored sensational stories emphasizing violence, cultural conflict, and extreme fundamentalist versions of religion. One of the highest concentrations of Muslims in the country, nearly 250,000, live in the communities of the Bay Area according to a study released by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) in 2013. We must learn to live side by side in peace and with goodwill.
Let me introduce you, if you have not heard of them yet, to three forward-looking Muslim leaders actively promoting an enlightened and peaceful relationship between our often warring religious groups.
Ani Zonneveld, born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and raised in Germany, Egypt and India, is the daughter of the Malaysian ambassador. In 1981 she moved to the United States, where she studied Economics and Political Science. After college, Ani moved to Los Angeles, California to pursue a career as a musician instead of following in her father’s footsteps. As a singer, songwriter, activist based in LA she has released several albums, including "One" and "Islamic Hymns: Celebration of Life". She is the first Malaysian to have won a Grammy.
Ani is the president and co-founder of Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), a non-profit organization in the United States, Canada, and Europe, that supports the separation of religious and state authorities, an inclusive community that welcomes and supports interfaith marriages and gay marriage, universal human rights, and religious diversity as well as other goals, ten principals altogether representing the highest ideals. For more on Muslims for Progressive Values, visit http://mpvusa.org/
Zonneveld is also the editor of "Progressive Muslim Identities: Personal Stories from the U.S. and Canada" a 2011 anthology that features a diverse groups of Progressive Muslims, published in the US by Oracle Releasing.
The new Chair of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/index.cfm was named on January 24, 2014. He is Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, one of “The Muslim 500: The World’s Most Influential Muslims.” In announcing his position, the Muslim 500 said, “As President of the multimedia company Sound Vision he has created a critical educational resource for Muslims. His development of the Radio Islam nightly talk show in Chicago is not only a source of support for Muslims, but an important educational link to non-Muslims in the greater Chicago area. During his tenure as Chair of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago and now in his role as Chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, Mujahid speaks with eloquence not only about the destructiveness of Islamophobia but also of the need for all people to come together in a spirit of justice and peace.”
Rabia Terri Harris, another dynamic Muslim woman, is Coordinator of the Muslim Peace Fellowship (MPF), Ansâr as-Salâm http://mpf21.wordpress.com/about-2/, whose slogan is a scripture taken from the Quran (2:256), “let there be no compulsion in religion.” MPF was founded in 1994 so that isolated Muslims with a personal commitment to nonviolence and harmony could find each other, and MPF is the first organization specifically devoted to the theory and practice of authentically Islamic active nonviolence. The MPF works for reconciliation, joining multi-religious (or interfaith) groups working together for social justice. The group is also part of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a network of all faiths aspiring for de-militarization.
Here is one of Rabia Harris’s prayers reprinted from the collection, Prayers for a Thousand Years http://www.harpercollins.com/:
“Creator of the Universe, preserve us from our own presumption. Do not let us close ourselves into ourselves, but open us continually into you. Let us be more in love with You than with our notions of You. Let us stop claiming to know everything so that we may understand something. Amen.”