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On this page:

Defining Progressive: Tarek Fatah
Women of Afghanistan: Saraji Flynn
Snakes & Ladders: Farid Esack

On page two:

My brothers's flesh on the menue?: Farid Esack

Defining Progressive

By:Tarek Fatah

    We describe ourselves as 'Progressive'  because we see the need to create a vision of the future for the Muslim community. We envision a society where wealth and its acquisition are not the sole and primary factors determining relationships between human beings and Muslims in particular. We look forward to creating a community free from the ravages of 'interest' based economies and where speculation is not the source of wealth creation for some and devastation of others.

Progressive Muslims believe in living as a community of tolerance and learning; sharing and caring; working together to create a society where Islam can be practised and where difference of opinions can be valued and not be reason for fear and retribution.

    Progressives take their lead from the egalitarian and equity based society envisioned by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and talked about by his companion Hazrat Abuzar Al Ghaffari. A society where compassion, justice and equity go hand in hand with tolerance, democracy and individual liberties. In short, we look forward to the future and not the past for the best days of the Muslim community.

Women in Afghanistan: Whose Concern Is It Anyway?

By: Saraji Flynn

Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim

Salaam Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatu

It seems as though the "feminist" obsession with the Afghani woman is never
ending. Hey, who doesn't love to slap up some pictures of vaguely exotic women
swathed in layers of materials, so as to illustrate the "moral inferiority" of
her people? (Hence, the implied moral superiority of a culture where rape,
sexual harrassment, pornography, teen pregnancy, and prostitution are so
commonplace they are considered "boring" topics)  As we speak, the "brains"
behind the Feminist Majority Fund, the loudest voice in this Western protest
against the "gender apartheid" in Afghanistan are planning a buffet reception
and program in Hollywood (the center of moral authority...  not) called
"Eleven and a Half Million Waiting to Be Freed."  Excerpts from the press
release are as follows (hold onto your lunch):

"On March 29, 1999, the Hollywood community, and women's rights and human
rights leaders will converge to shine a bright light on the human rights
abuses against the women and girls in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime. The
program is being written, directed, and produced by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason."

My sisters and brothers in Islam, it is no mistake that they choose words like a "shine a bright light."  As humans we are naturally attracted to light; this is why
television is so enticing to us, especially young children.  They know that bright lights attract, that is why they often refer to "the bright lights of Hollywood," and so on. Unfortunately, the light which will "shine" in Hollywood is a false light, one so dim in comparison to the Nur al-Allah.  And can anyone tell me when the "Hollywood community," with its thousands of films depicting both emotional and physical violence, rape, torture, and murder against women who are rarely more than half dressed (and often nude), became the moral voice for the United States? A place which has produced hundreds (maybe thousands) of films presenting minority women as "Hot Latina Mamas" or sex crazed ghetto dwellers? 

And please, note that their concern focuses solely on the "women and girls." No concern for the men, many of whom are now disabled after fighting ten years against the Soviets.  No concern for the Shi'a.  No concern for the hundreds of other Muslim journalists, artists, poets, and dissidents who have been exiled or assasinated.  If you care about the suffering of one Afghani, shouldn't  you care about all of them?

To continue, featured Guests at this (gag) star studded event include:

"Mavis Leno, Event Chair, & Jay Leno , Eleanor Smeal, President, Feminist Majority Foundation U. S. Senators Barbara Boxer & Dianne Feinstein, Honorary Co-chairs, Gillian Anderson, Kathy Bates, Brandy, Delta Burke, Natalie Cole, Claire
Danes, Geena Davis, Dana Delaney, Laura Dern, Diane Ladd, Shannen Doherty, Fran Drescher, Melissa Etheridge, Sally Field, Frances Fisher, Sharon Gless, Geri Halliwell, Daryl Hannah, Salma Hayek, Tippi Hedren, Anjelica Huston, Christine Lahti, Juliette Lewis, Julianna Marguolies, Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (granddaughter of Eleanor Roosevelt), Laura SanGiacomo, Cybill Shepherd, Nancy Sinatra, Mary Steenburgen, Lily Tomlin, Alfre Woodard, Renee Zellweger"

Now maybe it's just me, but for some reason, I just have a problem with the idea that BRANDY and GERI HALLIWELL (better known as Ginger Spice) are going to be "speaking out" for the Muslim women of Afghanistan.  Most of these women consider on screen nudity to be a positive career move, and at least one is a lesbian (Etheridge).  Is this who we wish to have speaking publicly for the Muslim women of Afghanistan?

Do not be fooled.  It is no mistake that when they hold these galas, as well
as their press conferences and such, they do  not include the voice of reason,
known as the Muslim voice.  The Muslim  Women's League has been active in
investigating the situation in Afghanistan.  Why aren't they giving a
presentation at this "star studded" event? They do not want people to know
that the
oppression of women is not the way of Islam.   Even 'Glamour' magazine, which
features articles such as "Are your Sex Secrets Getting Spilled?", and
"Massage Fantasies," has set itself up as some feminist authority on the women
of Afghanistan, and Muslim women in general.  Recently, they passed on
printing my letter alerting their readership to the realities of women's rights in Islam (although they did print my comments pointing out the dismal sex-symbol status of women in America), preferring to print instead, letters calling Islam barbaric and oppressive, while peppering their magazine on almost a MONTHLY basis with phrases like "Islamic extremists," "Islamic fundamentalists," and so on. 

They now have a fashionable "symbol," not unlike the ribbons worn for AIDS and
cancer patients.  Before you read any further, please stop eating, lest you
get sick.  The symbol is a "swatch of the mesh through which Afghan women view
the world."  (I am NOT making this stuff up)  Half  of the $2 contribution
goes towards the FMF's "Gender Apartheid" campaign, and half to Afghani women
refugees. (So they say).
This is what FMF says about the burq'a, the Islamic veil worn for centuries by
some women in Persia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. I bet some of you
niqaabi sisters had no idea that the face veil was so "deadly!"

"Since 1996, under Taliban rule in Afghanistan, women have not been permitted
to leave the confines of their homes unless accompanied by a close male
relative and covered from head to toe in the burqa -- an oppressive garment
which completely shrouds the body, with only a small mesh-covered opening over
the eyes through which to see. Wearing the burqa can cause or aggravate
respiratory conditions and loss of vision, both of which can be deadly.

"This swatch of mesh represents the obstructed view of the world for an entire
nation of women who were once free. Wear it in rememberance -- so that we do
not forget the women and girls of Afghanistan until their right to work,
freedom of movement, education, and healthcare are restored and they are free
once again. The symbols are $2 each and can be ordered in mass quantities as
well as individually. We encourage you to buy many and share them with your
friends, family, and co-workers. Help us to raise awareness and make a
difference for the women of Afghanistan!"

"Do not forget the women and girls of Afghanistan?" OH PLEASE!  Who was
concerned with their health and safety when the Communist Soviets invaded the
land and waged a ten year (losing, alhamdulilah) battle with the people of
Afghanistan?  Where was the "outcry" against the devastation that the
Communists wreaked across the countryside?  Where is the concern for the dozens of Afghanis who die everyday from a mysterious disease which is raging through the countryside?  Where is the outpouring of support for the victims of the
devastation brought on by recent earthquakes?  How ARROGANT to think that
they, with their $2 swatches of material will "make a difference" for the MUSLIM women of Afghanistan!  They are trying to make a quick buck off the suffering of the Afghani people, and there are thousands of goodhearted, genuinely concerned, yet ultimately misinformed American women who will shell  out the moolah to wear a "swatch of burqa'a" on their lapel.  And they "tch" in pity everytime they see a Muslima who is covered. 

Honestly, I am telling you,these people can NOT get enough of photos of women
in burq'a, which they of course, consider to be a "symbol of oppression."  I
found TWO sites dedicated just to pictures of Afghani women in burq'a, though
unfortunately for their claims, many of the women also had on plain hijab, or
were showing some of the skin they claimed they are beaten for showing.  My
friends, this is no different than some 80 French teachers walking out of
their schools in Northern France b/c the governement allowed two Turkish girls
to wear hijab to school. (The walkout was a protest against, "The symbol of
oppression")  (I am REALLY NOT making this stuff up, as hard as that may
seem).  It is no different than the government of Turkiye forbidding women
from wearing hijab in government jobs and schools.

To the FMF, the French Teachers, the secular Turkish government, and many,
many non Muslims, even the smallest bit of cloth on your head is considered an oppression against not just you, the Muslima, but against all women.

This is only another example of the Western crusaders coming to "liberate" the
down trodden Muslima.  Some want to "save" us with Christianity; others with
their political agenda.  Yet the worst aspect of this "liberation" is that it is force fed.  Nowhere in the FMF site, or similar sites, articles, and reports, do we hear the voice of the Muslim woman, or the Afghani woman, and so on.  I wonder if they even stopped to ask themselves if the women of Afghanistan (or whatever the fashionable place is today) WANT their "help."

They have taken a patriarchal and condescending attitude towards the Muslim
women of Afghanistan by ASSUMING that they know what is best for her (or you).
It is a sexist and ethnocentric stance.  They are not interested in hearing
Ai'sha or Maryam's voice. 

Not only that, but they do not know, realize, or care that a group like the
Taliban are only strengthened by the likes of the FMF with their Melissa
Etheridge and Ginger Spice.  Groups like the FMF only reinforce the idea that
the West (in particular, the US of A) is dominated by godless, promiscious
heathens.   I am sure the regime in Kabul is bent over laughing at this
"protest of conscience."   Groups like the Taliban (or whoever) only listen
when you speak from the Qur'an and the Sunnah.  And no one but a Muslim can do that.  FMF (and other groups), deep inside, know this, and that is why they
"call" on the U.S. Gov't to intervene militarily.   Only brute force can get
their point across I guess.

On the whole FMF site, I found only one small phrase which mentioned that some
of the things which may (or may not be) going on in Afghanistan are not the
teachings of Islam.  More often, I saw words like "Islamic fundamentalist," or
words such as Madrassa thrown around as if it is some ominous thing.  (ooh,
those big bad madrassas...)  I don't think I found one item relating that the
ENTIRE country is undergoing serious instability due to 10 years of war with
the  Communist Athiest Invaders, or with the serious (like 8 on the Richter
Scale) earthquakes which have destroyed much of the country in the past few
years, the disease which ravages the countryside, or the general poverty which
exists there, and so on. 

It seems the voices of the Muslims are silent on this, and I think I know why.
What Media, or even government, reports can you trust?  How do we really know
what is going on?  Some of us are uncomfortable speaking "publicly" (ie
outside of the Muslim community) about the wrongs that are sometimes done by
other Muslims (whether that Muslim be the Taliban, Saddam Hussein, King
Hussein, or Yaser Arafat... or even men in our own communities).  After all,
who wants to air their "dirty laundry" in front of people who make fun of  us
on talk radio and sitcoms?  I can only hope that as this topic grows, our voices become louder.  And who among us does not support ALL the Afghani people, the men, women, and the children?

Do not be fooled.  Most of these FMF types do not care about your Muslim
sister.  If they really cared about the "women of the world," they would speak
about genital mutilation in Africa (which is done by Christians and animists,
not just the big bad Muslims), selective abortion and female infanticide in
China and India ("And when news is brought to one of them concerning a female
child, his face darkens with grief..."), child prostitution in Thailand and
Russia (and the U.S.A.), bride burnings and dowry deaths in India, the crisis
of women's safety in Mejico (especially near the US border, where Mejican
women are routinely raped and murdered), and on and on and on.  Even in our
own country, there are issues such as: prostitution, teen pregnancy, abortion
(ie, why it is so widespread in an age when every conceivable form of
contraception is available), pornography, child abuse, sexual abuse, runaways,
rape, domestic violence, and sexual harassment.

Remember, they do NOT care about the Muslim woman, whether she is in Kabul or
California. They only care to see her hair showing.  After all, isn't that
what "freedom" is all about?

(c) Saraji Flynn 1999

Snakes and Ladders
Personal Reflections on the other CST

By: Farid Esack

It's time we discussed CST. Not "Colonialism of a Special Type", which
slid into the recesses of our thoughts around the time Peter Mokaba
substituted "Roar Young Lions, Roar!" for "Shop Young Lions,
Shop!".No, the CST that weighs on my mind stands for Collaboration of
a Special Type. It's about the process of my bastardization of
liberation, about slipping between the cracks of freedom and falling
into the gravy.

I grew up in Bonteheuwel, a poor working class area on the Cape Flats.
After years of studying in Pakistan, I returned as a Muslim theologian
committed to poverty as a religious option and to the struggle against
poverty forced upon people. (A saying of the Prophet Muhammad which
struck a deep chord in me was "Oh Allah, let me continue to live among
the poor, let me die among the poor and on the Day of Resurrection,
let me rise among the poor.")

My icon was Abu Dharr al-Ghiffari (d. 653), a lone-ranger Companion of
the Prophet. He had banged at the doors of the nouveau riche soon
after Muhammad's death, demanding that they surrender the superfluous
wealth they had hoarded during the wars of Muslim expansion. Known as
the "Father of Islamic socialism" he challenged rulers who
expropriated community property in the name of God. ("All property
belongs to God", was the rulers' argument.)  Abu Dharr's response was:
"You say this in order to draw the conclusion that since you are the
representative of God, all property belongs to you; You ought to say
that all property belongs to the people"

After years of "the struggle" I went to the United Kingdom and Germany
where I lived on a rather generous scholarship in leafy, antiseptic
suburbs. I returned to the University of the Western Cape where both
students and faculty hinted that I was inappropriate for the place, a
bit of an octagonal peg in a square hole. I rented an apartment in
Rylands, a middle class Indian area, although my flat stood on a block
referred to as "Rylands se skurwe fletse". (The illusion of being an
Abu Dharrian Muslim thus gained a new lease of life).

It's there that People's Action Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad)
was formed. In their first public appearance, they gathered in the
parking lot we share with Club Galaxy and marched to Dullah Omar's
house, just down the road. On the same day, I wrote an  article in a
local daily describing the death penalty - an object of worship for
fanatics who invoke religion (note that I am not saying religious
fanatics) - as barbaric. "Today they march on Dullah's place where the
cops may block them", I thought, "and tomorrow they may decide that it
is easier to swallow the unguarded smaller fish." 

Within two weeks, I was gone - to Rosebank, nearer the mountain -
though not the mountain of Moses, Jesus or Muhammad which, of course,
represents a quest for the deeper things of life and beyond. I live
"just below the railway line" - something you omit mentioning when
placing your apartment on the market - and just a hundred meters from
the more posh Rondebosch where I could claim Mandela as a neighbour. I
am not complaining though. Staying down the road is Kader Asmal, now
in the top ten on the ANC's election list. So, I have progressed: my
previous minsterial neighbour only made it onto the top twenty. I
still travel by train (always first class) and public taxis. In other
words, I have graduated to being an up-market Abu Dharrian Muslim. 

I have also become a Commissioner for Gender Equality (CGE), with
take-home pay of R15,000. I've added "airplane" to my other modes of
regular transport. My SAA platinum card enables me to invite some of
my peasant friends into SAA's business class lounge. There, my working
class habit of never letting anything free pass by still gets the
better of me, and I regularly stock up on the peanuts, chips, biscuits
and cold drinks - much of it for later redistribution. (And so
redistribution is now of "cake" - as in Marie Antoinette's reputed
taunt - rather than in anything structural).

The CGE has imposed a voluntary ban on Business Class travelling. But
the SAA groundstaff seem to think my Economy Class seat was a mistake;
they regularly upgrade me to Business. (To those who have shall be

In Jo'burg, I stay on the border between Parkwood and Rosebank,
missing the more exclusive Rosebank by about hundred metres. Parkwood
is also the name of really down and out township in the Cape Flats,
perhaps entitling me to call myself a residual Abu Dharrian.

While the Commission comprises of people with a passionate commitment
to the poor, it is remarkable that our own lucrative salaries have
never been seriously discussed except in the context of the complaint
that we are receiving less than other statutory bodies. It's a
well-founded gripe that reflects the shoddy treatment accorded to
gender equality. But none of us - including myself - have had the
courage to challenge the entire system which sees a new privileged
class emerging in the name of democracy.

Gradually we are being absorbed. Some of us, of course, have found
genuinely useful things to do with our new-found wealth. We do so
quietly, so as not to upset the apple cart - or rather the gravy
train. After all, we're eligible for another five-year term when the
current one expires. We don't quite want to prematurely discontinue
"our generosity", do we?

My story in many ways is also the story of the betrayal of a
revolution. It issues questions we should not hide from.

How independent is an independent commission when it don't want to
upset the gravy train?

How consistently principled can commissioners, parliamentarians and
ministers afford to be when they are irrevocably tied to massive new
bonds and repayments on BMW's?

Does compassion - in the shape of the redistribution of SAA Business
class peanuts or of a personalized redistribution of a handsome salary
- become a substitute for structural justice that recognizes that
people are being underpaid because others like myself are being
overpaid? We're not talking about people who've made comfort and
wealth their lives' tasks. We're concerned here with that other brand
of humans so deeply committed to fight injustice that they would
literally give their lives for "the struggle". What is it that
seemingly awakens in them an even greater commitment to line their own

Where did all those double-breasted suits come from on the day of
Mandela's release, the ones that were so ostentatiously in evidence on
the Grand Parade? Did the tailors of these formerly T-shirted comrades
know something we did not?

Is there something innately human about us that prevents us from
looking our betrayal in the face - instead of ducking behind phrases
like "redeployment to the private sector", "black empowerment" and
"economic upliftment"?

Or has kicking against the pricks just gone out of fashion? 

As becomes a thorougbred Coloured cum post-modernist, my response is
somewhere in-between: Yes and No.

A while ago, I visited the MEC for Safety and Security in the Northern
Cape at her home. I knew the name of her street and had been told hers
was the first house. First option? Look for the cop at the gate. No
such luck. Second option? Head for the smarter house. "No, she
actually stays across the road", the neighbour said. Third option?
Head for the front door of the not-so-smart house. "No,  you must go
around to the back", the house owner directed. Fourth option? Head for
the back door of the not-so-smart house? "No, she stays there", said
the same house owner who had opened the front door, pointing to the
servants' quarters. Not a little baffled, I strolled across.

The Honourable Ms Eunice Komani, MEC for Safety and Security, came to
the door, barefeet, rollers in the hair and wrapped in a nightgown - a
genuine Coloured motjie. She seated me in the kitchen, the only room
other than her bedroom. We sat around a cheap pine table and had our
meeting. With one glance I took in her surroundings and the entirety
of her worldly possessions.

"Status, my child," she said as I composed myself and asked about her
lifestyle, "is not in the kind of house or car that I own; it is in
who I am and what I do with my life." "As for a house, I just need a
place to put my head down at night - I may as well do it among the
people that I believe I am working for."

"And the absence of an armed guard?" I asked. "Well, my job is to look
after the Safety and Security of the people of this province, not my
own", she said.

A kind of revelatory flush passed over me.

Then came the bad news. Abu Dharr al-Ghiffari's soul-mate in the
Northern Cape has been dumped from the provincial election list and
has recently been deposed as chair of the ANC Women's League in the

(Abu Dharr, by the way was exiled and died a lonely death, something
the Prophet had apparently predicted. His wife was found seated
alongside his corpse, lying beside a desert path, waiting for someone
to offer the funeral prayers and assist in digging his grave). 

The moral high ground was a crucial factor in the liberation
movement's success in mobilizing both our own people and armies of
solidarity activists across the world. Many of those currently in
government are daily "compelled" to sacrifice much of that moral high
ground at the altar of realpolitik or personal ambition. But a few,
mercifully, dream and soldier on.

The task of the dreamers is to remind those in power that economic
constraints (the market and the guardsmen of the IMF) or geopolitical
realities are not the only factors that should inform political or
economic policy.

Moral imperatives are not only useful as mobilizing tools. They should
stand at the core of a vision to which, I would like to believe, all
of us were - and a large number of us still are - sincerely committed

This is the vision of a world where people do not die of
malnourishment because others die of gluttony, where factory workers
do not hop at the scream of a boss because a commissioner or deputy
minister has enough money to shop till he or she drops.

In some ways, we are being called to choose the paths of lonely deaths
- the culmination of living lives for others.

In different times, many of us walked those paths. Today, we soar over
them in business class, pocketing a packet of peanuts or two for

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