July 2017
The Struggle Against Extremism is Our Peace Movement

By Ani Zonneveld

The month of June was filled with many iftars (breaking of the fast), in our respective communities. I equate them to 30 days of Thanksgiving, as they are a time of feeling blessed and thankful. For some members of our community in the U.S. it has become a tradition to host interfaith iftars as many of us are in mixed relationships or are born into non-Muslim families. At other times, these iftars are an opportunity to share a meal with Americans we would not usually share meals with. In that spirit, for the second year, we broke fast at an Iftar-Shabbat, with JQ International, a Jewish queer organization.

Ramadan is supposed to be a contemplative time for Muslims, but instead of peace we have experienced an onslaught of 26 terrorist attacks globally. Muslim human rights defenders continue to be choked by radicals and governments alike, like Sultana Kamal, a lawyer and human rights activist in Bangladesh threatened to have “every bone in her body broken” by ISIS-Bangladesh. In Egypt, MPV joins other civil societies in an open letter to President Sisi against his escalation of restrictions on civil society and the public vilification of human rights defenders. In Malaysia, the government’s threats against Afif Mohd. Nor, Numan Afifi, Siti Kasim, Zainah Anwar, and myself have intensified with both veiled threats from the religious authorities on one hand, and blatant threats from the “religious” general public on the other. Meanwhile in Tunisia and Sub-Saharan Africa, our allies continue to have their names slandered and work systematically sabotaged by fake news, planting seeds of distrust. 

Despite the ever-surging tide of opposition from many of the dominant extremist religious authorities, support from Muslims of all stripes and from truth-telling imams expressing their solidarity have kept the wind in our sails.

Onward and upward.
  • President's Letter
  • MPV at the UN
  • Coming up in July
  • Updates
  • MPV Nederland

  • Washington DC
  • Atlanta​​​​​​​
  • MPV In the News
Quick links:

We are working across the United States and around the world to fight extremism and intolerance. Your support is invaluable.

HLPF Ministerial Negotiations
Between June 15 and June 30, MPV’s UN Representative Omair Paul and UN Coordinator Marwan Bishtawi have been following intergovernmental negotiations for the HLPF Ministerial Declaration. For those unfamiliar with the “alphabet soup” of UN jargon, the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) is a UN-mandated body that meets every year to oversee, follow up, and review member states’ progress in implementing Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a transformative plan for development that seeks to serve planet, people, prosperity, and partnerships between different sectors of society. The HLPF Ministerial Declaration therefore sets the tone for the HLPF, by taking into account the progress of the past year to set actionable objectives for the year to come.

In following the weekly negotiations for this important Declaration, Omair and Marwan were busy representing MPV’s priorities to member states. On Thursday, June 16, Marwan Bishtawi delivered an intervention, addressing delegations and the co-chairs of the negotiations, on behalf of the UN Major Group for Children and Youth. Furthermore, through skillful advocacy, MPV successfully pushed important language on interreligious dialogue into the Ministerial Declaration. To learn more about the HLPF, please refer to this helpful database. 

On June 29, MPV submitted a Shadow Report for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Burundi. The UPR is a process in which member states quadrennially submit a report updating the UN committee on their progress in implementing the UN human rights agenda. In addition to national reports, stakeholders such as NGOs are invited to submit their own reports on the status of human rights in a country. In advance of Burundi’s review in January, 2018, MPV in partnership with the Alliance des Imams du Corridors Nords pour le Developpement Humanitaire (AICNDH), a coalition of Imams in Burundi, submitted its own report detailing the intricate relationship between religious narratives and women’s rights in Burundi. To read an online copy of the report, please visit our website.
Looking Ahead This Month

July 8th: MPV is proud to be a community partner with the Gay Men’s Chorus Los Angeles for its annual summer concert “I Rise,” a collection of spiritual songs, to be performed at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Singers from MPV will be joining the chorus and Ani Zonneveld will be opening a number with the azan, the Islamic call to prayer. Based on a rehearsal, we can assure you that this will be an amazingly uplifting and spiritually fulfilling event. Check out the flyer and get your tickets!

July 23rd: Secular Conference, London, catered to free thinkers, Ani Zonneveld will be speaking on a panel titled Women’s Resistance, The Veil and Religious Morality.

Chair: Sukhwant Dhaliwal, Founder and Editorial Collective Member of Feminist Dissent
Ani Zonneveld, Founder and President of Muslims for Progressive Values
Imad Iddine Habib, Founder of Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco
Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Campaigner
Rana Ahmad, Head of the RDF Arab Atheist Community
Yasmin Rehman, Women’s Rights Campaigner
Yasmine, Confessions of an ExMuslim

July 30th: MPV-LA: At this year’s Politicon, the very popular conference labeled as the “unconventional political convention”, MPV will have a booth and host a panel titled Radicals, Refugees, and Republicans. History has been defined by the meetings and clashes of civilizations, with many now declaring that the conflict of our age is between the values and politics of the Islamic World and the West. This expert panel discusses the compatibility of these cultures and the challenges to be overcome on  the path to a globalized and integrated world. As host, we wanted a panel that will inform the public, break barriers and one that will dispel the misinformation propagated about Islam and refugees. Our panelists are: Adam Housley, Robert Davi, Dr. Halleh Seddigzadeh, Bassem Youseff, Hasan Piker and moderated by Ani Zonneveld.  Purchase your tickets here!

New! MPV has received many questions from the public, both Muslims and non-Muslims. Instead of responding in written form, we decided to address the FAQs in video form since that seems to be the preferred medium. Check out the first batch of FAQs with the more complex theological questions to be addressed in August. 

At the G20 Interfaith Summit: “Shrinking Civil Society Spaces"  in Berlin, Ani Zonneveld addressed the issue of shrinking spaces for progressive Muslims giving specific evidence of that in Malaysia. 

New Press Releases:

MPV Netherlands

Celebration of Life, July 20
(English below) Kom samen met MPV Nederland voor een avond vol persoonlijke hommages, poëzie, live muziek en comedy en vier #FreedomOfExpression and #FreedomOfConscience!

Dit jaar zullen wij de geweldige inspanningen huldigen van musici en artiesten die zijn gevangen genomen, verbannen, of vermoord voor hun recht op vrijheid van meningsuiting en expressie.

We zullen artiesten eren als Paradise Sorouri, één van Afghanistan's eerste vrouwelijke rappers; Amjad Sabra, een Pakistaanse Sufi zanger die in juni 2016 vermoord is door de Taliban; Hila Sedhighi, artieste, activiste en één van Iran's meest gevierde dichteressen; Ashraf Fayadh, een Palestijnse poëet die sinds 2014 in gevangenschap in Saoedi-Arabië zit; en Silya Ziani, een jonge zangeres en actrice die momenteel in Marokko vast zit.

Keynote speaker: Ani Zonneveld, oprichtster en directeur MPV,
Elisabeth van der Steenhoven, directeur Karama Europe,
Max Wieselmann, directeur Een Ander Joods Geluid,
Fenna ten Berge, voorzitter MPV Nederland,
Isjed Hussain, Queer Welfare, Veilige Haven Utrecht, en de Prisma Groep
Het programma zal worden geleid door presentatrice Naeeda Aurangzeb, met optredens van o.a. Joanna Weston (zang), Amna Durrani (spoken word) en special guest Yero Gaynaako, een mensenrechtenactivist van Mauritanië die momenteel deelneemt aan het Shelter City program from Justice and Peace Netherlands.

Meer informatie, aanmelden en tickets via Eventbrite, of via Facebook. Celebration of Life wordt mede mogelijk gemaakt door: CC4U, the HYF, de prisma groep en Veilige Haven Utrecht.
— English —

Please join MPV Nederland for an interactive night full of personal tributes, poetry, live music, and comedy and celebrate #FreedomOfExpression and #FreedomOfConscience with us!

This year we will honor the great efforts of musicians and artists who have been captured, banished or killed for their right to freedom of expression. We will laud artists like Paradise Sorouri, Afghanistan’s first female rapper who currently lives in exile; Amjad Sabra, a Pakistani Sufi singer who was murdered by the Taliban; Hila Sedhigi, one of Iran’s most renowned poets; Ashraf Fayadh, A poet from Palestinian descent who is currently jailed in Saudi Arabia, and Silya Ziana, a young singer and actress who is currently imprisoned in Morocco.

Keynote speaker: Ani Zonneveld, Founder and President of MPV
Elisabeth van der Steenhoven, director Karama Europe,
Max Wieselmann, director A Different Jewish Voice,
Isjed Hussain of Queer Welfare, Safe Haven Utrecht and the Prisma Group
The evening will be moderated by Naeeda Aurangzeb. Joanna Weston (vocalist), Amna Durrani (spoken word artist), and many other performers will make an appearance to make it an unforgettable night! With special guest Yero Gaynaako, a human rights activists and rapper from Mauritania who is currently participating in the Shelter City program from Justice and Peace Netherlands.

For more information or tickets: Eventbrite or Facebook. Celebration of Life is made possible with the help of: CC4U, the HYF, de prisma groep en Veilige Haven Utrecht.

Platform Women and Sustainable Peace
Platform Vrouwen voor Duurzame Vrede (Platform Women and Sustainable Peace), asked MPV Nederland’s Fenna ten Berge to write an article on the importance of Morocco’s High Religious Committee’s decision that apostates should not be killed and how this opens up opportunities for other scholars and religious leaders to promote more tolerant and progressive interpretations of Islam. Please find the article here (Dutch).

Inclusive Jum’a
Our Inclusive Jum’a has shaped to become a recurring event. Would you like to enjoy female-lead prayers, or just be kept up to date on the next jum’as? Keep an eye out on our Facebook page.
MPV Washington, DC

On June 3, 2017, MPV-Washington, D.C. held its annual iftar dinner at the Friends Meeting of Washington. Some 80 people attended this interfaith event, which included a discussion about Ramadan and Islamic prayer. After breaking fast, many of the attendees participated in a mixed gender Maghrib prayer led by a woman. After dinner there was a sitar and tabla musical performance by Sambarta Rakshit and Haroon Alam.

On July 8, 2017, MPV-Washington, D.C. is co-hosting an event with Imam Daayiee Abdullah and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation titled “Mecca Institute, Muslims, and the LGBT Community.” At this event, Imam Daayiee will talk about Muslim support for the LGBT community, particularly regarding civil liberties and specifically for LGBT Muslims combating Islamophobia within the greater LGBT community. He will discuss how Mecca Institute is one of the tools bringing change to and within these communities. Visit the MPV-DC Facebook page for details.
MPV Atlanta

MPV-Atlanta kicked off Ramadan with a retreat to start the month. Around 20 people gathered around a theme of rest and relaxation in community. Special guests included Katrina Daly Thompson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Daayiee Abdullah, who spoke about Mecca Institute, a progressive Muslim seminary. We also screened “A Jihad for Love” and “A Balloon for Allah”. This was our first Ramadan retreat and there are plans to keep it as a tradition!

MPV-Atlanta hosted and attended several iftars throughout the month of Ramadan, including a bonfire iftar and a fellowship iftar with the Ahmadiyya Community of Georgia

MPV-Atlanta wrapped up Ramadan with an Eid celebration with Southerners on New Ground (SONG), a partner organization focused on LGBTQI action. 

MPV-Atlanta took part in a “Spiritual Tools for Recovery” workshop as part of a multi-faith panel (including those of no faith) hosted by SOJOURN (Southern Jewish Resource Network). The workshop, centered around LGBTQIA+ people, focused on how to use personal spirituality/belief as a way to help with substance abuse recovery.

On Friday, July 7, MPV-Atlanta will have another Eid celebration for the community. This will be in midtown Atlanta. Please join us and RSVP by emailing kelly@mpvatlanta.org.
With the launching of the Ibn Rushde-Goethe Mosque in Berlin and the global reporting of it, the discussion of a progressive Islam begins in earnest in Malaysia.

An interview with Ani Zonneveld in response to a month-long campaign of attacks in Malaysian media The Malaysian Insight | Malaysian female imam hits back at critics Part 1 & Part 2 | 25 & 26 June, 2017 

Canberra Times |  Canberra 'Meet a Muslim' forums aim to end Islamophobia | 22 June, 2017 |

The Federalist | It's Time for the to Right Openly Embrace Classically Liberal Muslims | Listen to Part I from 5 June & Listen to Part II from 12 June, 2017