August 2017
Making Progress Has Challenges, Rewards

By Ani Zonneveld

The month of July was filled with uplifting experiences as well as a few punches to the stomach. I travelled for the Celebration of Life event in The Netherlands for a positive experience; to a hate-fest at the ex-Muslim conference in London; to Memphis to meet cohorts as a Fellow of the ARCUS Foundation; and presented at several panels and hosted two booths. The overall take-away from these experiences is that we must wade through much hostility to give a message of love, inclusivity and compassion.

For the first time, we decided to set up a booth at the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) Convention in Chicago, in partnership with Human Rights Campaign (with Frank Parmir, pictured). We promoted our work for the empowerment of women, LGBT inclusion, and freedom of expression and conscience. The response from the public in the first few hours was nothing but positive and affirming of our stance. Unfortunately, though, ISNA executives came around and, deciding otherwise, ordered us off the premises because they found our content “offensive”. Please read our press release on this matter. As we’ve said for many years, American Muslim religious leaders are out of touch with American Muslims who are liberal. And to prove that point, the Pew Research Center released its latest findings of American Muslim public attitudes including that on homosexuality. We feel vindicated.

Unlike the experience at ISNA, MPV community members joined other faith organizations as community partners with the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA) at their annual summer concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. In a surprising and heartwarming gesture, GMCLA’s music director, Dr. Joe Nadeau invited me to do the azan, the Muslim call-to-prayer as the opener of Act II. You can join the 150,000 other viewers who have watched my version of the azan here.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is finally becoming a visible issue here in America. An imam in Virginia tacitly promoted FGM while federal prosecutors filed charges against Detroit doctors Dr. Fakhruddin Attar and Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, and Farida Attar for performing FGM, all members of the Dawoodi Bohra sect of Shia Islam. Joining the defence legal team in support of FGM is the famous or infamous, depending on your political view, lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who will be framing this legal battle within the context of Religious Freedom Act, meaning — FGM is a religious right. In response, we wrote to the prosecutors challenging this religious framing. You can read our letter to the prosecutors here and our press release against the imam here.      
I hope August will be an easier month…
Onward and upwards!
  • President's Letter
  • Recommended Book
  • July Update
  • MPV at the UN
  • Coming up in August
  • MPV In the News

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Recommended New Book

Should shari’a law be introduced into the British legal system? Writing in the first person, Elham Manea explores this question as a human rights activist and Arab scholar who identifies as Muslim. In response to recent media controversy and public debate about legal pluralism and multiculturalism, Manea argues against what she sees as the growing tendency for people to be treated as “homogenous” groups in Western academic discourse, rather than as individuals with authentic voices.

On July 29-30th at the Politicon convention in Los Angeles, MPV was at the forefront of mainstream America, the political Left and Right, and the media industry. While attending the booth we were approached by socialists, sceptics, supporters, interviewed by various media outlets as well as a challenging Facebook live broadcast from an individual with a “Make America Great Again” cap. Our panel entitled “Radicals, Refugees & Republicans” was well-attended at full capacity of 650, and offered lively and robust debate that included Black and White Alt-Right hecklers. Our panelists were (above): moderator Ani Zonneveld, Robert Davi (celebrity actor, singer and Trump supporter), Dr. Halleh Seddigzadeh (a traumatist expert and the zen of the panelist), Adam Housley (Fox News), Bassem Youssef (Egyptian satirist in exile in Los Angeles), and Hasan Piker (popular TV host of The Young Turks). Featured below are comedian Mona Shaikh and a student volunteer. Watch video of panel here.


Between 10-19 July, MPV's UN Representative Omair Paul and UN Coordinator Marwan Bishtawi were hard at work following the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. The High-Level Political Forum (or HLPF, for short) is a UN-mandated body in which governments, experts, and civil society convene to review the last year's progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Think of it as a time for the UN to gather, recap, and set the tone for the coming year of Sustainable Development.  
The HLPF consists of two different segments: thematic review, in which the UN discusses their progress concerning the HLPF's theme, and Voluntary National Review, in which countries that have volunteered to report on their progress share their best practices in development and accept feedback from other member states. (Right: MPV's U.N. Representative Omair Paul.)
During this year’s thematic review, which focused on the theme “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world,” Marwan and Omair were actively engaging the UN Major Group for Children and Youth and NGO Major Group—two of the nine major constituency-based clusters that are mandated to engage in sustainable development processes—to insert language on gender equality, women’s empowerment, women’s rights, and the importance of including faith-based organizations. Furthermore, on 11 July, during a multi-stakeholder dialogue on the HLPF theme, Omair made a rousing statement on behalf of the NGO Major Group, challenging member states to combat the surging tides of fundamentalism and extremism. You'll find a transcript of his statement here.

During the Voluntary National Review, MPV collaborated with representatives from the TEBTEBBA Foundation, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, and RIPESS Global to formulate three questions for Malaysia. These questions can be found here.

New! MPV-Los Angeles

August 9th: MPV is partnering up with UN Women USNC LA chapter in a theater of the oppressed Refugees, Race and Religion. An evening of collective brainstorming through interactive forum theater depicting stories of female refugees throughout the California region. The event will shed light on the lives of 10,000+ refugees and their struggles as they transition from refugee camps to their new homes. Attendees will be offered a platform to ideate and identify actionable strategies that they may later employ in real life situations.

For details and tickets, click here.

MPV - San Francisco

is happy to introduce Naji Ali the coordinator of our chapter in San Francisco. We are coordinating an interfaith meeting with local churches to discuss ways that Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and Muslims can come together through dialogue and common interests. Keep an eye out on our Facebook page for details. (Right: Ani & Naji Ali.)

MPV - Australia

On July 2nd, a social catch-up picnic was attended by Sydneysiders wanting to learn more about MPV’s community. This was our second picnic after Eid, and a great post-Eid lunch was had by all. Quran Discussion Groups, where participants discuss the surah of the day from a progressive and open-minded angle, have also been booking out early in Sydney and we hope to expand on this activity to accommodate growing interest.

MPV Sydney picnic.jpg

Canberra has begun its event series, 99 Names of God. Inspired by Quaker and Sufi traditions, attendees come to contemplate on what an Asmaul Husna means for them, followed by discussion.

MPV Nederland

MPV Nederland’s first Celebration of Life was a resounding success thanks to the contributions of moderator Naeeda Aurangzeb, keynote guest speaker Ambassador Roderick van Schreven (Ret.), presenters Max Wieselmann (A Different Jewish Voice), Elisabeth van der Steenhoven (Karama Europe), Isjed Hussain (Queer Welfare, Prisma group), and Stella Ismail (Fem4All) it was a meaningful and inspiring night. The night of personal attributes was tied together by breathtaking performances from Sumayya Sheba, Mohammed AlIssa, Amna Durrani, and our own Ani Zonneveld. Yero Gaynaaki, Mauritanian rapper and Human Rights activist ended the night with a blast. We’re already looking forward to the next event! Check out photos and videos of the event here.

MPV-New York

During Ramadan, MPV-NY joined The NYC Commission on Human Rights, The LGBT Center, MASGD, and other organizations to host a sold-out Iftar at The LGBT Community Center. Tickets were sold out within 24 hours!!

Based on the response and interest, the same organizations have agreed to co-host an inclusive Eid dinner on August 31 at 6:30pm. This interfaith and multicultural event will be even bigger, hosted in the largest space at the LGBT Community Center. MPV-NY is co-sponsoring with The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, the virtual chapter of the National Organization for Women, Caribbean Equality Project, Tarab and The NYC Commission on Human Rights. All are welcome!!

Stay tuned to our Facebook page for further registration information! 

LiberalAmerica.Org | Muslims With Progressive Values Make History Taking Part In Concert (VIDEO) | July 13, 2017 

In Malaysia, they discovered MPV had already started a chapter there and asked authorities to shut it down Rupanya Imam Wanita Masjid LGBT Sudah Buka Cawangan Malaysia, Apa Respon Pihak | July 8, 2017

Notes from WATERtalks | Feminist Conversations in Religion Series “Is Sharia Law Still Relevant?” | June 30, 2017