February 2017

Celebration of Life with Michael Alexander, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Ani Zonneveld,
Bassem Youssef & Jay Abdo
President's Letter

By Ani Zonneveld

Many of you are probably wondering how Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) is handling the policies and Executive Orders of newly-inaugurated President Donald J. Trump. MPV is a nonpartisan organization; our work is driven by local social justice issues, no matter who and which political party is in power. By default, our stances usually fall toward the left of the political center. Please read our 10 principles for the full range of positions.  
January was an incredibly busy month for MPV, packed with activities, including the Celebration of Life and Catharsis Carnival fundraisers; our participation in the Women’s Marches in Los Angeles, DC, Atlanta and London, not to mention lobbying for the Equal Rights Amendment on Capitol Hill; massive coalition building and activism to anticipate and respond to Executive Orders by President Trump; and attendance of the Summit with Independent Expert Vitit Muntabhorn on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
To understand MPV’s human rights work you can look at it as carrying three buckets:

U.S.: community building, advocacy around human rights issues that are distinctively American. In other words, unlike other Muslim organizations in America, we don’t address “Muslim” issues but social issues that affect all Americans, such as:  women’s reproductive rights; making sure SOGI, and not just race, ethnicity, and religion, are included in anti-discrimination laws; fair-sentencing of youth whereby any crimes committed under 18 still have the chance of payroll, and separation of religion and State.

U.N.: our work here is focused on promoting Islamic human rights language to counter many of the human rights abuses perpetrated in the name of Sharia law by Muslim majority countries through the UPR processes, forums, panels and in partnerships with concerned stakeholders.

MPV International Chapters: they are founded and their agendas are driven by local needs with the support of MPV. We lift up like-minded Muslims, create communities, counter extreme and violent theological bases for discrimination with education, forums and workshops.

The last few weeks have been very challenging and in the worst of times, it brings out the best of people. Upon my return from Geneva at the international airport in Los Angeles, there was a thunderous chant of #NoBanNoWall, protesting President Trump’s Executive Order freezing admission of Syrian refugees and the issuing of visas from seven Muslim-majority countries. The crowd was also made up lawyers holding up signs volunteering themselves for pro bono service to any families held up by authorities. It brought me to tears. It was the best of humanity.

The month of January was a roller coaster of emotions — exhausting, exhilarating, infuriating and invigorating — all rolled up into one.
For every ugly threatening email and phone call we received, 10 times more cards, phone calls and emails of love and support from complete strangers came our way.
Moving forward I will be writing personal notes to you in my attempt to keep you abreast of our works within the context of progressive Islam. 

Karima Bennoune, the UN Special Rapporteur for cultural rights, will be giving her report at the Human Rights Council March 1st between 4-6 pm. In conjunction with this report, MPV in partnership with AWID will be co-organizing a side panel entitled “Facing the Global Avalanche of Hate: The Impact of Fundamentalism and Extremism on Cultural Rights” on March 3rd, 2017. Please pencil in these dates with more details forthcoming.  
  • Celebration of Life
  • MPV Los Angeles
  • MPV Wash. DC
  • MPV Atlanta
  • MPV Netherlands
  • MPV Advocacy
  • In the News
Quick links:

Progressive Muslim values are universal human values. Support our work at home and abroad with a tax-deducible contribution today. Thank you!

Celebration of Life at CBS Studios

Celebration of Life 2017, our annual fundraiser, was a resounding success with lots of tears and laughter thanks to the contribution of special guests Jay Abdo, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Bassem Youssef, Michael Alexander (Grand Performances), U.N. Special Rapporteur for cultural rights Karima Bennoune, Ramy Ben Othman (co-founder of MPV’s sister organization Coexistence), youth representative Jasmine Zonneveld, and with comedian Mona Shaikh as Mistress of Ceremony. Check out photos and videos of the event here.

MPV at Women's Marches
The Women’s March took place in Los Angeles on January 21st. Three additional MPV member chapters participated in the Women's March, in Washington DC, Atlanta and London, taking part in this global protest against misogyny and discrimination in response to the inauguration of President Trump.
MPV and the Feminist Majority
With the nomination of Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch, MPV was invited to make a statement at a press conference hosted by Feminist Majority. Watch MPV’s president’s statement here.  

January 6th: Several members of our community came out in support of the book talk/signing with Omar Saif Ghobash who currently serves as the UAE’s ambassador to Russia. Ghobash spoke about his book Letters to a Young Muslim.

Revolution was the topic of our halaqa in Maryland, an Islamic perspective on revolution. MPV-DC members met to discuss the topic of revolution and particularly the Islamic perspective on revolution. We discussed the different views within the Shia and Sunni communities on revolution. We also discussed the Islamic perspective on reform vs. revolution.

January 20th: Several members of MPV-DC attended  the LGBTQ Inauguration Shabbat Service at the Edlavich Jewish Community Center. A member of our community was a speaker at the panel discussion hosted by the center at the beginning of the event, before the service. The panel included a few other people who all spoke on the issues of interfaith harmony and what is expected in the next four years under the Trump administration. After the beautiful service, everyone networked over refreshments.

January 23-24: Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a proposed amendment to the Constitution designed to guarantee equal rights to women. MPV-DC joined several other groups in a strategy luncheon session followed by an ERA lobby day on Capitol Hill with women and men divided into teams that went door to door, speaking to various Congressional staff members about the ERA.

January 25: We gathered with numerous other Muslims and non-Muslims in downtown DC to rally against Trump’s recent executive order related to the ban on Muslims.

1. MPV-Atlanta Organizing
a. MPV-Atlanta had its first organizing meeting of the year. It is planning an MPV-focused panel in March to speak to issues facing the Atlantan community.
b. MPV-Atlanta will also be planning a self-care weekend for its community, as well as an intrafaith panel. Please email kelly@mpvatlanta.org for more information and/or to volunteer.

Feb. 11: Atlanta Jewish Film Festival (AJFF)

2. MPV-Atlanta will attend the opening night of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival as guests of the organizers. We will also introduce the film “In-Between” about three Palestinian women navigating their lives while still interacting with their traditions. Tickets can be purchased here. For a promotional code discount, please email kelly@mpvatlanta.org. We are a co-sponsor of the AJFF Young Professionals Night, which includes a screening of “Family Commitments,” which is a film about a same-sex Arab-Israeli couple living in Germany. Tickets can be purchased at this link. Check out the Facebook event for more information.
3. Connect 2017 - MPV-Atlanta participated in the Connect 2017 conference at the University of Georgia sponsored by its LGBT Resource Center. The conference was a one-day event centered on the LGBTQIA community, creating solidarity, and community building. Amina Abdul-Jalil of MPV-Atlanta was a featured speaker in a session entitled “The Rainbow Hijabi - A Queer Muslim Woman in Post-Pulse America.” Click to see a video of the presentation.

4. MPV-Atlanta participated in the solidarity march at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for those affected by the U.S. executive order on immigrants. MPV-Atlanta has also provided network support to those affected by the order through our partnerships with immigration and refugee support organizations. If you need assistance, please contact kelly@mpvatlanta.org.

Commission on the Status of Women (CSW)
MPV Nederland is deeply engaged with local and global human rights processes. In that capacity, it has contributed to the Dutch Civil Society Recommendations for the CSW61 (Commission on the Status of Women) which initially unfortunately, did not particularly focus on religious minorities and other marginalized groups. Therefore, MPV Nederland has proposed the following recommendations in line with MPV’s position statements and UPR Stakeholder Reports:

  • Call on Member States to recognize and acknowledge the dramatic impact of global increases in polarisation and racist, Islamophobic, sexist and xenophobic attitudes on the physical and economical mobility of religious minorities and other marginalized groups and the intersectional discrimination that is affecting them both in access to the labour market and in the workplace.
  • Promote the increase of the number of Member States who have ratified and made operational the Optional Protocol of the ICESCR.
  • Call on Member States to develop and implement gender-sensitive policies and systematic strategies to address root causes of intersecting forms of discrimination and exercise greater measures to prevent and suppress manifestations of racism, xenophobia and intolerance against minority groups.
  • Call on Member States to recognize the global increase in single motherhood, a trend expected to only further increase. Member States must develop and implement policies and programs that address the special challenges of single mothers in economic participation including disproportional poverty and social stigma. This includes in-work benefit policies, care services dedicated, and improving access to education for single mothers.

Furthermore, MPV Nederland has made the vital contribution that “while adamantly affirming cultural rights are rightfully recognized as an integral part of human rights, culture, religion and tradition should never be an excuse to deny any individual their fundamental human rights." This way, MPV Nederland is able to raise the importance of faith-based feminism and progressive religious stances to the broader Civil Society and UN-bodies.

MPV’s UPR Report on the Kingdom of the Netherlands
MPV has submitted a review for the Universal Periodic Review of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, demonstrating that that polarisation of popular public opinions have exacerbated racist, Islamophobic, and xenophobic attitudes in the Netherlands and that such attitudes have facilitated civil, political, economic, social, and cultural discrimination against actual or perceived Muslims, refugees and asylum seekers, non-Western immigrants, women, and LGBTQI-demographics. The report can now be found here.

Bimonthly Inclusive Jum’a in the Netherlands!
MPV Nederland is very excited to announce that we will start to hold bimonthly inclusive Friday prayers, in shaa’Allah!
We’ve teamed up with Inclusive Mosque Initiative to offer a jum’a service in which (gender) diversity is valued and celebrated. We aim to create an inclusive space that welcomes all people; those who seek a peaceful, enriching spiritual environment to worship and remember Allah or are interested in inter-faith dialogue.
Keep checking our Facebook page or email info@mpvnederland for the exact dates and location. 
This is a letter submitted by 70 reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations, including MPV, in strong opposition to the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions as United States Attorney General.

As a result of years of collaboration with many national organizations on various issues, MPV is often the go-to organization on progressive issues. It is this sort of trust that resulted in 90 organizations signing on to a letter to legislators: to urge you to support core principles of the First Amendment and religious freedom in our country by denouncing anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy proposals.

Russian TV: MPV's President Ani Zonneveld
Zonneveld on the Muslim Ban on Ed Schultz Show, Jan. 30, 2017.
Interview with Estee Chandler on Middle East in Focus "Challenging Intolerant teachings within Muslim communities", KPFK 90.7 FM, Jan. 8th, 2017.