WASHINGTON (RNS) A Muslim organization is working to counter radicalization by providing the work of progressive Islam scholars online in simple, youth-friendly language.
Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), a nonprofit group that has established liberal Muslim communities in the U.S. and Canada, created the “Literary Zikr” website to provide an alternative to the fundamentalist versions of Islam that pervade the Internet.
“We take the scholarship and present it to the people,” said Yarehk Hernandez, a board member of MPV.
The project, named after the Islamic word for remembrances of God, is geared toward ages 13 to 25, when youth “are formulating their ideas about religious identity and culture,” Hernandez said.
By adapting the work of renowned scholars to a Q-and-A format at an eighth-grade reading level, Hernandez hopes the website will “cut through the clutter” of the Internet.
Currently, the website features pieces on Shariah (Islamic law) and sexuality, with more pieces on governance, pluralism, and women’s rights soon to come.
“The scholarship has to present progressive ideology, like separation of church and state as something that is fundamental for a true Islamic society,” Hernandez said.
Speaking at a Monday (Oct. 24) fundraiser for the group, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim elected to Congress, said: “It’s very important to expand the basis of information and understanding, and I’m just proud they’re doing it,” said Ellison.
He referred to traditional sayings of the Prophet Muhammad that exalt knowledge, such as “The ink of a scholar is more precious than the blood of a martyr.”
For Fatima Price-Khan, 32, the Literary Zikr fundraiser was her first MPV event. Shortly after she converted to Islam 14 years ago, she said, “neo-orthodox rhetoric” became the norm in American Islam.
“If something besides that had been available at the time, it would have been very helpful,” she said.