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Islamic Social Justice Warriors: A Riddle Wrapped in an Enigma

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Can Muslim women achieve equality and “social justice” within the traditional confines of Islam? A new program at New York City’s Union Theological Seminary (UTS), the Islam Social Justice Interreligious Engagement Program (ISJIE), held an inaugural panel discussion that tried to reconcile these two irreconcilable ideas.

Like the panel, the audience of approximately 100 represented no coherent philosophy. One young man wore a “gay pride” T-shirt, despite the fact that gay rights are nonexistent in the Muslim world. The crowd, diverse by race, age, and ethnicity, was ideologically monolithic. They appeared to be either leftists ascribing qualities of tolerance and inclusion to Islam, or those who would use leftists to advance a decidedly backward agenda.

After recommending the Twitter hashtag “#MuslimWomenInAction,” moderator Jerusha T. Lamptey, assistant professor of Islam and ministry and ISJIE program advisor at UTS, announced that the program would focus on “social justice issues, such as incarceration, climate change, [and] economic inequality, not just Islamophobia.”

Lamptey asked, “Can you be a scholar and an activist? Do our institutions permit us to be both?” In fact, institutions become havens for activism only when academic activists alter their scholarly missions.

Declaring ISJIE’s goal as the spread of social justice within the parameters of Islam, Lamptey encouraged the audience to ponder, “How . . . we cultivate a cadre of people” into action?

The first speaker, Amina Wadud, professor emeritus of Islamic studies and visiting scholar at the Starr King School of the Ministry, a Unitarian Universalist and multireligious seminary in Berkeley, California, described her personal journey through several religions before eventually stumbling onto Islam.

Read more at Jihad Watch.


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