Some weeks back, I decided to nominate NewMatilda.com for the prize of "Media Outlet of the Year" as part of Mission of Hope's Austrlian Muslim Achievement Awards.
In my nomination, I noted that this news and commentary website had provided an outlet for numerous emerging Muslim voices to comment on a range of issues affecting Australia and the world. Among the Muslim voices heard in NewMatilda.com were Mohammed El-Leissy, Sarah Malik and Saeed Saeed.
The judges of AMAA clearly didn't regard NewMatilda.com as being a suitable recipient of this award, preferring to instead shortlist MuslimVillage.net, a site known less for encouraging and more for silencing emerging and critical Muslim voices on its forums.
Perhaps the real reason the AMAA judges decided against shortlisting NewMatilda.com is because it published an article containing these remarks:
The Council's last major initiative, earlier this month, was to prepare a petition complaining about an undergraduate course taught by an academic at the Centre for Excellence in Islamic Studies. The course, Women in Arabic & Islamic Literature, has earned the ire of the Council because it allegedly doesn't reflect "normative" understandings of gender relations in Islamic sacred law. The lecturer, Dr Samar Habib, has written extensively on homosexuality in the Middle East.
Why would ANIC expect a course on Arabic literature to necessarily reflect "normative" understandings of Islamic sacred law? Is this a course on law or on literature? Don't they understand the concept of academic freedom?
Even more concerning is that the petition is being distributed by a person who moderates a popular Muslim youth internet forum. This person has previously used her position to promote among Muslim youth the work of North American "scientists" who allege that
homosexuality is a disease that can be cured.
Muslims aren't the only religious congregation to frown on homosexuality or to struggle with gay believers. But when religious leaders become captive of persons promoting homophobia through bad science, it's something we should all be concerned about.
And who is the person distributing the said petition? Why none other than the President of MoH!
Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf
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