09/01/2016 01:47 EDT | Updated 09/01/2016 04:59 EDT

Critics Must Join Progressive Muslims For Effective change

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Women wearing headscarves under umbrella

My articles are based on a hermeneutic that is religiously plural, atheist inclusive and LGBTQ affirming. Yet, time and again, I have received strong responses from those critical of faith and Islam. Shahla Khan Salter of Universalist Muslims and Kelly Wentworth of Muslims for Progressive Values have also experienced scathing responses.

Ignoring socio-economic and political factors, the critics simplistically blame all the ills in the Muslim world on Islam. Ignoring Muslims who consistently speak out against tyranny perpetrated in the name of their faith, they harp about the absence of Muslim voices.

They call for change in Islam just as there has been change in Christianity and Judaism. Yet, the efforts of progressive Muslims for them are either ridiculously based on taqiyya (precautionary dissimulation in the face of persecution) or at best ineffectual.

Gold Member from Austin Powers has an apt line, "well, then there is no pleasing you."

The objective of Shahla, Kelly and I is not to appease the critics. Our role is to uphold human dignity and justice against salvific exclusivism. We support spaces that allow for multiple paths to goodness and which include all. This universality is also captured in our "Allah Loves Us All" video series.

We have and will continue to speak out on human rights and animal rights, against repressive regimes, for LGBTQ affirmation and gender equality, in support of atheists and religious minorities, against anti-Semitism, for positive sex-education and against hate mongors who hide in the guise of religious leaders.

Change is not brought by constant negativity, by building walls and demeaning others.

It is easy to be an armchair critic, pontificating from a distance. It is much more effective to actually be on the ground working towards change. It is our consistent small efforts through blogs, videos, community initiatives and gatherings that build up towards effective change.

The historic breaking of bread of the Muslim and LGBTQ communities in Toronto is a testament of that change. It brought together Muslim, LGBTQ and Muslim LGBTQ leaders like Jeewan Chanicka, Douglas Kerr and El-Farouk Khaki respectively. Efforts are underway to bring these communities together in Edmonton as well.

Shahla, Kelly and I reject a tribal deity, whose sole objective is subjugation. We are interested in unraveling the values of empathy and spiritual chivalry that get buried under heaps of rituals and traditions. Like Rev. Gretta Vosper, we are more interested in how we live instead of what we believe.

We believe no one has a monopoly on truth. While we respect 1400 years of Islamic scholarship, we also acknowledge that such a rich line of inquiry cannot be frozen in a past time, context and location. An abiding faith remains alive and addresses contemporary realities with the eternal principles of human dignity, compassion and justice.

Change is not brought by constant negativity, by building walls and demeaning others. It comes when we are willing to look within, by breaking walls and through listening to one another.

We hope our critics will recognize the significance of our work and instead of adopting divisive tactics, join us in our efforts towards making history. Instead of adding to constant cyber negativity, they have the choice to join us in our relentless efforts to love one another.

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