From Omid Safi, "The times they are a-changin'--a Muslim quest for justice, gender equality, and pluralism", in Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender, and Pluralism, Omid Safi, ed. (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2003), pp. 1-29.
It is our hope that the book you hold in your hand marks a new chapter in the rethinking of Islam in the twenty-first century. Our aim has been to envision a socially and politically active Islamic identity that remains committed to ideals of social justice, pluralism, and gender equality. The aim here is not to advocate our own understanding as uniquely "Islamic" to the exclusion of the past fourteen hundred years of Islamic thought and practice. This is not a tyrannical attempt to insist that standing here at the threshold of the twenty-first century, we finally "got it right"! No, warts and all, from its glorious nobility to misogyny, there has always been a spectrum of interpretations in Islam. We seek to locate ourselves as part of that broader conversation, not to collapse the spectrum.
But ours is not a passive, relativist locating of our own voices. Being progressive also means to issue an active and dynamic challenge to those who hold exclusivist, violent, and misogynist interpretations. Traditions do not arrive from heaven fully formed, but are subject to the vicissitudes of human history. Ever tradition is always a tradition-in-becoming, and Islam is no exception. Our aim is to open up a place in the wider spectrum of Islamic thought and practice for the many Muslims who aspire to justice and pluralism. This will entail both producing concrete intellectual products and changing existing social realities.
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