Countering Extremism and Highlighting Diversity

MPV President Ani Zonneveld speaks with US Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) at an MPV event.

Exclusion seems to be at the root of many forms of extremism, whether religious, cultural, political, or otherwise. The growing and increasingly influential group Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) hopes to shift extremist attitudes among North American Muslims through their latest initiative, Literary Zikr. Co-founded as a non-profit by Ani Zonneveld in 2007, the group aims to counter Islamic radicalization of North American youth by presenting the work of progressive Muslim scholars in a simple and accessible format.

MPV, law enforcement officials, and academics all agree that Islamic extremists constitute a small percentage of Muslims in North America or anywhere, but MPV and other groups believe that addressing this problem, although small in numbers, is incredibly important and is the primary responsibility of Muslim communities themselves. Zonneveld explains:

We as Muslims should all be working together to counter radicalism… There are many within the [Muslim North American] community that are in denial. You bring up the word ‘radicalism’ and people immediately become defensive. If you’re silent, you’re just as guilty.

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The Voices of Arab Youth

Egyptian Protesters Photo: Felipe Trueba/EPA

From the Tunisian fruit vendor’s desperate last act to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, Arab youth–both Muslim and Christian–have demonstrated their intolerance for the status quo. A new level of youth engagement in Arab politics has taken shape, and the images of these massive demonstrations have disproved a consistent, and largely western fear of Islamic extremism overtaking most young Muslim minds in the Middle East.

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