Astride my article published in the July 2019 of Muslim Views (SEE PART 1), Mahmood Sanglay wrote a riposte (copied below and probably best to read it first). Aside from his personal attack on me, Sanglay exposes himself even further as being in cahoots with the Gatesville Mosque committee. Even evidently factual errors don’t earn his apology or correction. One only wonders what the editor of this paper really does to uphold its standards, however low they may be. I would imagine the role of an editor to be more than a mere collator or articles or engaged in lay-out.
Here is my response to Sanglay, which the editor, Farid Sayed, refused to publish. My correspondence with the editor is copied below – much of which is not worth a read because it is the usual patronizing bullshit, such as ‘I will discuss it with my team”.
HERE IS MY ARTICLE:
How Mahmood Sanglay and Muslim Views massacre the truth, defend sexual predators, and promote misogyny in the Muslim community
Muslim View’s (MV) veneer of objectivity is against challenged in transposing a disingenuous and obfuscatory editorial response next to my article, that was a rejoinder to a published article by Mahmood Sanglay. My direct WhatsApp response to the writer was: “I wonder what is more irredeemably foolish; your initial article or your puerile response”. This was provoked by the venomous introduction to the article that sets the tone for what follows: “Anything can be called veneer when you do a superficial critique and spew rhetoric instead of substance”. So obviously Sanglay doesn’t take criticism well, even if my article was based on a factual response to his original piece which was riddled with flawed logic. This missive is not to prove any point, but to ensure that an honest record is available to the public and posterity.
- The venom aside, Sanglay begins with a patently illogical statement, and then regresses therefrom. His excuse for lack of coverage of the Nouman Ali Khan (NAK) issue in the Ramadan edition, when this subject exercised the minds and emotions of the community is: ‘MV is a monthly publication and print news coverage in the age of social media may have been superfluous …”. No rational explanation follows this bizarre assertion, but it could well serve as an argument for MV’s irrelevance. However, it also contrasts with the editor’s proffered reason for delayed publication to my colleague, which is that Sanglay wanted time to interview more people in order to write the article. For the record Sanglay interviewed two people for the article and NAK refused an interview; all the other quotes were culled from internet sources.
- The next level of cringe-worthiness is where Sanglay gets a simple fact concerning the number of signatories to the letter to Gatesville Mosque spectacularly wrong, which he claims he gleaned from social media. The number at the time of him writing the story was three times what he quotes and did not subsequently increase as he claims. Fact-checking is a basic duty of a journalist and all it required was a simple phone call to confirm. He simply got it wrong and the editor should humbly acknowledge it rather than permit a silly excuse.
- Sanglay then attempts to underplay his relationship with the Academia Library, which saw fit to host NAK and created a conflict for him, as merely a ‘volunteer’. The Library’s information brochure describes him as one of its founders and as an “advisor to the Library on policy and operational issues”. Given his controversial history, one would be concerned if NAK’s invitation to the Library did not involve a policy discussion.
- His tepid attempt at providing an explanation as to why he reserves the highest appellation ‘respected scholar’ only for one of NAK’s supporters and not his critics, is pure bluster. And his rationale for using the term ‘activists’ to describe the others remains unconvincing. In the public mind ‘respected scholar’ and ‘activists’ conjures widely differing perceptions, particular when counterposed and which Sanglay deliberately plays into.
- Sanglay compounds his conceptual confusion by misrepresenting what I wrote. Or it could be his inability to understand the conceptual differences. I essentially stated that the term ‘progressive neo-liberalism’, which he uses in the article, is a contradiction of terms and that the #MeToo movement is a radical project. Neo-liberalism is never progressive is my simple point. He traverses an alternate ‘straw-woman’ trajectory by invoking ‘neo-liberal feminism’, and ‘liberal feminism’ with the claim that this form of feminism can play into the agenda of neoliberalism. I have no disagreement with that but that was not my point. Thus, he evades my argument by culling an irrelevant quote from the internet. Sanglay would have understood better if he had attempted a closer reading of my article.
- Despite his protestations my argument is sustained: which is that he centres perpetrators of ‘gender-based-violence’ in his article and not victims. He hasn’t proven otherwise. His entire article uses NAK as the subject, attempting to exonerate him from his exploitation of vulnerable women. Nowhere do the women become the main subject of his arguments nor viewing the narrative from their vantage point. The evidence is not ‘thin’, it is writ large in his article.
- Related to that Sanglay again misrepresents in characteristically sloppy fashion: “Women’s voices are absent in the article says Manjra”. What I did say was that ‘women’s voices are largely absent from Sanglay’s article”. He quotes from the internet, a single woman from the organisation “In Shaykh’s Clothing” but does not interview a single South African woman where this debate is alive and who form the bulk of the signatories to the letter. So again, my argument is sustained that ‘woman’s voices are largely absent in his article’. Our signatories include women who daily deal with women victims of gender-based-violence (GBV), who are most certainly worthy of providing perspective if only Sanglay saw it fit to interview them.
- His argument about formal process is simply silly. When a constituted body of people come together to engage a subject of common concern, listen to evidence from the accused and accusers given voluntarily, document the evidence, interrogate the evidence, provide a finding and a ‘sanction’, this in most definitions would constitute a formal process. Except for Sanglay, since it does not fit his narrative or his fossilized thinking. This could be called an inquiry, a mediation, a hearing; whatever it is called, it constitutes a formal process. Even if Sanglay does not want to define it as a ‘formal’ process, the absence of a universally accepted process (and there never will be one) should not stymie investigations into sexual abuse. Any process with integrity should be welcomed.
- Sanglay is perhaps unaware of the current debates and various approaches to investigate GBV, largely thrust to the fore by the #MeToo movement. Most seek safe spaces for women to recount their experiences and provide evidence thereby not subjecting them to compounded trauma through public spectacle. There is broad consensus among progressive movements regarding mechanisms to investigate sexual violence, which is what NAK is accused of. “Spiritual abuse”, a term Sanglay prefers is nebulous which detracts from and seeks to undermine the seriousness of GBV.
Here again Sanglay demonstrates his conceptual fragility, where he creates a Manichean dichotomy between a ‘victim-centred approach’ and that of an ‘evidence-based and due process approach’ – in essence arguing that a ‘victim-centred approach’ is devoid of due process or evidence. This is untrue. Of course, there may be disagreements on concepts such as ‘reverse onus’, but that should not detract from its tremendous value in seeking justice for abused women. Sanglay should acknowledge his ignorance in this respect and engage with experts in this field who will edify and sensitise him to issues around GBV and mechanisms to deal with them. I personally was edified by direct engagement with experts in cases involving organisations I was associated with.
10. Close to his nadir, Sanglay makes the bizarre statement that I should engage those anonymous sources within ‘the collective’ whom he quotes. There are two problems: an anonymous source is … well anonymous. And secondly there is no collective, just a list of signatories who align themselves to the broad statement. But this is a deflection from what I wrote concerning him quoting anonymous sources and not the main drivers of the petition.
11. He hits the bottom when he states there was no need to interview those who initiated the petition because all is made plain in the statement. Now it is strange for a journalist not to wish to get a deeper understanding of the issues, all of which cannot be captured in a statement. Or to interrogate the assertions in a statement. Or to understand the motivations that lie behind the action. Or to challenge the assumptions made in the statement. One can only wonder how he arrived at this position – perhaps it threatened his predetermined narrative.
12. Sanglay then betrays his agenda and strange logic when he accuses me of belligerence, in contrast to his positive characterization of the Musjdul Quds committee ‘who express an interest in supporting victims of spiritual abuse”. One can only wonder how Sanglay is privy to these views of the mosque committee which incidentally he doesn’t quote in his article. But Sanglay seems oblivious to any sense of irony in supporting a mosque committee that deliberately hosts a sexual predator while proclaiming support for ‘victims of spiritual abuse’. Most importantly however, and something Sanglay ignores is that what he terms my ‘belligerence’ was informed by three factors: the first is that the mosque committee acted in bad faith in their engagement with us. Secondly, I have documented correspondence from them spurning any efforts at engagement. Thirdly, during this time they used the pulpit to attack us with no right of reply. So perhaps Sanglay should be more circumspect before pronouncing judgement, particularly when he is ignorant of context or which could have been provided to him if he engaged us.
Finally, Sanglay can spare me his patronizing sermon which he dispenses in his conclusion. He should rather spend his energy improving his honesty, integrity and journalistic skills. That would serve him, the paper and the community much better.
02 July 2019
CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN FARID SAYED (EDITOR OF MUSLIM VIEW AND ME)
From: Manjra, Shuaib
Sent: Tuesday, July 2, 2019 3:58 PM
To: ‘Farid Sayed’ <email@example.com>
Cc: Toyer Nakidien <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: NAK Musilm Views 2.docx
Herewith my response to Sanglay’s piece in the MV. I believe that it is necessary to provide an honest perspective.
You may be disinclined to publish, as you may want to kill this story further. However I feel that this topic is critical for the community and to keep the discussion alive.
I wonder if Sanglay had interviewed the mosque committee whether they would invite NAK again. I would be surprised if they did, since he left few friends when he left our shores. The mosque committee decided to cut all ties with him at their indaba – so I am reliably informed by a number of sources. Of course that bears no relevance to our primary concerns, but is important supporting information.
On 10 Jul 2019, at 7:05 AM, Manjra, Shuaib wrote:
Salaam Alaykum Farid
I trust you are well.
I have not received an acknowledgement of receipt, nor an indication whether the attached piece, sent to you over a week ago, will be considered for publication in the next edition of the Muslim Views.
Of course it is your prerogative to publish or not, but I expect some acknowledgement or receipt and/or whether it will be published.
I am not attempting to pressure you, but I will publish elsewhere, but felt honour-bound to give you the first right of refusal.
The NAK articles on my Blog has attracted nearly 6000 visitors/readers – from around the world.
I am also curious that your latest edition is still not uploaded on your website – either as the full paper or the individual articles.
From: Farid Sayed <email@example.com>
Sent: Wednesday, July 10, 2019 12:38 PM
To: Manjra, Shuaib
Cc: Mogamat Toyer Nakidien <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: NAK Musilm Views 2.docx
Assalaamu alaykum Shuaib
I am well, Alhamdulillah, and hope you too are well.
My apologies for not responding earlier. We, the editorial team, did discuss your response to Mahmood Sangaly and I was asked to convey the team’s decision.
We have decided to close correspondence related to the Nouman Ali Khan visit. So you may certainly go ahead and publish on your Blog.
Thanks for alerting me to the absence of the latest edition from our website. The PDF was supposed to have been loaded last; I will follow with the person assisting me.
I am actually fighting hard to dedicate more time to the website but at this stage, with a limited staff complement, it is a bit tough. But I am working on it!
All the best,
16 July 2019
I apologise for the belated response, as I was again travelling overseas for cricket matters and returned yesterday.
I note your response and must admit my disappointment. While I respect your prerogative as editor to choose what to publish and what not to publish, I believe nonetheless that good faith must always prevail.
I will give you just one example of bad faith, which can empirically be demonstrated – not a matter of perspective or opinion. Mahmood got the number of signatories to the Gatesville letter spectacularly wrong. All it required of him a your ‘senior journalist’ or you as editor, is to admit the error, apologise for it and then state why you got it so wrong. All there was, was a miserably lame excuse with no correction or apology. It is a simply example, but a generalisable demonstration of bad faith. And a silly stubbornness not to concede an inch.
I see the PDF was loaded which I required for my future postings on this matter.
16 July 2019
Thank you for your email and have noted your concerns.
I will discuss the matter with my team.
MAHMOOD SANGLAY’S RIPOSTE TO MY ORIGINAL ARTICLE
ANYTHING can be called veneer when you do a superficial critique and spew rhetoric instead of substance. This is why Dr Shuaib Manjra’s rhetoric fails to prove bias.
Muslim Views is a monthly publication and print news coverage in the age of social media would have been superfluous in the May/ Ramadaan edition. That is why we opted for analysis after Khan’s visit. It was simply a practical decision. And our coverage in the June/ Eid-ul-Fitr edition shows we did not ignore the issue, as Manjra alleges.
The editorial offers context for coverage of an unusual story of allegations of spiritual abuse against an individual. Manjra labels contextualisation as apology. With clever-looking rhetoric any kind of labelling is possible. Placement and space allocation of the two articles was not only subject to editorial discretion. It was also a function of planning and editorial deadlines. In the interests of fairness and balance Professor Shaikh’s piece was accommodated even though it was submitted after deadline and exceeded the word count initially agreed upon.
The 29 signatories of the letter to Masjidul Quds appeared on a social media post at the time of writing the story, although this number may have increased subsequently.
My association with Academia Library as volunteer is a fact. That I played no role in Khan’s participation in the library’s programme is also a fact. Both these facts are irrelevant to the story and therefore their disclosure is not required. However, rhetoric enables Manjra to manipulate two facts and deploy the aphorism ‘skin in the game’ to arrive at a dubious conclusion.
The term ‘activists’ is used as a collective for all the signatories of diverse backgrounds. What they share in common is their support for the social call to action in the letter they signed, hence they are activists. The members of the two panels are referred to as ‘leading Muslims’ and details of their respective titles and professional credentials are provided. This reflects a record of fact as well as respect for the panellists and their competency. Yet Manjra argues I reserve ‘respected scholar’ for Dr Nadwi. More thin rhetoric.
The term progressive neoliberalism is not a false construct as stated by Manjra. Like neoliberal feminism it is addressed as a subject in academic papers by leading critical theorists, feminists, political and social scientists and philosophers. The academic Nancy Fraser and others argue that ‘liberal feminism supplies a progressive sheen for neoliberalism’.
Manjra alleges that I centre the perpetrators of gender-based violence (GBV). His evidence for the allegation remains, at best thin rhetoric, at worst none. Muslim Views is not a platform for perpetrators of GBV.
Manjra argues that I confuse mediation, adjudication, arbitration and the levels of evidence required for these processes as opposed to that for civil and for criminal cases. He claims he read the article closely, yet he misses the key point: there is no clarity on what process the panels adopted, hence the series of questions posed to them, which they chose not to answer.
This points to the fundamental problem of two apparently contending approaches to the issue: that of a victim-centred approach as opposed to that of an evidence-based and due process approach. Manjra’s allegation that I confuse the processes is wrong because there is at present no broad consensus on process for dealing with spiritual abuse by Muslim leaders.
Above all, the panel of six concedes that there is a vacuum of adequate mechanisms of accountability for Muslims in public service. Manjra is disingenuous in attributing the confusion to me instead of the absence of adequate mechanisms of accountability.
About withholding the identity of the victims: there are perfectly legitimate reasons why this is done in the case of Khan. There may also be instances where greater scrutiny is required to ensure that the protection of anonymity accorded to victims is not abused. Hence the question is relevant. Offence is not intended. Nor should it be contrived, as Manjra does.
Manjra insists the two panels engaged in formal processes and made formal findings. Not so. The panel explicitly states it addressed the accusers and the accused. Then the panel confirms the allegations are true. Nowhere in that statement is there any reference to a formal process or a formal finding, not even to any report. No matter how much Manjra chooses to ignore this, he cannot conjure a formal process out of a statement that does not admit to one.
Manjra’s problems with the anonymous signatories, who have reservations with the process, are his own. He should address it inside that collective and not with Muslim Views. Those who initiated the petition against Khan made plain their case in the petition, hence there was no need to interview them. Manjra’s question about my attempt to delegitmise the petition betrays his insecurity that he needs to deal with.
Women’s voices are absent in the article says Manjra. The panel of six consists of four women, each one of whom was directly approached for comment. They all declined. The co-founder of In Shaykh’s Clothing is a professional woman. She is named and quoted in the article.
It is telling that Manjra completely ignores the position of this project launched specifically to address spiritual abuse in the Muslim world. In Shaykh’s Clothing says the Khan case was ‘grossly mishandled’, yet Manjra fails to respond.
It is evident that Manjra’s belligerent rhetoric drives away parties, like the Masjidul Quds committee, who express an interest in supporting victims of spiritual abuse and who also feel strongly about holding Muslim leaders accountable. Besides signatories, there are others who disapprove of Manjra’s hostile and dogmatic style but are silenced by his labelling.
This is beyond the fiqh disagreement. It is about its spirit, particularly in an environment where we have common cause for two important reasons: firstly, to provide security and justice for victims of spiritual abuse; secondly, to root out this scourge by holding the perpetrators of spiritual abuse accountable. By labelling and alienating people who don’t agree with his approach, Manjra is responsible for undermining what ought to be a safe and open space for conversation about this very important topic.