Why I Started MECCA Institute

I started this nonprofit organization to help expand progressive Islamic theology through education and research, partner with other organizations, and support an inclusive Muslim community.

Mecca Institute is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to expand progressive Islamic theology through education and research. Mecca Institute could have originated as a for-profit online school venture, however, this is not about money making. Mecca Institute’s goal is the sharing of Islamic knowledge and mobilizing scholars who support our purpose to build inclusive communities.

Mecca Institute has been living in me since I first converted to Islam in China. In China, I met Muslims whose families had been Muslim longer than some Arabs, and I had the chance to pray in some of the oldest mosques in the world. The Islam that I met and fell in love with in China, even though it was in a country that was deeply repressive, was much more open than the Islam I would meet in Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. I spent about three years in China and I spent about seven years in the Middle East, but it was when I came back to the United States that I realized the importance of fighting for a kinder, gentler Islam. That is exactly what progressive Islam is.

Progressive Islamic theology is nothing new, and has been around since the beginning of Islam. Education and research are ways in which to gain greater intellectual freedom. In our modern world, the medium of communication and technology provides an experience that brings input from around the world. Mecca Institute has agreements with teachers from diverse geographic locations, making it possible to share knowledge without being located in one physical locale unlike it was in the Islamic Golden Age. Utilizing modern Internet technologies, whether it is computers, tablets or smart phones, the pathway to enter a new expansive Islamic Golden Age is upon us.

Just like the Internet’s freedom has made us a smaller community globally, education and research should also be free. Unfortunately, we live in a society where education and research are influenced by one particular vision or understanding of Islam – Wahabism. Wahabists fund both Muslim institutions, like mosques, as well as mainstream institutions such as universities and centers of higher learning. Therefore, providing alternatives to this growing form of Islamism is taking a stand against this major threat towards intellectual freedom within an Islamic theological context.

Mecca Institute is a reflection of our times. It is a progressive, inclusive organization that is bringing together individuals from all over the world to help create a collective community that reflects our viewpoints.

I hope that you value an Islam that is kinder, gentler, and that you will join me in making Mecca Institute a reality. Together I am confident we can make our world a better and safer place.

Daayiee Abdullah is the Executive Director of  MECCA Institute, a progressive Islamic institute with a think tank and a school.

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