B U L L E T I N

PLEASE VISIT www.CenterforPluralism.com for all information

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Hinduism and Islam

Comparing Hinduism & Islam
Mike Ghouse 02/27/07


This is incredible!

Dr. Zakir Naik brings out the things that are common between Hinduism and Islam. This kind of understanding is crucial to minimizing and keeping a check at the growth of extremism. These presentations are necessary, particularly where different people in societies live together. It seeks to minimizes the differences and bring out the commonalities.

He quotes from both the scriptures with exceptional ease, and the video also flashes text references, in case some one wants to write it down. I have checked the Qur'aan part, he is right with his verses, and I am having my Hindu friends take a look at the authenticity of the quotes from the Vedas.

He sounds more American than British in language skills and is very easy to understand. The words come out crisp and clear.

The good news is only 1/10th of 1% of Muslims, Hindus, Christians and others are extremists. However these guys are eager to hurt others to get their point across. Thanks God, the world is blessed with 99+ % moderates. Imagine the chaos even if we had 1% of any group as extremists.

This is a number I will continue to challenge every one. You can figure the population and multiply by .001%, you will get the number. The actual extremists are less than that. Even in the extremists groups, not all of them are hard core. Put some numbers together ( Click Global list of terrorism available at: http://www.theghouseteam.com/mg/WMC_Extremism.asp )
We need to encroach into the extremist’s territory and bring them aboard, one at a time into moderation and cut that number to 1/20th of 1%. Most of them are good boys in the wrong crowd. Please remember, anomalies are part of the perfect nature. Like the Tsunamis or meteorites, we have individuals in the society, who become Tsunamis.
No one can change the hearts and minds of hard core extremists, just leave them alone and keep up with the good people.

Religious History is replete with extremists, whenever there is decay in the society, God sends humans to bring the balance back. There are many a religious wars between good and evil.

All of us need to encourage the moderates and keep their numbers stable.
You may want to ignore link # 6 and Link # 7, it is about prophecies in the Vedas, recincarnation, re-birth etc. The prophecy of Prophet Muhammad - Interesting, but too elaborate. Link # 8 Talks about Life after death, heaven and hell.

01 of 11: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdBC6J9C_fU&mode=related&search=
02 of 11: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lFZSfSplsk&mode=related&search=
03 of 11: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFztjXCrt-s&mode=related&search=
04 of 11: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6PSHFCNtow&mode=related&search=
05 of 11: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGHk2yDoRkA&mode=related&search=
06 of 11: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOG63zx0el4&mode=related&search=
07 of 11: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVkM3xrSnOs&mode=related&search=
08 of 11: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fx6xDDljSbA&mode=related&search=
09 of 11: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXgIeO9PJuc&mode=related&search=
10 of 11: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGfNname6PQ&mode=related&search=
11 of 11: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3vWqcUmCbw&mode=related&search=

Please post your comments at:
http://mikeghouse.sulekha.com/blog/post/2007/02/hinduism-islam.htm

What other things can we do to see the similarities between people, any two people.

Mike Ghouse
www.MikeGhouse.net
www.MikeGhouse.Sulekha.com
www.FoundationforPluralism.com
www.WorldMuslimcongress.com

Understanding Jainism

Understanding Jainism

Sunday, March 25, 2007 at 6 PM
Crowne Plaza Hotel, 14315 Midway Road, Addison, TX 75001
(On Midway, between Spring Valley & Belt Line).

J ainism may not be familiar to many, but it is about 8,500 year old philosophy.***(Speech of Dr. Parikh below) Dallas has a Jain temple and a new temple is being planned as well. Jainism has a very unique perspective about God and creation. Those who attend the event will gain an insight into Jainism. Part of the Mission statement of the Foundation for Pluralism was influenced by Jain philosophy of Anekant.a.vad, and Mahatma Gandhi's principles of non-violence flew from Jainism.

The Foundation for Pluralism is pleased to present an educational series on understanding the wisdom and beauty of each religion. The goal is to bring people of different faiths together and provide a platform for them to share about their beliefs, their systems and rituals, while expanding the knowledge zone of each group.

We invite Jains around the world to write a column on Jainism, with a limit of 600 words . It is difficult, but can be done. There is a magic in that number in terms of comprehension and attention. Please send the email to:: FoundationforPluralism@gmail.com

Speakers:
Dr. Vastupal Parikh and an author of books on Jainism
Dr. Pradeep Shah, teacher of Jainism in Dallas, Mike Ghouse, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas.

Q & A
Session is followed by the presentation by the speakers.
Come prepared with all the questions you may have.

The very purpose of religion is to give a sense of balance to an individual and then create that symbiotic balance between the individual and what is around him or her. Spirituality and Arrogance are inversely proportional to each other. Greater the arrogance, lower the spirituality and vice versa. Greater humility amounts to greater spirituality.

The event is a tribute to those who are willing to think beyond the box. We have planned the educational series for all the scripted established religions this year and eventually, hope to include all faiths. Just so we know the unique ways the lord is worshipped.

We hope at a few of the attendees would walk out with an open mind and an open heart towards their fellow beings. It is difficult to shed the prejudices, but once we do, there is genuine freedom (Mukti, Moksha, Salvation, Nirvana.) in it. We are committed to presenting the beauty and wisdom of each religion.

PLEASE RSVP to:ConfirmAttendance@gmail.com (it helps us plan the refreshments and seating)

We invite sponsorship for each event or any given event; your responsibility would include sharing part or full expenses for the facility, refreshments and soft drinks for attendees.

FOUNDATION FOR PLURALISM : EVENTS http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/

Abstract of the Speech by Dr. Vastupal Parikh
(March 25, 2007 at Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas, Texas)

Jainism is one of the oldest living spiritual philosophies. However, it is little known, probably because Jainism is really neither a faith nor a religion in the sense in which most of us now understand these terms.

Jains do indeed follow the teachings of the Jinas – a series of twenty four Tirthankaras, or teachers, spanning the period 8,500 BCE to 600 BCE. These Tirthankars preached that the universe governs itself by a set of natural laws, and that - everyone can shape his/her destiny. They developed a spiritual path for mastering one’s own destiny, but did not claim that they preached an unalterable truth, nor did they demand that their concept of natural theology be accepted through the mere act of faith. On the contrary, they insisted that anyone who wished to attain the enlightenment and bliss they had attained should experiment for themselves, by embarking on the suggested spiritual path and retaining what was useful and abandoning what was not. The ultimate reward is complete understanding of “Absolute Reality” and Moksha, (total liberation). Moksha empowers one’s soul with unlimited perception, knowledge, happiness, and unlimited energy. However, those who could not complete the journey would still reap the rewards of unprecedented happiness, peace, and tranquility.

Thus, Jainism is an experiment-based logical system. It shows a proven path to liberation, but advises us to develop our faith in it on the basis of personal intuition (rational vision), critical or rational study of the vision (rational knowledge), and personal experimentation and experience of the journey (rational lifestyle). These three – Rational Vision, Rational Knowledge, and Rational Lifestyle – form the core of Jainism and are called ‘the Three Jewels.”

Jain philosophy is classified as ‘natural theology’ because its world vision is based on a self-governing Nature (or Universe) as a superpower. Its laws and natural principles apply not just for humans and not just locally, but far beyond throughout the entire universe. The universe in this vision consists of six eternal entities - Soul, Matter, Space, Time, the Principle of Change and the Principle of Resistance to change (stability). Every thing in the universe results from the natural interaction of these six entities. Every living being (regardless of its form) is a soul entangled with matter, and ‘moksha’ (liberation) is simply a freeing of the soul from its entanglement.

This world vision has the soul as the most important entity and has given rise to the three principal doctrines, known as the ‘Triple ‘A’s of Jainism.

These are:
Ahimsa (non-violence) - respect and reverence for every living being
Anekantwada (multi-faceted reality) - consideration of different opinions and viewpoints to gain a better understanding of the truth (reality), which has many facets, and
Aprigraha - limiting personal needs and possessions, because these not only harm the environment but also generate unreasonable attachment to objects that impede spiritual progress.

Thus Jainism is neither a ‘faith’ nor a ‘religion’, but a rational philosophy for spiritual progress, well being of all living beings, personal and global peace, and environmental protection. Jains have followed this system for centuries as a non-violent, peaceful community. Its three ‘A’s provide much needed wisdom and direction for alleviating, if not resolving, many of the problems threatening our planet in the 21st century. Current world challenges include fundamentalism, terrorism, war, global poverty, and human and environmental degradation. Jainism offers advice in addressing these issues, and the time has come to examine this philosophy carefully and perhaps take its world vision seriously.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Understanding Jainism

Understanding Jainism

Thanks to all of you who attended the program on Understanding Hinduism on Sunday, February 25th at Crowne Plaza Hotel in Addison. By the end of this week, we will publish the summary of the report, and 3 columns on Hinduism written in 600 words each. The pictures will be uploaded and we will try to upload the meeting on you tube. In addition, I found a good video presentation of, What is common Islam and Hinduism by a Muslim Scholar. You'll learn a little bit more about Hinduism in it.

Understanding Jainism


Sunday, March 25, 2007 at 6 PM
Crowne Plaza Hotel, 14315 Midway Road, Addison, TX 75001
(On Midway, between Spring Valley & Belt Line).

J ainism may not be familiar to many, but it is nearly a 5,000 years old Religion. Dallas has a Jain temple and a new temple is being planned as well. Jainism has a very unique perspective about God and creation. Those who attend the event will gain an insight into Jainism. Part of the Mission statement of the Foundation for Pluralism was influenced by Jain philosophy of Anekant.a.vad, and Mahatma Gandhi's principles of non-violence flew from Jainism.

The Foundation for Pluralism is pleased to present an educational series on understanding the wisdom and beauty of each religion. The goal is to bring people of different faiths together and provide a platform for them to share about their beliefs, their systems and rituals, while expanding the knowledge zone of each group.

We invite Jains around the world to write a column on Jainism, with a limit of 600 words . It is difficult, but can be done. There is a magic in that number in terms of comprehension and attention. Please send the email to:: FoundationforPluralism@gmail.com

Speakers:
Dr. Vastupal Parikh and an author of books on Jainism
Dr. Pradeep Shah, teacher of Jainism in Dallas, Mike Ghouse, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas.

Q & A
Session is followed by the presentation by the speakers.
Come prepared with all the questions you may have.
The very purpose of religion is to give a sense of balance to an individual and then create that symbiotic balance between the individual and what is around him or her. Spirituality and Arrogance are inversely proportional to each other. Greater the arrogance, lower the spirituality and vice versa. Greater humility amounts to greater spirituality.

The event is a tribute to those who are willing to think beyond the box. We have planned the educational series for all the scripted established religions this year and eventually, hope to include all faiths. Just so we know the unique ways the lord is worshipped.
We hope at a few of the attendees would walk out with an open mind and an open heart towards their fellow beings. It is difficult to shed the prejudices, but once we do, there is genuine freedom (Mukti, Moksha, Salvation, Nirvana.) in it. We are committed to presenting the beauty and wisdom of each religion.

PLEASE RSVP to:ConfirmAttendance@gmail.com (it helps us plan the refreshments and seating)

We invite sponsorship for each event or any given event; your responsibility would include sharing part or full expenses for the facility, refreshments and soft drinks for attendees.

FOUNDATION FOR PLURALISM : EVENTS http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Hinduism 101

Hinduism 101: Many faces of the divine

Connections: Workshop hopes to clear up misconceptions on a religion filled with colorful imagery

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/religion/stories/DN-relhindu_24met.ART.North.Edition1.20815bd.html

09:08 AM CST on Saturday, February 24, 2007

By LAURA SCHREIER / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

Popular misconception No. 1: Hinduism is a polytheistic religion.

Not so, said Dr. Hasmukh Shah, a Plano heart surgeon who teaches young members of the DFW Hindu Temple.
Non-Hindus see the statues of elephants, monkeys and multiarmed men and assume that Hinduism has a pantheon like that of ancient Greece, Dr. Shah said, but the images are in fact considered to represent incarnations of one supreme being.

Dr. Shah uses a human comparison to explain: "I'm a grandfather to my grandchildren, father to my children, husband to my wife – but I'm the same person."

It's a vastly complex religion, he said, but those who attend "Understanding Hinduism" on Sunday should get a grasp on the basics and clear up such misconceptions.

The Foundation for Pluralism, a Dallas-based interfaith organization, will host the workshop at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 14315 Midway Road in Addison. Organizer Mike Ghouse, who founded the group and is the event's moderator, said this workshop will cover the origins of Hinduism, the concept of rebirth, India's caste system and more.

He estimates that North Texas has 50,000 to 55,000 Hindus.

"Understanding Hinduism" is part of a series of workshops that resemble a World Religions 101 course. Last month was "Understanding Islam," and next month will be "Understanding Judaism."
The point is to create understanding among people of different faiths, Mr. Ghouse said – "just so we know the various unique ways the Lord is worshipped."

Mr. Ghouse grew up in India, which has long struggled with violence between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority. He said he saw some parents reinforce those ideas of hate and malice in their children; he was lucky enough to have been raised differently.

Whenever riots or attacks between the two groups broke out in his youth, he said, his parents wouldn't take one side or another. They would merely describe it as the evil activity of a few that was spreading. They taught acceptance and love, he said, and that stuck with him.

Dr. Shah and the Swami Nityananda Prabhu, president of the Hare Krishna Temple in Dallas, will present brief lectures on Hinduism, and a question-and-answer session will follow. Mr. Ghouse expects about 100 people to attend.

religion@dallasnews.com

IF YOU GO

The Foundation for Pluralism will host a free workshop "Understanding Hinduism" on Sunday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 14315 Midway Road in Addison. The event begins at 6 p.m., and those who wish to attend must R.S.V.P. to confirm attendance@gmail.com. A question-and-answer session will follow presentations.

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Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer. He is president of the Foundation for Pluralism and is a frequent guest on talk radio, discussing interfaith, political and civic issues. He has appeared on the local affiliates of CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, PBS and FOX and has been written up in the news papers. He founded the World Muslim Congress with a simple theme " good for Muslims - good for the world." The organization is driven by Qur'aan, Al-Hujurat, Surah 49:13: O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Allah Knows and is Aware. Mike believes that if people can learn to accept and respect the God given uniqueness of each one of the 7 billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge. His articles can be found at www.FoundationforPluralism.com , and www.Mikeghouse.net , http://mikeghouse.sulekha.com/ and he can be reached at MikeGhouse@gmail.com

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Prayers at City Hall

Invocation at Carrollton City Hall
Mike Ghouse 7:00 PM,Tuesday, Feb 21, 2006

Please allow me to greet you in every religious greeting

AllaAbho, Namaste, Salaam, Shalom, Jai Jinendra, Jai Swami Narayan, Yali Madad, SatsriAkaal, Hamazor Hama Ashobed and a blessed evening to you.

Dear God, we seek your guidance in helping us make the right decisions, please graces us with your blessings.

Dear God, Bless our world, bless our nation, bless our soldiers and bless our Mayor, Council and all those, who are present here to do the right thing.

Dear God, help us keep the purity of our hearts, and help us achieve humility, help us learn to over come our prejudices, our anger and our jealousies, help us over come our ignorance about others of those that You have created.

Dear God, help us not to think less of anyone that you have created.

Dear God, help us not to undermine the divinity of other ways of worshipping you.
Dear God, help us recognize that arrogance and ignorance are the root cause of all evil and protect us from it..

Dear God, help us to know that remembrance of you is the highest goal that humankind can achieve.

Dear God, help us see that our salvation, our peace of mind, our nirvana, our moksha, our mukti, our freedom and joining your kingdom, is directly dependent on living a life of following, submitting and surrendering to you and respecting everything that you have created.

Dear God, help us believe in the supremacy of you and the oneness of the family of humankind.

Dear God, thank you for allowing us to reach this season, for sustaining us, and for bringing us together this evening for this event.

Dear God, takes us from ignorance to enlightenment, from darkness to light.

Dear God, accept our prayers in whichever name we call upon you, we love to call you Ahura Mazda, Allah, Jehovah, Braham, Vishnu, Wahe Guru, Mahavir Swamy, Buddha and Jesus Christ. With your name we begin out meeting.

Amen.

Tolerant Beleivers

TOLERANT TRUE BELIEVERS
Based on the current PBS Series Faith & Reason by Bill Moyers
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/perspectives6.html


A number of guests on FAITH & REASON have characterized the struggle between tolerance and religious fanaticism as a battle being waged within religions themselves — between radicals more moderate believers. By engaging and empowering moderate believers, they say, the fanatical elements will hopefully be pushed to the side, allowing for a more tolerant and peaceful coexistence with secular society.

Salman Rushdie spoke of his grandfather, a pious Muslim, as an model of the highly religious individual who is also capable of being broad-minded and unprejudiced:


"My grandfather, my mother's father, was deeply religious, and he was a believing Muslim. He went on the pilgrimage to Mecca. All his life he said his prayers five times a day, and yet — I don't know why I say 'yet' — but as well as that, he was just about the most tolerant and open-minded man I knew. Even now — he's long dead — he still represents a kind of model of open-mindedness and tolerance … I would say, 'Grandfather, I'm not sure I believe in God.' He'd say, 'Sit down here and tell me how you got such a dumb idea.' You know? You could talk about anything to him. He had flocks of grandchildren heckling him, asking why he was constantly prostrating himself, and he would take it all in good humor."

Native American faithkeeper Oren Lyons, in a 1991 conversation with Bill Moyers, expressed a similar concept of tolerance existing between members of various Native American tribes whose religious views seem to be in conflict: "We hear the stories of other nations, of how they came to be, when we hear how the Hopis talk about the Spider Woman, and coming from the Earth and the fourth world that they've experienced...We hear the walkabout songs of the Aboriginal people in Australia, when they talk about singing into existence these beings ...all the entities in the world, as far as they are concerned, has a song. And we say, "That's wonderful. We Agree. We say yes. Now hear our story, this is how we came." And they listen to us and they say, "That's wonderful. We believe that." -- Oren Lyons, Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation, Read the transcript (PDF)

Martin Amis: "Well, Islam is the great religion that has been the donor of countless benefits to mankind, that led the world in civilization throughout the Middle Ages, that gave us algebra and all kinds of intellectual breakthroughs, plus an example of tolerance that nowhere else in the world could offer at that time — a level of tolerance and respect for justice. That is Islam."
Karen Armstrong, religious scholar: "The mystical branch of Islam, the Sufi movement, insisted that when you had encountered God, you were neither a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim. You were at home equally in a synagogue, a mosque, a temple or a church, because all rightly guided religion comes from God, and a man of God, once he's glimpsed the divine, has left these man-made distinctions behind." -- Karen Armstrong Read the transcript.

Sissela Bok, writer and philospher:"The Golden Rule exists in every culture. Confucius speaks of it. Buddhists speak of it. T he Bhagavad-Gita speaks of it, and, of course, the Bible speaks of it...To the extent it's honored even a little more, there is an improvement." -- Sissela Bok Read the transcript. (PDF)

William Sloan Coffin, Christian clergyman: "You know, the impulse to love God and neighbor, that impulse is at the heart of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. No question about it. We have much more in common than we have in conflict." Read the transcript.

Points of Agreement


POINTS OF AGREEMENT
Father Thomas Keating, OCSO

Introduction to The Common Heart, An Experience of Interreligious Dialogue, Netanel Miles-Yepez, Editor (2006)

In 1984, I invited a group of spiritual teachers from a variety of the world religions – Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Islamic, Native American, Russian Orthodox, Protestant, and Roman Catholic – to gather at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, to meditate together in silence, and to share our personal spiritual journeys, especially those elements in our respective traditions that have proved most helpful to us along the way.

We kept no record and published no papers. As our trust and friendship grew, we felt moved to investigate various points that we seemed to agree on. The original points of agreement were worked over during the course of subsequent meetings as we continued to meet for a week or so each year, leaving us with the following points:

  • The world religions bear witness to the experience of Ultimate Reality, to which they give various names.
  • Ultimate Reality cannot be limited by any name or concept.
  • Ultimate Reality is the ground of infinite potentiality and actualization.
  • Faith is opening, accepting, and responding to Ultimate Reality.
  • The potential for human wholeness – or, in other frames of reference, enlightenment, salvation, transcendence, transformation, blessedness – is present in every human being.
    Ultimate Reality may be experienced not only through religious practices, but also through nature, art, human relationships, and service to others.
  • As long as the human condition is experienced as separate from Ultimate Reality, it is subject to ignorance and illusion, weakness and suffering.
  • Disciplined practice is essential to the spiritual life; yet spiritual attainment is not the result of one’s own efforts, but the result of the experience of oneness with Ultimate Reality.


During our third conference at Karmè Chöling in Vermont, in May of 1986, we came up with additional points of agreement of a practical nature:


Some examples of disciplined practice, common to us all:

  • Practice of compassion
  • Service to others
  • Practicing moral precepts and virtues
  • Training in meditation techniques and regularity of practice
  • Attention to diet and exercise
  • Fasting and abstinence
  • The use of music, chanting, and sacred symbols
  • Practice in awareness (recollection, mindfulness) and living in the present moment
    Pilgrimage
  • Study of scriptural texts and scriptures


And in some traditions:

  • Relationship with a qualified teacher
  • Repetition of sacred words
  • Observing periods of silence and solitude
  • Movement and dance
  • Formative community


It is essential to extend our formal practice of awareness into all the aspects of our life.
Humility, gratitude, and a sense of humor are indispensable in the spiritual life.


Prayer is communion with Ultimate Reality, whether it is regarded as personal, impersonal, or beyond them both.


We were surprised and delighted to find so many points of similarity and convergence in our respective paths. Like most people of our time, we originally expected that we would find practically nothing in common. In the years that followed, we spontaneously and somewhat hesitatingly began to take a closer look at certain points of disagreement until these became our main focus of attention. We found that discussing our points of disagreement increased the bonding of the group even more than discovering our points of agreement. We became more honest in stating frankly what we believed and why, without at the same time making any effort to convince others of our own position. We simply presented our understanding as a gift to the group.


Today, we would like to present these “Points of Agreement” as a gift to all who will welcome them, to all who will use them to promote understanding.

Interrogating Radicalism

Interrogating Religious Radicalism
Yoginder Sikand


A principal premise of all forms of religiousradicalism—Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim orother—is a stark and rigid dualism. Religiousradicalism reflects a very simplistic, and, to itsadherents, a very convenient way of looking at theworld, saving them from the onerous task of carefullyexamining it in all its complexity. It divides all ofhumankind into two neat compartments, hermeticallysealed off from each other and projected as beinginherently and permanently at odds. One part ofhumanity is projected as consisting of the ‘chosen’ones: fervent soldiers of God, ardently strugglingagainst all odds to implement His will. The rest ofhumankind is depicted as ‘deviant’, ‘irreligious’ oreven worse: as enemies of God and helpers of theDevil.

In this stark way of compartmentalising all ofhumanity, what people of different religions share incommon, their common hopes, fears, joys and sorrowsand their innate humanness thus come to beinvisiblised, forgotten or even rudely denied. Goodthings in other religions or philosophies are eitherignored or else referred to grudgingly as only‘partial’ and ‘limited’ and, therefore, as inadequatefor salvation. True, often enough, when pressed withevidence that belies their claims, religious radicalswill admit that people who do not adhere to theirparticular ideology, too, are human beings, or evenchildren of the one God. Yet, in the same breath theywould also insist that for these others to be truly‘saved’, to be truly true to God, they must abandontheir beliefs and ways and join their ranks. Onlythen, they argue, would God be pleased with them. Andif they refuse, they would, they contend, continue tobe considered by God as His ‘enemies’, and theirpersonal piety and goodness would count for nothing,failing to save them from perdition in the life afterdeath.

Aspects of the various faith traditions or alternateunderstandings of these that seem to question theprincipal premise of ideology of religious radicalismare routinely glossed over, denied or sought to besuitably ‘explained’ away by religious radicals. Notsurprisingly, in the South Asian context, forinstance, both Hindutva and Islamist religiousradicals routinely denounce popular forms of religion,such as the humanistic tradition of many Bhakti andSufi saints, which, while speaking in the name ofreligion, evoke a common humanity transcendingnarrowly inscribed boundaries of caste and creed. Suchtraditions are seen as a menacing threat to the stern,straight-jacketed dualist ideology that religiousradicalism is premised on.

Religious radicals see human beings as defined by onlyone identity out of the many that they actuallypossess: their religion. All other identities, such asof class, caste, sect, nationality, region and gender,are considered only secondary, at best. Because theseidentities sometimes threaten to disturb and challengethe ideological hegemony that religious radicals seekto impose in the name of religion, those who share abroader religious tradition with the radicals butinterpret it differently and speak for these otheridentities are routinely branded as dreaded ‘fifthcolumnists’, ‘agents’ of the enemies of what ispresented as the one true faith.

Thus, for instance,Dalits who demand reservations and denounce ‘upper’caste domination are denounced by Hindutva ideologuesas ‘pawns’ in the hands of the ‘enemies’ of Hinduism,who are alleged to be using the Dalits to destroy the‘unity’ of the Hindus. Likewise, Muslims who speak forMuslim ethnic and sectarian minorities, such asSindhis and Baluchis or Shias in Pakistan, are quicklyberated as ‘enemies’ of Islam by Islamists, who insistthat the only identity one should possess or be proudof is that of being Muslim. To talk of otheridentities is thus a major threat to those who wishpolitical discourse and people’s worldviews to bedefined solely by religion, and that too by their ownparticular, fiercely dualistic, version of it.

Related to this is the point that religious radicalismoften serves the function of preserving and promotingthe interests of entrenched elites or of middle-classelements seeking that status. Religious radicalism,generally speaking, reflects a certain cognitive orintellectual arrogance that is sternly elitist: ‘Wealone are right, and others, including people of otherfaiths as well as people who claim to follow our faithbut follow or understand it differently are wrong”.But this suffocating elitist exclusivity does notremain limited to the realm of discourse. More often,it is consciously used to forcibly counter other,particularly subaltern, ways of understanding the verysame religious tradition that religious radicals claimto represent—witness the fervent opposition of Hinduand Muslim radicals to popular Hindu and Muslimsubaltern cults, which has, throughout history, takeneven violent forms. Witness, too, the fiercepersecution of various subaltern Christian sects bythe Catholic Church. Such alternate forms of religionare seen as in urgent need of being countered andsuppressed, peacefully or by manipulation, but, ifthat fails, then through force, because theyeffectively challenge the claims of religious radicalsof being the sole spokespersons of the religion theyclaim to represent.

Religious radicalism is also often used to suppressdemands articulated by subaltern groups protestingagainst their subordination at the hands of elites whoare associated with their own broadly definedreligious tradition. As part of this agenda, religiousradicals seek to entice the oppressed to turn theirwrath onto people of other faiths instead, who areprojected in radical religious discourse as their real‘enemy’. Hence, for instance, Dalits protesting‘upper’ caste Hindu hegemony are told that they shouldcease serving the agenda of the ‘enemies’ of theHindus and that, instead, they should attack Muslims,who are projected in Hindutva discourse as the great,menacing ‘other’. Similarly, in Pakistan, workers andpeasants struggling against landlords and thefeudal-industrial elites and non-Punjabis opposed toPunjabi hegemony are warned by radical Islamists tocease what they denounce as their ‘anti-Islamic’agenda which, they claim, is inspired by the ‘enemies’of Islam and calculated to divide the Muslim ‘ummah’against itself. Instead, they are told, they shouldjoin hands with their fellow Muslim oppressors in ajoint struggle against a range of forces who areroutinely depicted as Islam’s ‘enemies’, including theHindus, India, the West and so on. Religiousradicalism is thus often consciously used as a deviceto keep subaltern groups associated with the samebroadly defined religious tradition as the radicalsfirmly in their subordinated position. In this sense,therefore, religious radicalism is more often than notan enemy of most members of the very community whosefaith tradition it claims to represent and champion.

Because they speak the same idiom ofreligiously-inspired exclusivity and sharp dualism,different religious radicalisms, while claming to beinveterately opposed to each other, actually feed onone another, all being opposed to the recognition andcelebration of a common humanity and of alternatetruth claims. In effect, therefore, the ideology ofreligious radicalism is a major stumbling block togenuine inter-faith dialogue and solidarity. At a timewhen religious identities are playing a major role inshaping world affairs and local as well as translocalconflicts, religious radicalism needs to be criticallyinterrogated. While the complex economic, politicaland cultural roots of many of these conflicts have tobe addressed, the religious or ideological dimensionsalso need to be carefully understood and critiqued.Although not adequate by itself for this purpose,promoting alternate understandings of each religion,more accepting and accommodative of other religionsand their adherents, is a crucial necessity in thisregard.

Islamophobia

ISLAMOPHOBIA
Is it real or an excuse?


By Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad July 7, 2006 http://www.muslimwakeup.com/main/archives/2006/05/islamophobia_is_1.php#more

The following article by Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmad critically examines where we need to focus. The real issue is not between the common people, it is between fanatics of one religion with the fanatics of the other. It is a crime that this one percent of fanatics rules at this time. Ironically, the issues are not religious in nature, but political, wanting to control others.The 1% of radicals offer an unshakeable fake confidence to the 99% shook-up public, that makes the ordinary fellows want to be with them for elusory protection. They concoct the fear and dream up guileful camouflage. They frighten the existence out of everyone. But all the radicals would take the world to destruction, if we don't struggle with them and ebb their influence. 99% of Muslims are moderates: they want to get along with all, they want a hassle free life and they respect all that God has created, humans as well as the environment. Our Imams are a representation of this group.
We, the World Muslim Congress is forming to represent the voice of the silent majority. Silent no more, we are developing a board of advisors representing every faith.

Every one is a neighbor to every one else, we aspire to nurture the concept of good neighborliness in the world. Our advisory board will be represented by individuals from every faith. It is time for us to be equal citizens of one world, our home. This is a major paradigm shift in how the religious organizations would conduct their business in the coming years.

Mike Ghouse
ISLAMOPHOBIA
Is It Real or an Excuse
By Imam Abu Laith Luqman Ahmadhttp://www.muslimwakeup.com/main/archives/2006/05/islamophobia_is_1.php#more

Recognition of islamophobia as the irrational and unwarranted fear of Muslims and Islam lingers in lexical incubation. Some accept the term fully while others discount its validity.

Whether this neologism will gain currency as a bona fide social pathology, or be viewed simply as a marginally legitimate term, moonlighting as a public relations tool, remains to be seen.

Phobias, according to the American Psychiatric Association are mental disorders characterized by persistent and irrational fear of a particular thing, situation, or animal.

The word islamophobia, and the operative definition applied to it, is far from clinical recognition. However, I must admit, it is a catchy term; and certainly trendy sounding enough to fuel circulation. Like; “what are you guys doing this weekend? “We’re going to fight islamophobia!” Its etymology insures seamless placement in the “for Islam”, “saving the deen”, “for Allah” category.

Islamophobia has a diabolical, sinister ring to it. You can almost picture a young Muslim mother sending her child off to public school; “Now son, remember to drink your milk, look both ways when you cross the street, don’t forget to say your prayers on time, and be sure to watch out for any islamophobia! We’ve used the term with such frequency and with such self serving overtones that it has started to lose it effectiveness if it even had any.

Picture the scenario of a man who utters an anti-Muslim remark causing outrage in the Muslim community; he’s rushed to a licensed islamophobist for diagnosis, after submitting to a few diagnostics, the man turns to the doctor in anxious trepidation and says; “well Doc, tell me! What is it? Racism? Psychomotor agitation? Bipolar disorder? Bird flu? The doctor, clipboard in, hand, gazes solemnly into his eyes and says: “no Pat, what you have is a mild case of islamophobia”. The man wiping the sweat off his brow says: “That’s all? Thank God, for a moment, I thought it was something serious”.

As Muslims, accurate and responsible use of categorical verbiage is a moral obligation, and in this case, a vital tactical adjunct for Muslims in America. This is why it is critical that before we wage jihad against islamophobia, we accurately define the terminology. Perhaps, we can avoid misdirecting our energies in what may very well be another fruitless pursuit, frocked in islamic trappings that fails to address the root of our problems as Muslims. Sure there is discrimination against Muslims and yes, it should be addressed, but not manipulated. I don’t see crowds of rednecks chasing down Muslims in the streets.

Let’s set aside American foreign policy for a moment, that’s a separate issue. I’m talking about everyday life, living in America. Are there Americans who fear Muslims? Absolutely, and there are some that fear bald headed bikers clad in leather, there are some that fear Latinos, Italians whose last name ends in a vowel, and Christian Fundamentalists.

There are people in America who fear African Americans, especially those less than 25 years of age who parenthetically, may be the most feared minority in the country.

There are people in America who fear skinheads, the sound of fire trucks, the din of crowded subways, men with bushy mustaches, Caucasians, the police, Catholic priests, the homeless, and there are even people in America believe it or not who are mortified by toothless old ladies. I’m terrified of dentist visits and a contentious divorce could make a person afraid of the opposite sex. Welcome to the club. Fear is an industry in America and that’s not going to change anytime soon.

Accepting that there are Americans who fear Muslims, is such fear completely irrational? Well, knowing that a surgically worded fatwa can turn an unsuspecting young Muslim into a societal menace overnight, and the capricious way in which a Muslim can be suddenly labeled a non-Muslim, a deviant, or infidel does cause concern. Is there fanaticism in the name of Islam? Yes. Is it widespread? Yes. Are we doing much to combat it?

I don’t think so. I’d never expect that anyone could find any moral imperative to suicide bomb a Mawlid celebration. Irregardless of the variant opinions of Muslims on celebrating the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS), bombing a group of Muslims many of whom were scholars of Islam, gathered in honor of Allah’s final Messenger would make a person say hmm……. Talk about Americans fearing Muslims, there are Muslims that fear Muslims! Does this qualify then as islamophobes? I think not.

We can blame the media until we are blue in the face for negative portrayals of Islam and Muslims; Even as of this writing, graphic imagery of Muslim on Muslim violence, Muslim rage, Muslim turmoil, dominate network and print media.

However, these images fuel policy; they help pass massive budgets appropriations, and provide the justification for the mega industry that is known as the war on terror. Preparing ourselves for the so-called Muslim threat has created completely new industries in America as well as bolstering others. Police departments are spending billions dollars on preventive arsenal and technology to prepare for the Muslim threat. Kevlar fitted canines which ten years ago might have been the butt of a Jay Leno opening monologue, is now a lucrative commercial venue.

There is such abundance and variety of Muslim media footage, that politicians, policy makers, businessmen, non-profits and industrialists can literally pick out what suits their purpose. Want to do missionary work in Iraq? Grab some hungry children footage. Want to get funding to buy new jail doors from your brother in-law’s Company? Get some terrorist cell simulation footage. Want to retrofit that county bridge to withstand a terrorist attack? Of course, no one could imagine what a so-called terrorist would want with a bridge in the middle of nowhere, but you simply pull out the appropriate news footage and motion passed. The press is only doing their job, selling news entertainment.

The question is, what are we going to do? Continue complaining? Ignore our own ills? Only take on agendas that have fundraising potential?

The only thing stopping the Muslims from changing their condition is our own arrogance, religious sectarianism, injustices to own selves, and refusal to address serious social islamic issues.

It is nonsense to assume that the media is the only culprit. Or to assume we can somehow eradicate unwarranted fear or distrust of Muslims through the rhetoric of public relations, or references to the glorious history of Islam. America is a ‘what have you done for me lately’ kind of country.

Which by the way is not an unislamic viewpoint. The Prophet (SAWS) said: “Verily deeds are tallied according to those that are last” (innamaa al-a’maalu bil khawaa’teem).

Years of town halls, demonstrations, accountability sessions, sensitivity training and boycotts hasn’t removed graphic negative Muslim media imagery from top billing on headline news. Money can’t buy you love. Yeah I know the Beatles said it 1964, but Allah said it 1400 years prior; “And if you spent everything in the world you could not have joined between their hearts, but it is Allah who joined between them” 8:63.
Americans do not necessarily fear Islam and Muslims. What Americans do not want is to see suicide bombers in New York City. As an American Muslim who knows no other homeland, I have no problem in protecting our borders or legitimately defending my country. Does that make me a bad Muslim? I live here, why would I want to see America go down in flames? I have issues with the phrase “death to America”. Our way of life here may not be all good but it definitely is not all bad. We need to stop making politics part of theology or if we insist on doing so, we should accept that no one group or ethnicity can speak for all American Muslims.

You have scholars who have never experienced the family bonding that takes place at Thanksgiving dinner, or understand the true nature of the holiday, making fatwas using triangulated logic, telling me that to sit down with my Muslim and non-Muslim family to eat roasted turkey, macaroni and cheese, hug my aunties whom I haven’t seen all year and watch a football game with my cousins is a faith deficiency! My response to that fatwa is posted elsewhere. However the point I’m making is that there is a distinct, irrational, extremist tendency in our application of Islam that needs to be extricated.
Americans are more confused about Islam and Muslims than anything else. I don’t think that the media is entirely to blame for that. Heck, even Muslims are confused about Islam.

Every year there are millions of Muslims in America who are confused about the start of Ramadan. “Should I fast or should I eat? Can I do both? Taraaweeh prayer; is it 20 rakáat or 8? Am I wrong if I do 8? Am I an innovator if I do twenty? Do I give salaams to all Muslims or just some of them? Do I boycott American products even though I live in America? I still can’t figure that one out. There are so many conflicting fatwas flying around that a person spirals into bewilderment just trying to keep track of them, let alone making sense of some of them.

Domestically, the American people have accommodated, and accepted the Muslim presence in too many ways for anyone to suggest that there is a pandemic of islamophobia. It has been and still is a struggle. However, the doors have already been opened in large part by African American Muslims. American Muslims in the United States have very little difficulty buying homes, starting businesses, enrolling in universities, or obtaining the so-called American dream.

Redundant use of psycho-suggestive coinage would tend to make you feel people are staring you down when they just happen to be looking at you like they do everybody else. It can also convince you that you were not hired because you were a Muslim and not simply because another candidate was more appealing, or more qualified.

Statistically speaking, incidents of anti Muslim hate, violence, discrimination in America are relatively low. If we divide the 1500 or so anti Muslim, and anti-Arab (what about anti African, or anti Asian?) incidents reported by one of the largest and loudest civil rights groups in America, into the 6 million Muslims who legally reside in America, that comes up to 2/10ths of a percent. If we multiply the number by five to take into consideration unreported incidents, we arrive at the grand total of 1% of the general Muslim population, hardly enough to qualify fighting islamophobia as a top priority!

Using the term as a scare tactic has created another neologism; ‘islamophobia-phobia’, (the fear of islamophobia), which is a greater threat to Muslims than islamophobia. It is true that many Muslims in America receive daily briefs detailing anti Muslim incidents. However, these daily alarms appear more like self-serving, opinion shaping, headline grabbing, and manipulative issue control, than proof of an evil, unwarranted, mindless campaign against Muslims and Arabs by the American citizenry.

Give me break!

With respect to the religion of Islam, the only ones who can taint its image are its designated practitioners; i.e., the Muslims. This is why the Prophet (SAWS) opted not to dispose of some of the treasonous hypocrites in Medina. It also explains why he reprimanded Mu’aath ibn Jabal for leading the congregational prayer beyond reasonable length. Both actions are potential repellents. Extremism, although it may seem, depending upon the interpreter, to have a textual basis (Quran and Sunna), usually results in other than the desired outcome. Our failure to realize this point will leave us in disappointment.

We have many examples of such. Our recent overreaction to the cartoon portrayal of the Prophet (SAWS) is just one. None of our protests altered the Prophets status (SAWS) in any way. His place with Allah is still secure, and in the same degree, he is still the honored last Prophet of God (SAWS). All the ranting did not endear the masses to Islam, it exposed our lack of rectitude, it cost us lives, money, time, moral capital and lacked definitive textual basis

Human beings cannot invalidate the quality or value of Islam; on the contrary, Islam is a divinely pre-validated faith and way of life according to orthodox islamic creed (aqeeeda). “Verily the religion of Allah is Islam” 3:19. Adherence to Islam or lack of it determines humanistic value, balances societies, and by the way, supports stable, healthy civilizations. Anti islamic sentiment in the United States has particular causes such as providential disbelief or what is known is theological jargon as (kufr). Nothing we can do about that. “And t is no different whether you warn them or do not warn them, they will not believe” 36:10.

Other causes are misunderstanding, misrepresentation of Islam by Muslims or non-Muslim, injustice, the absence of islamic standards of civility, (yes there is such a thing) and the conspicuous scarcity of Muslim social service institutions in America. Furthermore, anti islamic sentiment is not always tantamount to anti God, anti righteousness, or anti-justice. You can’t go around accusing anyone who criticizes a Muslim as immoral or islamophobic. We are gullible but were not idiots, at least not all of us.

Placing responsibility for Islam's image on other than ourselves is a flawed and unstable paradigm that siphons away valuable time, energy, and spiritual as well as temporal benefit. It distracts us away from individual and collective responsibility and sets in motion as’baab (causative factors) that could deprive us at this critical juncture in our history, of what we need most; divine intervention and support. This can only come from Allah. “Allah is the Friend of those who believe; He takes them out of the darkness’s into the (one) light”. 2:257.

Faith, is more than rhetoric action is required. If we for a moment think that success or improvement in our condition can ever occur without it, we are engaging in a fantasy, existing only in the quilt of our minds, wove together with the threads of wishful thinking. Want to prove people in the west wrong about Muslims? Be charitable, help others, feed the hungry, assist the orphan, teach people to read, build a hospital, pave a road, or clean a park. Charitable work does wonders for the soul and it doesn’t hurt public image either if that’s what we care about. The Prophet (SAWS) said: “Prayer is light and charity is proof”.

When a people address their own ills and acknowledge their individual and collective faults, and their need to change wrongful ways, and embrace fairness, righteousness, civility, adab, humility, brotherhood, honesty, patience and the qualities that ultimately define our character, change becomes imminent.

Divine assistance is set in motion.

Labeling people islamophobes, still muzzles some criticism of Islam and the Muslims, However, for many other Americans, it just tees them off, especially when one can easily see the upward mobility, affluence, academic, commercial, and political presence of immigrant Muslims in American society. No one likes a perpetual whiner especially when perceived as having a silver spoon on his palate.

This is regardless whether he worked for it or not. Other than paying taxes, there is no significant islamic social welfare component to offset suspicion, hostility, resentment, or mistrust. This is another cause of anti-Muslim or anti-Arab sentiment in America.
We hardly see Islamic ideals and principles manifested institutionally in United States. Oh, pardon me, that’s not entirely true. Islamic ideals and principles do exist in many American institutions. Let’s see, the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity, free and reduced fee clinics, food stamps, homeless shelters, the SPCA, Fire Departments, traffic lights, free libraries, trash collection, the ability to disagree publicly oh and we have tawheed (monotheism) here too. Maybe we have forgotten what Islam is all about. It just may be possible that we have some closet islamophobia in us! Let us all, myself included, get our act together and leave dog and pony shows for the circus.

The answers are coming……
Please send you comments to :: Info@foundationforpluralism.com
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The 1% of radicals offer an unshakeable fake confidence to the 99% shook-up public, that makes the ordinary fellows want to be with them for elusory protection. They concoct the fear and dream up guileful camouflage. They frighten the existence out of everyone. But all the radicals would take the world to destruction, if we don't struggle with them and ebb their influence.
99% of Muslims are moderates: they want to get along with all, they want a hassle free life and they respect all that God has created, humans as well as the environment. Our Imams are a representation of this group.
You may have encountered disbelief reading the first word of this letter. Figure out 1% of 1.3 Billion Muslims and check out the figures released by the Department of State last year in May - all combined they had figured 450,000 Muslims world wide who are possibly involved in insurgent activities. Of that, a small percent is hard core terrorists. Run the numbers, the insurgents make up 1/30th of 1% of Muslim population and terrorist possibly 1/50th of 1% or less. Statistically they are not representative of Muslims or Islam in any fashion.

The responsibility for the terrorist goof up falls squarely on Muslims as well as the media. Muslims because, just like the silent majority of any group, Muslims mind their own business and go on with lives. They have condemned them bad boys, but not enough to shut them up. The media, on the other hand feasts on terrorism, look at TV anchors and the neocons, they come alive on television. They give birth to terrorism experts on every channel every minute of the day, which encourages the bullies by giving them the flood light, it is wrong, dead wrong to shine the light on those who are not representative of Muslims.
We, the World Muslim Congress is forming to represent the voice of the silent majority. Silent no more, better yet, we are developing a board of advisors representing every faith.
.
Every one is a neighbor to every one else, we aspire to nurture the concept of good neighborliness in the world. Our advisory board will be represented by individuals from every faith. It is time for us to be equal citizens of one world, our home. This is a major paradigm shift in how the religious organizations would conduct their business in the coming years. (Press release pasted below)

Mike Ghouse
www.MikeGhouse.net
www.FoundationforPluralism.com
www.WorldMuslimCongress.com
www.DallasDesiCalendar.com

Extremists and radicals

EXTREMISTS, RADICALS & FANATICS
No matter what faith group they belong to, they are the same
Mike Ghouse 07- 05- 06

In any write-up on radicals, you can simply substitute a few names or leave them blank to be filled in by each religious radical group. All hues will fit right in.The Christian right in the US is exactly the same as the Indian right. Every now and then, I have discussions with some of them boys. They are indeed shunned by the silent majority as they do not represent the Christian and Hindu values respectively.I ran into a National corporate trainer a while ago, who consults and coaches companies on multi culturism, ethnicity etc. He didn't mince any words to tell me that the Hindus Jews and Muslims cannot be on par with the believers, as they don't believe in Jesus. Yet he claims he teaches equality of mankind. This prejudiced man probably sells it to the gullible out there.The Extremist Muslims want to annihilate every one who disagrees with them. The silent majority of Muslims is waking up now at the same pace as all others. We cannot take them extremists any more.The extremist Jews in their zeal to preserve their homeland, have bulldozed their silent majority. Zionist is the word used by non-Jewish to describe them - However, to Jews it means going back to Zion, their homeland, hence the word Zionist is not the same as extremist Jews.

The radical Hindus have no doubt terrorized all other Hindus with false propaganda to no end. The silent majority of Hindus are as chicken as Muslims, and thank God they are awake.By the way, the radicals in all religions behave the same way, shamelessly they are a part of the religion they claim to belong, and are they are the most vociferous of them all. Their formula is exactly the same.The real fight is not between the common people, it is between fanatics of one religion with the other. It is a crime that this one percent of fanatics rules at this time.The 1% of radicals offer an unshakeable fake confidence to the 99% shook-up followers, that makes the ordinary fellows want to be with them for elusory protection. They concoct the fear and dream up guileful camouflage. They frighten the existence out of everyone. But all the radicals would take the world to destruction, if we don't struggle with them and ebb their influence.

Muslim radicals like Osama, Ahmedinejad and several others frighten the Muslim crowds and gain their support.

Jewish radicals like Emerson, Pipes and several others frighten the Jewish crowds and gain their support
Christian extremists like Roberston, Falwell, Ashcroft and others frighten the Americans and gain their support.

Then you have the Hindu radicals like Venkkaiah, Joshi, Modi and several others who frighten the Hindu crowds and gain their support.

These radicals have to keep the fear as a constant factor for their own entertainment. If there is no war and no fear, their existence is meaningless. They have no qualms in manufacturing fear. God forbid we don't need another 911 and that legitimate fear breeds uncertainty and the radicals offer an unshakeable but foundationless certainty to have the silent majority look up to them. In reality they are the pied pipers.
WHAT IS COMMON BETWEEN ALL THE RADICALS?
INSECURITY

They are the most insecure individuals about themselves and their faiths. They feel some imaginable enemy is out to get them, and they have to destroy them at the root. Some become experts and as I watch the experts talk, I hear the phrase dime a dozen, make them more.LANGUAGE

One writing fits them all. Write one story about Muslim radicals, take the name of Muslims off and substitute with either Christian, Jewish or Hindu, the story is same.

ONE WAY COMMUNICATION

Radicals never read any thing intelligent, they are too eager to send their limited 50 words any time. Try sending them a blank email, they will respond even to that with the same 50 words in a different combination.

LOW COMPREHENSION

Many of the radicals (including radicals from your faith) have Doctorates and are very literate, but still do not have the ability to comprehend the difference between: Islamists and Islam; Hindutva and Hinduism ; Fanatic Jews (Zionist is not the word) and Judaism, Neo cons and Christianity. If you criticize about any one of these radicals, they will lift up the shield of their religion to gain support from the gullible. They need to know that they cannot use the religion as their shield. They are responsible for their ugly deeds and not their religion. Let them learn to own it up. Religion is never a problem, it is the individuals like the ones mentioned above who have created the chasm and the fear. As long as one exists, the others exist too.Religion is never a problem, it is the individuals like the ones mentioned above who have created the chasm and the fear. As long as one exists, the others exist too. HOPE FOR MANKIND
We, the silent majority, have to just speak up. The radicals are like the classroom bullies who can be silenced by a few united voices. When you hear wrong things, just tell them that they are wrong. The good things about the majorities is that we do not fabricate lies and live an honest life.
Let me share two short stories to make the point.

Where I grew up, Monkeys ruled! They were every where and would walk to you and snatch things off your hands, usually near vegetable and fruit markets on the street side. They were big monkeys, no one dared challenging them except my brother in law, he would grab them and throw them, and they were afraid of him... I learned the life's biggest lesson then. When that Monkey is challenging you and you are challenging him - there is a tense pause for a few seconds that feel like eternity. In those few deadly moments - if you, even think of taking a step back, not really taking, but thinking or blink your eyelids... that Monkey reads the fear in you and is all over you. On the other hand if you stay firm and dare stare him... he will walk away. Humans are monkeys, when two bad guys do wrong - our silence and our fear will make them rule... just dare them, they will run. It has never failed me. Now, I apply that technique against bullies - I just have to say firmly no... and If I get two more to back me, they monkeys will run.

Now let me share its real application: - About January this year, we were invited to a house warming party, the blessing were done. Just before the dinner, people gathered in small groups. There is a young man who had presided the blessings and obviously a group poured over him. The stories of defeat and victory or conspiracy makes one very popular. The following story in variations has been confronted by me with Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Jewish groups. All of us have a few real extremists and some shallow ones. No one needs to gloat on this story, as I have one on every group. I get around quite a lot.

The man told the story of a Synagogue for sale in Virginia some place... and the "JEWS' did not want to sell it for a mosque instead sold it to some business. They could not run the business as they did not get the permit to sell alcohol in that area and had not choice but to sell the place. We "GRABBED" the building and today it is a Mosque" His head was high up, I did not waste a second and said - That is wrong, there is no need for you to talk hatred and Mosque together, No Muslim is suppose to hate any one..... there was that deadly pause again which I have gotten used to. Finally after six or seven seconds, which appeared like eternity was broken by two guys, who jumped on that religious man. The man was honest enough to apologized and promised me never again, would he tell a story that captures base sentiments of people. Had one single Monkey said one word to stop me... the crowd would probably gone the other way. May God forgive me for underestimating the goodness in humans. But it went the other way. The man has not spoken hatred again, God bless him.

If you are watching the television and they show some one in bad-light and you happen to hate them, but you know the information is factually not correct - at that time if your kids express hate towards the group, as opposed to the individuals, as a parents you have a choice to gloat and let your kids also hate or have the guts to keep the child's heart pure. The decision is yours, the change begins with each one of us.

There are people who make it a business to promote hate against each other, as if that is their sustenance. Please stop them or ask them to provide proof, most likely they will back off. We have to stop people from promoting hatred and teaching hatred, at our own level, in our own groups.

Let's not count on some government or some central body to do it. Each one of can do it, we have to match our talk with our work.

Mike Ghouse
http://www.mikeghouse.net/
http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/
http://www.worldmuslimcongress.com/
http://www.dallasdesicalendar.com/

Faith and Politics - Obama



FAITH AND POLITICS
Senator Barack ObamaWednesday, June 28th, 2006

http://obama.senate.gov/speech/060628-call_to_renewal_keynote_address/index.htmlor http://makeashorterlink.com/?X3231285D


Good morning. I appreciate the opportunity to speak here at the Call to Renewal’s Building a Covenant for a New America conference, and I’d like to congratulate you all on the thoughtful presentations you’ve given so far about poverty and justice in America. I think all of us would affirm that caring for the poor finds root in all of our religious traditions – certainly that’s true for my own.

But today I’d like to talk about the connection between religion and politics and perhaps offer some thoughts about how we can sort through some of the often bitter arguments over this issue over the last several years.

I do so because, as you all know, we can affirm the importance of poverty in the Bible and discuss the religious call to environmental stewardship all we want, but it won’t have an impact if we don’t tackle head-on the mutual suspicion that sometimes exists between religious America and secular America.

For me, this need was illustrated during my 2004 face for the U.S. Senate. My opponent, Alan Keyes, was well-versed in the Jerry Falwell-Pat Robertson style of rhetoric that often labels progressives as both immoral and godless.

Indeed, towards the end of the campaign, Mr. Keyes said that, “Jesus Christ would not vote for Barack Obama. Christ would not vote for Barack Obama because Barack Obama has behaved in a way that it is inconceivable for Christ to have behaved.”

Now, I was urged by some of my liberal supporters not to take this statement seriously. To them, Mr. Keyes was an extremist, his arguments not worth entertaining. What they didn’t understand, however, was that I had to take him seriously. For he claimed to speak for my religion – he claimed knowledge of certain truths. Mr. Obama says he’s a Christian, he would say, and yet he supports a lifestyle that the Bible calls an abomination.

Mr. Obama says he’s a Christian, but supports the destruction of innocent and sacred life.What would my supporters have me say? That a literalist reading of the Bible was folly? That Mr. Keyes, a Roman Catholic, should ignore the teachings of the Pope?

Unwilling to go there, I answered with the typically liberal response in some debates – namely, that we live in a pluralistic society, that I can’t impose my religious views on another, that I was running to be the U.S. Senator of Illinois and not the Minister of Illinois.

But Mr. Keyes implicit accusation that I was not a true Christian nagged at me, and I was also aware that my answer didn’t adequately address the role my faith has in guiding my own values and beliefs.My dilemma was by no means unique. In a way, it reflected the broader debate we’ve been having in this country for the last thirty years over the role of religion in politics.

For some time now, there has been plenty of talk among pundits and pollsters that the political divide in this country has fallen sharply along religious lines. Indeed, the single biggest “gap” in party affiliation among white Americans today is not between men and women, or those who reside in so-called Red States and those who reside in Blue, but between those who attend church regularly and those who don’t.

Conservative leaders, from Falwell and Robertson to Karl Rove and Ralph Reed, have been all too happy to exploit this gap, consistently reminding evangelical Christians that Democrats disrespect their values and dislike their Church, while suggesting to the rest of the country that religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design.

Democrats, for the most part, have taken the bait. At best, we may try to avoid the conversation about religious values altogether, fearful of offending anyone and claiming that – regardless of our personal beliefs – constitutional principles tie our hands. At worst, some liberals dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant, insisting on a caricature of religious Americans that paints them as fanatical, or thinking that the very word “Christian” describes one’s political opponents, not people of faith.

Such strategies of avoidance may work for progressives when the opponent is Alan Keyes. But over the long haul, I think we make a mistake when we fail to acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people, and join a serious debate about how to reconcile faith with our modern, pluralistic democracy.

We first need to understand that Americans are a religious people. 90 percent of us believe in God, 70 percent affiliate themselves with an organized religion, 38 percent call themselves committed Christians, and substantially more people believe in angels than do those who believe in evolution.

This religious tendency is not simply the result of successful marketing by skilled preachers or the draw of popular mega-churches. In fact, it speaks to a hunger that’s deeper than that – a hunger that goes beyond any particular issue or cause.

Each day, it seems, thousands of Americans are going about their daily round – dropping off the kids at school, driving to the office, flying to a business meeting, shopping at the mall, trying to stay on their diets – and coming to the realization that something is missing. They are deciding that their work, their possessions, their diversions, their sheer busyness, is not enough.

They want a sense of purpose, a narrative arc to their lives. They’re looking to relieve a chronic loneliness, a feeling supported by a recent study that shows Americans have fewer close friends and confidants than ever before. And so they need an assurance that somebody out there cares about them, is listening to them – that they are not just destined to travel down a long highway towards nothingness.

I speak from experience here. I was not raised in a particularly religious household. My father, who returned to Kenya when I was just two, was Muslim but as an adult became an atheist. My mother, whose parents were non-practicing Baptists and Methodists, grew up with a healthy skepticism of organized religion herself. As a consequence, I did too.

It wasn’t until after college, when I went to Chicago to work as a community organizer for a group of Christian churches, that I confronted my own spiritual dilemma.The Christians who I worked with recognized themselves in me; they saw that I knew their Book and shared their values and sang their songs. But they sensed a part of me that remained removed, detached, an observer in their midst. In time, I too came to realize that something was missing – that without a vessel for my beliefs, without a commitment to a particular community of faith, at some level I would always remain apart and alone.

If not for the particular attributes of the historically black church, I may have accepted this fate. But as the months passed in Chicago, I found myself drawn to the church.For one thing, I believed and still believe in the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change, a power made real by some of the leaders here today. Because of its past, the black church understands in an intimate way the Biblical call to feed the hungry and cloth the naked and challenge powers and principalities. And in its historical struggles for freedom and the rights of man, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death; it is an active, palpable agent in the world. It is a source of hope.

And perhaps it was out of this intimate knowledge of hardship, the grounding of faith in struggle, that the church offered me a second insight: that faith doesn’t mean that you don’t have doubts. You need to come to church precisely because you are of this world, not apart from it; you need to embrace Christ precisely because you have sins to wash away – because you are human and need an ally in your difficult journey.

It was because of these newfound understandings that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and affirm my Christian faith. It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany; the questions I had did not magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt I heard God’s spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.

The path I traveled has been shared by millions upon millions of Americans – evangelicals, Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims alike; some since birth, others at a turning point in their lives. It is not something they set apart from the rest of their beliefs and values. In fact, it is often what drives them.This is why, if we truly hope to speak to people where they’re at – to communicate our hopes and values in a way that’s relevant to their own – we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse.

Because when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome – others will fill the vacuum, those with the most insular views of faith, or those who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.

In other words, if we don’t reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, Jerry Falwell’s and Pat Robertson’s will continue to hold sway.

More fundamentally, the discomfort of some progressives with any hint of religion has often prevented us from effectively addressing issues in moral terms. Some of the problem here is rhetorical – if we scrub language of all religious content, we forfeit the imagery and terminology through which millions of Americans understand both their personal morality and social justice. Imagine Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address without reference to “the judgments of the Lord,” or King’s I Have a Dream speech without reference to “all of God’s children.” Their summoning of a higher truth helped inspire what had seemed impossible and move the nation to embrace a common destiny.Our failure as progressives to tap into the moral underpinnings of the nation is not just rhetorical. Our fear of getting “preachy” may also lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our most urgent social problems.

After all, the problems of poverty and racism, the uninsured and the unemployed, are not simply technical problems in search of the perfect ten point plan. They are rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness – in the imperfections of man.

Solving these problems will require changes in government policy; it will also require changes in hearts and minds. I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manufacturer’s lobby – but I also believe that when a gang-banger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, we have a problem of morality; there’s a hole in that young man’s heart – a hole that government programs alone cannot fix.

I believe in vigorous enforcement of our non-discrimination laws; but I also believe that a transformation of conscience and a genuine commitment to diversity on the part of the nation’s CEOs can bring quicker results than a battalion of lawyers.

I think we should put more of our tax dollars into educating poor girls and boys, and give them the information about contraception that can prevent unwanted pregnancies, lower abortion rates, and help assure that that every child is loved and cherished. But my bible tells me that if we train a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not turn from it. I think faith and guidance can help fortify a young woman’s sense of self, a young man’s sense of responsibility, and a sense of reverence all young people for the act of sexual intimacy.

I am not suggesting that every progressive suddenly latch on to religious terminology. Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith – the politician who shows up at a black church around election time and claps – off rhythm – to the gospel choir.

But what I am suggesting is this – secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King – indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. To say that men and women should not inject their “personal morality” into public policy debates is a practical absurdity; our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Moreover, if we progressives shed some of these biases, we might recognize the overlapping values that both religious and secular people share when it comes to the moral and material direction of our country. We might recognize that the call to sacrifice on behalf of the next generation, the need to think in terms of “thou” and not just “I,” resonates in religious congregations across the country. And we might realize that we have the ability to reach out to the evangelical community and engage millions of religious Americans in the larger project of America’s renewal.

Some of this is already beginning to happen. Pastors like Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes are wielding their enormous influences to confront AIDS, Third World debt relief, and the genocide in Darfur. Religious thinkers and activists like my friend Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo are lifting up the Biblical injunction to help the poor as a means of mobilizing Christians against budget cuts to social programs and growing inequality. National denominations have shown themselves as a force on Capitol Hill, on issues such as immigration and the federal budget. And across the country, individual churches like my own are sponsoring day care programs, building senior centers, helping ex-offenders reclaim their lives, and rebuilding our gulf coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

To build on these still-tentative partnerships between the religious and secular worlds will take work – a lot more work than we’ve done so far. The tensions and suspicions on each side of the religious divide will have to be squarely addressed, and each side will need to accept some ground rules for collaboration.

While I’ve already laid out some of the work that progressives need to do on this, I that the conservative leaders of the Religious Right will need to acknowledge a few things as well.

For one, they need to understand the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice.

That during our founding, it was not the atheists or the civil libertarians who were the most effective champions of this separation; it was the persecuted religious minorities, Baptists like John Leland, who were most concerned that any state-sponsored religion might hinder their ability to practice their faith.

Moreover, given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.

And even if we did have only Christians within our borders, who’s Christianity would we teach in the schools? James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Levitacus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage so radical that it’s doubtful that our Defense Department would survive its application?

This brings me to my second point. Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

This may be difficult for those who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of the possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It insists on the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime; to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.

We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his only son, and without argument, he takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded.Of course, in the end God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute, and Abraham passes God’s test of devotion.

But it’s fair to say that if any of us saw a twenty-first century Abraham raising the knife on the roof of his apartment building, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham. We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that are possible for all of us to know, be it common laws or basic reason.Finally, any reconciliation between faith and democratic pluralism requires some sense of proportion.This goes for both sides.

Even those who claim the Bible’s inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, a sense that some passages – the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity – are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics.

But a sense of proportion should also guide those who police the boundaries between church and state. Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation – context matters. It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase “under God;” I certainly didn’t. Having voluntary student prayer groups using school property to meet should not be a threat, any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats. And one can envision certain faith-based programs – targeting ex-offenders or substance abusers – that offer a uniquely powerful way of solving problems.

So we all have some work to do here. But I am hopeful that we can bridge the gaps that exist and overcome the prejudices each of us bring to this debate. And I have faith that millions of believing Americans want that to happen. No matter how religious they may or may not be, people are tired of seeing faith used as a tool to attack and belittle and divide – they’re tired of hearing folks deliver more screed than sermon. Because in the end, that’s not how they think about faith in their own lives.

So let me end with another interaction I had during my campaign. A few days after I won the Democratic nomination in my U.S. Senate race, I received an email from a doctor at the University of Chicago Medical School that said the following:“Congratulations on your overwhelming and inspiring primary win. I was happy to vote for you, and I will tell you that I am seriously considering voting for you in the general election. I write to express my concerns that may, in the end, prevent me from supporting you.”

The doctor described himself as a Christian who understood his commitments to be “totalizing.” His faith led him to a strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage, although he said that his faith also led him to question the idolatry of the free market and quick resort to militarism that seemed to characterize much of President Bush’s foreign policy.But the reason the doctor was considering not voting for me was not simply my position on abortion. Rather, he had read an entry that my campaign had posted on my website, which suggested that I would fight “right wing ideologues who want to take away a woman’s right to choose.” He went on to write:“I sense that you have a strong sense of justice…and I also sense that you are a fair minded person with a high regard for reason…Whatever your convictions, if you truly believe that those who oppose abortion are all ideologues driven by perverse desires to inflict suffering on women, then you, in my judgment, are not fair-minded….You know that we enter times that are fraught with possibilities for good and for harm, times when we are struggling to make sense of a common polity in the context of plurality, when we are unsure of what grounds we have for making any claims that involve others…

I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words.”I checked my web-site and found the offending words. My staff had written them to summarize my pro-choice position during the Democratic primary, at a time when some of my opponents were questioning my commitment to protect Roe v. Wade.Re-reading the doctor’s letter, though, I felt a pang of shame. It is people like him who are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion in this country. They may not change their positions, but they are willing to listen and learn from those who are willing to speak in reasonable terms – those who know of the central and awesome place that God holds in the lives of so many, and who refuse to treat faith as simply another political issue with which to score points.

wrote back to the doctor and thanked him for his advice. The next day, I circulated the email to my staff and changed the language on my website to state in clear but simple terms my pro-choice position. And that night, before I went to bed, I said a prayer of my own – a prayer that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me.

It is a prayer I still say for America today – a hope that we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all. It’s a prayer worth praying, and a conversation worth having in this country in the months and years to come. Thank you.

Why God is Winning

WHY GOD IS WINNING
They speak the same words.


TIMOTHY SAMUEL SHAH & MONICA DUFFY TOFT - JULY 01. 2007

Why God is winning

Religion was supposed to fade away as globalization and freedom spread. Instead, it's booming around the world, often deciding who gets elected. And the divine intervention is just beginning.
By Timothy Samuel Shah and Monica Duffy Toft
Jul 1, 2006

www.ForeignPolicy.com

Religion was supposed to fade away as globalization and freedom spread. Instead, it's booming around the world, often deciding who gets elected. And the divine intervention is just beginning. Democracy is giving people a voice, and more and more, they want to talk about God.

After Hamas won a decisive victory in January's Palestinian elections, one of its supporters replaced the national flag that flew over parliament with its emerald-green banner heralding, “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is His Prophet.” In Washington, few expected the religious party to take power. “I don't know anyone who wasn't caught off guard,” said U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. More surprises followed. Days after the Prophet's banner was unfurled in Ramallah, thousands of Muslims mounted a vigorous, sometimes violent, defense of the Prophet's honor in cities as far flung as Beirut, Jakarta, London, and New Delhi. Outraged by cartoons of Muhammad originally published in Denmark, Islamic groups, governments, and individuals staged demonstrations, boycotts, and embassy attacks.

On their own, these events appeared to be sudden eruptions of “Muslim rage.” In fact, they were only the most recent outbreaks of a deep undercurrent that has been gathering force for decades and extends far beyond the Muslim world. Global politics is increasingly marked by what could be called “prophetic politics.” Voices claiming transcendent authority are filling public spaces and winning key political contests. These movements come in very different forms and employ widely varying tools. But whether the field of battle is democratic elections or the more inchoate struggle for global public opinion, religious groups are increasingly competitive. In contest after contest, when people are given a choice between the sacred and the secular, faith prevails.

God is on a winning streak. It was reflected in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Shia revival and religious strife in postwar Iraq, and Hamas's recent victory in Palestine. But not all the thunderbolts have been hurled by Allah. The struggle against apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s and early 1990s was strengthened by prominent Christian leaders such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Hindu nationalists in India stunned the international community when they unseated India's ruling party in 1998 and then tested nuclear weapons. American evangelicals continue to surprise the U.S. foreign-policy establishment with their activism and influence on issues such as religious freedom, sex trafficking, Sudan, and aids in Africa. Indeed, evangelicals have emerged as such a powerful force that religion was a stronger predictor of vote choice in the 2004 U.S. presidential election than was gender, age, or class.

The spread of democracy, far from checking the power of militant religious activists, will probably only enhance the reach of prophetic political movements, many of which will emerge from democratic processes more organized, more popular, and more legitimate than before—but quite possibly no less violent. Democracy is giving the world's peoples their voice, and they want to talk about God.

Divine Intervention

It did not always seem this way. In April 1966, Time ran a cover story that asked, “Is God Dead?” It was a fair question. Secularism dominated world politics in the mid-1960s. The conventional wisdom shared by many intellectual and political elites was that modernization would inevitably extinguish religion's vitality. But if 1966 was the zenith of secularism's self-confidence, the next year marked the beginning of the end of its global hegemony. In 1967, the leader of secular Arab nationalism, Gamal Abdel Nasser, suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Israeli Army. By the end of the 1970s, Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, avowedly “born-again” U.S. President Jimmy Carter, television evangelist Jerry Falwell, and Pope John Paul ii were all walking the world stage. A decade later, rosary-wielding Solidarity members in Poland and Kalashnikov-toting mujahedin in Afghanistan helped defeat atheistic Soviet Communism. A dozen years later, 19 hijackers screaming “God is great” transformed world politics. Today, the secular pan-Arabism of Nasser has given way to the millenarian pan-Islamism of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose religious harangues against America and Israel resonate with millions of Muslims, Sunni and Shia alike. “We increasingly see that people around the world are flocking towards a main focal point—that is the Almighty God,” Ahmadinejad declared in his recent letter to President Bush.

The modern world has in fact proven hospitable to religious belief. The world is indeed more modern: It enjoys more political freedom, more democracy, and more education than perhaps at any time in history. According to Freedom House, the number of “free” and “partly free” countries jumped from 93 in 1975 to 147 in 2005. UNESCO estimates that adult literacy rates doubled in sub-Saharan Africa, Arab countries, and South and West Asia between 1970 and 2000. The average share of people in developing countries living on less than a dollar a day fell from 28 percent to 22 percent between 1990 and 2002, according to World Bank estimates.

If people are wealthier, more educated, and enjoy greater political freedom, one might assume they would also have become more secular. They haven't. In fact, the period in which economic and political modernization has been most intense—the last 30 to 40 years—has witnessed a jump in religious vitality around the world. The world's largest religions have expanded at a rate that exceeds global population growth. Consider the two largest Christian faiths, Catholicism and Protestantism, and the two largest non-Christian religions, Islam and Hinduism. According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, a greater proportion of the world's population adhered to these religious systems in 2000 than a century earlier. At the beginning of the 20th century, a bare majority of the world's people, precisely 50 percent, were Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, or Hindu. At the beginning of the 21st century, nearly 64 percent belonged to these four religious groupings, and the proportion may be close to 70 percent by 2025. The World Values Survey, which covers 85 percent of the world's population, confirms religion's growing vitality. According to scholars Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris, “the world as a whole now has more people with traditional religious views than ever before—and they constitute a growing proportion of the world's population.â€

Not only is religious observance spreading, it is becoming more devout. The most populous and fastest-growing countries in the world, including the United States, are witnessing marked increases in religiosity. In Brazil, China, Nigeria, Russia, South Africa, and the United States, religiosity became more vigorous between 1990 and 2001. Between 1987 and 1997, surveys by the Times Mirror Center and the Pew Research Center registered increases of 10 percent or more in the proportions of Americans surveyed who “strongly agreedâ that God existed, that they would have to answer for their sins before God, that God performs miracles, and that prayer was an important part of their daily life. Even in Europe, a secular stronghold, there have been surprising upticks in religiosity.

God's comeback is in no small part due to the global expansion of freedom. Thanks to the â third wave of democratization between the mid-1970s and early 1990s, as well as smaller waves of freedom since, people in dozens of countries have been empowered to shape their public lives in ways that were inconceivable in the 1950s and 1960s. A pattern emerged as they exercised their new political freedoms. In country after country, politically empowered groups began to challenge the secular constraints imposed by the first generation of modernizing, postindependence leaders. Often, as in communist countries, secular straitjackets had been imposed by sheer coercion; in other cases, as in Atatürk's Turkey, Nehru's India, and Nasser's Egypt, secularism retained legitimacy because elites considered it essential to national integration and modernization—and because of the sheer charisma of these countries' founding fathers. In Latin America, right-wing dictatorships, sometimes in cahoots with the Catholic Church, imposed restrictions that severely limited grassroots religious influences, particularly from “liberation theology” and Protestant “sects.

As politics liberalized in countries like India, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, and Indonesia in the late 1990s, religion's influence on political life increased dramatically. Even in the United States, evangelicals exercised a growing influence on the Republican Party in the 1980s and 1990s, partly because the presidential nomination process depended more on popular primaries and less on the decisions of traditional party leaders. Where political systems reflect people's values, they usually reflect people's strong religious beliefs. Many observers are quick to dismiss religion's advance into the political sphere as the product of elites manipulating sacred symbols to mobilize the masses. In fact, the marriage of religion with politics is often welcomed, if not demanded, by people around the world.

In a 2002 Pew Global Attitudes survey, 91 percent of Nigerians and 76 percent of Bangladeshis surveyed agreed that religious leaders should be more involved in politics. A June 2004 six-nation survey reported that “most Arabs polled said that they wanted the clergy to play a bigger role in politics. In the same survey, majorities or pluralities in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates cited Islam as their primary identity, trumping nationality. The collapse of the quasi-secular Baathist dictatorship in Iraq released religious and ethnic allegiances and has helped Islam play a dominant role in the country's political life, including in its recently adopted constitution. As right- and left-wing dictatorships have declined in Latin America and democratization has deepened, evangelicals have become an influential voting bloc in numerous countries, including Brazil, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.

The New Orthodoxies

Far from stamping out religion, modernization has spawned a new generation of savvy and technologically adept religious movements, including Evangelical Protestantism in America, “Hindutva” in India, Salafist and Wahhabi Islam in the Middle East, Pentecostalism in Africa and Latin America, and Opus Dei and the charismatic movement in the Catholic Church. The most dynamic religiosity today is not so much “old-time religion as it is radical, modern, and conservative. Today's religious upsurge is less a return of religious orthodoxy than an explosion of “neo-orthodoxies.

A common denominator of these neo-orthodoxies is the deployment of sophisticated and politically capable organizations. These modern organizations effectively marshal specialized institutions as well as the latest technologies to recruit new members, strengthen connections with old ones, deliver social services, and press their agenda in the public sphere. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, founded in 1964, “saffronized large swaths of India through its religious and social activism and laid the groundwork for the Bharatiya Janata Party's electoral successes in the 1990s. Similar groups in the Islamic world include the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan, Hamas in the Palestinian territories, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Nahdlatul Ulama in Indonesia. In Brazil, Pentecostals have organized their own legislative caucus, representing 10 percent of congresspeople. Religious communities are also developing remarkable transnational capabilities, appealing to foreign governments and international bodies deemed sympathetic to their cause.

Today's neo-orthodoxies may effectively use the tools of the modern world, but how compatible are they with modern democracy? Religious radicals, after all, can quickly short-circuit democracy by winning power and then excluding nonbelievers. Just as dangerous, politicized religion can spark civil conflict. Since 2000, 43 percent of civil wars have been religious (only a quarter were religiously inspired in the 1940s and 50s). Extreme religious ideology is, of course, a leading motivation for most transnational terrorist attacks.

The scorecard isn't all negative, however. Religion has mobilized millions of people to oppose authoritarian regimes, inaugurate democratic transitions, support human rights, and relieve human suffering. In the 20th century, religious movements helped end colonial rule and usher in democracy in Latin America, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. The post-Vatican ii Catholic Church played a crucial role by opposing authoritarian regimes and legitimating the democratic aspirations of the masses.

Today's religious movements, however, may not have as much success in promoting sustainable freedom. Catholicism's highly centralized and organized character made it an effective competitor with the state, and its institutional tradition helped it adapt to democratic politics. Islam and Pentecostalism, by contrast, are not centralized under a single leadership or doctrine that can respond coherently to fast-moving social or political events. Local religious authorities are often tempted to radicalize in order to compensate for their weakness vis-à -vis the state or to challenge more established figures. The trajectory of the young cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in postwar Iraq is not unusual. The lack of a higher authority for religious elites might explain why most religious civil wars since 1940—34 of 42—have involved Islam, with 9 of these being Muslim versus Muslim. We need look no further than Iraq today to see religious authorities successfully challenging the forces of secularism—but also violently competing with each other. Even in a longstanding democracy like India, the political trajectory of Hindu nationalism has demonstrated that democratic institutions do not necessarily moderate these instincts: Where radical Hindu nationalists have had the right mix of opportunities and incentives, they have used religious violence to win elections, most dramatically in the state of Gujarat.

The belief that outbreaks of politicized religion are temporary detours on the road to secularization was plausible in 1976, 1986, or even 1996. Today, the argument is untenable. As a framework for explaining and predicting the course of global politics, secularism is increasingly unsound. God is winning in global politics. And modernization, democratization, and globalization have only made him stronger.

WTKM

Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart offer a thorough overview of politicized religion in Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004). For polls, news, and analysis of religion's impact on public life in the United States and around the world, visit the Web sites of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

Olivier Roy's Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004) examines Islam's struggle to define the boundaries between religion and politics. Husain Haqqani peers inside the madrasas that encourage extremism in “Islam's Medieval Outposts” (FOREIGN POLICY, November/December 2002).

On the role of religion in ethnic violence and civil wars, see Monica Duffy Toft's The Geography of Ethnic Violence: Identity, Interests and the Indivisibility of Territory (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003) and “Religion, Civil War and International Order,” a discussion paper from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. »For links to relevant Web sites, access to the FP Archive, and a comprehensive index of related Foreign Policy articles, go to www.ForeignPolicy.com.