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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Jewish-Muslim Dialogue; a necessity

Dialogue between Jews and
Muslims is a necessity.
Mike Ghouse, Dallas, Texas

Thursday, October 30, 2008, Dallas, Texas

The Jewish Community Center in Dallas recently screened a documentary “The Monster among us”, produced and directed by Dallas filmmakers Allen and Cynthia Mondell.

Watching this film (as well as other films in the past) and listening to the responses of the audience has confirmed my belief that one of the primary obstacles to peace is simply inadequate communications stemming from the unwillingness to see another point of view. There are certainly rotten apples in the barrel, but focusing on them to the exclusion of the positive only exacerbates the problem. Muslims and Jews need to dialogue without keeping a score or blaming the other.

We have to remember that there is a group out there who is relentlessly promoting chaos as the norm. This group has a policy of attempting to frighten the public and push through their agenda which is financially rewarding to them. If we can consciously create co-existence as the norm of the society, most of the problems will fade and we can hope to have a sense of security, drop the guards and cautions and live in peace. Continued


  1. Relationship is always twoways. Madhzab always leads baniadam into uniformed opposing sects. We already have a relationship of cousins as children of Adam. can we not build on this?

  2. No question Mike, you sure are a peacemaker, and your sincere appeal for peace and dialogue between Muslims and Jews is indeed well written and commendable.Hope, it would have effect on movers and shakers of policy makers of Middle East, and we have peace in Middle East, finally.

    Thanks for asking for my blunt, but fair opinion.I am sorry.It might turn out to be against your expectation.First of all, I did not mean to discourage you in your effort to initiate a dialogue between Muslims and Jews for peaceful co-existence, inspite of their political and religious difference which,if it can be achieved, would be great.But, as we all know, it's next to impossible because, Muslim-Jewish discord is centuries old, if not older than Sunni-Shia divide.In other word, it would be bitter pill to swallow for Arabs, and Iran to accept existence of Jewish state in middle of Arab land.And, Sunnis to accept Shia way of belief in Islam.

    As the saying goes, charity begins at home.What I mean, Mike, is we muslims should try to mend our own house first, before we would think of mending fences with other community.

    “Arabia will not ever be reconciled to Jewish dominance in Palestine. For thirteen hundred years Moslem Arabs have lived here, tilling the soil, caring for their herds, raising their fruits and olives, practicing their trades and crafts.”

    Finally, Mike, in return, I would also like to have your blunt opinion, whether it's more important and crucial to have Sunni-Shia dialogue to bring brotherhood and united umma first.Or, for a muslim brother to think, and have dialogue with Jewish community.


  3. Hasni,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I really appreciate it.

    The Jewish-Muslim problem is not centuries old. It rather had its root in 1917 with the Balfour declaration - creating two states in the land; Palestine and Israel. Prior to that there never was a serious problem between the two communities that was beyond the norm.

    Terrorism, extremism, political upheaval and destruction can be traced to single most milestone of history; Creation of Israel in 1948 and how the refugees were handled and settled and the reaction of Arabs. Can we change that? No.

    The problem was not the creation of Israel, it was rather the way it was handled by all parties to create a wedge and animosity between the two communities. Can we go back and re-start? No.

    After the Holocaust, the Palestinians were the most affected people in human history. Nothing comes close to that. Nearly four generations of them have been stripped of hope. Every Child's hope is to play in the street with other kids, go to school, find a job, get married, have a home and children... The Palestinians were deprived of that very basic need of life. They cried out loud, the shameless world did not listen, and finally in desperation they were mis-led by their leadership and the world was not the same. Every one including the Palestinians, Israelis, Arabs and Americans ought to be ashamed of their respective behavior. Can we reverse it? No.

    Every problems in the middle east and what it pollinated around the globe has roots in solving the Jewish-Muslim conflict. I strongly believe if we can bring a resolution; security to Israelis and Hope to Palestinians, most of the problems will fade and solutions will emerge.

    If I am given a choice to spend 1 minute; I would spend that minute on Israel-Palestine issue, if I have 3 minutes, 2 will go to IP and 1 will towards Shia-Sunni conflict.

    No problem needs to be belittled, but priorities must be assigned. The issue that yields the most results must not be sacrificed. Once the IP is resolved, most problems will fade and become easier to solve.

    I hope I have been very clear and blunt. That is me, you may have different priority and I respect that. May be you and I reverse the orders and work on both the problems.

    I have continuously worked for unity in Ummah - very rarely you find the people from Ahmadi, Bohra, Ismaili, Shia , Sunni, women with and without Hijab in one place... thank God, I have been able to do that many times, twice, they all shared the same stage. I will continue to defend the divinity of each tradition, none is superior or inferior. If one group thinks they are right, they are darn wrong, that would be sheer arrogance to believe the other wrong. Islam is about peace and we have to show by our words and actions, we must reflect, inhale, exhale peace.

    We have a range of issues, Insha Allah, when I complete the blue print for Muslims, in my book you will have a menu to work from.


  4. Yes, Mike, I think that most of us think that if peace can be found with Israel that many of the problems will dissipate. If Obama is the next president I hope he can find a way, although it will be difficult if not impossible currently. If McCain is the next president I have no hope of it being resolved in our life times. At the beginning of his term I thought W. had some opportunities with Arafat and I was disappointed that grab them.

    I did find the references to the multiple translations of 1.7 and your explanation interesting and helpful. It's just that for most of the article it isn't apparent that there will be translations or that you are talking.

    In my last note I meant to reference George Orwell's classic novel "1984". I don't know if you're familiar with it, but so much of what you write about is related to that book and the reason that it is a classic. If you don't have a copy I'm sure you'll find copies at any Half Price books. I'm sure that if you'd grown up in this country you would have chosen to read it as a youth. The thing that makes it so powerful are the three main ideas in the book:

    War is Peace
    Freedom is Slavery
    Ignorance is Strength

    In the novel he proves those three statements and shows how governments use those ideas to stay in power.

    Mike, as you said, I value your friendship and the work that you do. The last two Sundays I spoke at ... about Judaism. I mentioned you a few times and you may get a call next year asking you to speak.


  5. Good article.

    I sent it to more than 150 people (non-Muslims).
    Muslims should participate in Jewish events and vice-versa. Standing away from each other will not cut it and each one needs to be given a microphone.


  6. I don't think that is offensive; you are just saying the truth.


  7. Mike, I have Jewish friends and I have found that they do not want advice or solutions - they just want to be heard. They are in pain - they have been through persecutions that we as Christians have never known ( I can't speak for Muslims ). What I have learned to do with my Jewish friends is listen and then ask: Tell me what I can do to help.

    I saw nothing in what you wrote that was offensive - but then I am not a Jew. I'm thinking perhaps that you, like I, may have failed to hear their pain and ask what THEY thought was the solution. Sometimes I want to give adivce/solutions rather than just listen. The Jews need us to listen and understand and ask what can we do to help. If we were Jews facing the situation in Europe, what would we feel like? Scared as Hell? They've been thru the holocaust once ....

  8. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for sending me this article. I am curious if this was already posted in the Dallas paper on Oct 30th?

    Anyways, No I dont think it should be offensive to Jews at all. I am actually a bit surprised at your soft tone toward an apparent ill will that is presented in making of this movie.

    I would perhaps drill home in a simple sentence that this movie has the same 'Instill Fear' tactics that has caused horrible things like "The Holocaust" "The Spanish Inquisition" and more recently the "Iraq war". Hatred or spreading fear against any group engulfs all people in hatred which eventually will return to the perpetrator of hate.

    Without seeing the movie, from what I gather, one other comment I will make is that your mention that "the movie is not offensive" to muslims may not be very accurate because any time Quran is mis represented Muslims will find it offensive even if it is misrepresented in a well made masterpiece of art form.

    I really like your quote of Bhagavad Gita. To the same point there is a Hadith that I know of that says that some common people said to Allah SWT at the aakhirath that they did all that the Imams and murshads told them to so why are they being blamed. So Allah SWT asked the Imams who answered that they were themselves misguided so why did these people listen to them and not find facts themselves from other sources for truth was theirs to find.
    Anyways, I really dont know very much except from hearing a little here and a little there so please take what I write with a grain of salt. :).

    Shaheen - Muslim

  9. In the paragraph about Jesus, it would be useful to point to a place in the Koran that supports what you said. But I think that section of the Koran also blames the Jews for killing Jesus, so you open a whole new problem.

  10. In the paragraph about Jesus, it would be useful to point to a place in the Koran that supports what you said. But I think that section of the Koran also blames the Jews for killing Jesus, so you open a whole new problem.

  11. I am myself invovled in interfaith dialogue but I have come to understand that it is a collosal pretense and therefore, an exercise in futility.

    The need of the hour is to oppose Islamists. If we don't smarten up to their deviousness, they will soon overtake us, and eventually the whole world.

  12. Jewish from IsraelNovember 3, 2008 at 8:52 PM

    This makes me sick to the stomach…all this finger pointing and hatred. I had a lot of sympathy until I read about the extremism of the Jews.

    Then It came back to the same point “What the accuser is accusing the accused he too should be accused of doing!” Tell me are we all mad. Crazy enough to believe one is right and the other wrong.

    Why don’t we see that it is a spiral. We have to learn that the only time we have is NOW.

  13. I want to see how many hats you wear as a human being…and I know you feel as I do, think as I do, care as I do. If there were more like us there would not be discrimination against people…
    Continue to spread your kind spirit
    In Friendship

  14. Relationship is always two ways. Madhzab always leads bani adam into uniformed opposing sects. We already have a relationship of cousins as children of Adam. can we not build on this?

  15. Thanks Mike! This is just so amazing! I am going to share this with all my family, acquaintances and friends! Thanks again !!

  16. I can't imagine how any Jews could be offended by your comments. I think you bent over backwards to be fair.

  17. Iftekhar Hai - MuslimNovember 3, 2008 at 8:54 PM

    I think you are fairly balanced in being critical of both the communities. Our Jewish friends should not be offended.

  18. Dear Mike,
    In your deeply thoughtful way, you have presented a compelling argument for tolerance and understanding, the only pathways that can lead us to peaceful existence together on a diverse planet.

  19. How do you translate anti-semitism as hate for jews? The term refers to the race, not the religion. It is hate for the Semitic people which includes the Arabs. Hating Palestinians is as anti-semitic as hating jews. And one could safely hate a jew of European origin who is no more semitic than Bush without being anti-semitic. The jews who sit in high places in America have however propagated the myth that you have stated above. I hope you will correct this understanding and tell your readers to correct it as well. Thanks.

  20. Mirza,

    Technically you are right, however the issue at hand is "anti-Jewish" attitudes, which are generally known as "anti-semitism".

    It is sad that the few among Jews and Muslims are causing the majorities to suffer. Both the Muslim and Jewish moderate majorities need to speak up and bring peace to one and all.

  21. Well done Mike, I really hope that one day every human being might see that with an open attitude, a good heart and a strong commitment to do the right thing, we can all live in a better and more inclusive and respectful society. As a Hispanic Christian, I can see your passion. Thanks, be blessed!

  22. Sir:

    I think it is a great idea, but personally feel that the so-called three religions of the book born one after the other are all obsolete, irrelevant and out of touch with the thinking of the young people. Only one thing that binds them together is HATRED FOR EACH OTHER. How can you hope to eliminate this common thread that binds you all. Thank God I am a Hindu and we hate nobody, welcome all and stop no one from trying other religions. The beauty of Hinduism is that it is not a religion. It is a way of living, a set of beliefs, flexible and resilient that is why it has survived for 9000 years, never engaged in proselytisation, withstood brutal attacks by the Muslims, massive movements of conversion by the Christians, absorbed 250,000 Jews, tens of thousands of Parsis and what not. It was only possible because of two words that the Hindus espoused fervently:

    Look at the Red Indians of the Americas: they did not tolerate the white man and took to guns and what happened: they got annihilated. Jews killed Jesus Christ and Christians hated them for centuries and lots of them still do but for the reason of economics they tolerate them, but give them a chance and the hatred would show again.

    If there is a solution then it is the "elimination of religion" from trhe thinking, teaching and preaching of it. But think about it, is it possible. A far cry. Mankind has engaged in subjugation of fellow beings, just like animals, and will never stop as long as religion exists, and even after. See how one lion attacks the other when it comes to claiming the leadership of the group, how it kills the cubs of a lioness because he feels it would make the lioness less attracted to him. True, we are not animals but our insticts are very different. Jews believe in subjugation of all others through whatever means, and for that they were hated in Europe in the recent past, in the middle east hundreds of years ago. But have they learnt any lesson, No. See there are two kinds of intellectuals among the Jews in USA and one hates the other and call people like Noam Chomsky and Ari Findelstein all kinds of names because they preach tolerance and criticise Israel for its non-tolerance. The history of Israel speaks for itself. Palestinians were supposed to be allowed to enjoy peaceful lving in Israel, but the very first year of its founding thousands of them had to leave a life of luxury in the palatial homes because of the overshelming Jewish people who make their lives so miserable. The exodus continued for decades and the Israelis Jews thrived upon it. Now they talk about anti-semitism. How can you change the past, I mean the recent past, undo the miseries heaped upon the Palestinians for over sex decades and continues today.

    I wish you luck and encourage you to try. I will like to hear from whoever likes to write back. I hate nobody but do empathize with the Palestinians and think they are wrong when they adopt tactics like suicide bombings - but then I think what choice do they have. They can never match the fire power of the US and Israel and when put together it is invincible. One result it has achieved is that it has made people like you to start thinking about making peace.

    Rajinder Sud

  23. Dear Mike,

    I appreciate the time and thought you put into the article you shared this morning. We are
    kindred spirits. I wish I had seen the film you referenced. My interest is not just intellectual
    and theoretical. I have a French exchange son who is now a doctor . Pierre was so concerned
    about his family and the increase of antisemitism that he returned to France to be close to his
    aging parents.

    Another reason that I am keenly interested in the viewing you plan to have of this film is that
    in 1987 Marcelle Hechemy and I created the Cousins Club for Muslims, Jews and others
    concerned about the future of the Middle East. We came together to break bread, get to know
    each other as individuals and have the difficult dialogues that build bridges of understanding.
    This was a time when Muslims and Jews were talking about each other but not talking with each
    other and many folks unwilling to do so.

    I remember how many people in our respective communities expressed concern and suspicion
    of our agenda. Nevertheless there were a few intrepid souls who shared our belief in the importance
    of dialogue between people holding very different points of view. One of our earliest programs was
    The Middle East-What are the Facts? Whose Facts?

    Over the years our numbers and the frequency of our meeting grew. Strong bonds developed between
    people with vastly different backgrounds and points of view. In the early 90's Marcelle became seriously ill, my business required considerably more of my attention and other opportunities for dialog appeared in the metroplex.. Thus, in 1995 we held our last meeting. Often during the last 13 years people have shared
    positive experiences they had at The Cousins Club with me and indicated their wish that was still in existence.

    I support your idea of a showing of the film to an audience composed of people with many backgrounds and I would like to be in that audience. Thus, I write to request that the date be scheduled when I am not out of town. While I recognize that you can't meet everyone's schedule, I realize that there is no way that you can meet mine, if you do not know what it is.

    I leave on a business trip to Australia on November 20th and return December 1st. I am going to California on business December 7 and will return on the 10th, I leave for Israel to see my children and grandchildren
    on December 16 and return January 6.

    Whether or not the viewing is held at a time that I can attend, I would like to get together with you after the first of the year to explore ways we can engage people in the crucial conversations that we must have to build bridges instead of walls.

    Best regards,

    RISK more than others think is safe.

    CARE more than others think is wise.

    DREAM more than others think is practical.

    EXPECT more than others think is possible.
    Cadet Maxim

  24. Mr. Rajinder Sud,

    Please remember, it is not the religion that drives the people to do wrong things, it is one evil man (usually) that uses religion to his end.

    Every religion is beautiful and peaceful, I will challenge any one to prove otherwise.

    To claim one religion or one's way of life is superior is sheer arrogance, and that is what breeds conflicts, hate and anger.

    The idea that you have mentioned that Jews Killed Jesus is precisely what spreads hate. It is the propaganda material, read the history. If you kill me in a road accident, should we spread it as a Hindu Killed a Muslim? We have to put an end to this kind of propaganda. There is propaganda against Jews, Muslims, Christian, Hindus and every one. As civilized people, we need to separate the fact from propaganda, an essential element of each one of the religions. Indeed,the Bhagavad Gita says, finding the truth is one's own responsibility. Please read the holy book, there is a lot of wisdom packed in it, so is every holy book.

    Are you familiar with what is going on India, in the name of Hinduism? Read the Indian News papers, again it is not Hinduism, it is driven by a few criminals, just as criminals in Islam, Christianity or Judaism have driven and used people to pacify their own personal insecurities.

    Let's become peace makers, thus religious people, to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill.

  25. Mike
    Assalam Alaiekum
    I have periodically read your e-mails and am aware of your desire towards having muslims live in US with respect and acknowledgement as a respectable part of US socioreligious landscape.

    There are few things you can do there which we do here.

    1)Youth speach context.This encourages youths to speak in a forum after preparation with facts and knowledge on current issues.This prepares them for later to be able to speak comfortably and impressively.This quality will push some youths to take politics as their ambition.This is extremely necessary.,to start at the level of first board of school officials then councilman then further up.This will also galvanise the muslim community to be united in issues of benefit.

    2)Encourage youths to write letters for publication in local mainstream english newspapers. Ofcourse only those letters get published which are based on facts are logically and reasonably presented and also are on current issue.This is also beneficial for muslims as strategy for survival.
    Both above qualities are leadership qualities and to let the youths develop them. For both context prizes are given including even cash prizes.

    We should invest every minute ,every dollar and every calorie(of our energy) in our youths which will secure our future in this country with respect. We can't depend on other communities to help us.


  26. kimat khatak & RabbiNovember 14, 2008 at 9:58 PM

    Mike asa,
    Congratulations on the good work you are doing. Jewish Muslim dialogues are very useful. One learns a lot. The creeds are so similar that one wonders as to why there has been such a bad blood. I and a friend of mine Dr Levy wanted to have a JM CIRCLE established. It worked for a few weeks and then fizzled out because the Muslims had difficult time adjusting and feeling that the Jews could be sincere. The Jewish food did not help either. I and Levy were disappointed but we still get together. Massachusetts have a very elaborate interfaith program and it is helping very much integrating like minded people.In western Mass we have a Jewish Muslim program in which we go the reformed Jewish Synegogue one week and they come to our Masjid the next week and interchange ideas according to an established program subject wise and it has been very rewarding. They love our food.We exchange our books(Torah Qur'an) and first time we opened the SCROLL which is hand written in Hebrew.
    The quotes in both the books had a lot of similarities.
    We are avoiding Politics and sticking to religion and that is the most difficult part because average Jew has very poor understanding of the religion and they are more into ancestor worship and the miseries that Jews have undergone in the past.They talk Israel and you have to change the subject to religion rather than politics.
    kimat gul khatak
    and Rabbi

  27. Great point of view Mike! Just that 3000+ years of heavily ignorant religious backed problems are a real tough fix and someone will always take offense to even trying. Would be so nice if it works and we saw a big change! The biggest comment that is correct that I see is both their unwillingness to integrate with each other. Things will never change unless they embrace each other and your comments about watching this together are so correct. I think the educated people of each side would do so, but they are the thin minority on both sides. Then when you have countries like US and others heavily biased to one side of a group that is just as guilty as the other, then we have world problems. Let them deal with their problems is my best personal advice. Now what we did in WWII was proper, but we are still carrying that mentality today and have upset the other group. The state the US is currently in is partially to the efforts we have put in the middle east and have forsaken ourselves and our own people. If we stay more neutral on this subject, no one would have a real reason to hate us over there and things like Sept 11 would probably not have happened. Right now we have given Muslims billions of dollars worth of reasons to hate us and the Jews Billions of dollars of reasons to love us. Now anyone that knows religious priority of that both sides will tell you that their allegiance will never lie with the US when push comes to shove no matter what we have done for them. 3000 years of ignorance is a tough fix.... One day we will see it and your efforts are very noble Mike.

    Thanks for sharing,


  28. Matt,

    You have said it and if most people can get it, we can do the right thing

    Justice is the only thing that guarantees and sustains peace. No matter how one crushes and takes advantage of the other, such benefits are deleterious and detrimental to peace, as the oppressed are always waiting to get even in the process and no one would be at peace.

    The Jews around the globe have not had security, when they felt they did, Hitler betrayed it, rather the world shamelessly stood by in silence while the Holocaust in effect. Security is living without fear, without caution and without guards, that is something Israelis and Jews around the world deserve.

    The Palestinians are deprived of the very fundamental element of life; Hope. For 60 years generations have lived in camps and squalor with no hope. A child has a right to go to school, play in the streets, job, marriage, house, family… The world bears a burden of shame for not focusing on it and rather be cruel to them and oppress them more. They need hope.

    When Justice becomes the norm in that land, the Jews, Christians, Muslim and other habitants, and every one must put in vigorous effort to achieve it. Palestinians cannot have hope if they deny security to Israel, and Israel cannot have security when they deny hope to Palestinians. We have to dump all the previous policy makers, they were the real impediment to peace and they will never understand these values.

    Almost every one in the world, including Tony Blair have emphasized that most of the world problem will get decimated once there is peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Now we have some one who has brains to understand that.

    Mike Ghouse

  29. Hi Mike,

    There are a lot of fantastic interfaith initiatives happening. You might be interested in the activities of the Scriptural Reasoning Forum where Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars read and study each others texts (http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/journals/jsrforum/); the Interfaith Youth Core (http://www.ifyc.org/); the Network of Spiritual Progressives(http://www.spiritualprogressives.org/); and the Faith
    Club(http://www.thefaithclub.com/thebook/index.php). They're just a
    few in America off the top of my head. There's lots going on here in
    Australia too.


  30. Rachel,

    Thanks for the information, indeed, we are looking to start a similar program and it helps to reference what is already done. I have done experimentations with religion, in the Unity day last September, I asked 39 individuals from my audience of about 300 to step up to represent 13 faiths in groups of three. The small challenge to them was to role play for a different faith. For example the Baptist Minister walked up first, I asked him to be an Atheist for the next 15 minutes, then we had a former President of an Islamic Organization played a Wicca, A Mormon played a Muslim... the selection was random. And each group was to read about the faith it was representing. They all were pleased as the essence of each faith or system was beautiful and was no different than their own. Unless we venture, we cannot learn.

    I was pleased with the outcome. I have to post the video one of these days... or I may write it up.

    The documentary "the monster among us" will be shown to a mixed audience and I will ask a few Jews to defend Islam and Muslims to defend the Jews, which is really not the problem, but in the context of the film, it makes a difference. Unless we are in other's shoes, we cannot understand the security needs of Jews or the basic requirement of Palestinians; hope. There is a disconnect on human level and I would like to facilitate and certainly welcome the ideas

    Mike Ghouse