B U L L E T I N
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Peace is the result of Justice
Justice gives birth to peace, prosperity and progress of a nation, without which peace and progress would not sustain; injustice is a drag on the morality and conscience of a people.
When criminals walk around freely without consequences to their crimes, it frightens the victims, neither of them is at peace; one is raged and the other outraged. When a child is abused, there has got to be punishment for the abuser; when a woman is violated, the violator has to pay for it; and when the weak is taken advantage of, the user has to be accounted for it; and when the disadvantaged is had justice must be restored.
When we let injustice get by, the cycle of score keeping perpetuates itself. Neither you nor I would be free from the bondage of injustice, it is consuming, each time you see injustice your blood boils or the anger makes you want to get even when you get your turn.
Injustice creates unchecked ripples whereas justice brings tranquility.
When you know that you can speak without fear, you are at peace; when you know that any one who abuses you will be punished, you are relaxed and productive; when you know you cannot get away with wrong doing, it brings peace to you. Justice is a behavior modifier for the general good of the society.
Justice is like a balance, each injustice affects the balance and that balance is the peace and progress of a community. You can trace the roots of injustice in every conflict and every upheaval.
Justice has been the basis of American society, and we are the proof to the world of our progress, peace and security and we must not let this one value be devalued by the selfish egotistical interests of a few.
In case of Holy Land foundation, a few short sighted individuals sought to destroy them, they manufactured evidence to appease the short term interest of the fear mongers and thank God, yes, thank God, the American sense of Justice will prevail.
Today, it is me, tomorrow it is some one else and ultimately it will be you, who will bear the brunt of it in one form or the other. It is the law of Karma, what goes around comes back.
It is in your interest, my interest and every American’s interest to seek and fight for justice. If you don’t take a stand against injustice, should you expect anyone to stand for you? Please become a part of the movement to seek Justice for the Holy Land Foundation.
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 and local television network discussing interfaith, political and civic issues. He is the founding president of World Muslim Congress with a simple theme: Good for Muslims and good for the world. His comments, news analysis and columns can be found on the Websites and Blogs listed at his personal website http://www.mikeghouse.net/. Mike is a Dallasite for nearly three decades and Carrollton is his home town. He can be reached at MikeGhouse@gmail.com
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Tom Crendo, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Billy Graham Jr., John Hagee and others will be trigger happy to send mercenaries to assassinate foreign leaders, bomb Mecca, blame Katrina on gays and Lesbians, or be unkind to Arial Sharon for dividing Jerusalem or destroy some such place. Shamelessly we have allowed them to affix the name of Jesus Christ to their ugly talk. Perhaps what holds them from taking extreme actions are the laws of our Nation. Thank God for that.
Likewise, Osama Bin Laden, Mulla Omar, Muqtada Sadr and their ilk shamelessly carry on the ugly work and stamp the name of religion to it, and the Neocons are too eager to buy the non-sense and propagate it. Ugliness of one is a fodder to the other.
The extremists in Jews, Hindus and Buddhists are no different and there are plenty of them in each group who are bent on creating chaos and are possessed with the idea of annihilating the others to feel secure. It is because of these extremists we do not have peace in the Middle East; the show is run by these frightened souls who multiply each others fears instead of mitigating them. I pray some one amongst them will rise and negotiate security to the Israelis and hope to the Palestinians. It is time to listen to the peace makers and dump all the current policy makers in the US, Israel and Palestine altogether. Thank God happy days are coming in the US in November of this year.
Yogi Sikand has plucked the mirror images of a Muslim extremist in a Hindu extremist.
Deadly Foes, Inseparable Partners:
Reflections on Symbiotic Religious Chauvinisms
For the last several years I have been travelling widely in Jammu and Kashmir, meeting people from different walks of life. My primary purpose has been to seek to understand changing community identities and the role of religion in fashioning them. In the course of my journeys, I have been struck by the fact that various religions are interpreted and understood by their adherents in remarkably diverse ways that completely belie the simplistic notions of ‘Hindus’, ‘Muslims’ or ‘Buddhists’ as homogenous, seamless entities.
Since I passionately believe in peaceful coexistence between people of different faiths (or of no faith at all), I have been particularly interested in exploring theological possibilities contained within people’s diverse understandings of religion that can be used as resources to combat the politics of hatred and division in the name of religion. And in the course of my several journeys across Jammu and Kashmir I have discovered such resources aplenty, articulated in different ways by ‘ordinary’ folk and that continue to flourish and sustain hopes for resisting the onslaught of communalism despite often brutal attempts to quash them.
Yet, I have also been struck by the ways in which religion, in Jammu and Kashmir as elsewhere, can be, and has been, used as a tool to promote political agendas that pit communities against each other, belying what I presume should be the true role of religion. It is such understandings of religion and religion-based community identities that are propelling the current strife in Jammu and in the Kashmir Valley.
Some years ago, while travelling in the Doda district, I was introduced to a firebrand self-styled Islamist, leader of a lesser-known pro-Pakistan political outfit. He was bed-ridden, and was later to die in a few months’ time, but yet the self-righteous and sternly cantankerous man spoke with irrepressible passion. ‘The Kashmir dispute is both religious as well as political’, he insisted. ‘In Islam, the two cannot be separated’. He quoted the poet Iqbal as saying that politics without religion would lead to ‘Genghis Khan-style tyranny’. He added that somewhat the same claim was also made by Gandhi. He was in no doubt that the only true and long-term solution to the manifold woes of the world lay in everybody accepting Islam (that is, Islam of his particular version) or else agreeing willingly to live under what he called a global ‘Islamic state’. That, too, was the solution to the Kashmir dispute, he averred.
He had, he went on to say, been an ardent leftist in his youth, but later, after pouring through the voluminous works of Syed Abul Ala Maududi, founder of the Jamaat-e Islami, he had ‘mended his ways’ and now believed that the rest of his whole life should be spent working for the establishment of an ‘Islamic state’, of the sort that Maududi dreamt of, in Kashmir, even if this meant using force to expel the Indians from his land. For that he had been forced to endure long spells in various Indian jails.
The Prophet Muhammad, I interrupted him to point out, worked entirely peacefully spreading his message in Mecca for several years, and it was only later, when he was forced to shift to Medina and was faced with attacks by his Meccan opponents, that he allowed his followers to take up arms. Further, he had not used armed force to set up his political dispensation in Medina. Did that, then, indicate, I suggested, that using force to establish the sort of state that he wanted in Kashmir might not have sanction in Islam?
‘No, no’, he shot back angrily. ‘Unless one has political power, one cannot establish peace, one cannot enforce any ideology’. Hence, he went on, taking to arms to establish what he called an ‘Islamic state’ in Kashmir was entirely valid.
I was aware that many other Kashmiri Muslim scholars, as indeed several Muslim scholars elsewhere, had an entirely different answer. Armed jihad, that is struggle for a holy cause, they would insist, is only possible when Muslims are oppressed or if they are denied their religious freedoms. And also perhaps only if the potential good that could come out of this course was greater than the harm caused by it. Some of them would argue that this was not the case in Jammu and Kashmir. And so, I ventured to ask, although the ongoing movement in Kashmir could be called a political struggle, perhaps it did not merit the label of a jihad?
‘It is a jihad’, he thundered. ‘Our religious freedoms have been snatched from us by the Indian government.’
But mosques and madrasas and Muslim organizations, such as his own, were free to function, I pointed how. How, then, could he say that the Kashmiri Muslims were being denied their religious rights?
He thought for a moment, nursing the gaping wound on his foot. Then, stroking his beard thoughtfully, he replied, ‘Islamic schools in Kashmir are forced to use the NCERT syllabus, which has anti-Muslim contents. And, sometimes, we have not been allowed to hold our rallies.’
His first charge, I knew, was entirely bogus, and, if there was truth in his second allegation, it was not because his outfit was Muslim, because scores of other Muslim groups, including those engaged in peaceful missionary work, were not under any sort of ban.
As a hardened self-styled Islamist, this man was vociferous in his denunciation of Sufism, the dominant form of Islam in the region that had helped create a unique cultural tradition that brought Muslims, Hindus and others closer together. He refused to relent even when I pointed out that it was principally through the agency of the Sufis that Islam had spread in Kashmir and over much of the rest of South Asia. ‘Sufism is definitely anti-Islamic’, he spat. ‘It led to the decline of the spirit of jihad and thus caused the downfall of the Muslims from the political heights that they once occupied’. Clearly, he saw himself as the leader of an elite vanguard with a special mission, to ‘cleanse’ his Muslims of what he saw as the remnants of their ‘pagan’ past. ‘Only five per cent of the Kashmiri Muslims are true Muslims. The rest are under the spell of Sufism and many are still Hindu at heart. The Sufis only changed peoples’ names, but not
their character in the proper Islamic direction’, he spluttered.
The man’s amazing ignorance of Sufism and the role of Sufis in Kashmir was staggering, but I kept that point to myself.
It was not that his bitter outpourings came as a total shock, for I had heard about his ideological fervour, and he had turned out to be exactly as I had expected. But what particularly intrigued me was how this ardent advocate of Islamist-style politics was also a covert Hindutva sympathizer, although in a rather convoluted way. That began to dawn on me when I asked him that if he insisted that Muslim-majority Kashmir should be turned into an ‘Islamic state’, how could he deny Hindus in Hindu-majority India to declare India as a ‘Hindu state’?
‘They have all the right to do so’, pat came the reply. I was aghast, but he went on nevertheless. ‘Any religion, even Hinduism, is better than secularism, which is tantamount to disregarding religion altogether’, he explained. ‘And, hence, a Hindu state is definitely better than a secular one.’ Interestingly, the same question had once been put to his ideological mentor, Syed Maududi, who had answered in exactly the same way.
The man went on to qualify his statement. ‘Unlike Islam, all other religions are incomplete’, he argued. ‘They do not have a full system (nizam) to govern all the affairs of state. Hence, if Hindus try out Hindu Raj in India and they find that it does not work, we Muslims are there to supply them an ideology that does.’
But even more bizarre and frightening was another man I met while on the same trip to the Doda district: a short, dark, pot-bellied, pink-robed self-styled sadhu, who had set himself up as the mahant or head of a small temple that blared ear-splitting religious music and discourses from dawn to nightfall. Like many other such heads of temples in Doda, this man was from a village in eastern Uttar Pradesh and an ardent advocate of the RSS. He had studied till the tenth grade and then, so he claimed, had gone off to a centre for sadhus in Ayodhya, shifting to Doda a decade or so ago.
Our conversation revolved around the issue of Hindu-Muslim relations in Doda. ‘Hindus and Muslims can never be friends. They are polar opposites and have nothing in common’, he demurred. ‘Muslims’ he went on, spinning his own peculiar theory of Muslim genetics, ‘are demonic by nature (asur pravatti)’. Hence, he claimed, ‘they can never live at peace with Hindus’. That message he subtly passed on to the Hindus who visited his temple. ‘I tell them that they should remain firmly wedded to their religion and have as little as possible to do with the Muslims’, he said. He looked at me to see if I approved, and must have been disappointed. ‘Hindus and Muslims can never live together’, he went on nevertheless. ‘Let all Muslims be packed off to Pakistan and India should declare itself a Hindu state’ was his solution to what he believed were the irreconcilable differences between Hindus and Muslims.
Just as the self-appointed Islamist mentioned above considered most Kashmiri Muslims, who remained associated with the Sufi tradition, as hardly Muslim at all, and, hence, in urgent need of his intervention, so, too, did this self-styled Hindu god-man believe that the Hindus of Doda were ‘half-Muslim’ and ‘improper Hindus’ and so in need of his guidance. ‘They eat meat and marry with their close relatives, like Muslims do’, he spluttered in disgust. ‘They visit the shrine of Shah Fariduddin, and they eat in Muslims’ homes.’ All that, he insisted, was completely ‘un-Hindu’.
Like the self-styled Islamist, this man believed that there was nothing good in any religion but his own. ‘Only the Hindu religion has produced sants and mahatmas’, he claimed. ‘The few Muslims who achieved that status, like Kabir and Rahim, did so only after becoming Hindu.’ ‘There’s nothing at all good in the Muslim religion’, he went on. ‘If a Muslim so much as touches me, I must take a bath immediately to purify myself. Even if Muslims do good deeds, their impurity remains and cannot be rubbed off’, he thundered.
I interrupted to ask him if he had come to that conclusion after studying Islam. Somewhat reluctantly, he admitted that he had no knowledge about the Muslim faith, but then came up at once with an ingenuous excuse for his ignorance. ‘Our Hindu dharmashastras contain all the truths, so what is the need to look elsewhere?’, he shot back.
This man, who saw himself as the salvation of the Hindus of the region, was also an unabashed supporter of the caste system. Not surprisingly, for he was, as he put it, a ‘shuddh Brahmin’. ‘The caste system has been made by God’, he averred. ‘The dharmashastras say that a Brahmin is even superior to the gods. No matter how low a Brahmin may be in terms of character, he still remains worthy of worship. He is like a cow that may feed on garbage but should still be prayed to’, he announced. Conversely, he rambled on, ‘A Shudra, no matter how pious and capable, must accept his servile status and serve the upper castes. He is not worthy of respect. He is like a donkey which, even if bedecked with jewels, remains a donkey and cannot be transformed into a stallion.’
I wanted to burst out! I wanted to throw up! I wanted to flee! I was appalled at this disgusting display of ignorance and bigotry, but I restrained myself, just as I had when I had met the self-styled Islamist, with whom this man seemed to have much in common. Inveterate foes of each other they may have posed themselves as, but yet, at a very fundamental level, they were united in their desperate need for each other to justify their own existence, speaking the same language of hatred and bigotry, and seeing the world through the same deadening and dehumanizing lens.
Dallas, Texas : Sunday, August 16, 2008
Media Contact: Mike Ghouse (214) 325-1916
Unity Day USA 2007 Summary
4th Annual Unity Day USA
Dallas, Texas : The Foundation for Pluralism and the World Muslim Congress have announced the 4th annual 911 Memorial event to be held on Sunday, September 7, 2007 in Addison, Texas. Mike Ghouse, President of the organizations announced. “This is an annual event for all Americans to come together to rededicate our pledge to the safety and security of our nation”. On this Unity Day USA, we, the people of the United States of America; of every faith, race, ethnicity, culture and background will gather to pray for peace, unity and security of our nation and the world.
Our 2008 theme is "One Nation under God". Our religious leaders will seek guidance and wisdom from their respective faiths and our Civil servants and community leaders will echo the same sentiment and suggest ways in which we as individuals can work toward creating and sustaining cohesive and thriving local communities.
The American Muslims have taken the initiative to remember one of the greatest tragedies in the history of our nation by bringing about a positive change to the 9/11 event. We wish to honor the lives of thousands of fellow Americans on that day and we have committed to make this day, the Sunday before 9/11, a day of Unity of Americans to pledge to the peace, unity and prosperity of our nation.
Unity Day USA is to be held on Sunday before September 11 of each year, as was suggested by Congressman Pete Sessions, Kenny Marchant and Ralph Hall in a luncheon meeting in Dallas. Congressman Sessions’ office is considering to proclaim the Unity Day USA as National Day along with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi who has shown the same interest.
As Americans we uphold, protect, defend and celebrate the values enshrined in our constitution. All our faiths reinforce the creed of "One Nation under God, with liberty and justice for all."
If you wish to volunteer and or sponsor the event, please send the information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your comments at click here and the Summary for 2007.
God Bless America
Unity Day USA,
Information for the previous years;
Power Point Presentation: http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Images_UnityDay/UnityDayUSA_PluralismWebsite.pps
90 Organizations Participated - http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Images_UnityDay/UnityDay_PastOrganizations.asp
Religious leaders who participated - http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Images_UnityDay/UnityDay_Past_SpiritualLeaders.asp
Mayors & Civic Leaders
News Media: http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Images_UnityDay/UnityDay_Past_Press.asp
Album for 2005 - http://picasaweb.google.com/MikeGhouse/UnityDayUSA_2005
Album for 2006 - http://picasaweb.google.com/MikeGhouse/UnityDayUSA2006_Album02
Our Mission is to encourage individuals to develop an open mind and an open heart toward their follow beings. If we 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. We believe that knowledge leads to understanding and understanding to acceptance and appreciation of a different point of view.
Workshops Seminars Education News Letters
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Peace hinges on hope for Palestinians and security for Israel. Anything short of justice will not produce lasting peace. One cannot have advantages over the other, such gains are deleterious to lasting peace. You cannot have peace when other's don't and you cannot be secure when other aren't. Peace is a two way street... you cannot blame the other and expect peace to happen either, effort must be plural without keeping a score. An article I wrote when the Annapolis conference took place in November last year, after that many thinkers have reflected upon similar outcome. Injustice-in injustice-out.
The story is about a beautiful model township of co-existence in Israel. The town I grew up in India was like that, where my Dad consciously molded the outcome of the communal conflicts to peaceful resolutions. He was the Mayor of the town of Yelahanka and he put his heart and soul into the growth of community free from tensions. He has been gone for over thirty years, but his legacy lives on.
Where Jews and Arabs get along
This Israeli village shows that peace is possible.
By Deanna Armbruster
from the August 19, 2008 edition
Oasis of Peace, Israel - In Israel, there is a village where Arabs and Jews live as neighbors. Both groups endeavor to create a just society that can be a model for peace in the region.
What's it called? "Oasis of Peace." Though the town's name gives the impression that it's some sort of magical, idealistic utopia, the people living there are challenged daily and deeply by the reality of an intractable, painful, and violent conflict. Like anything worth attaining, peace comes with hard work.
There are fears that the village will somehow threaten the 5.4 million Jews in Israel and 5.1 million Palestinian Arabs in the area. It won't. Only one couple, living there now for more than 25 years, is mixed. The other 54 nonmixed families are Jewish, Muslim, and Christian; they share strong convictions about their own identities, but have made a determined effort – for more than three decades – to live alongside one another and thus affect society.
Much can be learned from Neve Shalom, its Hebrew name, or Wahat al-Salam as it's called in Arabic, about inter-faith relations.
In the local Jewish-Arab primary school, children study one another's faiths with natural curiosity. Students break the fast together at Ramadan, share a sukkah booth at the festival of Sukkot, and exchange small gifts at Christmas. And dialogue begins, but never ends, in its Pluralistic Spiritual Center where discussions transcend religion to recognize that this conflict is not Torah versus Koran versus Bible.
The difficulties lie when the issues of the conflict are placed on the table.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a political strife between two national groups about land, resources, security, freedom, equality, power, identity, and justice. Productive dialogue must include recognizing this and not limiting the conflict exclusively to inter/intra-religious issues.
Seeking a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires a look at the big picture. The ultimate goal should be to create stability for Israelis and Palestinians so they may live securely and freely alongside one another in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect.
That means building common ground, sharing narratives, and acknowledging the pain and suffering of others. Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Muslims, and Christians need to show a willingness to recognize one another. It ultimately means seeing an enemy as an equal in humanity. Easier said than done.
Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the leading domino to seeing any meaningful dialogue between the Arab world and the West. Without such a catalyst, dialogue will be slow. And dialogue provides the forum for understanding and for seeking resolutions; resolutions do not come without talking.
The West needs to learn more about Islam not because it's the faith of "our enemies" but because, like the children in Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, it's the faith of our neighbors.
Just as the village of "Oasis of Peace" is doing, we need to move beyond seeing Arabs as people who are inherently scary. We paint adversarial facades to create enemies, but we must challenge ourselves to break stereotypes, question basic assumptions, and raise awareness. Beyond that, the West needs to learn about the economic, political, social, and cultural conflicts facing the region.
The issues between the West and East are not just those of religion, but of political dynamics, struggles for resources, self-interest, independence, and power relations. As we begin to understand this, we will strengthen those relationships.
There are another 500 families on a waiting list who want to move to the "Oasis of Peace." This fall, 15 of these families will break ground on their plots and begin to build new homes and new futures. They are coming with loads of goodwill and perhaps little understanding of the great challenges that they will confront.
But they offer the world a ray of hope.
The residents of this small village are single-handedly removing obstacles by demonstrating that peace is within the grasp of people who seek it and are willing to sacrifice their bias so that all may share prospects of peace.
As they provide the example to those in the region it will soon be up to the rest of us to follow their lead.
• Deanna Armbruster is the executive director of the American Friends of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam and the author of "Tears in the Holy Land: Voices from Israel and Palestine." This article is part of a series on Jewish-Muslim relations written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).
Monday, August 11, 2008
By Hasni Essa
On behalf of several progressive and moderate American Muslims I write this letter to you as an American Muslim democrat, who believe in secular and religious pluralism as promoted by our spiritual Imam, Aga Khan, whose millions of followers reside all over the world, including U.S. - Aga Khan, a Muslim by faith who believes in secular and religious pluralism has recently created The World Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa, Canada. At the Leadership and Diversity Conference on May 19th, 2004,the Aga Khan said, "The Islamic World's history is closely tied to that of the Judeo-Christian World. Believe in Democracy and Practice Democracy. Believe in Pluralism and Practice Pluralism." Tolerance, openness and understanding towards other people's cultures, social structures, values and faiths are now essential to the very survival of independent world. Pluralism no longer simply an asset or a prerequisite for progress and development, it is vital to our existence.
This letter by an American Muslim on behalf of many American Muslims - who support you and would vote for you to become our next president in next election - coming from American citizens may not sound too important and carry much weight in your eyes, but we beg your kind indulgence and read this letter anyhow, which we think is pertinent because we wish to recommend a very able man, Mike Ghouse that you consider him in place of Mazen Asbahi who has recently resigned as The Muslim-outreach coordinator. As his attached tesimonial would show (below), Mike Ghouse has been a prominent figure who practice pluralism and a bridge builder not only between progressive and moderate Islam and radical Islam, but also people of other faiths and beliefs.
We believe, Sir, when you become president history would be made and you would bring idealism at a time when many Americans are despairing of making any headway against the problems the nation faces. We believe, like President John Kennedy, you promise us to cross divides - political, ideological, racial, geographic - and to transcend the old politics of fear and hate that has commandeered recent elections. We believe that you believe America can-and should - be the moral beacon for the world by returning to its core values.
"Iraq and Afghanistan are the messes getting attention today, but they are only symptoms of a much broader cancer in American foreign policy. In short, the United States is hugely over investing in military tools and under investing in diplomatic tools. The result is a lopsided foreign policy that antagonizes the rest of the world and is ineffective in tackling many modern problems." - Nicolas Kristof - New York Times
Finally, we American Muslims believe, Mike Ghouse, with his colorful multi-culture background and great experience, could be the best man for the job as your Muslim-Outreach Adviser.
Thank you most kindly for your time and consideration in this matter.
Islam for Pluralism
Mike Ghouse's profile at:
Dear Senator Obama and Speaker Pelosi;
I am pleased to submit a few more paragraphs for your perusal, much of it is in the information sent to you by Mr. Essa and others.
Pluralism is an attitude of accepting and respecting the God given uniqueness of each one of the 7 billion of us, if we can consciously practice that, conflicts fade and solutions emerge.
Over a period of two years I have run a daily talk show radio on Wisdom of Religion, all the beautiful religions from Atheism to Zoroastrianism including indigenous traditions and every possible faith I know. We have discussed the essence of each tradition where we find common grounds to stand on. I have always walked the middle path and connect with and rope both the religious left and right wingers. We have conducted a workshop on each tradition and bring together people of all faiths, nations and ethnicities twice a year in our programs Thanksgiving Celebrations & Awards Nite (14th year) and Unity Day USA (4th year)
Unity Day USA is dedicated to the unity of Americans of every faith, tradition, race and ethnicity. It is on Sunday before 9/11 - to re-dedicated our pledge to one nation under God with liberty and justice to all. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was excited when I had talked to her about this in Dallas, she literally jumped out of the Chair, and Senator, you have talked about converting 9/11 into a Day of Unity. She had mentioned about considering this for a national day. It would be a legacy of Obama Administration and contribution of Muslims to America. In fact, I am qualified to become your religion advisor to include advisor on Muslim affairs.
I have a dream, a dream to strengthen the pluralistic values of America, and the desire to encourage the community of nations to review our values of Liberty, Justice and co-existence as catalysts for prosperity.
No community or a nation can have undue advantages over others. Such benefits are temporary and deleterious to lasting peace.
We have to maintain a healthy balance within our communities and with all nations, what is good for America, has got to be good for the world and vice versa to sustain peace and progress for every one's benefit. We cannot have peace, unless others have it and we cannot be secure, unless others are not.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Pearl of wisdom
Bahudha and the Post 9/11 World
by Balmiki Prasad Singh. Oxford University Press. Pages 370. Rs 745.
THE fundamental issue facing the world today is unbeatably, "How to live?" or more appropriately "How we all ought to live?" This crucial question finds an answer in the volume under review. Drawing upon the ancient Indian philosophical concept of Bahudha—Pluralism—the dominant strain in the volume reflects the attitude of modern civilisation. Balmiki Prasad Singh has successfully concluded that no matter how much we may think we have progressed ahead, we would have to look back to our scintillating traditional wisdom for the solutions to our modern-day problems. He vehemently stresses the need to weave the concept of Bahudha into a sound blueprint for rebuilding the post-9/11 world.
Through his scholarly enquiry peeking into the lives of the enlightened personalities— Lord Mahavira, Buddha, Guru Nanak, Swami Vivekanand, Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Ashoka, Akbar, Jawaharlal Nehru and many others—the author shows how each one left a remarkable legacy that has profoundly enriched the Bahudha philosophy. He emphasises the relevance of tolerance and accommodation in the present world threatened by terrorism and a dire need of a breakthrough, i.e., Bahudha.
Tracing the quintessential teachings of the Vedas, Upnishads, Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bible, Quran, Guru Granth Sahib and other religious texts, the writer highlights how they all preach the law of harmony— rightfully the strength of the society. The exploration brings to the foreground the indisputable fact that the enlightened prophets of all religions never thought or preached in terms of exclusiveness of their religion, nor did they think only of their welfare but for the welfare of all. Throughout the volume, the author stresses the need to don the Bahudha attitude—of accommodation and tolerance—to pave the way for a strong foundation of the harmonious society.
Balmiki Prasad Singh has tried to diagnose the problem of violence and the hate-hate relationship among our race, highlighting the condition post-9/11 and also prescribed a cure in the form of pluralism that calls for an attitude of accommodation and tolerance, however, the biggest question that would assail the minds of the readers would be "Who will bell the cat?" A deluge of queries sway the mind of a discerning reader: Why or will people like Osama bin Laden, and other fundamentalists who are ever preaching the exclusiveness of their religion embrace this virtue? Would just wishful thinking for harmony or pluralism be a logical conclusion for correcting the apathetic behavior or thinking of the world when the present capitalist world is full of inherent internal contradictions?
At one place the author states that "the Bahudha approach can be regarded as a prerequisite of democracy `85 both Bahudha and democracy are in a mutually complementary relationship. The democratic political environment thus determines the Bahudha temper and is in turn shaped by the Bahudha spirit".
Democracy as a political system and capitalism as an economic system, are compatible with each other. If capitalist system consists of opposing vested interest groups/classes, wouldn’t the corresponding democratic system, too, contain different opposing pressure groups/classes, which would fight to protect their respective group/class’ interests? In such a situation where there is so much disparity, can harmony/pluralism flourish favorably? Can we achieve harmonious existence when the basic premise of this system is self-interest—every individual/economic agent is motivated by the spirit of self-interest —which in turn provides viability and sustainability to this system? Doesn’t it seem unconvincing and mere utopias to think that though nations/societies consist of different opposing self-interest groups/classes, they would work harmoniously in the interest of the others?
Doesn’t our end to achieve pluralism seem far, more so a Herculean task, when the vested interest groups deliberately misguide the masses by creating false consciousness among them by diverting their attention from the real issues, i.e., poverty and inequality, by dividing them on the basis of caste, creed, gender, region, religion, state, nation, language, faith, political alliance, etc? The philosophy of Bahudha can flourish and sustain itself in this world, which is full of complexities/antagonistic forces, only on the strong foundation of good sanskaras that teach selflessness. But how far will it be viable to be selfless in a selfish society?
Unless and until all nations unanimously embrace Bahudha, can harmonious existence be achieved? The guidelines for achieving the Bahudha attitude will have to be implemented thoroughly and embraced by all, if we have to make the world a better place to live in. It would not be less than a miracle if this world, rocking with seething violence, attains the attitude of pluralism.
Political or social freedom without economic freedom is just a fa`E7ade. Countries, which are completely dependent on other advanced countries not only economically but also technologically, what freedom can they enjoy? The advanced countries are bound to dictate/bully and exploit the under developed or smaller nations because the development of the former depends solely on the economic exploitation of the latter, otherwise the former are bound to collapse and perish in the face of cut- throat competition. Why then the few developed countries, which are dictating the world, would follow the tenets of pluralism by shedding their political and economic hegemony? USA’s foreign policy and the way it dominates the World Bank and the UNO is enough to substantiate this. Will ever the US change its attitude towards the Muslims after the attack and step forward embracing Bahudha to stop the chain reaction, can be anybody’s guess.
Keeping this reviewer’s reservations aside, the readers ought not to be dissuaded, for hope and optimism sustain life. If the fluttering of the wings of a butterfly can cause a hurricane in Amazon, a small step towards Bahudha even by a single person can spark a revolution. The tragic events of 9/11 paved a worldwide will to oppose terrorism. This consensus can be used to implement long-term preventive measures. No doubt Bahudha philosophy will prove to be much more effective than taking violent steps based on anger and hatred. We all know violence begets violence. The 9/11 example substantiates this.
I would like to highlight what Balmiki Prasad did not point out. It was the verbal violence of the US President—when on September 11, 1990, while making a speech to the joint session of congress he announced his government’s decision to go on war against Iraq—that rebounded and explains as to why the terrorists chose 9/11 to attack. We will have to overcome the temptations to respond to violence and choose a more cautious approach. Resolving differences through dialogue, compromise, humility and understanding would usher a genuine peace that comes generate from respect, trust and mutual understanding to solve the problems in a humanitarian way. Non-violence advocated by different schools of thought is the right solution.
The book is indeed a timely response to the major global conflicts — cultural homogenisation and violence in the name of religion. It makes an enlightening reading, helping us to reflect the way we perceive the world.
SHAPING THE TOMORROW
An evening of lively discussion, Thursday, August 7th
What kind of world will we leave our children? Informed by the past, how will we consciously create our future? With a preponderance of behavior that only considers today’s pleasures and the rollout of the latest toys, how do we shift our focus to creating a healthy future history in a multi-religious multi-cultural world? When spirituality is being overshadowed by fear, fear and intolerance of the other, how do we not merely tolerate the other, but see them as interesting? Who cares? When turf consciousness is the overwhelming manner of conduct, how can we maintain our own individuality, yet at the same time, create a future coexistence that is both sustainable and nonviolent?
Friday, August 1, 2008
Council ban on atheist websites
How insecure is the council? Are they afraid that by looking at Atheists sites, one would give up his or her faith? If so, let them.
If the council can produce a letter from God, signed by God himself (herself or itself) tellilng the council to ban the atheist, I would accept the letter. God will not do such a thing, neither God will sign a letter behind any one's back.
Every one of us is an atheist at one moments of the life or the other. Mother Teressa was the courageous one to admit. Belief in God also producues disbeleif, one has to figure out what works for him or her.
If these fascist believe that Atheism equates immorality, they are wrong. Morality is a product of the society, either stamped by God through the religious texts or simply the practice to survieve.
God has created every soul and we need to honor his space both spritual and physical. Being an Atheist is not a crime, as much as being a Chritian, Hindu, Muslim, Bahai, Buddhist, Jew, Wicca, Sikh, Shinot, Zoroastrian, Hope, Aztec, Toltec, Zulu is not a crime. Crime is when one murders the other, invades the space of other, robs the belongings of others and that must be punished by the civil understandings of the society.
As a Muslim, I protests this ruling. Every one has the exact same right for space in this cosmos.
A city council has blocked its staff from looking at websites about atheism.
Lawyers at the National Secular Society said the move by Birmingham City Council was "discriminatory" and they would consider legal action.
The rules also ban sites that promote witchcraft, the paranormal, sexual deviancy and criminal activity.
The city council declined to comment on the possible legal action, but said the new system helped make it easier for managers to monitor staff web access.
'Very strong case'
The authority's Bluecoat WebFilter computer system allows staff to look at websites relating to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and other religions but blocks sites to do with "witchcraft or Satanism" and "occult practices, atheistic views, voodoo rituals or any other form of mysticism".
Under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003, it is unlawful to discriminate against workers because of their religion or belief, which includes atheism.
National Secular Society president Terry Sanderson said the city council's rules also discriminated against people who practise witchcraft, which is also classed as a legitimate belief.
We feel very strongly that people who don't believe should not be denied the access that people who do believe have got
Terry Sanderson, National Secular Society
He said the society would initially contact the council and ask for the policy to be changed, and otherwise pursue legal action.
He said he believed he would have a "very strong case".
Mr Sanderson said: "It is discriminatory not only against atheists but they also are banning access to sites to do with witchcraft.
"Witchcraft these days is called Wicca, which is an actual legitimate and recognised religion.
"We feel very strongly that people who don't believe should not be denied the access that people who do believe have got."
He added that some opinion polls said that up to 25% of the UK population now considered themselves atheist.
A city council statement said the authority had a "long-standing internet usage policy for staff".
It added: "We are currently implementing new internet monitoring software to make the control of internet access easier to manage.
"The aim of this is to provide greater control for individual line managers to monitor internet usage, and for departments, such as trading standards and child protection, to gain access, if needed, to certain sites for business reasons."
'Respect atheists', says cardinal
The Archbishop of Westminster has urged Christians to treat atheists and agnostics with "deep esteem".
Believers may be partly responsible for the decline in faith by losing sense of the mystery and treating God as a "fact in the world", he said in a lecture.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor called for more understanding and appreciation between believers and non-believers.
But the leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales said that Britain must not become "a God-free zone".
The cardinal's lecture at Westminster Cathedral comes after a spate of public clashes over issues such as stem-cell research, gay adoption and faith schools.
Mystery of God
He expressed concern about the increasing unpopularity of the Christian voice in public life, saying: "Our life together in Britain cannot be a God-free zone and we must not allow Britain to become a world devoid of religious faith and its powerful contribution to the common good."
Later, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme why he thought it was dangerous to be governed by reason alone.
He said saying that "supposedly faithless societies" ruled only by reason were like those created by Hitler and Stalin, ripe for "terror and oppression".
Proper talk about God is always difficult, always tentative.
Last year, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor complained of a "new secularist intolerance of religion" and the state's "increasing acceptance" of anti-religious views.
To stem this tide, he said Christians must understand they have something in common with those who do not believe.
God is not a "fact in the world" as though God could be treated as "one thing among other things to be empirically investigated" and affirmed or denied on the "basis of observation", said Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor.
"If Christians really believed in the mystery of God, we would realise that proper talk about God is always difficult, always tentative.
"I want to encourage people of faith to regard those without faith with deep esteem because the hidden God is active in their lives as well as in the lives of those who believe." There's absolutely no reason to take seriously someone who says, 'I believe it because I believe it'.
Richard Dawkins, scientist
But Richard Dawkins, scientist, staunch atheist and author of books including The God Delusion, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the cardinal's comments carried no weight.
Referring to God as an "imaginary friend", Mr Dawkins said: "When talking to a politician you would demand proof for what they say, but suddenly when talking to a clergyman you don't have to provide evidence.
"There's absolutely no reason to take seriously someone who says, 'I believe it because I believe it.'
"God either exists or he doesn't. It's a matter of the truth."
Speaking later on Radio 4, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor answered those criticisms. He said: "I think there are a number of people in this country who would like to marginalise religion.
"They would much prefer not to see religion as neutral, but to neutralise it.
"And there are unbelievers who construct their own God in order to demolish him."
Of claims that faith has no basis in reason, he replied: "To believe in God is not unreasonable."
Should religion and politics mix?
The head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has called for abortion to become an issue in the general election.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor said Tory leader Michael Howard's call for a reduction in the legal time limit for abortions was "a step in the right direction".
And he urged voters to consider the right-to-life at the ballot box.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said there were no plans to change the law but "debate would continue". And he said abortion should be a matter of conscience, not party politics.
Do you agree with Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor? Could abortion issues change your vote? Should it be a matter of conscience or party politics?
This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
SUGGEST A DEBATE
This topic was suggested by Al, Coventry, UK
Should abortion be a political issue or a matter for the individual's conscience?
Send us your suggestions for Have Your Say debates
Absolutely not! If we allow religion to dictate how we live our lives we will be taking a step back into the Medieval ages! It should be up to the woman to decide, with a guiding hand from our government, and no input from any religious group!
Riordan Tomlinson, Lancashire, England
I'm not sure where Bob from Portsmouth gets the idea that the Catholic Church is a minority religion from. There are over 5 million Catholics in the country, with 1 million regularly attending church (which is the same number of Anglicans attending church). It is also worth noting that the Roman Catholic Church is the largest religious organisation in the world with over 1 billion members.
Jamie Reeves, Hounslow, UK
The decisions that affect the way our country runs should be based on cold hard facts not feelings or beliefs. This country needs a clear separation from the rule of law and the rule of god. Our politicians need to rule with their heads not with their hearts.
Michael Joslin, New Malden, UK
Religion and politics should never mix. Religion is a personal choice and should never be used in regards to decision making for the whole population.
Duncan Wilkins, Stevenage UK
Here we go, let's blame the big bad Roman Catholic Church for everything yet again
Here we go, let's blame the big bad Roman Catholic Church for everything yet again, as Britain is one big "godless" society. The simple point is, if a premature baby is born at 24 weeks and someone crept into the hospital and turned it's incubator off, that person would be tried for murder. But yet that same baby would still be allowed to be killed in the womb. That is the cold hard facts and that's what we are dealing with.
If the church decides to criticise and get involved in politic debate, then it must be prepared to get attacked back and this is something the hypocritical church will not be happy about.
Colin Grant, Manchester, UK
The problem isn't that he has a point of view but that his position in a religious body gives his opinion more weight than it ought to have. If my next door neighbour made the same remarks nobody would pay any notice at all. In a secular democracy does religion have the right to this much air time?
Chris G., Cambridge UK
God preserve us from a country where religious and moral issues dominate the political scene!
Rosemary Seton, London, UK
The Queen isn't allowed to vote in elections or to make her political views public. If she were to do so, it could unduly influence the outcome of elections. I think that religious "leaders", of all faiths, should abide by the same rules.
Rob, London, UK
Cardinal O'Connor has just as much a right to free speech as anyone
Christy, St Louis, USA
Cardinal O'Connor has just as much a right to free speech as anyone. The repeated attempts of secularists to take those rights away from people of faith amounts to religious persecution. The civil rights movement in the US was lead by clergymen. What if they had been silenced by the "politics and religion shouldn't mix" dogma?
Christy, St Louis, USA
Abortion should always be a matter for the individual. The facility should be there but it is up to the woman to decide whether to take it or not. I am old enough to remember the back street abortionists and the damage they caused. That is where we would return to should the Catholic church have it's way.
It is right to bring it into the debate. It is also right not to make it a party political issue and leave it as a free vote.
J Caruana, Chatham, Kent
This is not a political matter, yes it could sway votes. This subject should be left to the individual who have to live with the decision, and the doctors who carry out the procedures!
Catherine Edwards, Alloa, Scotland
Abortion policy is one of the main issues which will affect my vote. Politics is about the governance of daily life. If we, as a society, don't protect each other from the moment of conception, who will be left to vote!
Clare Ward, London
I reserve the right to ignore any laws that pass that are based on a religion that is not my own
Andy, Stafford, UK
As a member of our great free and democratic society, I reserve the right to ignore any laws that pass that are based on a religion that is not my own. I will not have the beliefs of others forced upon me by the state!
Andy, Stafford, UK
If the Catholic Church rethought its ban on birth control, perhaps fewer women would be in the position of contemplating an abortion. Remember also that the Catholic Church condemns the use of condoms in the midst of the AIDS epidemic, thus condemning thousands do die, while maintaining the stance that it is Pro-Life!
HD, London, UK
Interestingly such debate was not had when the Church entered the political arena against euthanasia. Because the unborn child is unseen, does not diminish its right to life. The Church does not judge or condemn, but it must express its moral conviction on such topics (as did all other religious groups, with the notable exclusion of the CoE), without their teachings where would society be? I am pleased the Cardinal spoke up, keep up the great work.
Paul O'Callaghan, London, UK
The Cardinal is allowed his own opinion based on his faith but that should not be pushed onto other people who have a different faith or idea. It should be a down to the personal opinion of the mother (and father) involved rather than a political party. The only way abortion would change my vote is if a party wanted to ban abortion altogether and therefore remove a persons choice.
Emma M, Lichfield, Staffordshire
Whatever the rights or wrongs of the debate itself, I do find it quite interesting that the vast majority of comments appear to come from the male population, none of whom will ever be put in the position of having to contemplate an abortion!
Jill Wood, Midlothian, Scotland
Religion and politics mix in many developing nations in the world to the detriment of the people who have to live under their oppressive regimes. Just taking that one element of the issue I don't think the two should mix.
There are so many things to consider when making your choice who to vote for and this would just complicate things even further
Ruth Walters, Essex
I feel this should not be a matter for party politics! There are so many things to consider when making your choice who to vote for and this would just complicate things even further. I am sure someone told me once that only at around 24 weeks gestation can you pick up certain mal formations or syndromes in the foetus/baby.
This should be a matter for the doctors and parents to decide. I am a mother of two and take this matter very seriously indeed. I value the life of the unborn dearly but to bring a dreadfully handicapped child into this world is too cruel. Life is difficult enough! Religion has a lot to answer for. Why create more misery?
Ruth Walters, Romford, Essex
Can't these religious people keep their opinions to themselves. We see often enough the result that their beliefs have in Catholic Ireland with young girls having to come to this great free country of ours to have abortions. So what does this head of which is a minority religion in this country expect, all that would happen is back street abortion with the obvious medical problems or girls taking a trip to the continent.
Before he starts spouting his opinions in the future perhaps he should look at the size of the churches congregations to gauge the public opinion of these outdated religious beliefs. Who elected him anyway?
Bob Bebbington, Portsmouth, England
I think abortion should be a political agenda. I support the Cardinal of Westminster.
Danelia Cardona, Chichester, UK
In an overwhelmingly secular country, religion has absolutely no place in politics. These people don't know better than the rest of us, they are not elected by the population and should stick to preaching to their own and not the rest of us.
The only way to break the link between religion and politics is to stop religious people voting: either by stopping them from being religious or taking away their franchise. Stalin tried this: the result was not the atheist paradise some people here seem to think would result from separating religion from politics.
Simon Richardson, London, UK
Religion is a political matter. I believe as strongly in my morals, brought on by my socialist outlook, as any Christian believes in their morals. If the mass populace chooses to make abortion an issue then it should be, but frankly, I don't think enough people care enough about changing abortion laws in this country.
Jack, Milton, UK
We need to tread very carefully, understanding that the Catholic Church has a repressive viewpoint that can be seen as un-democratic. Abortion is a very emotive subject matter and needs to be treated with great care. Right-to-life is one side, right-to-choice is the other and these viewpoints will not be bridged.
The Church needs to respect this and not make the question of abortion an election issue, or to try to influence due process by telling the faithful how to vote. That sort of influence is not democratic and is a step backwards to the old ways of social hierarchy.
George Hinton, Twickenham, Middlesex
If politics and religion mix the problems arise of what religions and what issues. Catholics may want a ban on abortions. The Islamic community may want headscarves worn by all women in public. The Church of England may decide it wants to stop Sunday trading. A religious person might be happy to have their religious issues as part of the state law, but would they really be willing to accept the issues of other religions? Draw the line and stop the mix - it will only make a mess.
Ajana Zabel, Singapore, ex-UK
Cormac Murphy O'Connor's statements were irresponsible and overreach his remit as Archbishop of Westminster
Religion is by its very nature dogmatic and not given to compromise, the very stuff of politics. To encourage religious perspectives to enter into mainstream politics is to threaten to undo fifty years of progress in the tolerance we now enjoy. Additionally, religiously motivated voting undermines democracy by handing more power to the leaders of voting-blocks under their control.
Cormac Murphy O'Connor's statements were irresponsible and overreach his remit as Archbishop of Westminster. Church and state should be rigidly separated or we risk falling into the same trap as the US, leading to derision and policies that disregard anyone who is not a member of whichever particular faith holds most sway.
I agree totally with the Cardinal. Abortion and right-to-life issues do change my vote and have done in the past. This is literally the most important issue of life and death the country faces. I would vote for (or against) a party depending on its policy on this, and would like to have the opportunity to do so.
Brin Dunsire, High Wycombe, England
Howard is trying to gain the backing of the Catholic Church in order to recruit new voters. He would rather jeopardise the physical and mental wellbeing of many thousands of women in the UK than risk losing another general election. It's a disgusting, cynical ploy that will ensure that for the first time ever, I do not vote Conservative.
Linda K, UK
I am a Catholic but I really can not agree with Cormac Murphy O'Connor. I feel that abortion, hard though it is, is unfortunately an imperfect solution to an imperfect world. You can not ignore key issues that often lead to an abortion and compassion should be shown at all stages. It is indeed a question for conscience and this move by some people to control everything in society is short sided and flawed.
I count myself very lucky to have never been in the position where I have had to make a personal decision regarding an abortion and if I ever am I'm not sure what decision I would make. However, the main point is that it is a personal decision and that I would be able to make a choice. I am an adult and would make an informed decision. I could never support any political party that would take that choice away from me.
Emma, Warrington, UK
If we want to limit abortions in Britain, wouldn't proper sex education be a better answer than legislation?
Nigel Baldwin, Portsmouth UK
The right to life itself is surely the most important issue of all. Politicians who deny that the electorate should have a say over the issue of abortion are being extremely arrogant. Surely all voters have a right, and indeed a duty, to inquire how election candidates will vote on the issue. That's democracy - the British people have never had the chance to have a proper say on the issue.
Tom Rogers, Lincoln
Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I don't agree with a religious leader using that platform to make political points. While the moral structure of our society may have its roots in Christianity, the fact is we have a secular political and democratic process.
I totally disagree with religious leaders interfering in this way, assuming that they speak for others. Surely one of the main causes of the problems in the Middle East is the inability to separate religion from politics. Do we want to live in a Westernised version of Iran?
Mark Malik, Teesside, UK
Religion and law have always been inextricably linked: are not most laws based on the Ten Commandments?
Lenny P, Guildford
Religion and law have always been inextricably linked: are not most laws based on the Ten Commandments? Add to that the right of the Cardinal to voice his opinion on the matter, personal or dogmatic. However, in pushing the subject to be an election matter he has gone too far in meddling in politics. Separation of state and church is a must in the modern, multicultural and secular UK.
Lenny P, Guildford
Whether people like it or not, religion and politics do mix. People's religious convictions are going to influence their political views and they shouldn't be expected to sweep their views under the carpet. It's our democratic right to voice our opinions, whether those convictions are based on religious and political views or not.
I was shocked to learn that there are women who use abortion as an alternative to contraception. But obviously, if the mother's life is at risk abortion would be justifiable. But all I hear these days is a 'woman's right to choose'. Yet none of them mention the child's right to live. Let's hear a little more of women's responsibilities! Yes. I fully support Cardinal Cormac's comments. Politics and religion go hand in hand.
Let America be a warning! The evangelical Christians are in charge, and the whole country is sharply divided over the issue, despite the constitutional split between Church and State. Do we want religionists running the country?
Mark J, London/ US expat
Should religion and politics mix? Of course they should! Everyone, even the atheist, has a religious point of view. To ban anyone with a religious point of view from political debate would be to ban everyone!
Abortion should be a choice for those responsible
The matter of abortion would never come into who I would vote for. Abortion should be a choice for those responsible. Politics and religion should not keep you imprisoned in making certain choices. I find it hard to take that abortion can be considered murder as I do not remember, nor have I ever met anyone who does, my time in mum's womb.
The abortion question is not only a political question, but primarily an ethical one. Why wouldn't a religious person be allowed to contribute to the abortion debate? Because it is a social issue? To formulate the question in that form ("should religion and politics mix?") every time a religious person (cleric or lay) gives his opinion on a social issue is an attempt to isolate religion out of the spheres of society.
To say religion and politics shouldn't mix is silly. There are many issues that are important to voters in an area - perhaps due to their religion. Our whole calendar and year nomenclature is based on religion for goodness sake!
The various churches have been trying to present fairy tales and superstition as truth for centuries, in order to perpetuate their influence. Religion now is of only minority interest in this country. It should play no part in the political process.
It is a somewhat selfish view that no-one can have abortions due to the views of one section of society
Steve, Loughborough, UK
Now that it seems religion is becoming untouchable and not up for criticism for it views the Church is taking advantage of this and trying to mould laws that just mirror their views and not those of the public in general. Just because abortions are available does not mean that Catholics have to have abortions. It is a somewhat selfish view that no-one can have abortions due to the views of one section of society.
Also, what is not mentioned regarding babies being able to live outside the womb earlier and earlier: this does not broach the act that very premature babies are prone to mental health problems and physical problems as their bodies have not fully developed and never will. Just because we can save these premature babies does not automatically mean we should.
Steve, Loughborough, UK
The Cardinal has made it plain that a reduction in the legal time limit is just the beginning. He will not be satisfied until abortion is abolished. It is important that all free-thinking men and women fight to stop the church taking away a woman's right to choose.
Roger Hart, Deal, UK
Without meaning to make a sweeping statement and give no credit to the younger generation, the fact is, we don't seem to vote. Hopefully, the public raising of issues such as abortion should engage the younger generation and actually prevent them from switching off at the sound of taxes, environment, asylum etc. Even though religion and politics shouldn't mix, they do and sometimes start heated debates. Maybe the discussion of topics which directly effect the younger generation or someone around them could be the push needed to vote.
Secularists are hypocritical when they say the Church should not impose its values on society. That is exactly what they are doing when they say that. The issue is not about forcing anyone to have a certain faith or anything like that. The issue is about 6 million precious and perfect lives that have been destroyed in the UK since abortion became law in 1967. Therefore, I think it is a valid political issue. It amazes me how the same people who are strongly opposed to the death penalty for a convicted murderer are often the same people who are up for killing innocent babies.
The Cardinal's position - "a step in the right direction" - is nonsensical. If you oppose abortion as being a form of homicide, whether for religious or other reasons, then time limits are irrelevant. They are equally irrelevant if you accept abortion is a matter of choice. Only if you try - as does the current law - to pretend that it is some kind of medical self-defence - do time limits come into it. Personally I favour choice in what is a private medical matter.
Adam Gilinsky, Scotland
Abortion is about the destruction of human life before birth. It is equally reprehensible to destroy a life before birth as after birth. This should be an issue, in fact the main issue at the next election.
John Scotson, Altrincham, England
Yet again the media is kicking up a fuss about nothing. So far as I can see the Cardinal was not recommending that anyone vote Tory, he was simply raising this as one of a number of issues that Catholics may wish to consider when deciding who to vote for.
Of course religious views should be considered when deciding which party or candidate to support
Marie, York, UK
Of course religious views should be considered when deciding which party or candidate to support. MPs are our representatives in parliament and I for one would rather that my MP was moral and capable of changing his views on opinions if presented with new information, rather than a self-serving, ambitious, sycophant. I find voters who only vote along party lines rather lazy and narrow-minded. I think it is commendable that the Cardinal is encouraging his parishioners to get out and be more pro-active.
Marie, York, UK
Religion and politics should not mix at all. Religion is a personal choice, and while it may help someone decide on an issue, religion should not be used to justify it. What many people fail to realise is that secularism allows everyone their own opinion, whereas religious laws and politics exclude people. As for abortion, I am firmly pro-choice. If religious people want to be against it then that is their choice, but they should not restrict the freedom of other people to choose.
Matt Wood, Bristol, UK
It's interesting to read people say religion is irrelevant and abortion is up to the woman to decide. Why then don't we go all the way and allow abortion right up until birth? Or take it further - allow unwanted children to die from deliberate neglect if they aren't old enough to feed or care for themselves? Hang on, why not just allow anyone who annoys you or inconveniences you to be killed off while we're at it? How about the old, the sick, the mentally ill... Anyone see where this trend is going! I think it was a train of thought some bloke in Germany followed during the 1940s....
Chris Ransom, Colchester, UK
See here, all the criticism is being heaped on the Catholic religion, when in fact, the state attempts to control and regulate the church as well. Who is head of the Church of England? The State, in the form of the Monarch is. Until this changes, any criticism of a church for interfering in politics is hypocritical.
Gareth, Sheffield, UK
Whether you like it or not religion and politics have always gone hand in hand, if you believe in a certain religion and a certain political party holds views that oppose your religious beliefs then you are not going to vote for that party.
Stephen, Sheffield UK
I most certainly do not agree with Cardinal O'Connor or Michael Howard. In fact I wonder what makes either of them think that his opinion matters in the slightest to a woman in the predicament of having an unplanned pregnancy. The gospel is all very well but it cannot pay for a new pram, baby clothes or baby food, nor can it provide a father to the child if the woman is on her own. The majority of politicians and religious leaders are male, therefore have no business telling modern women what they should or should not do in relation to an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy. The current abortion law is fine as it is.
Kat from Scotland spouts the usual rubbish about clergy not being able to tell women what to do. Abortion is all about the child's right to live not the woman's right to choose. Also, Kat, the Gospel certainly does mean that we help poor mothers to buy prams and all the other items she and the new baby need. The current law is a disgrace.
Fr David Swyer, Albourne, UK
The Roman Catholic Church is doing what it used to do so much. Mixing politics and religion.
Dane Marshall, St. Paul MN /USA
The Cardinal is right to encourage people to engage intelligently with issues before voting
David Woolley, London
Whether secular, humanist, Muslim or Christian we all have a worldview which shapes every judgement we make, including who to vote for. The Cardinal is right to encourage people to engage intelligently with issues before voting so that a vote for any political party is given out of conviction and with justification.
David Woolley, London
To make abortion some kind of political football is, quite simply wrong. My view is, and always has been, it is the right of the woman to decide and not some moral do-gooder bleating from his pulpit nor some third-rate politician hoping to snare a view votes.
Shaun Crowther, Barnoldswick, UK
Oh dear! Here we go again following the US once again. This time it's rise of the Christian Right. The so called "authority" of the Church no longer exists and Cardinal O'Connor should just keep out of modern people's lives. Long live the secular state!
Duncan, London, UK
The legal limit for abortion was set at 24 weeks because at the time babies born at 24 weeks always died - they were incapable of independent life. Medical technology has advanced to the point where babies born at 24 weeks are now viable. In effect we're aborting babies that can live outside the womb. Michael Howard's proposals are fairly sensible: 5 months is plenty of time to arrange an abortion if you wish one and at the same time it recognises that medical technology has changed.
I believe that the Cardinal's comments (and would believe the same of anybody who made those comments) on moving the legal time limit for abortions from 24-20 weeks is entirely reasonable in the face of new scientific evidence as to the development of the foetus in the womb. If a woman is pregnant, she will know far sooner than twenty weeks, which is four and a half months pregnant! However I disagree with the use of abortion as an election tool. It is something entirely personal; it does not belong in politics.
Christianity teaches tolerance of other's ideas and beliefs. Something, some here, appear to lack. The Cardinal wasn't saying "Vote Tory", he was simply stating that his personal view, and that of Michael Howard, were not totally at odds in this instance.
Glen, Welling, UK
If Catholic women chose not to have an abortion it is their choice, as should be for all of us who aren't religious. It is getting very tiring all these arguments that keep appearing in the news where any religious group tries to complain and impose their views on the rest of the population. Personal responsibility for one's actions should be a matter for every individual regardless of creed.
Ana, London, UK
I can't speak for religions other than Christianity. Politics do not belong in Christianity and vice versa. Or has Cardinal O'Connor never read Matthew 22:21 or Mark 12:17 or Luke 20:25. Or maybe he just hasn't the understanding. If the church wants to politicize its views they must do so without referring to their views as being Christian. Their views and the teachings of Jesus are not synonymous.
Daniel Kennedy, Cumbernauld Scotland
I think the Catholic Church has caused enough pain and misery in this world and until it modernises and accepts that birth control in most of its forms is acceptable then it has no right to comment on the abortion issue. Young women who have unwanted pregnancies are often the most vulnerable in society. I for one do not want a return to the world of Vera Drake - abortion must and will remain a legal right in the UK.
The only person who should decide about abortion is the woman involved
Neil Rogall, UK
The only person who should decide about abortion is the woman involved - she is the one faced with carrying an unwanted pregnancy; it is her right to choose not politicians or celibate clergy. We do not want to go back to the days of illegal backstreet abortions where thousands of women died. Every child should be a wanted child and every mother, a willing mother
Neil Rogall, UK
If Mr Blair wishes to ignore abortion when other political parties are making an effort to address it then he does so at his peril. I for one will be taking it very much into account on deciding where to cast my vote. It isn't an issue that concerns simply Roman Catholics. I find it very difficult to vote for a party which takes no account of the moral views of such a large portion of the population on such a vitally important issue.
What upsets and angers me when the debate on abortion yet again rears itself is the so called 'religious leaders' and 'pro-lifers' have more than likely never found themselves in the position where abortion is the only answer and wish they would realise the decision to abort is one of the most difficult decisions a woman faces and unless they have experienced it for themselves they should learn to keep quiet and not force their beliefs on others. (And before you ask, yes I have been in this position where I made the correct decision for myself and chose to have an abortion).
I would say life is already an election issue, but life includes wars, the NHS, car accidents and other things. If the Cardinal is saying that abortion should decide my vote he will find I vote against the party he recommends.
John, Fleet, UK
The outdated and out of touch church should simply mind its own business. It is up to the woman concerned whether she wishes for an abortion - it is her body after all. Wasn't it the Pope who said that women raped in Bosnia shouldn't be allowed the morning after pill or an abortion? Enough said.
Religion is a philosophy mixed with superstitions. The philosophy can't help but effect your choice of political parties but it's the superstition that should be kept apart.
Religion is totally irrelevant in a modern and increasingly secular world. It causes more problems than it solves.
Richard Bagnall, Cambridge, UK
'Atheistic fundamentalism' fears
Dr Morgan said fundamentalism left 'no room for debate'
The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, has described a rise in "fundamentalism" as one of the great problems facing the world.
He focused on what he described as "atheistic fundamentalism".
He said it led to situations such as councils calling Christmas "Winterval", schools refusing to put on nativity plays and crosses removed from chapels.
The National Secular Society has said Christians in the UK have "nothing to complain about".
In his Christmas message, the archbishop said: "Any kind of fundamentalism, be it Biblical, atheistic or Islamic, is dangerous."
The archbishop said "atheistic fundamentalism" was a new phenomenon.
He said it advocated that religion in general and Christianity in particular have no substance, and that some view the faith as "superstitious nonsense".
God is not exclusive, he is on the side of the whole of humanity with all its variety
Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan
As well as leading to Christmas being called "Winterval," the archbishop said "virulent, almost irrational" attacks on Christianity led to hospitals removing all Christian symbols from their chapels, and schools refusing to allow children to send Christmas cards with a Christian message.
He also said it led to things like "airlines refusing staff the freedom to wear a cross round their necks" - a reference to the row in which British Airways (BA) suspended an employee who insisted on wearing a cross necklace.
Dr Morgan said: "All of this is what I would call the new "fundamentalism" of our age. It allows no room for disagreement, for doubt, for debate, for discussion.
Only one in five schools perform a traditional nativity, say bishops
"It leads to the language of expulsion and exclusivity, of extremism and polarisation, and the claim that, because God is on our side, he is not on yours."
He said the nativity story in St Luke's Gospel, in contrast, had a "message of joy and good news for everyone".
He said: "God is not exclusive, he is on the side of the whole of humanity with all its variety."
Dr Morgan said it was "perfectly natural" to have a "coherent and rational debate about the tenets of Christianity".
But he said "virulent, almost irrational" attacks on it were "dangerous" because they refused to allow any contrary viewpoint and also affected the public perception of religion.
This month community cohesion minister Parmjit Dhanda said the UK should "celebrate" the role of Christianity in the country's heritage and culture.
His comments came after Mark Pritchard, Conservative MP for The Wrekin, called a Westminster debate on "Christianophobia", saying attempts to move Christian traditions to the "margins" of British life had "gone far enough".