B U L L E T I N

Happy New Year!

1. New Year Message - A purposeful life – Huffington post
2. A Note about Sean Hannity, Stuart Varney and Fox News –request
3. Note about Bridgette Gabriel’s comment on Fox News – upon request
4. American Muslims are proud of taking the right step - Link
5. Moderate Muslims Speak out? Link

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Neither Jews nor Muslims, they are evil men

A few Gazans and Israelis rejoice each other's death, shame on them;
A few Israelis and Gazans are revengeful, forgiveness to them;
A few Gazans and Israelis are hateful to each other, love to them;
A few Israelis and Gazans are messing up others lives, prayers to them;
A few Gazans and Israelis cannot see their mistakes, wisdom to them;

A few Israeli and Gazans Politicians are seeking re-elections, dump them;
A few of us are excited about killing and mayhem, humility to us;
A few of us Justify one side or the other, we shouldn't justify any killing;

To Kill a human is like killing the whole humanity says the Torah and the Qur'aan
To save a life is like saving the whole humanity says the Torah and the Qur'aan
Don't call them Jews or Muslims, they are simply killers individual or enmasse;

The war is not between Israelis and Gazans, it is between evil men and evil men.
May God help each one of us to learn to see the pain of the other and let's be human.

And speak out louder to stop this killing spree.
In pain,

Mike Ghouse

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Gaza Solutions

The Gaza Solutions
Mike Ghouse,
Saturday, December 27, 2008

The world sympathized with Israel for the rockets they endured in their backyards, but when they get on the revenge bandwagon and indiscriminately kill, they lose sympathy. The oppressed ones all around the world including the majority of Israelis and Jews feel the pain of this violence, it flies in the face of our continued efforts to stop massacres, it is time for all of us to speak up. This is not the act of peace making; this is the act of destroying a people.

Continued at: http://www.mikeghouse.net/Articles/Gaza.Solutions.asp

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Yes to Heaven; for the Godless and Godloaded

http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2008/12/yes-to-heaven-for-godless-and-godloaded.html

Finally the moderate majority has spoken; yes a significant number of Americans believe that God**(note for my atheist friends below) is God of all people and that everyone will go to heaven if they are good to what surrounds them; life and environment. They made it clear that every religion will have equal access to heaven. In summary, they expressed God is not discriminatory; he (she or it) honors every one regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, religion or nationality. What a revelation! Thanks to the Pew survey.

The undefined purpose, or the essence of religion is to bring peace and balance to an individual and what surrounds him; life and environment. You can apply this formula to every faith and it works.

It is sheer arrogance to believe that religion is the exclusive source of morality, which is the internalization of social and cultural values. Whether you are a Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Wicca, Pagan or an Atheist, a significant sample of you would behave the same in public in any given city in America when it comes to telling the truth, fidelity and such a good thing as respecting other people’s rights.

To be fearful is as human as to be peaceful, however fear pushes insecurity and insecurity causes one to do weird things, it is in this instance one needs religion (to the ones who subscribe) more than any other time. Life is about balance and God is that balance, and we must not let that equilibrium be disturbed to protect our tail, as it will adversely affect it and would take a long time for recovery.

The conservatives find it safe not to think or look at things from a fresh perspective; they are comfortable in their world and get fearful when a new approach is presented. Then they resort to the idea of annihilating the men behind such ideas and go on a propaganda blitz to decimate their "manufactured" enemy.

Much of the "understanding" of Bible, Qur’aan, Torah or any holy books is produced by such conservative self appointed Guardians. Their role in holding on to the original scripture must be lauded, but their ownership role in preventing an understanding that promotes peace and balance in the society must be questioned, because that was the undefined purpose of religion; peace through justice.

The essence of “follow me” by Jesus, “surrender to me” by Krishna and “submit to my will” by Allah, and similar phrases in different faiths have been grossly misunderstood and projected in literality. Anyone of those phrases mean becoming like me the creator; a being with no barriers, no hate, no malice, no ill-will and willing to hug the rejected ones by the society as that reduces conflicts which leads to peace and justice; the ultimate goal of all religions. Leadership evolves for Atheist or any group for that matter, there is always some one who shares his or her moderation that appeals to the others and becomes a system for the unintended followers.

The conservatives tend to monopolize that message without realizing that no body owns God, religion or their deliverers. Jesus, Krishna, Muhammad and all other teachers gave that message to each one of us, not just Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Buddhist or Zoroastrians. By claiming and owning them, each group has done gross injustice in reducing them from their universal stature to pigeoning them up with in divisive cells. We need to free them from these holes. Religion is about freedom, freedom from hate, ill wil, ignorance.... which binds us and tenses us up till we die or find the release.

The guardians of every faith must muster up the courage to push the “Refresh Button” and work for co-existence and peace. The majority of the public believes and practices in goodness. If we drop the idea of an imaginary enemy, then we can see that everyone will go to heaven. God has not made a deal with any one behind other’s back to do favors to one or the other, if he (she or it) were to do that kind of nonsense, we have not understood the creator or we don’t need him. Creation is about balance and justice and not monopolies and grouping. Religions remove the imaginary fears, if it does not, then one has not gotten his or her religion.

All religions are about goodness, it is our bias that prevents us from understanding it. I can quote Qur’aan on the subject and encourage others to push their refresh button and share their scriptures, you will find them. It is about co-existence, one world, one creation, one cause, one source and one humanity. In the case of our Atheist friends, their understanding of the matter is their scripture.

There is a particular verse in Qur'aan where God assures his grace and heaven to every one who is good to his creation; life and matter. Furthermore he (she or it) reinforces with words like it does not matter if you are a Jew, Christian or any one, you are assured his grace if you care about his creation.

Qur'aan49:13 O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him (best in conduct) . Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.

Qur'aan, Al-An'am, Surah 6:163-164: I ask whether I should seek any god besides God--when he is the Lord of all things. All people will reap the harvest of their own deeds; no one will bear another’s burden. Ultimately, all of you will return to your Lord, and he will resolve your disputes.

If we were to be called to account, each one of us is responsible for the good and bad we do to the fellow beings. No Imam, Rabbi, Pundit or Priestess will have the time to defend us, they have to take care of themselves for their own actions. Prophet Muhammad had said, if any one of you (his followers) were to do wrong to other humans, on such day of accounting, I will stand up for the other person, whether he is my follower or not, it was indeed a strong statement and a warning to be just.

** God is a common word referred to the cause of creation, big bang theory, amoeba splitting event or any other cause that sprang life and matter. God is not a being, God is not a guy sitting with WMD’s or a control freak. When life and matter came into being, there was a balance built into to sustain itself. Matter had the physical balance as in the case of planetary systems, while the life was embedded with the spiritual balance that we constantly strive to keep up with. That balance is love and that is peace that comes through justice. My Atheist friends need to push their refresh button to consider having an open mind towards using the word God as a common name for the cause of creation.

Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker and a Writer. He is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing Pluralism, interfaith, Islam, India, Multiculturism, Terrorism, Peace, Politics and Civic issues. He co-chairs the center for interfaith inquiry of the Memnosyne Foundation, and presides the Foundation for Pluralism a He is the president of World Muslim Congress a think tank with a simple theme: Good for Muslims and good for the world and vice-Versa. His comments, news analysis and columns can be found on the Websites and Blogs listed at his personal website www.MikeGhouse.net Mike is a Dallasite for nearly three decades and Carrollton is his home town. Mike's Profile

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas - Kwanza - Zartosht Diso - Muharram - Yalda

DECEMBER FESTIVALS -2008
Christmas - Kwanza - Zartosht Diso - Muharram - Yalda
Summary of other Festivals of December in the link at the bottom of this page
"If your festival is missing, please share it with me and my world of friends"
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Let's learn a little bit about our friends, neighbors and co-workers, and how they commemorate or celebrate their lives. Friendship is an amazing thing, it takes time to know, but when you do, a lot of myths about others disappear - and you find an amazing peace within you for knowing some one from some group, whom you thought otherwise..oh well, you got it. I have compiled, borrowed and added a few notes to learn and share about the following festivals and commemorations. It is not perfect but selected for a lay person to grasp it. For example the write up about Zartosht no-deso is very elementary to Zoroastrians but meaningful to others.
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Please join us to reflect upon the Holocaust and Genocides. Let's make room in our hearts for the precious feelings for human helplessness. Kindly mark your calendars for 7:00 - 9:15 PM on Saturday, January 24th, 2009. Details at: http://www.holocaustandgenocides.com/ or try .org
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Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker and a Writer on Pluralism, interfaith, terrorism, peace, interfaith, Islam, Multiculturism and India. He is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing interfaith, political and civic issues. 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

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Happy :: Hanukkah, Pancha Ganapati, Khushali, winter solictice

DECEMBER FESTIVALS (2008)

Eid-al-Adha Maha Bodhi day Immaculate Conception Khushali Mother Night Pancha Ganapati Winter Solstice Hanukkah Christmas Zartosht Diso Kwanza - Click the link for a short description of each festival : http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Articles/December2008-festivals.asp

HAPPY :: HANUKKAH - PANCHA GANAPATHI - KHUSHALI - WINTER SOLISTICE

Coming up :: II Annual Reflections on Holocaust and Genocides

Click for details of each festival with symbols:
http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Articles/Hanukkah_PanchaGanapati_Khushali_Wintersolictice.asp

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Scream Bloody Murder, reflections on Holocaust and Genocides

Scream Bloody Murder, reflections on Holocaust and Genocides

You feel angry knowing that the world stood by silently when the Jews were put on the train to the gas chambers; you feel anger when the Bosnian Muslims children were given chocolates and told not to worry and go right behind and open gunfire and massacre them; you feel anger when the Canadian general sends faxes upon faxes to the United Nations to send help, while the UN and USA did not want to get involved and 800,000 Rwandans were massacred, they were even announcing on their radio how to torture pregnant women to pull out the babies… It was a difficult documentary to watch, but you must watch and face the world; you have to do your share to clean your own slate of conscience.

Continued: http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Articles/Scream-bloody-Murder-reflection-on-holocaust-genocides.asp

Friday, December 5, 2008

Essence of Eid-al-Adha, a Muslim Festival

If we take time to learn about each other, myths start fading and goodness finds seeding; apprehensions will also start loosing ground and peace of mind takes root. Indeed, the essence of the other being appears to be similar to ours.

I am pleased to share about the Muslim Festival of Eid-al-Adha this week, in the coming weeks you may enjoy reading about Hanukkah, Immaculate Conception, Khushali, Mother Night, Pancha Ganapati, Winter Solice, Kwanza, Zarthosh deso and Kwanza. You are welcome to share some good pieces about these festivities to share with others. My focus will remain on holidays in all religions and a few cultural celebrations.

A Listing of festivals for December 2008 is available at:
http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Articles/December2008-festivals.asp

Note: This article is a compilation of various writings.

Essence of Eid-al-Adha
Mike Ghouse,

Continued

Thursday, December 4, 2008

December 2008 Festivals

Continue: http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Articles/December2008-festivals.asp

Do unto other religion


The Golden Rule: "Do to others as you would have them do to you." In Hinduism it is expressed; "Do not do to others what would cause pain to you." In Islam, "Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself," and so it goes in the various faith traditions.For the Green Rule we are paraphrasing the Golden Rule by saying: "Do unto the Earth as you would have it do unto you." We have looked to the same sacred teachings to reveal similar expressions of care and concern, only in choosing our quotes we have extended the plea for compassion to include all of our neighbours human beings, animals, birds, trees...Each Green Rule was also chosen to acknowledge the natural world as an essential phenomenon through which we may better come to know the divine and our oneness with it

Monday, December 1, 2008

Terror in the Name of God

http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2008/12/terror-in-name-of-god.html

The evil acts go on in the world because of good people doing nothing about it. It is time for people to speak out. If the good people don't speak, then we are letting the others run our lives.

The bad guys that are terrorising have nothing to do with religion, no matter what religion they want to claim they belong to, we should not fall into their trap of giving them the luxury of hiding behind a religion. They are criminals and need to be punished for their acts. Religion has nothing to do with their evil acts. Every religion bans individuals to do harm to others.

In case of these terrorists, we should not give them the luxury of calling themselves Muslims. The Qur'aan says "the best among you is the one who does good deeds" and the Prophet affirms to his daughter, "you have to earn your way to God's grace through your good deeds" the good deeds are how you treat and take care of others. That is the essence of every faith.

Islam is about freedom from clergy, freedom from politicians, freedom from dynastic rule and taking indiviudal responsibility for one's act. Each one of us is indiviudally responsible for our good or bad deeds and we are the only one to answer God not the Imam, not the Mulla, not the King or the President.

If each one of us can do our share of good without keeping a score on what others do, or not do, we can hope for a better world.

Here is an article by Yogi Sikand, whom I have come to respect for his fairness and fairly good assessement of situations. What is your take? Please keep your opinion to 200 words or less.

Mike Ghouse
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Terror in the Name of God
By Yoginder Sikand

"Never forget that the life of this world is only a game and a passing delight, a show ….the life of this world is nothing but means of deception:. (The Quran, Al-Hadid: 20)

"There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim" (Baba Guru Nanak Sahib)

According to media reports, it is possible that the recent deadly assault on Mumbai was masterminded by the Lashkar-e Tayyeba, a Pakistan-based self-styled Islamist terrorist outfit. Whether the attacks were indeed the handiwork of the Lashkar, as is being alleged, or of some other agency, such as the CIA and the Israseli Mossad, as others believe, remains to be fully investigated, but there can be no doubt that radical Islamism, like radical Hindutva, poses a major threat to peace and security in both India and Pakistan.

What makes such terror-driven self-styled Islamist groups thrive in Pakistan? It would appear that the very foundational myth of Pakistan, the so-called 'two nation theory' on which the country was founded, is itself conducive to militaristic interpretations of Islam. In a mirror image of the thesis propounded by the early ideologues of Hindutva—that the Hindus and Muslims of India were two entirely different nations and that the latter could live in India only if they agreed to turn Hindu or else be stripped of all civic rights—the ideologues of the Pakistan movement claimed that the Hindus and Muslims of pre-Partition India were two irreconcilable nations that could not live together. On the basis of this specious argument, they demanded a separate state for the Indian Muslims. This is how Pakistan came into being.

Thus, the very basis of the Pakistan movement was the myth of undying hatred and hostility between Hindus and Muslims. This so-called 'two-nation theory' remains the official ideology of the state of Pakistan, and is taught to every Pakistani child in school through carefully doctored textbooks. To question the theory, as many Pakistanis privately do, is considered a punishable crime and as akin to sedition. Accordingly, the Pakistani state has, since its inception, seen its survival as being crucially dependent on actively promoting as well as indirectly abetting anti-Indian and anti-Hindu sentiments. As movements for autonomy in provinces increasingly restive of Punjabi domination mounted, first in the erstwhile East Bengal, and then in Baluchistan and Sindh, the Pakistani state came to increasingly rely on an instrumental use and cynical manipulation of Islam and on the bogey of Hindu or Indian domination to ensure its survival and increasingly threatened legitimacy. Naturally, this expanded the space and scope for groups, not just the Lashkar, but scores of others as well, who claimed to speak in the name of Islam to whip up anti-Indian and anti-Hindu sentiments. For them hatred of India and the Hindus were considered as among the defining features of Pakistani nationalism.

The rise of the Lashkar and similar self-styled jihadist groups thus cannot be understood in isolation from these broader political processes. These groups received a major impetus under the American-backed and hugely unpopular military dictator, General Zia ul-Haq, who cynically backed radical Islamist groups to win public support as well as to pursue the CIA-funded war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. It was at around this time that self-styled Islamist groups began entering the political arena in a major way, setting up political parties and fighting elections. This led to all sorts of compromises, to widespread corruption and to rapidly escalating militancy by different Islamist groups competing with each other to prove to the electorate their purported claims of representing and speaking for Islam. The more obscurantist a group's approach was with regard to a whole host of issues—women's rights, the Kashmir question, relations with India and so on—the more ardently 'Islamic' it considered itself to be and it presented itself so to the public whose support it sought to win.

Under Zia, several dozen radical Islamist groups were liberally funded by the Saudis and the Americans in the war in Afghanistan, but soon these went out of control. They turned against their American patrons and started dreaming of exporting their self-styled jihad to the rest of the world. Some of them, including the Lashkar, even went to the extent of calling for the establishment of a global so-called Islamic Caliphate and for conquering the entire world under the 'Islamic flag'. Whether or not the leaders of these groups actually believed all this bombastic rhetoric no one can say, but it certainly appealed to vast numbers of youth, particularly from impoverished families, who were fed on a steady diet of fanciful tales about the luxuries they would wallow in if they died or were 'martyred' in the cause of what was presented to them as a divine mission.

These groups went on to serve what were seen as the strategic interests of the Pakistani state, as for instance in Kashmir, where they were sent to battle Indian forces as well as Kashmiri nationalist groups struggling for a sovereign Jammu and Kashmir, which would be independent of both India and Pakistan. Since Pakistan was a crucial ally of the West, America chose to remain mute in the face of these developments. Likewise, these groups were solidly backed by the Pakistani state in its desperate effort to install the pro-Pakistan Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and this also received American support. The Lashkar set up several training camps in Afghanistan and gave the Taliban considerable military and moral support.

It is thus the consistent assistance given by the Pakistani state to self-styled Islamist groups that has allowed them to flourish in the country, so much so that now, when the Pakistani state has itself begun to face an immense threat from these very groups, it finds itself helpless. It is an indicator of how powerful these groups have become in Pakistan that even though the present government might want to clamp down on them it cannot do so. Large parts of Pakistan are today characterized by extreme lawlessness where the writ of the state does not run. Decades of cynical manipulation of Islam by the Pakistani state for the narrowly construed ends of Pakistan's elites have now led to a situation where even if the state wants to curb these self-styled Islamist groups it finds itself helpless. Powerful sections within the Pakistani state apparatus, including in the ISI and the Army, are fiercely averse to taking any action against these groups, and are said to be consistently providing support to them.

But is the Pakistani state serious in its claims of being determined to take on Islamist terror groups that have mushroomed across the country? It appears not, just as the Indian state has not taken any serious steps against Hindutva terror groups in India. The Pakistani government claims to have banned the Lashkar, to have frozen all its assets and to have put its leaders under arrest. But ample indications exist to suggest that, in actual fact, the Lashkar is being permitted to operate freely after being conveniently allowed to change its name and re-christen itself as the Jamaat ud-Dawa. The Jamaat ud-Dawa's website is freely accessible on the Internet, relaying incendiary, hate-driven speeches of its senior leaders, who seem to be under no control whatsoever. The Markaz's magazines in English, Arabic and Urdu continue to be published, with a reported circulation of several hundred thousand. On a visit to Lahore three years ago I chanced upon a bookshop in the very heart of the sprawling Urdu Bazaar that specializes in Lashkar literature that spews venom and hatred against India and the Hindus, but also against a whole host of Muslim groups that the Lashkar does not consider genuinely Islamic—including the followers of the Sufis, the Barelvis, the quietistic Deobandi-related Tablighi Jamaat and the Shias, all of which it brands as 'enemies of Islam' or their 'agents'. And, I was told, despite the fact that the Lashkar was officially 'banned', it still operated from its headquarters in Muridke, not far from Lahore, and also managed several dozens of centres across the country under various names. Is one to imagine that the Pakistani government is so weak in the face of radical groups as to be unable to close all these institutions down?

In this context, the question arises as to why Pakistani civil society has been unable to effectively challenge the venomous (and what I, as someone who has studied Islam for the past two decades, regard as a wholly distorted) version of Islam that is propelled by self-styled Islamist groups such as the Lashkar. This issue is particularly intriguing given the fact that radical Islamist groups have consistently received only a relatively small share of the vote in successive elections, indicating that their hate-driven vision of Islam does not appeal to the majority of Pakistani people.

There are several reasons for this, among the most salient being the fact that the liberal, progressive middle class in Pakistan is very miniscule, the country still remaining largely feudal, tribalistic and extremely patriarchal in its set-up and ethos. Efforts by the few liberal Islamic scholars that exist in Pakistan to articulate progressive interpretations of Islam on a range of issues—including women's rights, relations with non-Muslims and relations between India and Pakistan—have generally met with stern opposition and even violence from Islamist outfits, with some of these scholars being forced to flee for safety to the West. The sheer fear of being killed for publicly opposing radicals and their perverted brand of Islam keeps numerous progressive thinkers in Pakistan silent, thus perpetuating a vicious circle in which the radicals are allowed to go unchallenged. Furthermore, the state has consistently denied space to progressive Islamic scholars, fearing their potential for dissent from the official view, seeing the radicals as more pliable and amenable to manipulation. This explains, for instance, the fact that despite its bombastic 'Islamic' credentials, Pakistan is yet to produce any well-known Islamic intellectual who has sought to deal creatively with the manifold demands and challenges that modernity poses. The status of Islamic, in addition to social science, research in Pakistan is woeful, and this can be explained, in part, by the fear on the part of the establishment of voices of dissenting scholars that might challenge ruling myths. The fact that Pakistan spends less than 2 per cent of its budget on education and that numerous Vice-Chancellors of Pakistani universities are retired army generals are indicators of this mind-set.

Terrorism—and this includes terror resorted to by non-state actors as well as by the state—today poses a grave threat to the peoples of both India and Pakistan. Islamist and Hindutva terrorism feed on each other, while posing to be each other's most inveterate foes. I recall reading some years ago—I cannot recall where, though—the perverse pleasure that a senior Lashkar expressed when the BJP-led NDA government came to power. Syed Maududi, the chief ideologue of the Jamaat-e Islami, who can be considered the major architect of modern-day Islamism, is on record as having declared that he would prefer India to be an officially Hindu country to being secular because that would further his case for the 'Islamic state' that he dreamed of establishing in Pakistan. Islamist outfits in Pakistan find ready fodder for whipping up anti-Indian and anti-Hindu passions by pouncing on acts of terror and anti-Muslim violence spearheaded by Hindutva groups in India, often abetted by the state. Likewise, gruesome acts of terror committed by Pakistan-based Islamist groups are quickly seized upon by Hindutva forces in India to further demonise Muslims and to build their Hindu vote-bank. Hindu and Islamist terror thus enjoy a symbiotic or mutually beneficial relationship while claiming to oppose each other. This obvious fact must be recognized when conceiving responses to the challenge of terrorism in our region.

There are no easy solutions to the predicament we find ourselves in today. But there is surely at least one thing that we must do, and this was suggested to me by the noted New Delhi-based Arya Samaj scholar, Swami Agnivesh, who has consistently been speaking out against all forms of terror, including in the name of Islam and Hinduism as well as state terrorism. The most effective way to challenge terrorism in the name of religion, Swami Agnivesh suggested, is for Muslims to denounce and stiffly oppose terror engaged in by self-styled Islamic groups who claim to speak in the name of Islam, and for Hindus to do likewise with regard to terror spread by militant Hindu groups. Sadly, today, the approach of many of us to the phenomenon is selective and skewed, with many Hindus denouncing only the terror unleashed by self-styled Islamist groups, and many Muslims denouncing only acts of terror masterminded by Hindu groups. At the same time, many Hindus and Muslims continue to turn a blind eye to, or even support, forms of terror being perpetrated in the name of the very religion which they claim to follow.

And there is something else that we need to do as individuals, and I have found that this simple principle works wonders even at a very personal level. It might sound 'unfashionable' or even 'purile' for those who do not find any place for God in their lives, but for millions of people in India and Pakistan who do believe in some higher force, no matter what they name it, it would strike an immediate chord.

This principle I owe to Rano Devi, a landless Dalit labourer from the Bhil tribe who had been released through the efforts of a human rights' group from slavery-like conditions in the estate of a powerful landlord. I Rano met while on a visit to Sindh in southern Pakistan three years ago. A powerful woman she was—dark and tall, and walking proud and erect. A courteous hostess, she welcomed me into her one-roomed hovel built on a scrawny patch of land that a social activist friend of mine had provided her and plied me with milk-less tea and a roti, which was all that she could afford.

Rano told me her story, of how she was enslaved by a landlord, who happened to be a Muslim, and who kept her for four years in shackles. Then, after a protracted legal battle, she was released through the efforts of my friend and his comrades, all of who happened to be Muslims.

She went on to enunciate a simple but very compelling principle thus:

'Live for your religion, don't die or kill for it. Express your religion through love and service, like the brothers who rescued me did, not through oppression, murder and mayhem, for that is a heinous crime in God's eyes. After all, we are all accountable for all our actions to God. To Him we shall return after we die, when He will decide our fate till eternity based on our deeds in this world'.

'If we were to realize that this world is temporary and that real, eternal life starts after death,' Rano continued softly, tears welling up in her eyes, 'and if we were to constantly keep this in mind, perhaps people would dread to misuse God's name for un-Godly acts'.

And there was another thing that Rano said that inspires me as I write these lines:

'We call Him Ishwar, and Muslims call Him Allah, but He is one and the same', said Rano. 'There are good people in every community, just as there are bad people, too. Just as that landlord who enslaved me claimed to be a Muslim, the brothers who freed me were also Muslims. And there are both good and bad people among Hindus as well. Remember that, brother. It is only when good people in every community join hands that this Hindu-Muslim problem or the problems between India and Pakistan can ever be resolved'.

That sage advice from this impoverished Pakistani Dalit woman is, to my mind, a basic premise we need to start from in our joint struggle against terror in the name of religion and national chauvinism.
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