B U L L E T I N
PLEASE VISIT www.CenterforPluralism.com for all information
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Pluralism Goals for 2010
The Foundation for Pluralism has been on the horizon for the last ten years and officially we are in our 5th year. Through the years we have done several programs, lectures, workshops, publications, radio Shows and Magazines, it is indeed Pluralism in practice while creating a place in the nascent academic world of Pluralism.
In the simplest of words, Pluralism is nothing more than developing an attitude of respecting the otherness of others. 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.
The idea of Pluralism will gain momentum in 2010 and we are humbly preparing to give direction to it.
We are aspiring to recite the Pluralism Prayers at US Senate, Capitol Hill, Texas State Capital and a few area City Councils.
Three Pluralism events are scheduled for 2010; 15th Annual Thanksgiving Celebrations, 6th Annual Unity Day USA and 3rd Annual Reflections on Holocaust and Genocides.
In 2008, we conducted workshops on ten different religions we are resuming the work in 2010 under the same title “Wisdom of Religion, all the beautiful religions”, and it was also the title of our Radio show in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
Guest lectures on Pluralism will continue at places of worship, work, schools and Universities.
Pluralism articles will continue to be published in major Newspapers and Magazines.
The Journal of Pluralism is designed to express pluralism at work, society, governance, workplace, worship places, schools, family and daily life. We are planning on bringing out the hard copy.
Pluralism Membership is growing; we have added another 1000 members this month taking it to a total of 25,000 members and hope to reach out to 30,000 by the end of 2010.
We are looking to open up Pluralism Centers in other Cities. A conference on Pluralism is on the table and a research center to be in place upon completion of my PhD in 2011.
Monday, December 28, 2009
When it comes to visual effects, Avatar is the mother of all movies. However, it could have been made in two hours without losing an ounce of amazement. This movie is a good expression of living in harmony with nature exemplified by the indigenous people of Pandora. I would see this movie a few more times to absorb the special effects, nature, harmony, romance, beauty, thoughtfulness and the message of co-existence, aka Pluralism*.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
A majority of the scholars, clergy men and women are honest about other faiths, they are respectful.
They do not denigrate or draw negative conclusions about other faiths to make their own faith look good, It is a question of personal integrity to them. Being truthful is more important than taking advantage of trends that put down other faiths. They will not rest until they uncover the truth, which is love and respect for every one of God's creation and God's religion, which is every religion.
My concern is always those few, who compromise their integrity. If a big financial supporter of their place of worship tells false things about other religions - those few will go along even though deep in their hearts they know it is wrong. It is time we stand for truth.
I admire those few men and women for presenting their faith in the most beautiful way, but I'm saddened that a few of them either present the other faiths negatively or hide the truth about other faiths. It is not religion any more, it becomes business of selling religion. Religion does not require selling.
Mike Ghouse is a thinker, writer speaker and an activist of pluralism, interfaith, co-existence, peace, Islam and India. He is a frequent guest at the TV, radio and print media offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. His websites and Blogs are listed on http://www.mikeghouse.net/
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009 will be noted as a sad day in the history of Indonesia. On this day, a group of people on their way out from attending an Islamic New Year parade attacked the Santo Albertus Church under construction in Bekasi.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
The National Public Radio invited Rev. Angie Buchanan, a trustee of the Parliament of the World's religions and Mike Ghouse as an individual to be on the air between 3-4 PM to talk about the Parliament event. It was a good interview and it will be available at http://www.wpr.org/hereonearth/ on Tuesday to download and listen to. Rev. Buchanan gave a wonderful analogy about religions being Islands and the need for the people in each Island to visit and build bridges.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Indigenous Environmental Philosophy 2010
The Purpose of The International Summit on Indigenous Environmental Philosophy is to provide an opportunity for Indigenous delegates from around the world to meet and discuss mutual environmental concerns!
Indigenous communities are perhaps the most impacted by Climate Change and the least responsible for causing it. Indigenous elders and environmental specialists have also been the first to warn of changes and offer viable suggestions for response strategies yet their critical messages have usually gone unheeded by dominant societies.
The International Summit on Indigenous Environmental Philosophy will provide a forum for Indigenous thinkers from around the world to gather in a retreat setting to discuss two important questions: - What distinguishes Indigenous Environmental Philosophy from Western Environmental Philosophy? - How should Indigenous Environmental Philosophy be incorporated in the international dialogue on Climate Change?
The International Summit on Indigenous Environmental Philosophy is a collaborative effort of:The Memnosyne FoundationThe University of North TexasThe Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma Environmental Program The Anadarko Indian School District. Details at: www.indigenousenvirosummit10.org
By Dr. B.M.Sharma, Surat, India
Religions have served their best purpose for the humanity till date and shall continue to do so in all the times to come.
Thanks to the age of information that multiple kinds of information and expertise on religions is now available on just thinking and asking. Religions are the systems and ways of thinking and practices for the conduct of mankind in all respects as his inner journey and his relationships with his society where he dwelt and dwells. The world is evolving and with that its constituents, people of various countries and cultures and for one or other reasons, the religions have evolved by way of their positive interpretations. Still all is not well with the interpretations of religions and any of those interpretations which threaten the basic foundation of humanity and its sustained living need to be identified and peaceful measures taken to ensure that world humanity move towards enhanced peace, trust and love.
While full freedom should be provided for the evolution and development of all religions, there is still a need for the integration of religions, writing down a new rationalized codes of conducts which become the basis of posterity and evolving society and this integrated religion should install the global human community in better evolved state.
Integration of Religions shall involve the following:
A Integrated Religions Committee need to be formed representing expertise from each religion; Setting the organizational structure of Integrated Religions Committee ( herein after called the IRS);
- Determination of the objectives and scope of integration.
- Methodology for integration.
- Documentation requirements of Integrated Religions.
- Commitment of the IRS for religions integration.
- Forming Integrated Religious Policy.
- Integrated Religions Objectives.
- Commitment of the IRS.
- Global Human Being as a Focus.
- Global Integrated Religions Document and its publication.
- Provision of resources for promotion.
- Peaceful Implementation.
- Coordination with other religions as a continuous process.
- Monitoring and measurement of Global peace, social peace and individual peace.
- Improvement in the Integration of religion as a continuous process.
Integrated religion document shall be prepared and it shall be submitted in front of the World Forum of Religions and (may be United Nations) for its review and absolutely optional recommendation for buying, reading, following and further improvement.
Integrated religion document shall have the following characteristics:
- Provide the basics of all religions.
- Provide the inclusion of only positive values which help build future societies on
- rationalized world brotherhood, love and peace.
- Ensure that it does not have any element and any scope for negativism, fanaticism and non-peace element;
- Provide encourage of global brotherhoods and a society which brings world and its people on mutual co-existence, sharing, enjoying and benefiting each other.
- To lay down the foundation of Earth as one nation, one citizenship and total freedom to settle down anywhere on earth.
Core focal elements of the integrated religion need to be spelled out. The core three elements of the integrated religion, to begin with, could be as below:
a. Science and history based account of the God. A Synthesis of the Total Global Humanity Experience on the God. as a reference standard.. so in this concept of God, the amendments can be done by the Global Human Community. Till date, the societies existed without being in relation to each other... and in each society the Human Being were endowed on the concept of the God, in their own manner as we know right now…So with respect to all religions, the final description of the God can be accounted, which is largely acceptable to the Global Humanity. Even a Historical flow on the Concept of God as it flowed in front of the human being. It has to be documented in a more authoritative manner for the future global humanity.
b. Code of conducts for the self, family and society and inter-societal relationships need to be documented and herein the best practices which promote love, freedom, peace, openness, sharing, cooperation and sacrifice for each other and absolute non-violence need to be filtered out and put in the Integrated religion for training, education and following by the future global humanity.
c. Provision and procedure for knowing the experiences of the Science and that of the individuals and others on religion and God and the social norms which evolve men further and relate with the God in more visible manner for peace, love and freedom and realization of the God, as the most absolute sacred goal of the humanity.
Integrated religion shall be a support resource for the human beings and it shall use the most peaceful methods for its adoption and shall never seek on its own delinks from the previous religion of the individual. Individual shall have full freedom to continue his own religion or blend the inputs of the integrated religion or switch over to integrated religion. Integrated religion shall provide nourishing inputs for the sustenance of the existing religion, coordination among religions and also an opportunity to live the life as per the guidelines for peace and love provided in the integrated religion.
A peaceful endeavor shall be made by the world forum that integrated religion finds its recognition from all nations for voluntary adoption in the short and long period as per the full rights and freedom of the mankind to live its life in absolute and relative love and peace with the self; his family and rest of the world.
Comments by Mike Ghouse:
Dr. Brijmohan Sharma and I interacted on face book on the issues of Kashmir. It gave me a lot of hope to see his wisdom at work in finding solutions, and respecting every one's space and rights. Then, I read a whole lot of his comments on issues and asked him to write one on Religion and I am pleased to read a fine document that is a seminal work in taking this further. If you'd like your friends to receive the Journal of Pluralism, please have them email their e-address to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I share his sentiment about religious integration, however, I would like to add that integration can take the form of co-existence of different ways of living on this planet together with least conflict. We have to see the value in each one of the 250+ traditions and respecting the divinity in each. Each faith is valid and is part of the larger goodness it contributes to.
The purpose of religion if I may summarize is to bring spiritual wellbeing to an individual and facilitate a balance between the individual and what surrounds; life and environment. Most, religions contribute to the idea and hence, we can see the universality of each religion, without having one single universal religion.
As they say God created each one of us in his own image, I dare say that we have created God in our own image. Each individual is different, each thumb print is different and each leaf of a plant is different, and so should be the belief of an individual.
Religions highlight the idea of co-existence including one's belief or non-belief in the causer of creation, we have to dig deeper and find the truth in each beautiful religion. The interpretations (not the scripture) given to us over the ages need to be refreshed, they were as human as we are today and we need to see those values sync in with our values of co-existence. In the next decade, there will not be a major City in the world, where you do not find people of different faiths, traditions, races and ethnicities working and living together.
We have to differentiate between the religion and what the self appointed guardians of religions portray it to be. Finding the truth is our own responsibility as it gives us Mukti or freedom from assumptions about others, and removing false anxieties.
Please feel free to comments by clicking: http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2009/12/integration-of-religion-in-21st-century.html#comments
Friday, December 18, 2009
Am I a Jew, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Pagan or a Maya?
To be with 8,000 people representing 250 faith expressions is an experience of life time. From Atheists to Zoroastrians and every one in between, including the native and earth based traditions from every corner of the world attended the event to hear each other and heal the earth. Indeed, that was the theme of the conference and a whole lot of uplifting conversation took place, and we hope it materializes into service. We have to do our individual share of work.
The conference meant different things to different people, but most went home with a feeling that learning about other faiths enriches one’s own tradition without depreciating the other. The search paves the way to witnessing how others express their devotion to the creator in their own unique way. It was an awesome feeling.
The Pagan prayer circle tempted me to get on the loud speaker and tell every one to join and listen to the words that were being chanted; we appreciate the earth, the nature, the people and the food, it was a beautiful expression of gratitude. Many of us do not perceive Pagans, Wiccans and other earth based and native traditions to be as divine as our own. Ever think of it as arrogance?
Those who are yet to graduate in spirituality, miss out the beauty and serenity of each tradition. Rejecting the stereotypes we ascribe to other groups, and finding the truth is one’s own responsibility as it sets one free. No matter what your Rabbi, Pastor, Imam, Pundit, Shaman or clergy tells you about other faiths and other people, ultimately it is you in your solitude who has to deal with your conscience. The responsibility is yours. Prophet Muhammad told his own daughter that she will not automatically get a free pass to heavens, she has to earn it through service to fellow beings (he did not say Muslims).
A few weeks ago, at the dedication ceremony of the Maya cultural center at Felipe Carillo Puerto in Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, a service initiative of the Memnosyne Foundation, people of different traditions like the Maya, Toltec, Shinto, Christian, Muslim and the Wicca gathered around the ceremonial fire to offer their supplication. Each one took turn to express his/her gratitude to the creator and mother earth that nurtures and sustains us. It was an awesome sight to see their devotion to the creator, they way they see it and feel it. If we are biased, tainted and brainwashed, we cannot see the beauty in each faith and miss out God’s creation.
Am I a Jew, Hindu, Muslim or a Pagan?
Many a members at the parliament are working to reach a higher level of consciousness and awakening. I just want to share the trends in spirituality and some of the efforts we are making. At the event in Yucatan, I was able to share the Hindu Prayers at one of the sacred Snotes (Underground well connected to a river stream) of the Maya people along with the Muslim prayers. Then the India Association in Dallas held a prayer vigil for the Mumbai blasts, I read the Jewish prayers, some of my Indian friends thought I was a Jew and it sort of confirmed for some of them that I must be a Jew.
Since Mayan traditions resemble closely with the Hindu traditions, I recited the Hindu prayers in Sanskrit and rendered its English translation. The Jainism's Namokar Mantra would have been ideal, but I had forgotten it, now after the parliament, I have it down. I had to quench the curiosity about Hindu Prayers by a Muslim. If we were to write the Hindu, Mayan, Muslim, Christian, Jewish or any prayer in Sanskrit, Maya, Arabic, Hebrew, Swahili or Latin by generalizing God's name - simply ‘God’ instead of Yahweh, Jesus, Allah or Brahma; then you do not see a whole lot of difference in each prayer. Try it, you may feel the serenity and the barriers built up by the clergy may fall and you may sync with humanity and feel the universality of your soul. If you put a noose around God, God gets constricted, but if you free God from your own imaginative clutches, God becomes free to be had and loved by every human. Ever think of letting God be free? No one owns God.
The wisdom is same no matter what language or where it originates or what religion expresses it. For nearly ten years I have been reciting the prayers of Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Hinduism, Baha’i and Sikh Prayers when and where they are not represented. God willing, I will learn the traditions of the indigenous people as well. I have spoken in behalf of Atheists in the Unity Day Programs. The indigenous people focus on harmony ‘Armonia’ and balance as the centrality of their traditions. Indeed, that is the real purpose of religion; to bring balance to the self and what surround; life and environment.
A few asked me if it wasn't a conflict to recite Hindu prayers, heavens no, all religions want an individual to be peaceful with one-self and what surrounds him or her; life and environment. If you aspire for the spirituality, which every religion finally lifts you up to, then you do not see the conflict, but see the harmony, as the Mayans say "Armonia". I hope and request each one of the person reading this to be in others shoes and experience the essence of each beautiful tradition. Learning about other faiths does not mean infidelity to your own; indeed, it enriches your own faith knowing that all faiths bring freedom to one's soul.
The world is changing, people have been stuck with affixing labels to prayers, names etc, the change is coming; this is the century of co-existence, simply known as Pluralism. By the way Pluralism is not a religion; it is an attitude of respecting the otherness of other and accepting the genetic uniqueness of each one of the 7 billion of us. People will appreciate the essence and beauty of each faith. It is difficult for a few to cross the line, they find comfort in confining the religion to be an exclusive idea, it' ain't. If you see the wisdom and beauty of other faiths without prejudice, you have achieved the Mukti, Moksha, Nirvana, Nijaat, Salvation or freedom
I hope every human understands the beauty and wisdom of their own faith, and for the sake of sustainable co-existence they would value the principles of “we, we and us” that religions inculcate so beautifully and learn the co-existence aspect of their own tradition. I was reflecting upon the range of caring for minorities in United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel, India, Pakistan, Mexico, Uganda, Sudan, Australia, Belize the Amazon basin or elsewhere in the world. The problem is universal, let’s visit our own self and strip in us, what we think is evil in others. Peace begins with me, if I am not at peace, I cannot expect others to be. If my heart is not free from hate, prejudice or ill will, I cannot ask others to be free from it.
I predict an emerging new conscience where we see us as a connected universal humanity.
Mike Ghouse is a thinker, writer speaker and an activist of pluralism, interfaith, co-existence, peace, Islam and civil societies. He is a frequent guest at the TV, radio and print media offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. His websites and numerous Blogs are listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/
Next Blog - the overview of the week in Melborune
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Mike Ghouse, Pluralist
Climate Justice assures every one in the long haul that one can continue living and breathing regardless of being rich or poor. Protecting the environment is the right thing to do; indeed it is a sacred duty of every human. As an individual or a nation we cannot shut ourselves in a bubble; either we suffer the damage together or save the environment for all. None of us can live in silos.
I appeal to the religious and political leaders to take the responsibility to bring climate justice to the world. The purpose of religion and the purpose of governance is to bring balance (justice) to an individual and what surround one; the people and environment. Climate is not a monopoly, we cannot have good climate while others don't, what affects others affects us, there ain't no exclusive conclaves, a pluralistic approach guarantees safety and climate security for all.
Our responsibility for future is a critical decision, and I urge President Obama to do the right thing and not yield to the right wingers. We have to protect the planet including the lives of irresponsible Neocons who presume to live in bunkers for life.
Mike Ghouse is a thinker, writer speaker and an activist of pluralism, interfaith, co-existence, peace, Islam and India. He is a frequent guest at the TV, radio and print media offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. His websites and Blogs are listed on http://www.mikeghouse.net/
Click and Comment : http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2009/12/copenhagen-is-about-climate-justice.html#comments
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Explaining basics of the Copenhagen climate summit http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jXR8d3rUcI7lBaUEoMTm4Ps34c9AD9CIK8O00
The future shock revisited Dr. Shariff. It was 1970 when Alvin Toffler’s book Future Shock shook the imagination of millions in developing countries as to how the western way of life and markets threatened the future of humanity. His shock was emanated not only from the western ‘waste’ or ‘greed’ but also from the ‘pace of change that took place’ since the second war and great depression - http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2009/12/healing-planet-dr-abusaleh-shariff.html
Developing Countries Say ‘No Money, No Deal’ in Climate Talks Envoys from 192 countries discussing a climate-protection accord in the Danish capital released a draft on Dec. 11 that shows they cannot agree on how to police an agreement. The document contains no subsidies to help developing nations cut carbon-dioxide emissions and adapt to climate change.
Climate Gate, who are the deniers now. http://www.kansascity.com/275/story/1626919.html?storylink=omni_popular
Leaked document in Copenhagen seen as sidelining poor countries A document leaked late in the day at Copenhagen has threatened to further divide developing nations from wealthy countries during the conference in Denmark. http://news.mongabay.com/2009/1208-hance_leak.html
The document - http://www.osce.org/documents/odihr/2006/06/19392_en.pdf
Click and Comment : http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2009/12/copenhagen-is-about-climate-justice.html#comments
Saturday, December 12, 2009
I am happy to see Elliott Dlin focus on teaching respect for other traditions. The Dallas Muslims are pleased not only to visit the Museum, but the first ones in the world to commemorate the Holocaust for the third year now. We all have to learn to share the grief and joys of humanity, we have to fall the old political lines and come to gether on a greater purpose of looking to each other as God's creation.
The Muslim initiative will bring the 3rd Annual reflections on Holocaust and Genocides on Sunday, January 24, 2010.
You are invited to participate www.HolocaustandGenocides.com on 24th, followed by the event on 26th and the Holocaust Museum.
I say to Jews, you are not alone my friends, we are with you.
Dallas Holocaust Museum chooses downtown real estate executive as CEO
01:40 PM CST on Wednesday, December 9, 2009
By BRUCE TOMASO / The Dallas Morning News
The Dallas Holocaust Museum has selected Alice Murray, a longtime downtown real estate executive, as its chief executive officer.
Murray, who has served as president and CEO of DowntownDallas and the Downtown Improvement District, assumes the newly created post at the museum effective immediately, said Jim Hogue, president of the museum's board of directors.
Alice Murray At the request of the board, Elliott Dlin, the current executive officer of the museum, will assume the new title of museum director, focusing on educational, archival and other content-related programs.
The museum -- formally known as the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance -- is currently housed at 211 N. Record Street in downtown Dallas. It has purchased land for new quarters at Houston Street and Pacific Avenue, adjacent to the Sixth Floor Museum. Planning for a fund-raising campaign to make that move possible is under way, according to the museum.
Dlin will concentrate in part on preparing for the move, Hogue said.
Link: Dallas Holocaust Museum
"When the new museum is built, we want it to be recognized as the finest teaching museum in the region, if not the country," he said.
Murray said of her new job, "I am thrilled, honored and excited to have the opportunity to work with the museum board and staff to take the museum to its next level, especially the construction of a new museum.
"The museum's mission -- to teach the moral and ethical response to prejudice, hatred and indifference -- is unduplicated in its importance for all residents of our city and region."
As a real estate developer, Murray was responsible for the remodeling of the historic Kirby Building on Main Street, which is now residences. She also worked on finishing out the W Dallas Victory Hotel and Residences.
In addition to her volunteer work with DowntownDallas, she has served on the executive committees of the State Fair of Texas and the Trinity Commons Foundation. She was a member of the Mayor's Task Force on Homelessness from 2004 to 2006.
Founded 25 years ago in the basement of the Dallas Jewish Community Center in North Dallas, the museum moved downtown in 2005. More than 55,000 people, including about 40,000 schoolchildren and their teachers, visit every year.
RepEd 2 days ago
As a Muslim in the DFW metroplex, I congratulate and support the Dallas Holocaust Museum and Alice for the vision they share of healing and coexistence in the face of hatred and bigotry. What a wonderful example you set for all of us!
Thanks for writing the following peace on Climate change. I remember reading Allwyn Toffler's Future Shock. I particularly like your sentence which says it is not a shame to lead.
The responsibility to secure the planet falls on every shoulder. At the Parliament of World's religions, we have had some critical decisions made and I will share the same in a few days.
The purpose of religion is to bring a balance to one, and what surround one; life and matter.
The Future Shock Revisited:
India should Lead not Plead Climate Change Negotiations
Dr. Abusaleh Shariff
It was 1970 when Alvin Toffler’s book Future Shock shook the imagination of millions in developing countries as to how the western way of life and markets threatened the future of humanity. His shock was emanated not only from the western ‘waste’ or ‘greed’ but also from the ‘pace of change that took place’ since the second war and great depression – in other words the miracle of the free market. It is the same free market that we are now after to seek solutions for mitigating the impact of climate change; while the same western economies are contemplating ‘punitive’ carbon tariffs and taxes which can threaten the very development of the developing societies. Market disorientation and not just a psychological one, is round the corner which threatens the very development of emerging India.
At the turn of 21st century we are at the verge of another ‘Shock’ that will be felt directly not by us but our progeny. The scientists say that the current CO_2 emission concentration has reached 430 parts per million in 2008 which is 17% higher than 280 ppm before the industrial revolution. Such a fast change and given much larger and faster industrialization process it is likely to cross over 1200 ppm by the end of this century which can lead to 50C increase in global temperature. Note that the world have experienced about as much, 50C increase in temperature since the ice age which was long-long ago. Thus we are at the verge of another ‘Future Shock’ that too with ‘the pace of change that we have never ever experienced in the past’.
India’s position in global climate change can be gauged through two well researched numbers:
Comparative Energy Use Criteria: It is estimated that in 2005 India needed 201 Kgs per capita of coal equivalent to sustain its overall economy. Compare this with the USA which expended 60 time more coal equivalent energy per capita than India; The UK, Germany and USSR did about 30 times more; and , Brazil, China and Turkey about 3 time more compared with what India used.
The second comparison is of the direct CO_2 Emissions: India contributes just about 2 tonnes of CO_2 equivalent per person, compared with Australia and USA which contributes over 12 times more; Japan and the EU about 5 times, and China and Brazil about 3 times more than India. Even in such an outcome measure India stands out to be inconsequential. A good comparison however is between China and USA. While China, being most populous in the world, adds a total of 7.2 billion tonnes of CO_2 in absolute terms, and the USA adds 7.1 billion tonnes due to very high per capita use. India with least amount of percapita emissions does add 1.9 billion tonnes of CO_2 in absolute measure due to the second highest population size. On the other hand Australia which has the highest per capita amount contributes just about one half of a billion tonnes.
The evidence that India is not a delinquent yet and its contribution to the global pollution is probably the least measured through both the ‘use’ and ‘outcome per capita’ terms gets somewhat dented when absolute contribution is looked into. This absolute contribution is what makes India an important player in the game of climate change, and it should use this as an opportunity. Although India is an economy which is trapped between the first wave (agricultural revolution) and the second wave (industrial revolution); it has shown its mark even in the third wave (IT based super industrialization) of economic growth. India appears unique where two-thirds labor force is trapped in farming and unorganized sector employment; but has fairly large industrial and manufacturing base (notwithstanding cars and steel) yet also in the forefront of services sector growth which now contributes closer to 60 % of GDP. No country on the earth faces all these three different economic growth phases that too at the same time! Large number of households follows sedentary agrarian lifestyle, burning wood, consumption of barely processed cereals; self produced food and other local items and so on; while at the same time India is now considered one of the largest market for modern goods and services. Indian enigma and puzzle continue in this modern age as well.
Now the Dharma Sankat is who should share the burden of global warming. It appears fair and logical that the per capita basis should be the benchmark; but there is danger lurking that Lord Brahma can get annihilated sooner than later. Since the Copenhagen Summit is more likely to put some acceptable benchmarks for the future policies, it is important for India to be leading rather than pleading. It is neither a matter of national shame nor will it mean abrogating national sovereignty to take a proactive role in international negotiations by announcing a willingness to do our bit to the World unilaterally. While doing so it is common and often needed to seek partners and promote coalitions and in this case it appears it is India, China, USA and possibly Russia. Note that India has done well by partnering with both erstwhile superpowers – (USA and Russia notwithstanding continuing rivalry between the two) through respective nuclear deals which are complimentary and benefitting India. In my view it is the farsightedness and firmness of Dr. Manmohan Singh that has prevailed in these missions not only to withstand the domestic opposition, but also negotiating with the outside world while keeping the interest of the poor and industry at the same time. If this is not a cleaver tight rope walking success then what else can it be? It would be fair to ask the opposition voices within the Indian Parliament not to behave like sulking kids while unaware of the pressures of future energy needs and responsible global partnerships in issues as sensitive as climate change.
Note that not far ago, it was India who took a firm stand against opening of the Indian Agriculture almost stalling the relevance of Doha round of WTO negotiations. It is difficult to judge whether this stand is good or bad, but a stand was taken which has maintained the statusquo with respect to the subsistence agriculture. But the weakness of India is in its ignorance - we have little if at all research and knowledge about our own way of life including way of production, consumption and sustenance of life. This can also be said about as to how we are drawing upon resources to meet the energy needs. Indian must take a lead in generating knowledge through research on as to how to mitigate and arrest the adverse impacts of global warming. Do we have a record of practices we follow which have promoted pollution and ill health; either due to our cultural practices or sheer poverty, and lack of modern knowledge including limited infrastructure and so on. Practically all our energy (electricity) needs are met by burning cheap and bad quality coal, our hearths are warmed up burning wood and agricultural residue, inefficient technologies are used to drain the ground water table causing desertification of large tracks of farming land and also causing salination in the coastal areas. We already are experiencing pressures on access to potable water even in such places which hitherto considered easy sources in our forest areas. Whether, all these cause and effects are due to climate change or not is not what we need to be debating about, but as to how to address these issues for our own good, lest climate change accentuates already prevailing adverse effects.
It is important also to know that we are not alone in this world of 7 billion and growing. The El Nino/La Nina effect of southern Pacific can reach as far as India and this natural phenomenon has been scientifically validated. There is no reason to suspect that ‘climate change’ is not going to affect us Indians in a global context. Then let us build upon the national pride and economic might that India has acquired during last two decades, and be a change agent and leader in the context of Copenhagen not be apologetic about it.
Op-Ed: Seven Principles to help heal the planet
By Arthur Waskow · December 7, 2009
PHILADELPHIA (JTA) -- As the U.S. Senate is taking up the issue of climate policy, the world’s governments are trying to shape international policy at a crucial conference starting this week in Copenhagen. The governments will take vigorous action only if the grass-roots public insists on serious change.
Chanukah, the festival of energy conservation, will overlap the Copenhagen conference. It is a period when we recall that one day's oil met eight days' needs; when we honor grass-roots action that transformed society despite elephantine top-down power centers; when we celebrate "Not by might, not by power, but by the Spirit, Breath of Life."
We encourage you to take action -- before, during and after Chanukah -- rooted in the following Seven Principles that should underlie Jewish and interfaith efforts to shape U.S. and world policy on healing the climate crisis.
1. Our planet has always been a living demonstration that “YHWH Echad” (“the Breathing Spirit of the universe is One”) -- but the climate crisis invites us into the clearest awareness in all human history of that truth. The planet is in this as One; policy must reflect that. (Underlying Jewishprinciple: the Sh’ma, especially the traditional second paragraph on rain and crops, etc.)
2. The cost of spewing carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere must be greatly increased, by taxes and/or “cap & trade” that require payment from the carbon producers according to the damage they are causing. (Underlying Jewish principle: Exodus 21: “If a bull gores a man or a woman to death, the bull must be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull must be stoned and the owner also must be put to death. However, if payment is demanded of him, he may redeem his life by paying whatever is demanded.)
3. The pool of money this brings in must be used to prevent damage to the poor and middle class through higher costs of fuel and energy. The climate healing fund should be used in rebates, more for the poorer people, etc. (Underlying Jewish principles: tithing, gleaning and obligatory tzedakah toassist the poor, orphans, widows, the landless)
4. Big Coal or Big Oil have great political power, but their power must be limited so they cannot distort needed policy in order to expand their own power and profits. Important example, the EPA must continue to have power to enforce carbon dioxide limits upon coal-burning power plants. (Underlying Jewish principle: resistance to top-down unaccountable powers Pharaoh, Antiochus, Rome)
5. Inside the United States, industries and regions that are specially endangered by climate/energy reform (e.g. coal mining, oil drilling, autos) must be given special help for retraining in green jobs. (Underlying Jewish principle: Maimonides' eighth and highest approach to tzedakah: Help the poor to end their own poverty by providing capital, etc.: a fishing rod, not just a fish.)
6. Outside the United States, poor nations must be given major help by the rich for two purposes: pursuing economic development through non-fossil pathways, and meeting urgent crises already swamping/flooding/scorching them. (Underlying Jewish principles: Again, Maimonides eighth and highest approach to tzedakah: Help the poor to end their own poverty by providing capital, etc.: a fishing rod, not just a fish.)
7. Public policy must start encouraging what we usually think of as “personal” choices for non-climate-destroying practices: Much more restful and reflective time for family and neighborhood, much less “production/consumption” time. Frugality in energy use, eating less meat. Simplicity in life-path. More money for learning, arts, etc.; less for making Things. Taxes, subsidies, wages/hours laws, etc., are all ways of encouraging these directions. (Underlying Jewish principle: Shabbat, traditionally an earth-healing as well as human-healing practice, was a communal commitment, not just individual choice.)
Of these principles, we suggest the following yardstick for measuring proposed U.S. policies: Do they promote American energy independence and security, and the healing of our planet by: Immediately ending all governmental subsidies to the production of oil and coal? Radically andswiftly reducing the burning of oil and coal from all sources, foreign and domestic? Simultaneously using all possible measures to build an energy base for the American economy on solar, wind and other sources of waste-free, sustainable energy and on urgent steps for energy conservation? Making “green jobs” and the creation of a green infrastructure the central focus of transition to a new American economy? Giving aid to poor nations to pursue a non-fossil path for economic and social development?
If the Jewish community and other American faith communities undertake this effort, not only Chanukah, which means "dedication," but our lives as a whole can become a practice of Rededication to the One.
(Rabbi Arthur Waskow is the director of The Shalom Center, as well as the author or editor of many books on Jewish practice, eco-Judaism and U.S. public policy.)
Sunday, November 29, 2009
DALLAS – (November 28, 2009) – Mike Ghouse, board member of The Memnosyne Foundation, has been invited to speak at the Council for a Parliament of the World Religions in Melbourne, Australia. Co-Founder and President of The Memnosyne Foundation, Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk, made the announcement recently. The international conference is held every five years and begins December 3 – 9. It is the largest international gathering of people involved in interfaith work and the Memnosyne Foundation is sponsoring his travel and speaking engagements via their Ambassador Program.
(Picture: Mike Ghouse has recently visited one of Memnosyne’s initiatives in the Yucatan where he shared Muslim prayers with the Mayan people alongside the Apache and Shinto representatives.)
The Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions was created to cultivate harmony among the world's religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world. Luminaries in attendance include, His Holiness The Dalai Lama, His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, as well as Memnosyne Advisory Board Member, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. About 250 traditions and 10,000 people from around the world are expected to attend this event. The theme of the conference is: “Hearing each other, healing the earth.”
Ghouse serves as a Board member of The Memnosyne Foundation and also as co-chair, alongside The Very Reverend James Parks Morton, of The Memnosyne Center for Interfaith Inquiry as part of his many duties to the organization. Among the many issues discussed will be the struggles and spiritualities of indigenous peoples around the globe, particularly highlighting the Aboriginal communities of Australia . The Memnosyne Foundation is pleased with the Parliament’s interest in supporting indigenous cultures this year as indigenous issues have been a central focus of the foundation via Memnosyne’s Center for Indigenous Cultures.
“It has always been part of the value system of The Memnosyne Foundation to insure that indigenous cultures have a seat at the table regarding world issues such as the environment, inclusion in interfaith initiatives, the arts, health, medicine and economic concerns.” Mrs. Thompson-Frenk adds, “Mike Ghouse has recently visited one of Memnosyne’s initiatives in the Yucatan where he shared Muslim prayers with the Mayan people alongside the Apache and Shinto representatives. In doing so he demonstrated a deep respect for the ancient traditions of our planet and has since assured our organization that he will take the wonderful opportunity the World Parliament has presented him with to further extend the scope of his own interfaith work to become even more inclusive of those who often don’t have a voice.”
Mr. Ghouse will be speaking on the “Holy Scriptures and Questions of Intended Use.” He explains, “ I believe that the Creator wills for humanity to strive for a balance; social, spiritual, biological, physical, moral and environmental. When this elusive equilibrium is achieved, where no one is afraid of the other, oppression becomes a story, exploitation fades away, and goodwill becomes the norm of the society, then Religion has achieved its goal; indeed, God is all about peace and equilibrium”.
His second speaking engagement is about “Sharing wisdom in the search for inner peace: A New Conscience: Making a World of Difference.” Ghouse says, “If we can learn to respect the otherness of other and accept the genetic, or God-given, uniqueness of each one of the 6.5 billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge. I believe knowledge leads to understanding and understanding to appreciation of different points of view. To be religious is to be a peace maker, one who mitigates conflicts and nurtures goodwill. That is all God wants, for his creation to live in harmony.”
Mike Ghouse has established himself for his work through the radio, journals, workshop and speaking the need for collaboration among the faiths to create a better world for all of us to live. He is an avid thinker, writer speaker and an activist of interfaith, co-existence, pluralism, peace, Islam and India. He is a frequent guest at the TV, radio and print media offering interfaith solutions to issues of the day. He is an active supporter of the Memnosyne Interfaith Service Network currently established in Dallas, TX and which will be duplicated in Japan and Mauritania (Africa) in 2010. It is also in large part due to Mike Ghouse that The Memnosyne Foundation received a blessing from His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar for its work.
Mary Ann adds, “The Memnosyne Foundation wants the world to see that in spite of the various political, social, war, and economic interests, there is a strong voice from Texas that represents the hearts and minds of so many people within our state and country wanting peace, understanding, tolerance and who are working toward that vision everyday. It is our hope that Mike Ghouse’s presence, both as a Muslim & USA citizen, will be a demonstration among the world leaders in attendance, of that truth.”
ABOUT THE MEMNOSYNE FOUNATION:
The mission of the Memnosyne Foundation is to help the diverse people of the world consciously encourage an evolution for themselves and for future generations by providing mankind with the means to encourage positive, peaceful global collaboration in areas of knowledge. This is being achieved via “Campus Without Walls”( ongoing global programs), via a Virtual Campus and via the creation of The Memnosyne Campus For Humanity which will be built in Dallas, Texas.
The Foundation is organized around seven centers:
• Center for Interfaith Inquiry
• Center for Environment, Science and Economics
• Center for Indigenous Culture
• Center for Health and Medicine
• Center for Spirituality
• Center for Art
• Center for Global and Local Outreach
It is also in large part due to Mike Ghouse that The Memnosyne Foundation received a blessing from His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar for its work.
(Pictured: Reverend Todd Collier – Director of Memnosyne Center for Interfaith Inquirey, Phillip E. Collins-Executive Director of Memnosyne Foundation, Joshua Frenk-Co-Chair/Vice-Presdident of Memnosyne Foundation, Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk-Co-Chair/President of Memnosyne Foundation, His Holiness Sri Sri Shankar, Mike Ghouse – Board Member of Memnosyne Foundation, Anthony Chisom – Assistant Director of Memnosyne Foundation, and Coke Buchanan – Director of Memnosyne Center for Local and Global Outreach, Center for Indigenous Cultures and Center for Spirituality.)
If you wish to comment, please click and comment:
Thursday, November 19, 2009
One more article was posted here before with some thoughtful comments at the end of it.
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AP Exclusive: Muslim countries seek blasphemy ban
GENEVA – Four years after cartoons of the prophet Muhammad set off violent protests across the Muslim world, Islamic nations are mounting a campaign for an international treaty to protect religious symbols and beliefs from mockery — essentially a ban on blasphemy that would put them on a collision course with free speech laws in the West.
Documents obtained by The Associated Press show that Algeria and Pakistan have taken the lead in lobbying to eventually bring the proposal to a vote in the U.N. General Assembly.
If ratified in countries that enshrine freedom of expression as a fundamental right, such a treaty would require them to limit free speech if it risks seriously offending religious believers. The process, though, will take years and no showdown is imminent.
The proposal faces stiff resistance from Western countries, including the United States, which in the past has brushed aside other U.N. treaties, such as one on the protection of migrant workers.
Experts say the bid stands some chance of eventual success if Muslim countries persist. And whatever the outcome, the campaign risks reigniting tensions between Muslims and the West that President Barack Obama has pledged to heal, reviving fears of a "clash of civilizations."
Four years ago, a Danish newspaper published cartoons lampooning the prophet Muhammad, prompting angry mobs to attack Western embassies in Muslim countries, including Lebanon, Iran and Indonesia. In a countermovement, several European newspapers reprinted the images.
The countries that form the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference are now lobbying a little-known Geneva-based U.N. committee to agree that a treaty protecting religions is necessary.
The move would be a first step toward drafting an international protocol that would eventually be put before the General Assembly — a process that could take a decade or more.
The proposal may have some support in the General Assembly. For several years the Islamic Conference has successfully passed a nonbinding resolution at the General Assembly condemning "defamation of religions."
If the treaty was approved, any of the U.N.'s 192 member states that ratified it would be bound by its provisions. Other countries could face criticism for refusing to join.
Just last month, the Obama administration came out strongly against efforts by Islamic nations to bar the defamation of religions, saying the moves would restrict free speech.
"Some claim that the best way to protect the freedom of religion is to implement so-called anti-defamation policies that would restrict freedom of expression and the freedom of religion," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said. "I strongly disagree."
But there are signs the U.S. is worried by the Islamic Conference campaign. Behind the scenes it has been lobbying hard to quash the proposal, dispatching a senior U.S. diplomat to Geneva last month for talks described as akin to trench warfare.
"The U.S. presence can be significant in determining the whole destiny of the process," said Lukas Machon, who represents the International Commission of Jurists at the U.N.
From a legal point of view, "the whole exercise is dangerous from A-Z because it's a departure from the practice and concept of human rights," Machon said. "It adds only restrictions."
In a letter obtained by the AP, Pakistan said insults against religion were on the increase.
The Islamic Conference "believes that the attack on sacredly held beliefs and the defamation of religions, religious symbols, personalities and dogmas impinge on the enjoyment of human rights of followers of those religions," the letter said. It was sent last month to members of the Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards, a temporary committee created to consider a previous anti-racism treaty.
In a separate submission to the committee, Pakistan proposed extending the treaty against racism to require signatories to "prohibit by law the uttering of matters that are grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion."
It's not clear who would decide what is considered grossly abusive, but each country's criminal courts would likely have initial jurisdiction over that decision, according to Marghoob Saleem Butt, a Pakistani diplomat in Geneva who confirmed the campaign's existence and has lobbied for the ban.
"There has to be a balance between freedom of expression and respect for others," Butt said in a telephone interview.
"Taking the symbol of a whole religion and portraying him as a terrorist," said Butt, referring to the Muhammad cartoons, "that is where we draw the line."
One American expert with more than 20 years experience of the U.N. human rights system said the treaty could have far-reaching implications.
"It would, in essence, advance a global blasphemy law," said Felice Gaer, a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The independent, congressionally mandated panel issued a report last week warning that existing laws against blasphemy, including in Pakistan, "often have resulted in gross human rights violations."
In Egypt, blasphemy laws have been used to suppress dissidents, said Moataz el-Fegiery, executive director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. Abdel Kareem Nabil, a blogger, was sentenced in February 2007 to four years in prison for insulting Islam and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
He said reformists who reinterpret traditional Islamic texts have also become the target of blasphemy accusations.
More broadly, introducing laws to protect religions from criticism would weaken the whole notion of human rights, said Sweden's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Hans Dahlgren.
"Religions as such do not have rights — it's people who have rights," he said, adding that the European Union, whose presidency Sweden currently holds, would oppose attempts to limit freedom of speech.
The treaty goes against the grain of recent efforts by Western and Muslim countries to find common ground on human rights.
Only last month a joint U.S.-Egyptian resolution on freedom of expression won unanimous support in the U.N. Human Rights Council, much to the surprise of seasoned observers. "We will engage, and we're going to keep engaging," said Michael Parmly, spokesman for the U.S. Mission in Geneva.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, the Ad Hoc Committee's chairman, Algerian Ambassador Idriss Jazairy, said concerns the treaty could stifle free speech have been "whipped up into a bugaboo."
Failure to agree on a treaty would boost extremists in the Arab world, said Jazairy, a former envoy to Washington now considered a key player in the U.N.'s human rights forum.
"If we keep hitting this glass wall and say there's nothing you can do about Islamophobia — you can do something about anti-Semitism but Islamophobia is out of bounds — you give an ideal platform for recruitment of suicide bombers," he said.
~ ~ ~
Monday, November 16, 2009
By Muqtedar Khan
Director of Islamic Studies, University of Delaware
The American Muslim community is experiencing shock, disbelief and apprehension as it watches the unfolding details of the shootings at Fort Hood in Texas. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a psychiatrist and practicing Muslim, born in Virginia of Jordanian parents, turned against his fellow citizens and military colleagues and murdered 13 and wounded 30.
What happened at Fort Hood follows a nightmare script that has been one of the biggest fears of the American Muslim community since the appalling events of September 11, 2001. One crazy Muslim, acting on his own, causing significant mayhem and murder and inviting anger and backlash against millions of peace loving and hardworking Americans who are Muslims. National and local Muslim organizations immediately issued strong condemnation of the event and called for calm.
It is important to understand that Major Hasan is an isolated, alienated and sad individual who was clearly not well adjusted to his life. In a community that values family life, he was single at 39 and still looking desperately for a wife, according to his former Imam. He was in an army that was at war with his co-religionists and he had difficulty dealing with that. He was frequently taunted and harassed for being a Muslim by his own colleagues. After years in the military and after years of caring for soldiers as a doctor, he did not feel as if he belonged and perhaps that was the key to why he could turn on his own.
This tragic episode presents serious dilemmas and challenges for both Muslim community organizations as well as for law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies. Muslim organizations do not know how to explain this and the law enforcement agencies will be puzzling over how to understand it.
This was an unpredictable and isolated episode, impossible to anticipate and guard against. Hasan is an American-born, highly educated, long-term military man who simply snapped with devastating consequences. How do we anticipate this and prevent it? The Fort Hood shooting reminds me of the Columbine shooting; shocking and unexpected. On scrutiny after the fact one discovers warning signs but not enough to trigger action before it happened.
Since the election of President Obama, Islamophobic rhetoric was on the decline as people in key administrative positions abstained from using "Islamic" as a prefix when talking about issues related with the war on terror. But this episode will once again provide fodder for talk shows and websites, which exploit such isolated events to ratchet up Islamophobia.
Muslims across the country have been working hard to build bridges with mainstream America, to establish interfaith relations and carve out a place for the community on main street America. Hasan not only fired at unarmed soldiers at Fort Hood, but he also attacked the very foundations of all these bridges across the country. His actions will definitely weaken if not completely undermine the efforts of thousands of Americans to build bridges of peace and understanding.
According to some estimates there are over 10,000 Muslims in the U.S. military who serve loyally, with sincere and complete commitment. Many Muslims in the U.S. military have died fighting for America. General Colin Powell once spoke so eloquently about Cpl. Kareem Khan, a Purple Heart, who had died fighting for America. Let us hope that Major Hasan's dastardly actions do not hurt the careers of the thousands of Kareem Khans proudly serving in U.S. military.
There is nothing that American Muslims can do to prevent such events. But we must now allow them to weaken our resolve to combat extremism, prejudice and ignorance in our society. We must redouble our efforts to continue to share the message of peace, tolerance and pluralism that is fundamental to Islamic believes to our congregations and our communities.
The tragedy at Fort Hood is a major test for Muslims and Americans. They must face the challenge with determination. Muslims must not allow it to force them to recede from the public sphere and from their struggle for understanding, for civil rights and against religious profiling and Islamophobia. Americans must not allow this isolated event to fall back on stereotypes about Islam and resuscitate the prejudices that all of us have worked so hard to curb.
Dr. Muqtedar Khan is Director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware and a Fellow of the Institute for Social policy and Understanding.
I was so deeply saddened by the events at Fort Hood, Texas, yesterday. My prayers and sympathy are with the families of those brave American soldiers who were killed and wounded in this senseless act.
What this unfortunate Army major did was against the laws of Islam, even though news accounts said he was an observant Muslim. It is too early to understand his motivations and mental stability. He obviously was violating his faith when he undertook this act. Killing is as much a sin in Islam as it is in Christianity, Judaism and all the major religions. Taking the law into one's own hands is against Islamic teachings.
We do not know how our soldiers will react under the stresses of war. It is something that we as religious leaders should take seriously as we minister to our troops.
I am concerned that this incident will cause some Americans to react against the Islamic faith and Muslim Americans. Our fellow Americans should understand that every major American Muslim organization has condemned it in no uncertain terms. Thousands of American Muslims serve in the U.S. armed forces, and they are essential to the U.S. goal of bringing peace, stability and democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan. They are supported by millions of American Muslims.
This is a time for all Americans to draw together in our grief and sympathy for the victims of this senseless act, and to support the care and well-being of our troops with the hope that they will soon be able to return home.
By Feisal Abdul Rauf November 6, 2009; 3:18 PM ET
Saturday, November 14, 2009
It is our duty to keep law and order and faithfully guard the safety of every citizen. Hate is one of the many sources of disrupting peace in a society and it is our responsibility to track down the source of such hate and work on mitigating it. We have an obligation to maintain a balance in the society.
The Civil rights in America did change one's attitude towards African Americans and other Minorities, over generations the apparently restrictive laws have become a norm of civility. In India the laws pulled the untouchables out of inhumanity onto a level playing field. The realizations are not complete but significant. I was just out with the Memnosyne Foundation to visit the indigenous people of the Maya and Toltec traditions, they are not even allowed to worship in their own temples as the dominant group looks down on the very tradition they robbed their living from.
The Zoroastrians consider Alexander the great as the Alexander the Barbarian, and in the film posters of the movie Alexander, he stood in front of the farohar (Zoroastrian symbol), and I was involved in the petition to have the poster modified. It was offensive to the Zoroastrians.
There are strong laws against speaking negatively about Holocaust; it has shut out the marginal voices leaving a few who continue to be vulgar about the tragedy. Should we not have laws to give freedom to the people of Amazon basin to speak their own language?
Should we let freedom of speech reign over the anti-Semitism in Europe that led to one of the shameful tragedies of humanity; the Holocaust?
Are we right in banning the pornography?
What are the justifications for that?
If the laws were to be instituted against defamation of religions, would that lead to shutting down of hate mongers? Would it prevent people from drawing cartoons of Muhammad, printing Shiva on sandals, or mimickers of Christ? Would it decimate hurling insults on others and pave the way for civility? Would that prevent hate sermons of killing the infidels? Would it prevent hurling insults against pagans? Would it prevent using derogatory terms against idol worshipping? Would it prevent idea of harvesting the poor souls?
Should we consider restricting speech in the above instances an impediment to freedom? Or shall we consider it as protecting the freedom of the people from recieving humiliation?
Should our laws be designed to prevent exceptions or for the sustenance of generalities?
Should our laws be designed for the general good of the societies that would lead to orderly societies?
I am more inclined to support the freedom of speech, hoping civility would ultimately prevail. As Mahatma Gandhi had Quoted the Bhagvad Gita "Satyameva Jayate", Truth ultimately prevails, in this case civility ultimately prevails. However, we cannot be blind to many a laws that have been the catalyst in bringing about a positive change.
Mike Ghouse is a thinker, writer speaker and an activist of pluralism, interfaith, co-existence, peace, Islam and India. He is a frequent guest at the TV, radio and print media offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. His websites and Blogs are listed on http://www.mikeghouse.net/
The Dangerous Idea of Protecting Religions from “Defamation”
A Threat to Universal Human Rights Standards
In advance of the upcoming vote on this issue in the UN General Assembly, USCIRF issued the following Policy Focus explaining the problems with the idea that religions should be protected from "defamation."
Over the past decade, countries from the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) have been working through the United Nations system to advance the problematic idea that there should be laws against the so-called “defamation of religions.” Although touted as a solution to the very real problems of religious persecution and discrimination, the OIC-sponsored UN resolutions on this issue instead provide justification for governments to restrict religious freedom and free expression. They also provide international legitimacy for existing national laws that punish blasphemy or otherwise ban criticism of a religion, which often have resulted in gross human rights violations. These resolutions deviate sharply from universal human rights standards by seeking to protect religious institutions and interpretations, rather than individuals, and could help create a new international anti-blasphemy norm.
In addition to seeking a new norm through these resolutions, OIC countries have argued in various UN contexts that existing international standards prohibiting advocacy of hatred and incitement already outlaw “defamation of religions.” However, the provisions on which they rely—Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD)—provide only limited exceptions to the fundamental freedoms of expression and religion. These provisions were intended to protect individuals from violence or discrimination, not to protect religious institutions or ideas from criticism, and they should not be expanded to cover allegedly religiously defamatory speech. Such an expansion, which unfortunately may have been lent support by new language on negative religious stereotyping and incitement in a recent UN Human Rights Council freedom of expression resolution, would undermine international human rights guarantees, including the freedom of religion. It also would undermine the institutions that protect universal human rights worldwide.
Please click here to download USCIRF Policy Focus - The Dangerous Idea of Protecting Religions from “Defamation”
USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House of Representatives. USCIRF’s principal responsibilities are to review the facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally and to make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress.
To interview a USCIRF Commissioner, contact Tom Carter, Communications Director at email@example.com or (202) 523-3257.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to monitor the status of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief abroad, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related international instruments, and to give independent policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress.
Visit our Web site at www.uscirf.gov
Leonard A. Leo, Chair • Michael Cromartie, Vice Chair • Elizabeth H. Prodromou, Vice Chair
Don Argue • Imam Talal Y. Eid • Felice D. Gaer • Richard D. Land
Nina Shea • Knox Thames, Acting Executive Director
800 NORTH CAPITOL STREET, NW SUITE 790 WASHINGTON, DC 20002 202-523-3240 202-523-5020 (FAX)
Please feel free to write your comments at: http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2009/11/dangerous-idea-of-protecting-religions.html#comments
# # #
Dr Javed Jamil
The shootings at Fort Hood in Texas by Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a
psychiatrist and practicing Muslim, are shocking and condemnable; and the
perpetrator should be punished according to the law of the land. It has to be
investigated at length if the killings have anything to do with his being a
Muslim or simply reflects the case of a psychiatric patient who was feeling sad
about the prospects of being sent to a war which he like billions of others
regarded as a crime against humanity.
Even otherwise, the mass shootings in America are on the rise; and the case at
Ford Hood is receiving attention only because the killer happens to be an
Killing sprees and incest cases are in international news at regular intervals.
High crime rates, rising levels of promiscuity, women and child abuse reflect
the maddening effect of modernity, which gives little importance to morality.
High-tension life with exposure to high doses of abnormal images in the media is
turning people into psychopaths. If society is to be saved from the ill effects
of new trends, steps will have to be taken not only at the legal front but also
at the social fronts.
On April 4, 2009, the shooting in Binghamton, New York ended with 14 people shot
to death, including the apparent suicide of the gunman.Â The killing sprees in
the US is on the rise and has killed more than 50 people in March alone.
A gunman barricaded the back door of a community center with his car and then
opened fire on a room full of immigrants taking a citizenship class Friday,
killing 13 people before apparently committing suicide, officials said.
Investigators said they had yet to establish a motive for the massacre, which
was at least the fifth deadly mass shooting in the U.S. in the past month alone.
In a news conference about the Binghamton shootings, New York Governor David
Patterson voiced despair when he said, â€œWhen are we going to be able to curb
the kind of violence that is so fraught and so rapid that we canâ€™t even keep
track of the incidents?
According to Wikipedia, A spree killer, also known as a rampage killer, is
someone who embarks on a murderous assault on his or her victims (2 or more) in
a short time in multiple locations. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics
defines a spree killing as "killings at two or more locations with almost no
time break between murders. According to the FBI the general definition of spree
murder is two or more murders committed by an offender or offenders, without a
cooling-off period; the lack of a cooling-off period marking the difference
between a spree murder and a serial murder.
MASS SHOOTINGS IN THE U.S. THIS YEAR
A gunman killed three police officers in Pittsburgh on Saturday. Another gunman
walked into an immigration services center in downtown Binghamton, N.Y., on
Friday, killing 13 people and wounding at least four before apparently
Here is a look at some of the other U.S. mass shootings this year:
March 29: Robert Stewart, 45, shot and killed eight people at Pinelake
Health and Rehab in Carthage, N.C., before a police officer shot him and ended
March 29: Devan Kalathat, 42, shot and killed his two children and three
other relatives, then killed himself in an upscale neighborhood of Santa Clara,
Calif. Kalathat's wife was critically injured.
March 21: Lovelle Mixon, 26, shot and killed four Oakland, Calif., police
officers after a traffic stop. Mixon was killed in a shootout with SWAT
March 10: Michael McLendon, 28, killed 10 people ” including his mother,
four other relatives, and the wife and child of a local sheriffâ€™s deputy â€”
across two rural Alabama counties. He then killed himself.
Notably large spree killings
Notably large spree killings in history include:
Tsuyama massacre (Japan, 1938): Mutsuo Toi, using an old Japanese rifle and
swords, killed 30 and then himself in an hour and a half.
University of Texas massacre (United States, 1966): Charles Whitman, a
student at the University of Texas at Austin killed 14 people and wounded 31
others as part of a shooting rampage from the observation deck of the
University's 32-story administrative building. He did this shortly after
murdering his wife and mother. He was eventually shot and killed by an Austin
Uireyeong massacre (South Korea, 1982): Woo Bum-kon killed 57 and then
himself in eight hours, using grenades and an M1 Carbine. 35 people were also
Hungerford massacre (United Kingdom, 1987): Michael Robert Ryan, using two
semi-automatic rifles and a handgun, killed 16 people and wounded 15 others in a
space of 7 hours before shooting himself.
Gang Lu shootings (Iowa City, 1991): Gang Lu, a graduate student in physics
at the University of Iowa used a handgun to kill five people and seriously wound
a sixth, then killed himself.
Aramoana Massacre (New Zealand, 1990): David Gray, using a Norinco Type
56-1S .223 semi-automatic rifle killed 13 people on 13 November. He was shot and
killed by police the following day after a 22 hour stand off.
Tian Mingjian incident(China, 1994): Tian Mingjian, using a type 81 rifle
killed 23 people near Tiananmen Square on September 20, including an Iranian
diplomat and his son. He was finally shot dead by a police sniper.
Dunblane massacre (United Kingdom, 1996): Thomas Hamilton, using two 9 mm
Browning HP pistols and two Smith & Wesson .357 magnum revolvers, fired 109
times killed 17 people and injured 15 people on 13 March, before shooting
Port Arthur massacre (Australia, 1996): Martin Bryant, using an AR-15 and
an L1A1 SLR, killed 35 and injured 19 in five hours before being arrested by the
Special Operations Group of the Tasmanian Police.
Red Lake High School massacre (United States, 2005): Jeff Weise. Shot and
killed his grandfather and his grandfather's girlfriend, both police officers.
He then proceeded to a local high school and shot and killed a security guard.
Once inside the school Weise shot and killed five students and a teacher before
committing suicide. Weise killed 9 and injured 15.
Virginia Tech massacre (United States, 2007): Seung-Hui Cho, using two
pistols, killed 32 in two separate events and then himself in the course of
about three hours.
Dnepropetrovsk maniacs (Ukraine, 2007): an unusual group murder spree.
Viktor Sayenko, Alexander Hanzha and Igor Suprunyuck, all 19, went on several
murder sprees, claiming 21 victims in one month and videotaping most murders.
Two victims were murdered within minutes of each other on June 25; two more on
July 1st, three on July 7th, and two each on the 14th, 15th and 16th July, 2007.
Akihabara massacre (Japan, 2008): Tomohiro Kato hit five pedestrians with a
truck, then stabbed twelve people. Kato killed 7 and injured 10.
2009 Alabama spree killing (United States, 2009): Michael McLendon using
SKS rifle, Bushmaster AR-15, and .38-caliber handgun killed 10 on 10 March and
before shooting himself.
Winnenden school shooting (Germany, 2009): 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer using
a handgun killed 15 on March 11 before shooting himself.
The latest case should be fully investigated before jumping to any conclusions.
It it is a another case of mass shootings, serious debate should begin on how to
create conditions in society that increase the peace level of the members of
society. If it has any religious/ethnic connections, serious efforts should be
made to tackle islamophobia that seems to be still on the rise despite the fact
that evidences are accumulating that point out to unnecessary, unwarranted and
more-than-required response by America that resulted in at least 100 times the
killing of innocent Muslims than the number of the Americans killed on 9/11.
The author isExeutive3 Chairman, International Centre for Applied Islamics,
and Chief Editor, Islam, Muslims & the World.
# # #
By VIJAY PRASHAD
Words have ensnarled the rampage at Fort Hood. Nothing more needs to be said. Thirteen dead, and thirty-one injured. What sets this massacre apart from the bombing at Oklahoma City (with 168 dead) and Columbine High (with 12 dead), is that the assailant here is a Muslim at a time when the United States is at war in two Muslim-majority countries (Iraq and Afghanistan). Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols as well as Eric Harris and Dylan Kiebold were all white. Their acts brought forth revulsion, but not condemnation of Christianity; that would have been ridiculous.
All these acts have indeed once more refreshed the necessary, but repetitive, debates over gun control and mental health care for war veterans. It is fitting to remember that the father of Columbine victim Daniel Mauser (age 15), Tom Mauser is a leading gun-control advocate.
Traction has not come his way, as it has not for many of those parents and loved ones of those who were killed by assault rifles that do not belong where they find themselves (such as in places like Guns Galore, in Killeen, Texas, home to Fort Hood, and where Major Nidal Malik Hasan bought his FN Herstal tactical pistol, a standard issue gun used by NATO troops in Afghanistan).
Fort Hood, like other bases that send young people to ghastly wars, has seen a spate of suicides (ten in 2009, and seventy-six since 2003) and cases of violence against women (up by 75% since 2001). Post-traumatic stress disorder has become a routine problem. Multiple deployments don't help. Nor does recalcitrance to admit to mental illness as a real injury, as much as a physical one.
All this is on the table. Including the failure by the military to identify serious problems in the well-being of Major Hasan. He was obviously not suited to the military, and should have been discharged rather than be shunted from Walter Reed to Ft. Hood. Large bureaucracies are like this: rather than take action, the envelope is pushed down the counter. This envelope contained a letter bomb.
Major Hasan's own reasons for action will probably never be known. He has acted. The action has provoked analysis. Some of the ideas are useful, and hopefully productive, others are toxic. The deployment of the idea of "political correctness" and the shifting of the burden of explanation to Hasan's religion is a convenient way to avoid all else. Muslim Americans anticipated the backlash immediately (one might remember CBS's Connie Chung right after the Oklahoma bombing in 1995, "According to a government source, it has Middle East terrorism written all over it." It turned out to be an Iraq War veteran and his friend; that's the closest the attack came to the Middle East).
All the requisite Muslim American organizations hastily put together press releases to condemn Major Hasan's attack, even before the smell of cordite left the processing center where he went on his rampage. This was mete. After all, it was important to make the point against the kind of assumptions that would float out of the slime of FOX and its various friends. As it turned out, it didn't stop anything. Nor could President Obama's plea to keep religion out of it. Nor could General George Casey, who told CNN, that the backlash against Muslims and Muslim American soldiers "would be a shame as great a tragedy as this was, it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well." The Army has been particular about diversity (for more on this see George Baca's forthcoming book from Rutgers, Conjuring Crisis: Racism and the struggle for civil rights in a southern military town).
This is why it joined the amicus brief against the end to affirmative action at the University of Michigan (Grutter v. Bollinger). The text is instructive: "[the case's] outcome could affect the diversity of our [N]ation's officer corps, and in turn, the military's ability to fulfill its missions." When asked about this support, Lt. General Becton told NPR, that diversity was a "combat multiplier. It brings about unit cohesiveness." The brief was signed by all the senior officers, each one battle-tested. Nothing pious here.
But here comes the easy bile. Published, no less, than by Forbes. The author, Tunku Vardarajan, is a professor at the well-named Stern School of Business, but also a luminary in the various financial pages (a contributing editor at the Financial Times and a regular at Forbes). His essay on the Fort Hood massacre is called "Going Muslim" (November 9). You can close your eyes and imagine what he argues. It does not require much sophistication.
Vardarajan thinks that Muslims are an entity apart. They cannot integrate. Indeed, theirs is a "fake integration." Fine, most of the "hundreds of thousands of Muslims in our midst," he writes, might not want to kill others, but "there are a few (perhaps many more than a few) who are so radicalized that they would kill their fellow Americans." The bulk of Muslims are not so radicalized, but, to Varadarajan, they are still irreducible ("Muslims are the most difficult 'incomers' in the ongoing integration challenge"). They are Muslims first and last.
Consider this: "Muslims may be more extreme because their religion is founded on bellicose conquest, a contempt for infidels and an obligation for piety that is more extensive than in other schemes." Any Muslim, then, is a danger. It is nonsense, plagiarized from the paranoid notebooks kept by Daniel Pipes. I bet Vardarajan has not read the Quran, or listened to the Taqwacore bands or had an intense discussion with The Muslim Guy (Arslan Iftikhar).
Vardarajan used to write for the Wall Street Journal. In 2005, its editorial page described American Muslims as "role models both as Americans and as Muslims" ("Stars, Stripes, Crescent," August 24, 2005). The impetus for that statement was the imputed danger of Muslims in Europe (the so-called idea of Eurabia, the Fifth Column of Muslims). The WSJ decided that on balance Muslim Americans were ideal citizens, well-educated, professionals, with a voting pattern balanced between the two major parties, and, importantly for the paper, with a plurality in favor of a lower tax rate. Nothing of this kind comes out in Vardarajan's essay, which is far closer to the kind of reaction from Rush Limbaugh and Joe Lieberman (Calling Joe Biden, whose best line so far was used against Guiliani, that he can't say a sentence without a noun, a verb and 9/11).
If Muslims can be reduced to their religion, and if their religion is indeed extremist, then the pabulum of political correctness, Vardarajan believes, should go. "President Obama," he writes, "was as craven as a community college diversity vice-president when he said that no one should jump to conclusions." It "flies in the face of common sense" to be considerate to Muslims, who might "go Muslim" at any moment. Racial profiling is therefore good; it is not far to the internment camps.
Fort Hood Three
Not far from the gates of Fort Hood sits the Under the Hood Café. Run by Codepink member Cynthia Thomas whose husband has been on three tours of Iraq, the Café provides a safe place for veterans to come talk frankly about the things that the culture of the military forbids, such as how to deal with trauma and the loneliness of the post-battlefield condition. The Café recalls an earlier time, when Fort Hood was home to a coffeehouse, Oleo Strut (named for an aircraft shock absorber), which was the base of anti-war activity. In those days of the draft for the Vietnam War, the soldiers had a much clearer sense of disgruntlement and did not labor under the immense ideological feint of the war on terror. Everyone was familiar with the notion that Vietnam was not threat to the United States, and that the conflict in South-East Asia was absurd. That is not so clear these days.
In 1966, three soldiers refused to go to Vietnam. Pfc. James Johnson, Pvt. Dennis Mora and Pvt. David Samas joined together to form the Fort Hood Three. They were court-martialed and sentenced to two and a half years in Leavenworth Penitentiary. When they came of out jail, all three went to work in the Du Bois' clubs, affiliated to the Communist Party. In their Statement (June 30, 1966), the three pointed out that they refused to fight in the "immoral, illegal and unjust" war, which was being fought against an enemy that "had the moral and physical support of most of the peasantry who were fighting for their independence." They rejected the imputation of racism ("We were told that you couldn't tell [the Vietnamese rebels] apart - that they looked like any other skinny peasant").
The war was aimless. "No one used the word 'winning' anymore," they wrote, "because in Vietnam it has no meaning. Our officers just talk about five and ten more years of war with at least one half million of our boys thrown into the grinder. We have been told that many times we may face a Vietnamese woman or child and that we will have to kill them. We will never go there - to do that."
Substitute Afghanistan for Vietnam, and things are updated.
Major Hasan was obviously strained in many ways. He needed counseling. But he also needed to be part of a public discussion about the futility of these wars. There is not much of that on offer. He rather fell into discussion with a cleric in Virginia who was equally bilious, the mirror image of the war planners. There is too much blood in these conversations. There is insufficient courage to talk about peace and justice.
Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian History and Director of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT His new book is The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World, New York: The New Press, 2007. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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