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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mike Ghouse to Speak at Parliament of Worlds Religions

MIKE GHOUSE TO SPEAK AT COUNCIL FOR A PARLIAMENT OF THE WORLD RELIGIONS ON BEHALF OF MEMNOSYNE FOUNDATION

http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2009/11/mike-ghouse-to-speak-at-parliament-of.html

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:
http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2009/11/mike-ghouse-to-speak-at-parliament-of.html#comments
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Muslim countries seek blasphemy ban

A good debate is warranted on the issue. I am inclined to support the freedom of speech, hoping civility would ultimately prevail. Rules should be made for the general good of the population and not to address the exceptions, as the majority of the people in every group are moderate, law abiding, easy to get along and practice live and let live way of life. However, we cannot be blind to many a laws that have been the catalyst in bringing about a positive change.

One more article was posted here before with some thoughtful comments at the end of it.
http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2009/11/dangerous-idea-of-protecting-religions.html

Mike Ghouse
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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.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091119/ap_on_re_us/un_banning_blasphemy
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Monday, November 16, 2009

Fort Hood shooter attacked Muslims, too

Fort Hood shooter attacked Muslims, too
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.

Senseless shootings violate Islamic faith

Senseless shootings violate Islamic faith
http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/feisal_abdul_rauf/2009/11/senseless_shootings_violate_islamic_faith.html

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
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Dangerous Idea of Protecting Religions from “Defamation”

The Dangerous Idea of Protecting Religions from “Defamation”

http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2009/11/dangerous-idea-of-protecting-religions.html
A good debate is warranted on the issue. Reference is made to the stand taken by USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom) listed below.

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/

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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."

Executive Summary

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”

http://www.uscirf.gov/images/stories/pdf/uscrif_policy_focus_final.pdf

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 tcarter@uscirf.gov 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

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Mass Killings around the world

Fort Hood shootings not another case of Mass Shootings that are on rise in America?

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
American Muslim.

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. 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, “When are we going to be able to curb
the kind of violence that is so fraught and so rapid that we can’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
committing suicide.

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
the rampage.

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
officers.

March 10: Michael McLendon, 28, killed 10 people ” including his mother,
four other relatives, and the wife and child of a local sheriff’s deputy —
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[4] 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
police officer.

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
wounded.

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
himself.

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.
# # #

What Swirls Around Fort Hood

What Swirls Around Fort Hood Can the Major Speak?

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: vijay.prashad@trincoll.edu

Inside the New Print Edition of Our Subscriber-Only Newsletter!
http://www.counterpunch.org/prashad11132009.html

Friday, November 13, 2009

Muslims at Fort Voice Outrage and Ask Questions

Muslims at Fort Voice Outrage and Ask Questions

By MICHAEL MOSS
Published: November 6, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/07/us/07muslim.html

KILLEEN, Tex. — Leaders of the vibrant Muslim community here expressed outrage on Friday at the shooting rampage being laid to one of their members, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who had become a regular attendee of prayers at the local mosque.

But some of the men who had befriended Major Hasan at the mosque said the military should examine the policies that might have caused him to snap.

“When a white guy shoots up a post office, they call that going postal,” said Victor Benjamin II, 30, a former member of the Army. “But when a Muslim does it, they call it jihad.

“Ultimately it was Brother Nidal’s doing, but the command should be held accountable,” Mr. Benjamin said. “G.I.’s are like any equipment in the Army. When it breaks, those who were in charge of keeping it fit should be held responsible for it.”

The mosque, the Islamic Community of Greater Killeen, sits off Highway 195, near Fort Hood. Major Hasan began attending prayers about two months ago.

The mosque has about 75 families who have lived peacefully with their Christian neighbors.

“After 9/11, nothing happened here,” said Ajsaf Khan, who owns three convenience stores with his brother, Abdul Khan. “We are very cooperative.”

A mosque leader, Dr. Manzoor Farooqi, a pediatrician, when asked if he feared retribution for the shootings, said he hoped good relations would prevail.

Major Hasan was one of about 10 men from Fort Hood who attended prayers in their uniforms, Dr. Farooqi said, and he was shocked to see the major’s face on television identified as that of the gunman. “He is an educated man. A psychiatrist,” he said. “I can’t believe he would do such a stupid thing.”

“I have no words to explain what happened yesterday,” Dr. Farooqi said at Friday afternoon prayers, in which about 40 men were led by the mosque’s imam, Syed Ahmed Ali. “Let’s have a moment of silence to bless those who lost their life.”

“The Islamic community strongly condemns this cowardly attack, which was particularly heinous in that it was directed at the all-volunteer army that protects our nation,” Dr. Farooqi said.

Nihad Awad, the national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said, “We reiterate the American Muslim community’s condemnation of this cowardly attack. Right now, we call on all Americans to assist those who are responding to this atrocity. We must ensure that the wounded are treated and the families of those who were murdered have an opportunity to mourn.”

Among those attending Friday prayers at the Killeen mosque was Sgt. Fahad Kamal, 26, an Army medic who wore his Airborne uniform, and later he said he was angered on several levels. “I want to believe it was the individual, and not the religion, that made him do what he did,” said Sergeant Kamal, who returned to the United States last year after a 15-month tour in Afghanistan. “It’s an awful thing. I feel let down. We’re better than this.”

It was Major Hasan, though, who increasingly felt let down by the military, and deeply conflicted by his religion, said those who knew him through the mosque. Duane Reasoner Jr., an 18-year-old substitute teacher whose parents worked at Fort Hood, said Major Hassan was told he would be sent to Afghanistan on Nov. 28, and he did not like it.

“He said he should quit the Army,” Mr. Reasoner said. “In the Koran, you’re not supposed to have alliances with Jews or Christian or others, and if you are killed in the military fighting against Muslims, you will go to hell.”

Mr. Benjamin, who worked as a private contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan after leaving the Army in 2000, said the military should have let Major Hassan resign. “They should take more consideration of the human beings in the uniform,” he said, “rather than simply say, ‘We invested our money in you and need to get our money’s worth.’ ”

Still, Mr. Benjamin added, Major Hassan had overlooked an important, and peaceable, tenet of Islam. “We do have the right to retaliate,” he said, “but he who does not is twice blessed.”

~~~

Major Nidal, why did he do it?

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan at Fort Hood
We are jumping to conclusions.

Who Is He? and Why Did He Do It?

At this point, of course, we know very little, but that doesn't prevent many commentators from speculating, and some from jumping to conclusions.

Newsweek sees it as a harbinger of more violence from our soldiers, exposed to the violence in Iraq and Afganistan. It suggests that such post-traumatic acts increasingly will come back to haunt us. Along similar lines, colleagues of mine who have worked extensively with trauma victims point out that "treating PTSD is itself traumatic." Those who work with trauma victims are likely to suffer from the repeated exposure to the trauma of painfully damaged minds. (See Todd Essig's comments, "Vicarious traumatization: PTSD is contagious and deadly," on TrueSlant.) This perspective gains backing from information suggesting Hasan was inadequately trained and showed, indeed, some significant limitations as a psychiatrist.

Related Articles
Voting Your Personality
Fort Hood: A rush to judgment
Fort Hood Exit Strategy: The Cognitive Dissonance of a Military Psychiatrist
Fort Hood: Shrinks Are Not Crazier, But Less Treated
Fort Hood Tragedy: Making sense of it all without victimizing others

So, the liberal press and mental health professionals tend to see this as expressing a form of mental illness, albeit promoted by combat conditions. On the other hand, there is the hypothesis of a terrorist attack. The New York Times reported that officials are trying to investigate if Hasan worked with others. Some politicians are quick to speculate that it might be a plot, but some conservative commentators, not waiting for evidence, have concluded that Hasan is a "trained terrorist." An interview with Dave Gaubatz on Frontpagemag quotes him as saying: "Malik Nabal Hasan is a terrorist supporting the ideology of Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and yes, CAIR." (See "The Muslim Brotherhood and Ft. Hood.")

Struggling as we all are to make sense of this tragic incident, none of us can help bringing our own perspectives to bear on it. Interestingly, here, liberals tend to see this as an act of individual madness, which is how the right tends to think of liberals: always explaining away such actions, blinding themselves to the real dangers of conspiracy.

But in the liberal press, I have also seen little reflection on the fact that Hasan is Muslim, and how is being Muslim in America may have contributed to his alienation and pent-up frustration. Working in the army, moreover, handling veterans who themselves have been traumatized in the course of fighting Muslims in Iraq and Afganistan, must have been extraordinarily complex and difficult. And then, of course, he was preparing to be deployed there himself.

The right, on the other hand, usually committed to the rights on individuals, sees no individuals at all in this scenario. A Muslim is a Muslim and a likely terrorist. They know what they know.

There is much to find out about Hasan and his circumstances, and no doubt we will find out much from the trial that almost certainly will follow on his recovery. But, right now, it is fascinating to see what we already don't know we know about him.

Courtesy of Psychology today - http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hidden-motives/200911/maj-nidal-malik-hasan-fort-hood

Ken Eisold is a psychoanalyst and organizational consultant whose book about the unconscious is coming out in January, What You Don't Know You Know. See full bio - http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/bloggers/ken-eisold-phd

Blaming religion is dumb
http://mikeghouseforamerica.blogspot.com/2009/11/blaming-nidals-religion-is-dumb.html

Why did he do it?
http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2009/11/major-nidal-why-did-he-do-it.html

Muslims express outrage
http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2009/11/muslims-at-fort-voice-outrage-and-ask.html

~~~~

Blaming Nidal's Religion is Dumb

In the very same town Killeen a decade ago, some Looney like Major Nidal walked into Wyatt’s cafeteria and randomly killed 32 people dining in peace, a crazy opened the fire in McDonalds in San Diego and I believe he killed 17 people, an idiot opened the fire in the Holocaust Museum in DC... and there are umpteen incidences like that... why do they have to pick Islam in this case?

Continued:
http://mikeghouseforamerica.blogspot.com/2009/11/blaming-nidals-religion-is-dumb.html

~~~

Reflection - A day with Maya and Toltec people

http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2009/11/reflection-day-with-maya-and-toltec.html

The members of the Memnosyne Foundation and a few friends of the foundation took a trip to the Mayan cultural center in the Yucatan Peninsula Mexico between Nov 7th and 12th led by Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk.

The trip included visitation to the places of the Mayan and Toltec people; a great civilization ruefully reduced to mythology. It is sad that we all claim to be civilized and yet, we let the most un-civil acts transpire in our presence. The minorities, whether they are political, social, cultural, religious or other invariably get the shaft. The amassers and grabbers of the world resources are so insecure that they seek their prosperity on the blood of the weak and perpetuate unjust practices. They constantly live on the edge in a survival mode and their “me, me and me” attitude is the killer of civilizations and cultures creating misery for every one of conscience.

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 tradtion. I was reflecting upon the level of caring for minorities in United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel, India, Pakistan, Mexico, the Amazon basin or elsewhere in the world.

The Memnosyne Foundation is a dream come true for Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk and Joshua Frenk, and through them my own vision of a world of co-existence. Memnosyne Foundation offers a ray of hope for mankind, it is an advocate for indigenous people who are the most marginalized and vulnerable communities in the Globalized world. Their cultures, languages, spirituality and the traditions of healing are at risk.The Foundation has established seven centers to address the issue of the world, and one of them is the Center for Indigenous Culture.

The major objective of the Center is to provide indigenous cultures with the means to preserve their heritage through Ceremonies, Astronomy; Medicine practices, Culture, Arts, Architecture, Songs, Dances, and Languages and lend them a voice to their human rights and environment concerns.

The trip was to celebrate the completion of the first phase of the Cultural Center. It was a joy to see the happiness and hope in the faces of children, women and men. They see it as a blessing from the higher spirits to bring about a revival of their traditions. We also visited a 110 year old Mayan Man in his home and what a blessing it was to see the radiance on his face when we visited him.

The Center is located in Felipe Carillo Puerto in the Yucatan peninsula, the legend says that when the Spaniards conquered the land, they asked the name of the place, neither could understand each others language, one of the Mayans said “we don’t know” in the Mayan language which the Spaniards took it as the name and called it Yucatan.

We walked nearly three fourths of a mile in dirt, mud puddles and pathways through bushes to reach the center. It was an incredible sight, built on an old decimated pyramid surrounded by lush green forest. Most communities around the world, be it your neighborhood or mine, is constantly witnessing a change happening or a development taking place to keep us talking and giving the hope. They Mayans in the region perhaps had not witnessed any change in generations. The center offers them that hope, a place for them to gather, further their tradition, learn their medicine and improve the quality of their lives.

The lunch was served in large leaves of Omarxhe plant similar to Banyan tree (India) leaves and the drink in half cut coconut shells, and it was a memorable indelible experience sharing the food and fellowship with our indigenous brothers and sisters. It was an environment friendly meal, no garbage and no worries of decomposition; no garbage in and no garbage out. After the lunch we enjoyed playing the drum and watching the people dance with joy under the thatched roof atop the old pyramid. I enjoyed my share of playing the drum as well.

We took the tour of Medicine Garden that Dr. Marin Columba is cultivating to teach medicine to the next generation. A place where there is no hospital nearby traditional medicine is the only source of healing for the people. Dr. Columba is one of the few native medicine Doctors alive who continues with the centuries old tradition of the Mayan people. We also visited her clinic with shelves full of herbal medicine for healing from itching to diabetes and even cancer. We were amazed with the number of people visiting the clinic, perhaps the only clinic for miles. I was particularly excited with the tour and recognition of many a shrubs, one of them was a Tulsi shrub that adorns every Indian home. I have one in my backyard as well.

My mind was raging with questions like what is a fuller life, can we measure the level of contentment, the God difference, and conflicts emanating from possession craze, survival of the fittest and the obsession of humans to claim superiority. At times I was lost in reverie of my 6 months retreat as a farm boy in Sitarampur, near Irgampalli in Kolar district. I have lived the simplest of life like our indigenouse brothers and sisters and have seen the luxuries of life Dallas offers. Thank God for endowing me with the spectrum of experience.

Mr. Aniceto Calolm, the spiritual leader for the Mayan tradition started the celebrations with an offering of gratitude to mother earth and the spirits and honoring the corn and the food that is the main source of sustenance and nurturance, followed by dances of joy in traditional costumes and interfaith prayers. The center for interfaith inquiry is another one of the seven centers of the Memnosyne foundation.

Prayers were recited in the following traditions: Mayan tradition – Mr. Aniceto Cacolm; Toltec Traditions – Mr. Ricardo and Irma Cervantes with their son Tona; Apache Tradition – Mr. Gregory Gomez; Shinto Tradition – Rev. Tanaka, Muslim and Hindu traditions – Mike Ghouse; and the celebration was capped by an expression of Gratitude to Mrs. Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk.

Since Mayan traditions resemble closely with the Hindu traditions, I recited the Hindu prayers in Sanskrit and rendered its English translation. Then 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 thin barriers may fall and you 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. Let's disposses God.

The wisdom is same no matter what language or where it originates or what religion it appears. For nearly ten years I have been reciting the prayers of Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Hinduism, Bahai and Sikh Prayers when and where they are not represented. God willing, I will learn the traditions of the indigenous people as well. The indigenous people focus on harmony ‘Armonia’ and balance as the centrality of their traditions.

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 aka 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 would love to write my full experience, due to time limitations, I will stop at this experience of one day, God willing, each one of us (or I) will update on the other three days of spiritual enrichment and a sense of purpose in life.

If you want to feel the freedom and joy of serenity, you can do it. Give 2 hours a week to serve in a homless shelter, serve food, give a ride to a senior, help others who need with blinders.

Face book has 60 pictures and some the same are repeated at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeghouse/sets/72157622672259367/show/

An Album and Pictures: http://cid-b1c95cfc3922fb65.skydrive.live.com/play.aspx/ENCUENTRO%20DE%20MEDITACION%20DE%20HERMANDAD?ref=1

More details and reports will be available within a few weeks at www.Memnosynefoundation.org
and the www.FoundationforPluralism.com, www.WorldMuslimCongress.com and http://www.mikeghouse.net/

Please feel free to comment: http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2009/11/reflection-day-with-maya-and-toltec.html#comments

Mike Ghouse
http://www.mikeghouse.net/

~~~

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Gurupurab - Guru Nanak's birthday

541st birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev, founder of Sikhism

I selected this picture, as my Mother's great uncle looked just like him with the same Turban and we called him Sikh Nana. On this auspicious day of Guru Nanak Devji's birthday, on behalf of World Muslim Congress and the foundation for Pluralism, we wish peace and blessing to the world.

May his divine Noor (divine light) brighten the world,
Amen!

Jeff, Fern, Mina,
Yasmeen & Mike Ghouse
# # #
http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2009/11/happy-gurupurab-guru-nanaks-birthday.html

Resources: Several

Guru Nanak Jayanti is the birthday of the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak, and one of the most sacred festivals in Sikhism.

The festivities in the Sikh religion revolve around the anniversaries of the 10 Sikh Gurus. These Gurus were responsible for shaping the beliefs of the Sikhs. Their birthdays, known as Gurpurabs, are occasions for celebration and prayer among the Sikhs.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji (the First Guru, the founder of Sikhism) was born on 14 April 1469 in Rai-Bhoi-di Talwandi in the present Shekhupura District of Pakistan, now Nankana Sahib. The birthday of Guru Nanak Sahib falls on Kartik Poornima, i.e., the day of the full moon in the month of Kartik. In the Gregorian Calendar, the birthday of Guru Nanak usually falls in the month of November, but its date varies from year to year, based on the traditional dates of the Indian calendar.

Guru Nanak Jayanti is celebrated by the Sikh community all over the world and is one of the most important festivals in the Sikh calendar. The celebrations are especially colourful in Punjab and Haryana.

Happy Gurpurab to all the Sikhs and to everyone who is a well-wisher of the ideals of Sikhism….
LET US ALL CELEBRATE JANAM DIVAS,
PRAKASH UTSAV DIVAS OF SHRI GURU NANAK DEV JI…
Happy GURPURAB..!!

Raj karega khalsa, aakee rehae naa koe,
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!
Happy Gurpurab….!

DASVEN PATSHAH SRI GURU NANAK DEV JEE DE JANAM DIHA SARIYAN NUN WADHAIYAN…!!Happy GURPURAB..!!

Nanak Nich kahe vichaar,Waria na jaava ek waar,
Jo tud bhave sai bhali kaar,
Tu sada salamat nirankaar

Gurpurb Dee Lakh Lakh Wadai..!!

Raj karega khalsa, aakee rehae naa koe,
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!
Happy Gurpurab….!

gurpurab sms, gurpurab greetings, gurpurab 2009, gurpurab scraps, gurpurab, gurpurab greetings, guru nanak gurpurab, guru purab, gurpurab scraps

this body is the Guru. He makes the five sounded word reverberate in man
~ Guru Nanak

“The True One was there from time immemorial.
He is there today and ever there you will find.
He never died nor will he ever die. …
Look within, you will see Him there enshrined.”
~ Guru Nanak (Raga Maru)

# #

Guru Nanak Dev was born on 15 April 1469,now celebrated as Prakash Divas of Guru Nanak, into the Bedi Kshatriya family (a prominent Hindu community of Punjab), in the village of Rāi Bhōi dī Talwandī, now called Nankana Sahib, near Lahore, Pakistan. Today, his birthplace is marked by Gurdwara Janam Asthan. His father, Mehta Kalyan Das Bedi, popularly shortened to Mehta Kalu, was the patwari (accountant) of crop revenue for the village of Talwandi in the employment of a Muslim landlord of that area, Rai Bular Bhatti . Guru Nanak's mother was Tripta Devi and he had one elder sister, Bebe Nanaki.

Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, PakistanThe earliest biographical sources on the life of Guru Nanak recognized today are the Janamsākhīs (life accounts) and the vārs (expounding verses) of the scribe Bhai Gurdas. The most popular Janamsākhī are written by a close companion of the Guru, Bhai Bala.

Bhai Gurdas, a purported scribe of the Gurū Granth, also wrote about Guru Nanak's life in his vārs. Although these too were compiled some time after Guru Nanak's time, they are less detailed than the Janamsākhīs. The Janamsākhīs recount in minute detail the circumstances of the birth of the guru. The Janamsakhis state that at his birth an astrologer, who came to write his horoscope, insisted on seeing the child. On seeing the infant, he is said to have worshipped him with clasped hands and remarked that "I regret that I shall never live to see young Guru Nanak as an adult.”

At the age of five years Guru Nanak is said to have voiced interest in divine subjects. At age seven, his father, Mehta Kalu, enrolled him at the village school as was the custom.[8] Notable lore recounts that as a child Guru Nanak astonished his teacher by describing the implicit symbolism of the first letter of the alphabet, which is an almost straight stroke in Persian or Arabic, resembling the mathematical version of one, as denoting the unity or oneness of God[9]. Other childhood accounts refer to strange and miraculous events about Guru Nanak witnessed by Rai Bular such as a poisonous cobra being seen to shield the sleeping child's head from the harsh sunlight.

As the end approached Guru Nanak would frequently test the devotion of his sons and nearest followers and in doing so demonstrate their state of mind to one another. There were numerous such occasions and one particular devotee, Baba Lehna, rose to eminence because he never faltered in his faith in Guru Nanak.

Guru Nanak appointed Baba Lehna as the successor Guru, renaming him as Guru Angad Dev, meaning 'one's very own' or 'part of you'. Shortly after proclaiming Baba Lehna as the next Guru, Nanak passed on from this world on 22 September 1539 in Kartarpur, Punjab (now Pakistan) at the age of 70.

Teachings
Guru Nanak's teachings can be found in the Sikh scripture Guru Granth, a vast collection of revelatory verses recorded in Gurmukhi.

From these some common principles seem discernible. Firstly a supreme Godhead who although incomprehensible, manifests in all major religions, the Singular 'Doer' and formless. It is described as the indestructible (without death) form.

Guru Nanak describes the dangers of the Egotism (haumai- 'I am') and calls upon devotees to engage in worship through the word of God (Naam - It implies God, the Reality, mystical word or formula to recite or meditate upon (shabad in Gurbani), divine order (hukam) and at places divine teacher (guru) and guru's instructions) and singing of God's qualities, discarding doubt in the process. However such worship must be selfless (sewa). The word of God, cleanses the individual to make such worship possible. This is related to the revelation that God is the Doer and without God there is no other. Guru Nanak warned against hypocrisy and falsehood saying that these are pervasive in humanity and that religious actions can also be in vain. It may also be said that ascetic practices are disfavoured by Guru Nanak who suggests remaining inwardly detached whilst living as a householder.

Through popular tradition, Guru Nanak's teaching is understood to be practiced in three ways:

Naam Japna: Chanting the Holy Name and thus remembering God at all times (ceaseless devotion to God)

Kirat Karō: Earning/making a living honestly, without exploitation or fraud ( telling the truth)
Vaṇḍ Chakkō: Sharing with others, helping those with less who are in need (sava)
Guru Nanak put the greatest emphasis on the worship of the Word of God (Naam Japna) . One should follow the direction of awakened individuals (Gurmukh or God willed) rather than the mind (state of Manmukh- being led by Self will)- the latter being perilous and leading only to frustration.

Reforms that occurred in the wake of Guru Nanak's teachings included: devotion being open to all castes; women not to be marginalized from its institutions; and both Godhead and Devotion transcending any religious consideration or divide; as God is not separate from any individual.

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