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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Luncheon talks with 12 Arab Imams

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

LUNCHEON WITH 12 IMAMS and heads of religious trusts from seven Middle east nations at my house today. We hope to talk about the Fatwa of Imam Tahirul Qadiri, Muhammad the initiator of interfaith dialogues, his practice of Pluralism, intra faith and interfaith relations leading to Pluralism, which is respecting the o...therness of other and accepting the God given uniqueness of 250 religious traditions.

This is the third one of the series of people I have hosted to talk about Pluralism. Of the twelve two are Egyptian in charge of issuing the Fatwa from Al-Azhar University. These men and women represent some of the key Islamic organizations.

Pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeghouse/sets/72157623567109123/show/

1. Algeria ,Dr. Bachir KARDOUSSI, Professor, Compared Religions, University of Islamic Sciences Emir Abdelkader, Constantine

2. Bahrain ,Sheikh Salah Yusuf Ebrahim Abdulaziz ALJOWDER, Preacher, Qalali Mosque

3. Egypt, Dr. Mohammad Wesam Abbas KHEDR, Senior Research Deputy, Dar Al-Ifta'a Al Misreyyah...

4. Egypt , Mr. Ahmed Mamdouh Ahmed Mohamed SAAD, Department Head, Legal Research, Dar Al-Ifta'a Al Misreyyah

5. Iraq , Mr. Mohammed Arabi Abed ABED, Imam

6. Iraq , Dr. Mahmood Oudah Turki TURKI, City Council

7. Kuwait , Ms. Meara M D BASHA, Director, Islamic Cultural Center

8. Mauritania, Dr. Mohamed El Hafed ENAHOUI, President, Interfaith Dialogue Center

9. Morocco , Mr. Mohamed TABARANI, Professor of Didactics, Islamic Education, Teachers' Training College, Marrakech

10. Oman , Dr. Khalfan Mohamed AL MANDHARI, Professor, Department of Islamic Studies, Sultan Qaboos University

11. Saudi Arabia , Mr. Khalid Abdullah M ALQARNI, Journalist, Almadina newspaper

12. Yemen , Mr. Abdulkarim Ahmed Gadban ALI, Member, Justice and Endowment Committee, Yemen Parliament

The translators and interpreters: Mr. Mustafa Sayid, Mr. Elie Saliba, Mr. Hasanain Alsabea, Interpreter; Mr. Abdelwahab Elabd.

It was on the most productive meeting I have had with people from overseas, we were to close at 4:00, no one wanted to leave and were deeply engaged in the conversation and we had to cut it loose at 5:30 as they had other place to go.

My Meeting Agenda was:

- Prophet Muhammad was the first interfaith dialoguer
- Prophet Muhammad 10 models of peace
- Prophet Muhammad's governance was pluralistic, not Islamic
- Intra faith (Shia, Sunni, Ismaili, Ahmadiyya.. all were invited)
- Interfaith ( all faith were invited)
- The Tahirul Qadri's London Fatwa
- Co-existence

The lady from Iraq, was speaking and writing on the board, and I showed her what I have written on our website 8 years ago.. same words," to be a Muslim is to be a conflict mitigator and good will nurturer" it shocked all of us for using the same words.. am not sure if she used my words as she was making notes as I was talking earlier on.

All of them were excited, that we are also talking about Pluralism, which they have been talking about it. They further expanded Pluralism for me indeed. Musch of the conversation revolved around co-existence.

What may surprise you was their answer to my question, why don't you all issue a Fatwa about pluralism, they said that is what Islam was and what is the need to issue one? I agreed with them that the fringe element in every faith makes the whole faith look worse, but if some one erroneously beleives it we have to correct them. Each one of them had similar experience as I did about misquoting Quraan.

I brought to their attention one of the 22 Mischeivous translations of Quraan by Hilali Khan, and my experience at the Parliament when I spoke about understanding the scriptures. The Saudi gentleman is going to work on stopping printing of the transaltion of Quraan. He understood the gravity of that mistranslation and how it frightens Jews, Christians and others. This would be the best outcome of the meeting. I hope he does or I will start a campaing to withdraw that book from all Shelves. You can get an idea about it at: http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/2008/01/unlike-jews-or-christians-17.html

They are going to send invitations for me to speak about Pluralism in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iraq, Bahrain and Alegeria or will be speaking in their conference on Islam and Plurailsm.

What is new to us is old to them.

OMG, there is so much to write. Ihave to wind this down and drive 14 hours again tomorrow.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Atheism on Rise

Whether we admit or not, most of us have a percent of Agnostic or Atheist residing within us, and I was no exception. Mother Teresa in her letters to the Vatican had expressed her occasional doubts, and that has helped me free myself that it was Ok to have doubts. A Catholic Nun and a Saint with fervent conditioning in religious beliefs had the doubts, she happens to be one of my mentors.

I must acknowledge and give credit to the pluralistic ethos of India, where Atheism was a part of the society, and was not shunned as much as much as it was shunned in the United States a few years ago, indeed there was a movie made in India in the early fifties called Nastik (Agnostic /Atheist) and one of its Songs appeals to God to reverse the changes in the society. Thank God (!) the attitudes are changing across the globe and being an Atheist is not looked down any more.

The Atheist movement was huge in India in the sixties, Dr. Abraham Kovoor of Sri Lanka (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Kovoor ) was leading the movement and I was enthused about his rationalism and subscribed to many an ideas he floated. Those were my school days and I did not see the need to believe in God. The Bangalore University Chancellor Dr. Narsimaiah spurred by the movement wanted to initiate scientific investigations into some of the miracles claimed by the healers of the day including the Sri Satya Sai Babaof White Field, Bangalore, but the politicians did not let him proceed.

At times it is the bellycoseness of a few fundamentalist Atheists, that drives others nuts, think about it, don't the fundamentalist in all religions do the same?

As Dawson writes, “Atheists need to develop a reputation for patience and approachability”. I have always dealt with Atheist with an open mind and open heart and have valued their belief. As men and women, they are no different than a Rabbi, Pastor, Shaman, Imam or a Pundit in dealing with emotions and the sense of right and wrong.

I got thrown out of an Atheist group!

Last year, I joined a few Atheist discussion groups, particularly to invite them to the Unity Day USA program that brings together people of different races, ethnicities, nationalities, and religions. I am committed to pluralism, that is no one should be left out in public discourse, every human has the same right to be in the public square whether s/he is religious or not. Two of the four groups, kicked me out, and my membership was denied. I was told that if I believed in God, I didn’t belong there, although I have accepted their belief as legitimate as any other belief. Ironically, once upon a time, when I considered my self un-religious or ir-religious, I was not given admission to a large organization here in Dallas; they wanted me in any one of the religious pigeon holes to belong to that group. That’s when the Foundation for Pluralism was born, to be inclusive and to include every human no matter what they believed.

In my Radio talk show, “Wisdom of Religion, all the beautiful religions” I included Atheism/Humanism as one of the systems and it drew the most number of listeners and callers, same experience was found when I did the monthly workshops on Religions.

One of the thoughts I am driven to communicate in this short write up is the dumbness of “stereotyping”.

Theists are called irrational and I have witnessed in my discussion groups, that some of the Atheists were as irrational and belligerent beings as the Theists.

Morality is not an exclusive product of religion, it is the product of co-existence; Atheist are as moral as theists. Religion is not responsible for wars, it is the individuals, and every war can be traced to an individual; theists as well as atheists from Pharaoh down to Lenin.

The society, regardless of where it flourishes; in America, Timbuktu or Andaman, the pie consists of good, bad and ugly people and every society has different permutations and combinations, but every society be it religious, ethnic, racial or national has a share of 1/10th of 1% of them as plain intolerant people, who are afraid of other and scheme to annihilate those who differ. Don’t laugh at others without laughing at yourselves first, whatever group you belong you have them among you as well. It appears to be a societal norm to have that, just as Tsunami was an anomaly of our planet.

Your sense of getting along with others, having a sense of inclusion of the universe comes with your circle of friends, you ability to embrace different points of view fades conflcits and births solutions.

Mike Ghouse is a frequent guest at the media offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. He is a thinker, writer, speaker, optimist and an activist of Pluralism, Interfaith, Co-existence, Peace, Islam and India. His work is reflected at 3 websites & 22 Blogs listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/

# # #
The rise and rise of atheism

The Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne was a boon for rational Australians, with only the occasional sour note Rachel Holkner (http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/rachel-holkner )
It was difficult not to make religious analogies on Sunday morning as I joined 2500 other atheists streaming into the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre for The Rise of Atheism: the 2010 Global Atheist Convention. ( http://www.atheistconvention.org.au/ )

Being a secular, literate city made Melbourne a safe choice to first take the Atheist Convention outside of the US. I saw only three protesters, despite a number of publicised church-based counter-gatherings.

Many participants came looking for techniques to discuss atheism with religious family, friends and door-knockers. Others sought like-minded people, and some came questioning their own position, preferring to describe themselves as agnostic. Even atheist poster boy Richard Dawkins, on a scale of 1 (believes in god) to 7 (atheist) describes himself as a 6.9.

It is difficult to organise any group under the umbrella of non-belief, but the Atheist Alliance International ( http://www.atheistalliance.org/ ) and the Atheist Foundation of Australia (http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/ ), convention hosts, achieved just that. The terms freethinker, humanist and rationalist were also frequently heard, used to alter the emphasis from being "against" theism and instead "for" scientific reasoning and logical thought.

Churches are social groups for many people, which is something atheists do not have, hence the popularity of this event which sold out six weeks in advance. Many small atheist groups were in attendance, raising their profile among the largest group of like-minded people ever gathered in Australia.

Several speakers commented that they had never addressed such a large group of atheists before, and there were a far greater range of topics presented than many expected. A question put to many attendees before the convention was, "But what can you possibly have to talk about? Nothing?"

The presenters shared some truly horrific stories of things done in the name of God or as part of some religious organisation, but the overall effort was not to paint all religions as always forces for bad. Much was made of the charitable works religious organisations do, but then, alternatives were presented. Charitable works do not need a veil of the supernatural in order to be effective, and you should not need a god looking over your shoulder, monitoring how much you are donating to disaster relief or to alleviate poverty. Peter Singer in particular talked about the evolutionary imperatives for fairness and for rendering aid.

It was not all serious discussion over the weekend. A lot of care had gone into the event to make the The Rise of Atheism a positive experience. There were comedians, and some wag had prepared a themed playlist to play in the background between sessions, including "Superstition" and songs from They Might Be Giants' "Here Comes Science".

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins closed the convention with a discussion on the probability of our existence, the luck of individual existence, gratitude, evolution and the illusion of design. This is potentially very dry and difficult subject matter yet Dawkins, known for his showmanship, conducted the audience skillfully through his argument. True, he was unable to mention the words god or creationism without trying to making the audience laugh, usually by the use of crude puns, but this is basic psychology and it is why he is so popular among atheists and why he received a standing ovation at the end of his talk.

However, when a Christian stood up to ask a question of Dawkins, there was a vibe not only of hostility, but impatience and frustration – even a sense of violation, as no one expected anyone with honest-to-god beliefs to pay the not-inconsiderate ticket price to learn about atheism. This was a great shame. Part of the challenge of atheism is extending our visibility and educating theists on rational thought. Continuing to play to the stereotype of being scary and intolerant will not help anyone.

Atheists need to develop a reputation for patience and approachability. "Out" atheists are a tiny minority, and public figures even fewer. As Dawkins said in answering a question of how to critique Islam without fear of reprisal, "We will not provoke you. Not out of respect for your beliefs, but out of fear." A reputation like that is the last thing atheism needs.

Celibacy and Sex Scandals

Sadly much of the abuse of vulnerable women and children comes from the very ones they trust; close relatives. Oddly the betrayal of trust comes from a few men of God, whom we trust. Shamefully, just a few religious men, like a few terrorists give a bad name to all of us men a majority of us are simply good people.

My comments are in reference to the article by Ram Punyani appended below, whom I have come to appreciate for over a decade for his rationality and thoughtfulness.

The purpose of all religions was to inculcate the values of Justness in humans, so all of us can live a secure life. Traditionally a few men have assumed the guardianship of the religion through their ill-knowledge of exploitation of the vulnerable. I want to make a point here; although Ram Punyani points out that the idea of celibacy has moorings in Hinduism, Buddhism and Catholicism with good intent.

According to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as you go to higher levels, body becomes insignificant and interest in sex is reduced to nothing, whereas Bhagvan Rajneesh Osho” argues that sex could be transcended only through experience.” Respectfully I ask both the men to consider following the middle path, instead of the obsession to deny oneself the God given pleasures or make it a focus of their life. What good will it serve? How does the society benefit from it?

Good Karma ought to be your actions that contribute towards creating a secure and peaceful society at large, which will ultimately bring the benefit to you when you are weak and vulnerable. The wisdom of religion, every religion incorporates that idea that your good is sustainable if the overall society’s construct is good. It is not the religion that commits adultery or abuses, it isthe men, not all, but a handful of them.

You and I need to take the responsibility to create safety and peace in our immediate vicinity again for our own good and for the good of others.

Freedom is the number one item on my list, as it may be a different one in your case. We need to develop a culture of freedom, freedom to speak without fear, a sense of security of oneself must be imbued in to both men and women. The women's movement has put a dent in the future of families, but not enough. This act of freedom can be exercised in the following ways (or more):

1. Question the Religious men, particularly those who flaunt religiosity. My father taught me a big lesson, if someone walks up to you and say that I will take care of it, the chances are he or she will. But if that person says, I am a good Christian, Jew, Hindu, Muslims or a Buddhist… watch out. Good people don’t need to flaunt religion or hide under the mask of religion to have you trust them.

2. In every little way focus on raising the families or friends families on the values of fairness and justness without compromising the need to be assertive.

3. Question everything, including your own belief or what one dishes out to you. Not all want to mess with it, but if you do, do it wholeheartedly. Do not fear in respectfully questioning any one including the Imam, Rabbi, Pundit, Pastor, Shaman or the clergy.

Shamefully a few men, like a few terrorists give a bad name to all of us men. In discussion groups such as this one, don’t let the fear of bullies let you back down in discussions, they know that women don’t want to mess with the ugly ones and get their way. If you cannot stop it, why should you expect others to? Bullies do that to men as well.

Speak up, be yourselves

Mike Ghouse

Here is another good piece by Ram Punyani, whom I have been reading for nearly a decade.

Swamis, Celibacy and Sex Scandals

Ram Puniyani

Many a sex scandals related to Holy men have come to surface during last few weeks (March 2010). Its not that these are the first one’s to have been brought to social attention, such incidents have been coming to social notice time and over again. The present ones’ about Swami Nityanand and Ichhchadhari Baba (Bhimanand) have highlighted the same in a very intense fashion as these scandals are very blatant.

One recalls in recent history many such cases have startled the media and society, the allegation of a foreign writer about Satya Sai Baba, then allegations against Gurmeet Ram Rahim, Santosh Madhavan, happenings of the Kamkoti Peetham Shakarachrya are quite well known. From other religious traditions, one recalls the recent book by Sister Jesme (Story of a Nun) and the news that the Roman Catholic Church has sacked a priest accused of pedophilia as large number of complaints were coming forth in Germany from people who were abused as children. At another level the RSS pracharak (RSS pracharaks are to remain bachelors for political reasons) Sanjay Joshi had also to give up his political responsibility when a CD related to his sexual exploits came to surface.

In all these cases the underlying mechanisms are different. In Catholic establishment, to remain unmarried is the norm and many cases have come to light, which have shamed the establishment. The Hindu God-men are all ‘stand alone’ systems, not an organized Church. While comparing these may not be easy, what is common in these is that the organizations where members remain celibate to discharge their religiously or politically ordained duties, many of them do get tainted by the fall out of such acts.

What is different about the case of these God-men in particular is a deliberate misuse of their ‘spiritual attainments’ to indulge in carnal pleasures, under the guise of spirituality, to the extent of running sex rackets in association with those in power. Here is the case of gross abuse of faith to the extent of deliberately setting up a situation to exploit the women devotees. The methods used by the swamis are diverse. This should come under a serious crime not only at legal but also at social level to ensure that such gross abuse of faith is brought under serious scanner.

As such the concept of celibacy in many a religious orders had a spiritual base in the noble idea of renunciations and transcending of the physical pleasures to attain the higher spiritual platform. The religious Gurus have been of different types as for as celibacy is concerned. In early India there were renouncers as well as those who led a family life. Patanjali stated “swa-ang jugupsa, parai asansargah’, meaning that with increasing spiritual insights, with mind achieving higher truth, apathy for physical body comes in. This is what is supposed to have made celibacy the path to sanyas. Celibacy, Brahmcharya has been highly respectable in sections of society.

After 8th century celibacy was taken to exalted levels into Hindu tradition by Shankara, while he was leading the battle of Hinduism against Buddhism. To attack Buddhism he adopted various concepts from Buddhism itself, e.g. the concept of renunciation of material wants, celibacy included. Today the idea of celibacy is prevalent mainly in Buddhism, sects of Hinduism and amongst Catholic priests. These three have base in religious traditions. For much different reasons, mainly political one’s, organization like RSS has also brought this in for its propagators.

Patanjali’s argument is repeated by modern God-man, Sri Sri Ravishaker. According to him as you go to higher levels, body becomes insignificant and interest in sex is reduced to nothing. There have been dissenting note from within the stable of God-men itself. The major such voice was that of Osho, Bhagwan Rajneesh. He argued that sex could be transcended only through experience; this was what he preached and penned down in his book, Sambhog se Samadhi (From Sex to Superconciousness).

These semi philosophical outpourings apart, the biological compulsions have always accompanied the celibates and the scandals have kept popping out from such institutions and individuals, telling us that these sexual escapades are a rule than an exception. It may be in the form of child abuse, same sex relationships to downright cunning methods indulged by God-men to trap the women on the pretext of their ‘spiritual’ pursuits. Different philosophical sounding arguments are dished out to the unsuspecting laity.

From last few decades these incidents are coming more to the surface as the phenomenon of God-men has mushroomed all around. This phenomenon is an accompaniment of the existential anxieties of the globalized world, the razor edge competitive era, where cut throat competition at work place, heightened consumerism and moving upward in the scale of financial earning is the only index of one’s success. The need for emotional succor is leading to the rise of the industry of God-men.

The God-men, belong to many categories, each having his-her own entrepreneurial skills. God-men put out their brand of spirituality, which apparently gives solace to the aggrieved middle and lower middle classes in particular amongst others. God-men have set up institutions which cater to vastly expanding market. Meera Nanda in her book, the ‘God Market’ argues that there is an increased religiosity, collusion with the corporate World and the state. In India in particular, a subtle Hindusization is going on as such and this has been aided by the private sector. There is an active promotion of religious tourism. Higher education has been handed over to private sector, some of whom use religious trusts to run these institutions to impart ‘value education’. State has been generous in giving away land at highly subsidized rates to the Gurus and God-men.

One can also see the rise of religious Right here and in different countries during this period. RSS is having a field day in culturally Hinduizing the social space, and God-men are the major players in the game. One can say that these swamis of the ilk of Nityanad and Ichchhadhari are just the visible part of a larger phenomenon. These two cases also show the range of activities, from the spiritual fa├žade to downright sex racket.

The broader picture of the phenomenon is much more disturbing. Last three decades have been one of the most tragic periods of human history for different reasons. It is this period when the global political and social phenomenon has adopted the language of the religion. This language has created multiple problems. On one hand, one major religious community has been demonized, and on the other there is a big set back to the rational thinking and progressive values. When the language of religion is used with great aplomb, the reason is forced on the back-foot and the suppression of human rights takes the garb of religion. Since religion is accompanied by faith, which in turn can create hysteria, the latter ensures that blind religiosity and blind faith rule the roost. The beneficiaries of these arrangements are the entrenched social, economic powers.

Globally, US took on Russian forces by promoting the conservative versions of Islam, used the religious language to train Al Qaeda, and laced its ambitions for oil in the language of religion. Here in India those who were opposed to social transformation of caste and gender, used Ram Temple type issues, created mass hysteria around identity issues and have tried to push back the process of social transformation. The increased social presence of God-men is an accompaniment of this process. They have duel function. On one hand they aid in creating conservative values, refurbished caste and gender norms from Manusmiriti are propagated, and on the other they exploit this situation for their material enhancement, sexual exploitation included. Interestingly the God men who talk of renunciation and going to higher levels themselves are the biggest beneficiaries of material riches. Society has to learn the lessons from the sprawling wealth and sexual exploitation done by section of God-men and to understand as to what is really taking place in the garb of holy clothes is a mere misuse of faith for crass purposes. Nityanand and Icchadhari Baba is a sort of barometer of the phenomenon which has gripped our society.


Issues in Secular Politics
II March 2010


Saturday, March 13, 2010

3000 Thanks, What are you most likely to say?

Today, I am celebrating friendship with 3000 friends on the face book, and want to thank each one of you for extending your time towards the friendship. We will all grow together, a minute here and a minute there, but surely we will learn about each other and move on with life. We are one world, one people and one human race.

Just imagine if aliens from different planets gather in a convention on “Protecting the Universe” held on Planet Zenorina. The first thing we would do, is to introduce each other when we meet face to face with the “others” and while banging the heads (their custom) what would you say about yourselves?

“Hi, I’m Phyllis from Dallas, Texas” (as if they would know every one of the 10,000 Cities), or

“Hi, I’m Kumar, a Hindu from “Jhoomri Talyya, India “ ( would they know that the town?), or

“Hi, I’m Aishah and am an American” or

“Hi, I’m Chen from Planet Earth”.

What are you most likely to say?

For many of us, it is a new experience to have friends from different ethnicities, races, languages and faiths. Look at the circle of friends each one of us has; there is every one of them.

Your comments, cheers and jeers are appreciated; each one of us will learn to deal with a variety of issues with ease and at comfort of our own privacy and time. Facebook is a universe in itself that is defining the new norms of the society; the norms of pluralism.

Never before in the history of dialogues we have had the opportunity to be on the threads where we completely disagree, and yet remain engaged. It is indeed a new paradigm. Between Facebook and Google every one has the potential to be equipped with knowledge.

Facebook is the best friend one can aspire to have; you can always reach one of your friends any time of the day, 24 hours, seven days a week. There is no pressure to respond to any one or no need to respond aggressively or passively to anyone. And at times silently read things that amuse us, affect us endearingly and at times cheer us up. Your freedom is guaranteed.

If we see a note that promotes ill-will, hatred or stereotyping, most of us have a tendency to Google at least three different takes on the issue, and more than likely, the opinion you form is more tempered than those who do not seek to see other views.

I am humbled and want to thank you for extension of your friendship. May the good in each one of us interact with each other and multiply. Amen

If you have the time;
Facebook, an experiment in Pluralistic democracy http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/note.php?note_id=93866892773

Mike Ghouse is a frequent guest at the media offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. He is a thinker, writer, speaker, optimist and an activist of Pluralism, Interfaith, Co-existence, Peace, Islam and India. He runs the Foundation for Pluralism and World Muslim Congress and Co-Chairs the Center for Interfaith inquiry. He is a board member of the Dallas Peace Center and Memnosyne Foundation and a former commissioner at the City of Carrollton.

Mike is a Dallasite for three decades and Carrollton is his home town.His life mission is to open people's hearts and minds towards fellow beings by mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill. He is a peace maker and an educator with two Masters degrees and working on his doctorate in Psychology. He has two books on the horizon; Basic Islam- everything you wanted to know about Islam and Pluralism. He has authored over 800 articles on the subjects, many of them are published in the newspapers and magazines around the world. His work is reflected at 3 websites & 22 Blogs listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Women, Saints, Rabbis, Imams and clergymen


The article below, "Wary saints won't meet women alone" is an interesting observation, the orthodox Rabbis and Imams decline to meet women alone as well, not only that, some of them don't even shake hands with women. It appears that there is some wisdom in it, no matter which tradition it is.

A few thoughts;

Either men have to learn to over come their own temptations, especially the clergymen from making advances towards the vulnerable women; it amounts to taking advantage of their position as holy men.

Or they can hold back from meeeting women, for guard their own fears of falling to the temptations.

In the long run, you can trust a culture of civility far better than fear of falling to the temptations. Buddha had set an example, that one can be incharge of his own emotions despite the temptations that surround one.

A time is on the horizon, when men will respect the freedom and friendliness of a woman without mistaking it. A time will come in the society where women feel secure and comfortable with men, and men would not be a threat to their being.

It is an oppression of women, that these misunderstandings drive women to be reticent, reclusive and retrieve, due to men jumping to conclusions about their friendliness. Shame on us men, that our fellow beings have to fear us when we are alone with them.
I hope the full emancipation to women will come, when they can be free to be friends with any one, without worrying the common mistakes men make when a woman is friendly.
Mike Ghouse
If we can learn to respect and accept the God given uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge

Wary saints won't meet women alone


Deepak Gidwani / DNAFriday, March 12, 2010 0:31 IST Email

Lucknow: Women devotees planning a darshan of a sant or mahant in Ayodhya better ensure they have male company. Otherwise, they’ll be met with a no-show.

Their reputation at stake following a string of unseemly controversies involving self-styled godmen, sadhus in the holy town have decided not to meet women alone.

The decision was taken at a recent meeting of priests of temples in Ayodhya. At the conclave, sants and mahants voiced serious concern at the sagging reputation of Hindu holy men due to the dubious activities of a handful of self-proclaimed babas.

‘Icchadhari Baba’ Bheemanand of Delhi, Swami Nithyananda of Bangalore and Baba Anoop of Ghaziabad had recently hit the headlines for alleged involvement in sexual misdemeanours in the garb of religion and spiritualism.

Nritya Gopal Das, Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas president and mahant of the famous Maniram Chhaoni, said, “Women should refrain from going to temples unaccompanied by men or meeting sadhu-sants and mahants alone in temples and ashrams.” He said the acts of some “fake” mahants had brought a bad name to all swamis and sants, who otherwise command great respect.

Ram Vilas Vedanti, former BJP MP and a much-respected peethadheeshwar, said, “At a time when some crooks are exploiting people, especially women, in the name of religion and in the garb of sadhu-sants, it has become imperative to take some urgent steps to save our reputation… in such a situation, we had to think of drastic steps.”

“We have made a beginning in that direction,” he said.

The “perverse” and “retrograde” decision, however, has not gone down well with social activists.

Roop Rekha Verma, former vice-chancellor of Lucknow University, said, “What these mahants are saying is unconstitutional… women and men have been accorded equal status in our constitution… to say that women should go to temples accompanied by men reflects their perverse mentality.

“By saying that women need male security in temples, the mahants are revealing that they are in fact sex-starved beasts who would pounce on a lone woman.”

Prof Sadhna Singh of Kanpur University said, “Today, when women are flying jets and Boeings without male supervision, these men want to take us back to the medieval ages.”

Mahant Chidanand Muni of the renowned Parmarth Ashram in Rishikesh said Nritya Gopal Das’s utterances were entirely uncalled for. “Temple priests are supposed to be epitomes of divinity, whether a woman is alone or accompanied should not matter to a sadhu… it’s unfortunate that such advice is coming from a learned saint.”

The wonder of religion

Religion is the most beautiful invention that has benefited humanity and will continue to do so. The purpose of religion is to bring a balance to an individual and balance with what surrounds him; life and matter. Most certainly, religion does not answer all the questions, but for a majority of folks, perhaps over 95% of them, it assures them that justice will be served today or an elusive hereafter or in the next birth. It gives them a sense of safety and security that no one will go scott free, that humans are accountable for their actions and that there is bliss and or punishment for wrong doing.

The crimes are committed by men who don't get the religion. I particularly like the statement by the author, "In its original sense, religion bears nearly the opposite meaning it has been assigned in modern times."

Mike Ghouse
The wonder of religion
By Sam Keen
Religion is under attack by a new breed of militant atheists such as Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. They insist that all forms of monotheism, even the most liberal and progressive, are murderous, intolerant and irrational. According to Hitchens, "atheism is a necessary condition for the emancipation of the mind." The choice they would force us to make is between irrational religion and rational atheism.

Lately, the argument has turned into a battle of slogans. In Britain, Christian shibboleths endorsing Web sites that warned that anyone who doesn't accept the word of Jesus will spend all eternity in hell began to appear on the sides of buses. The Atheist Bus Campaign responded, collecting enough money to post the following on the sides of 100 buses: "Probably, there's no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." (Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion," objected to the word "probably.") In solidarity, the American Humanist Association started running their own advertisements in Washington D.C. asking "Why believe in a god?" over a picture of a man in a Santa suit with the added message "Just be good for goodness' sake."
It makes no logical or linguistic sense either to affirm or deny the existence of an infinite, supernatural God. If such a being exists, how could the human mind comprehend or speak about it? If such a being does not exist what is it that is being denied by atheists?

If we want to explore the significance of religion we need to reject both religious literalism and dogmatic atheism and return to the root meaning of religion--"to bind, connect, or reconnect." In its original sense, religion bears nearly the opposite meaning it has been assigned in modern times. It is not about cult, creed, ceremony, miracle, mystery or authority. Nor is it about occult knowledge of a transcendent God revealed by scriptures or religious institutions. . Religious belief springs from an awareness that all creatures belong to a single commonwealth of sentient beings. This leads to a passionate commitment to venerate the miracle of ordinary life and dwell in the presence of the sacred.

The religious psyche is animated by elemental emotions that stand in stark contrast to the emotions such as shame, guilt, envy, pride, greed, ambition and acquisitiveness that make up the palette of responses we learn from secular culture. The elemental emotions do not come from our social indoctrination but from the raw human encounter with the incomprehensible universe into which we have been thrown.

The experience of wonder, the first of the elemental emotions, is the wellspring of both religion and philosophy. D.H. Lawrence got it exactly right; "There is a sixth sense, the religious sense, the sense of wonder". The emotion of wonder is triggered over and over again by the awe-ful realization that there is no reason for the world or anything in it to exist, myself included.
Gratitude and celebration flow from wonder as we accept our existence as an inexplicable gift bestowed on us without rhyme or reason by the Infinite Creative Void, The Unknowable G-D (beyond God), or the Ground of Being from whom all blessings flow. (Take your pick.)
Reverence may be elicited by a stand of giant redwoods or a two-year-old playing on a jungle gym. Listening to the myriad voices of our fellow creatures, we are reminded to walk softly on the earth and show respect for strangers.

Reverence is the virtue that puts the "civil" in civilization.

Compassion follows from the feeling of kinship. It is the bridge joining the lone individual to the community. The maxim that guides the religious psyche is not Descartes' "I think; therefore I am." but "We are; therefore, I am."

The elemental emotion of hope, which has nothing to do with optimism, is inseparable from the life force that drives me toward an unknown future for which I long but cannot imagine. I am a borning self within a borning universe. My DNA has been in the making from the beginning of time. Therefore, I hope.

Trust is the final emotion, or disposition, we gain only by wrestling with doubt and the temptation to despair in the face of tragedy, disease and the desecration of the earth. At no time does the decision to trust or not trust become more agonizing than when we are facing death. In the end, when there is no thing to hold to, no known destination, I must lie me down and trust myself to the everlasting arms of an unknown G-D.

Religion is not speculating about the existence or non-existence of otherworldly entities, but is living with a sense of wonder and struggling to keep our one and only earth a sacred dwelling place.Sam Keen is an author and lecturer who has written thirteen books on philosophy and religion. His new book, "In the Absence of God: Dwelling in the Presence of the Sacred," will be published this month. Keen, former editor of Psychology Today, co-produced the Emmy-nominated PBS documentary "Faces of the Enemy," and was the subject of a PBS special with Bill Moyers titled 'Your Mythic Journey."

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Muhammad (pbuh) from Jewish & Christian Perspective

Interfaith Event in Dallas

I have written a note about this couple who organizes the program connecting our Faiths following the event announcement, please read it - Mike Ghouse

Connecting Our Faiths: How Muhammad is Viewed in Judaism, Christianity & Islam

Contact: Alexis Yancey Jaami, ayproductn@yahoo.com
Date: Sunday March 14, 5pm - 7pm FREE
Place: Masjid Al-Qur'an, 2420 Cedar Crest Blvd. in Oak Cliff, Dallas, TX 75203 - 214-948-3040

Come hear a Jewish rabbi, Mormon Christian minister and Muslim Imam explore their faith connections and how Muhammad is viewed in each of the Abrahamic faiths. Learn how these faiths are connected and get your questions answered about these three faiths. Each speaker will make a presentation and then all three will take questions. Speakers: Rabbi Andrew Paley of Temple Shalom, President Barry Smith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Imam Muhammed Shakoor of Masjid WDM. This event is free and open to the public. A reception with refreshments for further interfaith dialogue follows the program. Come learn and understand more about these three faiths.

Connecting Our Faiths is presented by Masjid WDM as an effort to promote understanding and bring faiths together knowing we are all created by the One God.

Directions: Take 75 south to downtown then take I-45 south to 1st exit, MLK Blvd. Turn right and follow street several blocks. Street will curve left, go over a bridge and become Cedar Crest. Follow approximately 1.5 miles and the masjid, which has a wrought iron fence, will be on your left across the street from a funeral home.

Alexis Yancey
Alexis Yancey Productions
Be grateful in each moment, it can change your life!

Prophet Muhammad, the peace maker


Prophet Muhammad’s whole life is strewn with examples of mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill. Indeed, in the Qur’aan God says, to every nation and every community I have sent a peace maker (call it a Messenger, Avatar or a Prophet) and then adds, I have created you into nations, tribes and different communities, the best among you is the one who does good to the creation; life and matter and then he advises mankind to get to know each other. I believe knowledge leads to understanding and understanding to acceptance and appreciation of the other.

Prophet Muhammad defines a good deed is like planting a tree; where you know that by the time that tree matures to give the fruit or the shade, you are not the beneficiary, but someone else is. As we have benefited from legacy we have bequeathed, we have to leave it to the future. The best among us is one who treats life and nature as a trust that we have to preserve, protect and nurture.

I have selected ten representative things that Prophet had initiated that goes towards mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill. I bet that you can relate with similar examples of the masters that you are familiar with. His whole life was about Justice and peace making. I will post the presentation in a few days or you can send an email to receive the Journal of Islamic Pluralism: thejournalofislamicpluralism@gmail.com

Alexis Yancey Jaami & Marzuk Jaami

This couple is commited to interfaith dialogue, for the last four years, they are bringing together people of faith to listen and understand the perspectives of Jews, Christians and Muslims. The topics such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhamamad, Charity and others are shared.

At the 5th Annual Unity Day USA event the couple was honored by the World Muslim Congress and the Foundation for Pluralism for their exemplary work in promoting understanding between Jews, Christians and Muslims.

I am humbled to appreciate their service to humanity.

Mike Ghouse

Friday, March 5, 2010

Muslim-Christian dialogue: An Islamic view

OMG! I am humbled to read the following piece, what a coincidence! The words, phrases, sentences and ideas are idential to what I have been writing. I would be shocked if this author has written that Prophet Muhammad was the first interfaith dialoguer and and that the role of a muslim is to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill, and the purpose of religion is to bring peace and balance within an individual and what surround him; life and matter. The last paragraph has been part of my writings for the last five years.

The article lays out the basics of interfaith dialogue, something Prophet Muhammad had laid it out some 1400 years ago. Yes Sir, Islam is about harmonious co-existence.

Mike Ghouse
Muslim-Christian dialogue: An Islamic view
By Dr. Ahmad Mohamed El Tayeb
president, Al-Azhar University in Cairo


For Muslims, peaceful coexistence is an obligation rather than a matter of choice. Prophet Muhammad was not only encouraged

to engage the followers of Islam, Judaism and Christianity - the three monotheistic religions - in meaningful dialogue; he was commanded to do so.

This week in Washington, leaders of different Muslim and Christian faiths came together to discuss reconciliation between Islam and the Christian West at the Christian-Muslim Summit. I was honored to be a part of this dialogue and to join a myriad voices, from eminent religious leaders to the general public, to discuss ways to work together to promote peace efforts worldwide.

The 2007 open letter signed by 138 Muslim leaders, "A Common Word," has paved the way towards better understanding of religious diversity amongst Muslims. It opens with a line that best summarizes the Islamic position on interfaith dialogue: "Call unto the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and contend with them in the fairest way." (Ayah 125 of Surat Al-Nahl).

The Qur'anic command is also very clear on this topic: "Say: O People of the Book: Come to an agreement between us and you, that we worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partners to Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God. And if they decline (your invitation for dialogue), then say: Bear witness that we shall (continue to) submit to God in Islam" (Al-Imran: 64). According to the Qur'an, interfaith dialogue should be proactively initiated by Muslims.

There are two important tenets to emphasize about the Islamic viewpoint on interfaith dialogue:

• The purpose of interfaith dialogue is not to necessarily conclude with a winner and a loser or to convert others, but rather to share one's principles. Sincere dialogue should strengthen a person's faith and at the same time break down barriers.

• Dialogue must not be confined to academic and intellectual circles. Its purpose is to demystify religious differences to everyday people and to uncover the words of truth that frequently get buried under human biases and tendencies to follow that which is convenient. Dialogue can only lead people to examine their religious identities more deeply.

With regard to interfaith dialogue and understanding taking place on an institutional level, al-Azhar University, the oldest, most respected and influential Sunni institution of higher education in the world, has long been active in reaching out to other religious communities, both within the Islamic world and on the international stage. This spirit of dialogue is evident in the fatwas, or rulings, of Al-Azhar Sheikhs, as well as in the activities of its scholars.

For example, in 1959, the Sheikh of Al-Azhar Mahmud Shaltut issued a fatwa proclaiming that the school of thought followed by Shiite Muslims is acceptable to Sunnis, bringing about a new era of dialogue and cooperation between the sects. Pope John Paul II visited Al-Azhar in 2000 after which a Muslim Catholic commission for dialogue that continues to meet regularly was founded.

More recently, in 2007, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, the head of Dar al-Ifta, one of the world's leading centers of Islamic authority, was a primary signatory of the "A Common Word" initiative which called for dialogue between Muslims and Christians based on the principles of love of God and love of neighbor. In a series of conferences based on this initiative, the Grand Mufti and other Muslim scholars from around the world have met with Christian leaders in the U.S, the UK, and with the Pope at the Vatican, where they discussed the importance of interfaith dialogue based on authentic scholarship and brotherly love.

Moreover, Al-Azhar University does not limit its involvement on the issue of interfaith dialogue to members of different faiths, but engages those within the Muslim community itself. Last year, Al-Azhar University devoted its annual international alumni conference to the theme of interfaith dialogue. The conference, which brought together former students from Egypt and around the Muslim World, explored the sources of inter-communal tension around the globe and stressed the importance of awareness of the common values shared by all the great faiths of the world.

It is not religion that is the root cause of world problems, as some people may want to assert, but rather the misunderstanding of religion that ends up plaguing the world. Interfaith dialogue can certainly serve to bring about a higher level of understanding of different religions on a global level, which will also hopefully lead to more tolerance, acceptance of others, and appreciation for all humanity.

Dr. Ahmad Mohamed El Tayeb is president of Cairo's Al-Azhar University and served as one of the principals in the Christian-Muslim Summit in Washington on March 1-3, 2010.
By Ahmad Mohamed El Tayeb March 4, 2010; 2:37 PM

Freedom of Religion in Japan

We cannot be safe if others around us aren't. It is in our interests to stand up for the rights of all people, ultimately when every one stands up for everyone's right, all of us can be safe. Everyone of us is vulnerable to danger and abuse, we need to be unselfish to serve our selfish interests.


Persecution continues towards minorities in every place and it is a shame in a civil society like Japan it is happening, please do the needful. please take a look at the report below.

Mike Ghouse

13th Session, United Nations Human Rights Council
Written Statement Item 3: Civil and Political Rights/ Freedom of Religion


Submitted in English by: Universal Peace Federation, ECOSOC special consultative status

UN Representative, Heiner Handschin, ch des la Pierreire 1c,
1092 Belmont sur Lausanne, 079 250 3477, europe2@upf.org

Religious freedom is one of the fundamental freedoms and rights to which all people are entitled and we must be vigilant against all violations of religious freedom. The Universal Peace Federation affirms the essential value and significance of religion, and hence religious freedom, for the achievement of global peace. If we hinder freedom of religion, we endanger the prospects for peace. This applies not only to majority religions, but minority religions as well.

As such, we appeal to the United Nations Human Rights Council to influence the government of Japan to take action urgently to halt the impunity related to the long-term and persistent use of kidnapping, forced confinement and even torture of its citizens. These cases involve denial of multiple rights, including and especially freedom of religion during which time members of religious communities are being coerced to change their beliefs while confined against their will.
It has been reported that in the Unification Church alone more than 4,300 members have been victimized to date. During the past four decades, over 1,300 adherents have managed to escape their captors, sometimes at great personal risk, and return to their religious communities. They report human rights violations such as long-term confinement, mental and physical abuse, and psychological manipulation designed to force them to recant their faith.

Despite numerous complaints to police, not one indictment has been brought against the perpetrators of these crimes. Currently at least five Unification Church members remain missing in Japan, suspected to have been confined and held against their will because of their faith: Momoyo Yamada (30), Fusako Tomoda (22), Yuko Majima (60), Masako Kudo (25)35, and Takashi Nishikawa (26).

The Case of Toru Goto

One recent shocking example of Japan’s religious intolerance is the case of Mr. Toru Goto, who was confined for over 12 years and 5 months against his will in an apartment in Tokyo. Already in his 30s at the beginning of this confinement (his second), Mr. Goto was imprisoned in one small room, guarded day and night, just blocks away from the municipal authorities. He was not allowed to leave the apartment even to exercise and was not permitted communication with the outside world during these 12 years. He was at times constrained by force and required to listen to his captors’ indoctrination and ridiculing day after day, in an attempt to make him convert from Unificationism to mainline Protestant Christianity. The ringleaders in this case were the Christian minister Toridechi Yasutomo Matsunaga and professional “deprogrammer” Shun Takashi Miyamura in collusion with members of Mr. Goto’s family.

When, after 12 years of imprisonment, the captors were forced to admit that Mr. Goto was not going to succumb to their brainwashing techniques, they cruelly threw him out into the street in February 2008, a tall man but weighing only 39 kilo and barely able to walk. He went directly to the police station to report the crime but was refused help. He finally reached the church headquarters in Tokyo and was then taken to the hospital for a prolonged rehabilitation. He filed charges against the perpetrators of this crime in 2008, and yet on December 9, 2009, Tokyo prosecutors refused to indict them. Their claim of “insufficient evidence” is a travesty of justice and the government’s action of turning a blind eye allows those responsible to continue their activities with impunity.

Here are just a few of many documented testimonies showing how severely human lives have been affected through these crimes:

MrsMs . Hiroko Tomizawa.

In June 1997, a group of about twenty thugs, including an ex-policeman and private detectives, armed with an electric stun gun, iron chains and an iron pipe, attacked a UC local church in the Tottori district. They injured four church members and forcibly abducted Mrs.Ms. Tomizawa. The following day, when a church officer tried to file a criminal complaint at Tottori police station, the officer on duty refused to receive it, telling him: “We are busy. You should not bring such a case.” MrsMs.. Tomizawa was confined in three apartments over the next fifteen months. She eventually escaped and brought criminal charges against her relatives and the “deprogrammer,” a Protestant minister named Mamoru Takazawa. However, in 2000, the Tottori prosecutor’s office refused to indict the perpetrators.

Mrs. Takako Fujita.

Mrs. Fujita, married to a Korean church member, was kidnapped during a visit home to Japan. In profound despair brought on by protracted psychological and physical abuse, she committed suicide in the bathroom of the apartment where she was forcibly detained with no hope of escape. Her husband came to Japan in an attempt to attend her funeral ceremony, but the family refused to admit him. The police were made aware of the situation but did not treat it as a criminal case. In the end, despite substantial evidence that she had been illegally confined, no one was arrested or indicted.

Dr. Hirohisa Koide.

On June 13, 1992, Hirohisa Koide, a medical doctor, was kidnapped while he was busy taking care of patients at a hospital. He was confined for almost two years. During his confinement an anti-UC lawyer, Hiroshi Hirata, visited the confinement place and told Koide’s parents and relatives that the confinement was legal. Consequently, Koide’s period of confinement was prolonged. His deprogrammer was a Christian minister named Yasutomo Matsunaga. Dr. Koide was forced to make public statements against the Unification Church before his captors would relax security measures enough that he could safely escape and return to the church. Koide describes his experience in his book "Hitosarai Karano Dasshutsu" (Tokyo: Kogensha, 1996).
Violation of human rights standards

The above cases represent only a few of literally thousands of cases. These practices are clearly in violation of international human rights instruments guaranteeing the right to freedom of religion and belief (UDHR, Art. 18) and freedom of movement (UDHR, Art.13) as well as UDHR Art. 9 on arbitrary detention.

Japan is bound to uphold these standards as a member of the international community and is indeed usually seen as exemplary.

However, it appears to lack transparency and consistency in the area of freedom of religion, creating a reaction in blatant denial of the indivisibility of all human rights. Much of this results from the fact that these cases of attempted forced conversion, usually instigated by relatives of the victim at the behest of a network of professional “deprogrammers,” are viewed by authorities as “family matters.” Since these cases invariably involve adult victims, this cannot serve as a justification for violating a believer’s right to practice their religion.

Article 20 of the Japanese Constitution guarantees freedom of religion all .Moreover, false imprisonment is a crime in Japan under Article 220 of the Japanese Penal Code.
See also, Article 11 of the Japanese Constitution which claims that all fundamental human rights that are, “guaranteed to the people by this Constitution shall be conferred upon the people of this and future generations as eternal and inviolate rights”.

Article 223, of Japanese Penal Code calls for “imprisonment with work” for “threat to another's life, body, freedom, reputation or property or by use of assault, causes the other to perform an act which the other person has no obligation to perform, or hinders the other from exercising his or her rights”.

It is incomprehensible that all of the above-mentioned rights written in the Japanese Constitution and the Penal Code have been repeatedly violated throughout more than 40 years without legal consequences to the perpetrators of these crimes. Hundreds of young adult lives have been ruined and families destroyed. The perpetrators must be brought to justice and the victims vindicated. After exhausting multiple legal and other channels to secure a more rigorous and coordinated commitment from the government to put an end to kidnapping and forced religious conversion in Japan, the victims of these crimes have now decided to appeal to the international community.

Appeal to the HRC

With this, we appeal to the Human Rights Council for action. Still a beacon of hope to many unrepresented victims, we urge you to investigate and recognize these crimes laid before you as a dangerous precedent that threatens the very essence and foundation of human dignity.

On behalf of the victims we seek the following:

1. That if any member of the Unification Church or other minority religion becomes a victim of kidnapping and confinement, the Japanese government must immediately intervene and rescue the victim.

2. That the Japanese police must promptly search for anyone who has been kidnapped or confined and bring the victim to a safe place where the person may freely decide whom he or she chooses to associate with.

3. That in order to eliminate such incidents from this country once and for all, the Japanese police investigate all those who have been involved in past cases of kidnapping and confinement and, where appropriate, bring charges against them. The case of Toru Goto in particular should be immediately re-opened and the perpetrators of the crimes against him should be brought to justice.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Religious Conversions

Conversion or recruitment?

(Updated Friday, March 5, 2010 @ 4:52 PM: About 70 comments in Facebook and nearly 30 comments at Washington post - links posted below)

Religions are beautiful, if every one gets it as Jesus intended, Mohammad wanted, Moses taught, Krishna explained, Nanak practiced, Buddha enlightened, Zathustra showed or the native tradtions point out... there would be no problem. All they wanted was a better world by following a few basic principles. They were looking at the end result and not the means. Religion is not the problem.

The purpose of religion is to bring a sense of composure and a balance within oneself and with what surrounds; life and environment. All religions or traditions whether scripted or not, have the same goal; to create a continual balance.

When you buy a $700 suit for $100, you will call all your friends to go get one. I guess the same zeal enters one's mind if they are rejoiced with their faith.

Arrogance is the mother of all conflicts that is why every possible tradition out there requires one to bow, kneel or prostrate to show humility and acceptance of a greater being than ourselves. To believe my faith is better than yours is sheer arrogance, it breeds conflicts, and assumes that other faiths are less than mine; and "they" need to catch up, Hell no!

To believe that other faith is deficient is being disrespectful to the otherness of other. God has not signed a deal with any one behind my back, if God were to favor one over the other, we have not understood the nature of God, all loving, caring and generous, after he is your and my creator. But if you insist God does favors to you, keep him, we don't need it, we don't need that kind of God illusion.

Spirituality and Arrogance are inversely proportional. To be religious is to be humble and to be a peace maker.

There is no need to have institutions of proselyteziation. Every faith is beautiful, however one should have complete freedom to choose what he or she wants to believe or ritualize. Let there be no compulsion in religion. (Quraan 2:256).

After all, NO ONE is responsible for my actions other than myself, that I have to reflect upon in my solitiude and be accountable on the elusive Day of Judgment.

I am a Muslim and I proclaim, my faith is NOT superior or inferior to any. My faith requires me to be humble and my role is to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill that is what leads to the kingdom of peace. My faith works for me as your faith works for you, you enjoy your faith and I will mine. (Quraan 109:6)

Mike Ghouse is a frequent guest at the TV, radio and print media offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. He is a thinker, writer, speaker, optimist and an activist of Pluralism, Interfaith, Co-existence, Peace, Islam and India. His work is reflected at three websites and 22 Blogs at http://www.mikeghouse.net/

Also at Facebook/ 60+ Comments: http://www.facebook.com/?sk=messages&tid=1018615040843#!/note.php?note_id=367793897773

Conversion or recruitment?


Q: Is there a problem with proselytism overseas by U.S. religious groups? Isn't sharing one's faith part of religious freedom? When does it cross the line into manipulation and coercion?

I believe systematic and institutionalized endeavors to proselytize on a global stage is warfare by other means. I am not opposed to conversion per se. If someone finds meaning in a particular message and seeks to embrace it, congratulations. If one feels an urge to share one's beliefs and what it means with others, then again that is welcome. But if one starts a campaign to "recruit" people through an organized crusade, then it is, I believe, contrary to the very idea of spiritualism as understood by most faiths, and is an act of aggression.

Faith is not a commodity that lends itself to a global consumer marketing campaign. To treat it as such is demeaning to faith itself. Marketing it using brochures and not compassion, arguments and not service, providing material incentives and not spiritual comfort, is abhorrent.

Islam and Christianity have reputations for proselytizing. But often the rapid growth of Islam is assumed to be as a result of Christianity like attempts at systematic proselytizing. This is far from the truth. There are no lifelong missionaries in Muslim societies. Mosques do not have budgets or fund raisers for missionary work. Islam is today the fastest growing religion in America and Europe and that is not because of some major missionary campaign, but indeed in spite of all the demonization of Islam in the media as a false religion, as a religion of violence and as a value system intolerant towards women.

Many Western commentators interpret the extremism of al-Qaeda and other groups as indicative of the Islamic mandate to convert people to Islam. I personally have difficulty understanding this claim. How does one convince others of the virtue of one's ways through murder and slaughter?

On the other hand, many Islamic and third world countries associate Christian missionaries with crusades, colonization and imperialism. If you see a Christian missionary, run! Western armies are not far behind, or they are already there. Even the U.S., the champion of secularism and freedom of religion, has had so much trouble disassociating itself and its foreign policy from proselytizing. U.S. armies in occupied Iraq have been used to protect Christian missionaries distributing Bibles along with food to starving Iraqis and associating Christian symbols with military ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Efforts to safeguard freedom of religion, such as the now controversial U.S. Commission of on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has been shown as biased towards Christianity. It has over the years shown more concern for opening opportunities for evangelism in the Muslim World than protecting the religious freedoms of Muslim Women in France.

In India too there is a large constituency for banning conversions because they see it as a cultural invasion of India, by Islam and Christianity. Clearly proselytizing has no place in the global village.

Islamic sources, regardless of how some Muslims may act or interpret them, are overwhelmingly against active proselytization. The Quran states very clearly that there is no compulsion in religion. There is no need for compulsion, since the truth is elf evident (Quran 2:256). In several other places, the Quran states very clearly that the role of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) is to only deliver the message from God. He does not have the right to exercise power over those who receive his message (Quran 88;21-22), it is God, not people, who will exercise accountability upon the creation (Quran 88;26]. The job of a Muslim is to deliver the message, not to manage, not to act as an advocate nor to seek to act as a guardian of others (Quran 10:18, 3:29, 18:29).

I like Jefferson's idea that the best way to communicate what one's values and beliefs are is by living them. If Muslims want to bring the message of Truth to others, then rather than launching global campaigns to proselytize, they should live their faiths and let its grace work. The same applies to others. Be good so we know your values are good.

To be concise proselytization is neither good religion nor good politics. Religion's objective is to build a spiritual link between the creation and the creator, not to serve as an identity marker engaged in a battle for market share of souls.
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Link to the article: http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2010/03/religious-conversions.html

Comments at: http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2010/03/religious-conversions.html#comments




Your words, "you can try to cherry-pick Quran verses if you want, but you aren't fooling anyone who is actually reading the whole book and paying attention to how it is generally and historically understood."
Finding the truth is your own responsibility, until a decade ago, I had nothing to do with Islam or Quraan, though I have always respected people's belief, traditions and cultures. Reading the Quraan as you do, as Ali Sina or Robert Spencer do, I was turned off, I did not like it and did not want to read it.
When the attacks on Islam intensified to the point of stupidity, I read in Bhagvad Gita, that finding the truth is your own responsibility, even if your parents told you so. I pushed the refresh button and stripped all that nonsense on the market that was passed on as facts. Then I read it from a point of view of Pluralism, co-existence, and respecting each other... I found the whole book to be beautiful. HOLD IT my friend, all the religions are beautiful and I have done workshops on each one of them and have done over 700 hours of Radio talk show including Atheism, Wicca and some native Traditions. Before you comment on anything, please read my earlier comments to free yourselves from bias.
Quraan is as Pluralistic a book as Bhagvad Gita, Torah, Bible, Avesta and other books. We all exist, and we have to figure out and learn to respect the otherness of other and accept the God given uniqueness of each one of us. Except 1/10th of 1% of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus or any one, the other percent are moderate people who get along with all. Put some numbers and see for yourselves.
Mike Ghouse
Posted by: mikeghouse March 5, 2010 5:47 PM

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Ghoose et al:
The most critical yet more convincing complaints against the Muslim ideology come from educated ex Muslims. This is mainly because they lived that ideology for some time and they know besides what their books say what their imams and clerics really teach.
I take very seriously what is said by Rasheed of the Hayat TV, Ali Sina of Faith freedom, Mosab Hasan , the son of Hamas founder. On these threads I study seriously what AKafir and Arif write, especially what pertains to the practices of Islam in the Indian subcontinent.

Posted by: abhab1 March 5, 2010 4:15 PM
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Muktedir HAn,
you know the caps of oak seeds.
is there any person you know with such a cap of oak seed over his head? is there any Papers from an Oak Seed around you?
Posted by: tctowercover March 5, 2010 4:07 PM
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Muktedir Han,
do you love St Augustine?
while there is a storm in the bare field, what does happen in the forest? this is a new koan. shall the guests dine? shall there be worms in the apples after the storm?
what shall the inhabitants eat in the forest during the storm in the field? shall you afforest against a storm?
what is the difference between squirrels and worms, Muktedir HAn? squirrels are known with oak seeds, worms are known with apples. do oak tree give apples? what about worms in the oak seeds? what about the rain?
Muktedir Han, israel or phoenicia or skopje, which one? are they questionable? what do the mouses dine with?
mouses have also two teeth in front of their mouth. do they have two teeth especially for cheese?

Posted by: tctowercover March 5, 2010 4:03 PM
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but right at the moment, two teeth in one tooth path is a matter of squirrels, maybe squirrles have especially for oak seeds : )
Posted by: tctowercover March 5, 2010 3:45 PM
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in these ten years of time, Uranus shall be touching the nervous system of people, according to planets' station. an old man can put two teeth in one tooth path. even the milk-infant can put two teeth on one tooth path in a decade of years.
Posted by: tctowercover March 5, 2010 3:43 PM
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if there is one ditto there can be one caret. all are punctuation. but, if there is one oak, should there be one squirrel?
Posted by: tctowercover March 5, 2010 3:40 PM
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and there shall be answer for the question "how can there be a two teeth in one tooth path".
Posted by: tctowercover March 5, 2010 3:37 PM
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i think, Colgate in this Toothpaste would love us to study on St Steve, would not? lets turn on the Wikireader for St Steve's Vitality, Saint Saint Eve, in the Episcopal Church.
Posted by: tctowercover March 5, 2010 3:35 PM
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Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief is the best toothpaste i have ever put onto my toothbrush, i thank.
squirrels dont argue for seeds or about the oak tree. whether there shall be one seed from one oak tree is not a matter of squirrels. that's a matter of oak trees.
Posted by: tctowercover March 5, 2010 3:24 PM
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Great post, Rentianxiang. I couldn't have said it better myself.
Although you forgot to mention that millions of people were given the choice between conversion to Islam and a life of slavery. Personally, I'd consider that quite the inducement, lol.
Posted by: ZZim March 5, 2010 2:15 PM
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Islam has always placed a great emphasis on dawa and has encouraged its followers to spread Islam whenever they can using whatever methods, including violence, they have at their disposal. Once again, a Muslim apologist is trying to say that Muslims aren't as bad as the Christians so focus on the Christians. I have read the history books and Islam was spread by the sword throughout the levant, Persia, North Africa, India, etc. The Muslims used organized warfare to spread the "faith" by forced conversion (convert, pay a tax and be treated as a second class citizen, or die) and actively inflicting the Arab culture and Muslim faith on all they came across. How dare this person whitewash the bloody history of the rise of Islam and pretend that the spread of Islam was peaceful while so many associate the spread of Christianity with the Crusades. The extent of the Crusades, which was merely a response to repeated violent and unprovoked attacks by the Muslims on the Byzantiines, pales in comparison to the horrifying breadth of warfare perpetrated by Muslims on Christians, Hindus and everyone else in the name of spreading their religion of oppression. I am a non-believer and agree that Christianity was also often spread using deplorable tactics, but the behavior of the Christians does not exonerate the Muslims and, to be fair, Islam has much more to apologize for on this front than any other religion in world history. And, Mike Ghouse, you can try to cherry-pick Quran verses if you want, but you aren't fooling anyone who is actually reading the whole book and paying attention to how it is generally and historically understood.
Posted by: rentianxiang March 5, 2010 1:52 PM
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You describe Islam, it's prophet and the crimes committed in its name very well.
Thank you.
Posted by: Arif2 March 4, 2010 9:35 PM
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"Religion is the best thing happened to humankind,"
That is disputable. An awful lot of evil has been done in the name of and by religion. And it is extremely unclear whether the good claimed by the religious is due to religion or intrinsic to our biology.
From the guy you quoted ( Farooq ) he gives a link to the genocide of 1971 in Bengal. That is merely one small example of the evil done by muslims against Kaafirs.
The earlier biographies of Muhammad the prophet of Islam show that Muhammad was not a very nice human being. He divided the world into his followers and the rest he called Kaafirs and he looted them, killed them, raped them, beheaded them, etc. And now his followers want to tell humankind that the barbarity that Muhammad wrecked on the innocents "is the best thing that happened to them"!!!
I am sorry I completely disagree, and I know that anyone who is even slightly free from the psychological hold of Islam will see that Muhammad's actions were far far from the best thing that happened to humankind.
Posted by: AKafir March 4, 2010 8:32 PM
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Dear AKafir;
Bad things have been done by every group of people inspired by criminalindividuals, that is not religion, but their politics of insecurity.
Just about every group (religious, racial, ethnic, linguistic or otherwise) has men who have done wrong in the name of that group.
Is there any one who can cast the first stone? Right now Bahais, Wicca and Shinto have not had a bad record, if they get in power, one of them would possibly do the wrong.
It is human to be good, and each one of us has a streak of criminality and brutality running in our veins if we let loose.
Religion is the best thing happened to humankind, and the insecurity in humans is the worst thing for the society.
It is not the religion, it is the individuals and small band of thugs that are bad to the society. All those bad outfits will remain small and will not grow big, as the society does not subscribe to extremism.

Posted by: mikeghouse March 4, 2010 6:57 PM
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Mike Ghouse, the following is from the link you gave:
"Undeniably, the traditional position of Muslim scholars and jurists has been that apostasy [riddah] is punishable by death. The longstanding problem of the traditional position, as held by Classical jurists or scholars, can be explained and excused as not being able to see apostasy, an issue of pure freedom of faith and conscience, separate from treason against the community or the state."
It has nothing to do with calling the Imams neocons, is it? Your and the few other westernized muslims that you quote have an issue with the "traditional" Islam, the Islam that exists in actual Muslim countries of the world at present. Even by you link, there is no freedom from compulsion in religion in Traditional Islam.
Best of luck to you in trying to spread your heretical version of Islam. Bahai's in Iran, and Ahmeddiya in Pakistan, Alevi's in Lebanon etc all discovered that heresy in Islam does not go very far in muslim countries. It goes much further in the safety of the Kaafirs.
Posted by: AKafir March 4, 2010 3:34 PM
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"You got the Neocon hearsay on apostasy, here is another one documented and verifiable version at www.ApostasyandIslam.com . It draws from the history and 100 scholars have signed it."
Why do you call the great Imams of Islam neocons? Do you think Hanbali, Shafi, Maliki are neocons? What standing does the author have in any Islamic circle? Zilch. He is a nobody in Islam. Who recognizes him as anyone in islamic matters? And then there are no signatories to the statement. It is a combination of a bibliograpy and some westernized muslims who have their own views.
What are the laws that are implemented in the Shariat courts of the various countries of Islam? What are the sharia laws that were implemented and practiced for a thousand years in the muslim countries. Wikipedia has correctly stated that in Islam the apostates are put to death. Now you want to change that in Islam, then good for you. But you lie when you claim it was never so historically or it is not so in islamic countries right now. Apostates are brutally killed in Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabai, Sudan, Libiya, Nigeria, Malayasia, etc in the here and now, and you lie when you say that their laws were not dervied and historically tied to Islam.
So you bring forth a handful of "heretics" of Islam who live safely among the Kaafirs of the West to claim that a muslim is free to apostasize in Islam, and you think that is believable? Why don't you go to Saudia Arabia and state there that any muslim can leave Islam and let us see how long you keep you head attached to your neck?
Posted by: AKafir March 4, 2010 3:13 PM
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It is a perfect example of what you see in the paper is the ultimate truth; truth emerges when you seek different sources to find it. The truth is we exist, be it evolution, creation or big bang. One does not need a religion, but thus far, every religion has helped understand oneself, the purpose of life, of accountability and of responsibility to each other. It is because of religion the world is in relative peace, that you and I can go to work and come home; our kids can go to school and come back home safely.
AKAFIR, no intellectual relies in Wikipedia, although there is a lot of good stuff in it and I have found many mistakes as well. Any one can get on and say the world is flat and that will not change the shape of the world.
You got the Neocon hearsay on apostasy, here is another one documented and verifiable version at www.ApostasyandIslam.com . It draws from the history and 100 scholars have signed it.
INDIAN51, people will respond to specificities and not rhetoric
Mike Ghouse
Posted by: mikeghouse March 4, 2010 12:49 PM
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"Islam is not a religion of peace. The biggest terrorist is the God of the Quran. I know this is very dangerous and this will offend many people. The more you follow the steps of the prophet of Islam and the God of Islam, the more you get close to being a terrorist." --Mosab Hassan Yousef, the Hamas spy in an AP interview.
Posted by: Indian51 March 4, 2010 10:02 AM
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Mike Ghouse:
"A few countries use death penalty for an apostate, that does not mean it is Islam; most Muslim countries don’t. Killing an apostate is not Islamic, it is the practice of a few nations. A few countries have capital punishment and few don’t, you cannot ascribe that to religion, it is politics in the name of religion."
Rubbish. That is not a rule that a few nations came up on their own with no rhyme of reason. It is part of Islam from the very early days. Wikipedia ofcourse cannot be explicitly forthright given the way it is structured, but still it covers enough material to lay to rest the rubbish that mike wants to spread.
In Islamic law (sharia), the consensus view is that a male apostate must be put to death unless he suffers from a mental disorder or converted under duress, for example, due to an imminent danger of being killed. A female apostate must be either executed, according to Shafi'i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), or imprisoned until she reverts to Islam as advocated by the Sunni Hanafi school and by Shi'a scholars.[15]

It is only after the disbanding of the Calipha and the pressure of the West that some Islamic countries removed the deathy penalty for apostacy from their laws. Before that All muslim countries killed the apostate. Now those who want sharia imposed want the death penalty for the apostate reinstated.
It is hard to sustain lies in the age of easy access to information and good search engines.
Posted by: AKafir March 4, 2010 1:46 AM
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Muslim Missionaries are indeed visible. Drive down a freeway, you will find billboards of Why Islam, you see the signs on Bussess as well.
Next time a missionary knocks on your door, ask for the authorization personally signed by God, Jesus or Muhammad and if that is verifiable.

Posted by: mikeghouse March 4, 2010 1:37 AM
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What a few of our soldiers have done in Iraq is not the American thing to do; What our President had done with wire tappings is not the American thing to do.....
Like wise what some Christian missionaries and Muslim Missionaries have done in the name of their religion is not the religious thing to do. Theire excesses in the name of religion were wrong.
We need to discern between religion and what is practiced in the name of religion. I will leave it upto the Christian and Muslim scholars to push the "refresh buttons" of their minds to speak up that neither Jesus nor Muhammad wanted to harvest people to utter a few words, they rather meant to help people become good citizens, and not necessarily become a ritualistic Christian or a Muslim.
Mike Ghouse
Mike Ghouse
Posted by: mikeghouse March 4, 2010 1:27 AM
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AKafir makes an assumption that if it is in Arabic, no one would know it as if it is language only Muslims know. The Arab Christians speak the same language and is is taught in universities all over the world. It is not a secret language as alluded.
Another assumption, “Islam would not be demanding the death of apostates”. Islam allows one the freedom to become and unbecome a Muslim, no one can force a person to believe that which he or she does not want to. That is the reason for that verse. A few countries use death penalty for an apostate, that does not mean it is Islam; most Muslim countries don’t. Killing an apostate is not Islamic, it is the practice of a few nations. A few countries have capital punishment and few don’t, you cannot ascribe that to religion, it is politics in the name of religion.
Mike Ghouse
Posted by: mikeghouse March 4, 2010 1:18 AM
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Clarification of my earlier post:
In the words of the muslims themselves
"*Muallafatul Quloob: Those poor and needy persons who are given Zakat with the intentions of solidifying their hearts because they maybe recently converted to Islam or to bring them closer to Islam."
In arabic it is far clearer and honest than the "solidifying their hearts" or "bring them closer". It is clearly and explicity to help win converts.
"*Fi Sabeelillah: Those who are away from home in the path of Allah. Those in Jihaad, those seeking knowledge or a stranded Haji may be assist with Zakat if they are in need."
Normally stranded Haji does not fall under Fi Sabeelillah (in the way of Allah). It is understood to mean in support of Jihaad, direct and indirect support of Active Jihaad or stealth Jihaad.

Posted by: AKafir March 3, 2010 11:43 PM
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@ Abhab1: “The Quran states very clearly that there is no compulsion in religion. There is no need for compulsion, since the truth is elf evident (Quran 2:256).”
This is one of those instances where the believers say one thing in arabic and another in english. Through Islamic history this verse never meant what the hypocrites tell the Kaafirs in the west these days. If there was really "no compulsion" in religion, Islam would not be demanding the death of Apostates.
This means that Islam cannot be imposed on another by "force" but others can be "induced" to accept it. However once they accept it they should know that there is no way out. It is only a one way door. Exiting from Islam means death and muslims carry out that punishment with great enthusiasm. You cannot hold a gun to the head of a Kaafir and say convert but you can induce him to convert by making his life a living hell on earth, and then pointing out that all his pain and difficulties disappear if he accepted Islam.
Just last week the beheading of a young sikh boy in Pakistan was reported all over world. He was beheaded because he would not convert to Islam although his family had already paid the ransom demanded by the Taliban. Just do a search and you will find it since that is relative new news.
Posted by: AKafir March 3, 2010 11:29 PM
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" There are no lifelong missionaries in Muslim societies. Mosques do not have budgets or fund raisers for missionary work."
This is a bald faced lie. Just one society from the land of Muqtedar, the Tablighi Jamaat (which literally means Society of spreading faith) is very big and very activie in Pakistan and India. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tablighi_Jamaat

Its members travel extensively all over the world trying to win converts to Islam. The call to Islam is given via Dua and there are lectures and techniques that are taught on how to be effective in converting the Kaafirs.
Converting is built into the very foundation of Islam.
Zakat is the obligatory charity or "tax" that Islam imposes on muslims.
The following are the ones who the state can spend this tax on:
Eight categories of individuals may receive the zakat:[7]
* 1. The needy ('Muslims)- Fuqara'
* 2. Extremely poor ('Muslims) - Al-Masakin
* 3. Those employed to collect - Aamileen
* 4. Those whose hearts are to be won - Muallafatul Quloob
* 5. To free the captives - Ar-Riqaab
* 6. Those in debt (Muslims or non-Muslims) - Al Ghaarimeen
* 7. In the way of Allah - Fi sabil Allah
* 8. Wayfarer (Muslims)- Ibnus-Sabeel
4 means the non-muslims, the Kaafirs, who can be converted or are on the verge of converting and "whose hearts can be won" by giving them monetary inducement. Coupled with the draconian dhimmi laws in muslim socities, this monetary inducement is very effective in getting conversions.
The category "In the way of Allah" means Jihad. The main purpose of Jihad is to convert the Kaafirs who are not under the rule of Islam as dhimmis.
Islamic nations like Saudi Arabia, and others spend billions of dollars supporting the "conversion" activities of the organisations like Tablighi around the world, and supporting the mosques around the world.

Posted by: AKafir March 3, 2010 11:03 PM
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I read your cited link and frankly I was disgusted. Maybe you can pass this propaganda of yours on primitive illiterate people, but you cannot convince any reading thinking person with your silly double talk.
As for your allegation that the Quran is not translated accurately, how would you know? Maybe you can read its Arabic letters, but do you understand the language? I still have to meet someone from the part of the world where you came from who understands Arabic.
The allegation that Muslims only engage in defensive wars is laughable if it were not sad. You mean to convince us that the Syrians, Egyptians, Iraqis, Algerians, Moroccans and Spaniards among others are the ones who attacked the desert people of Hijaz in the 7th and 8th Centuries and not the other way around?
As to your justification of the way the indigenous Christian and Jewish populations of the lands overran by the nomads were humiliated , marginalized and impoverished is a blatant disrespect for the knowledge and intelligence of the Washington Post readers. Peruse the conditions imposed on the original populations of the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Europe by the so-called Omar Pact cited below which institutionalized the worst type of religious persecution the world had ever witnessed.

Posted by: abhab1 March 3, 2010 10:33 PM
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All right Mike, I'll buy that. Sounds like you moderates have your work cut out for you. I wish you the best of luck in animating this silent majority to replace people like Muqtedar Khan as the public face of Islam.
Until you do though, the public face of Islam will continue to be controlled by the vicious minority and the silent majority have to accept responsibility for having been passive enablers of their misdeeds.
Muslim-Americans have been a stalwart ally against the depredations of foreign extremists since the beginning of the GWOT. I have taken this position publicly here on these boards time and again. But I also feel that foreign Muslims have not yet forsaken the role of passive enablers of extremist violence. Although forces are at work to change that, it is a generational strugggle that has only just begun and - if successful - it will not be concluded within our lifetimes.
Again, good luck with your struggle (jihad) against the extremists.
Posted by: ZZim March 3, 2010 8:45 PM
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A Majority of the society is made up of moderates, so is Islam. The right wingers in all faiths are the most outspoken people, they are relentless in their belief, which is fine, but believing that others are wrong is the issue.
We are not a tiny minority, but a real majority that remains silent.
The moderates who are shaking and speaking now and I am one. So many good things remain suppressed due to fear from the society and the clergy. We have to push the refresh button, get chewed out and cursed out, but do the right thing to speak up. God is Universal so are his religions, every one of them. I don’t lose and ounce of my faith by placing all other faiths on the same platform.
Mike Ghouse
Posted by: mikeghouse March 3, 2010 5:13 PM
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"Islam is today the fastest growing religion..." Do you know the real reason?With the sanction to have as many wives as he wants, a Muslim man is free to produce as many children as his wives are capable of producing. In an average Muslim family, there are at least 15 children per father. That’s why there are 1.5 billion of you, and you keep on growing. Again, most of these 1.5 billion live in slums and with no education whatsoever. About 1.3 billion are illiterate. That’s why you cannot change them or improve their minds. A closed mind is a death trap. That’s why you can get a healthy teenager to go out and blow himself up for 70 virgins. You know that. We all know that. Except that you don’t like to admit that. Right?

Posted by: Indian51 March 3, 2010 5:12 PM
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It is easy to be misled and derogatory towards other's faith. One has to have the will to find the truth, to find the peacee within oneself.
Your comment, “Qur'an 111:1. Yusuf Ali: "Perish the hands of the Father of Flame! Perish he!"
Here is a translation up from one of the most popular Islamic sites; http://www.islamicity.com/quranSearch
111:1 (Asad) DOOMED are the hands of him of the glowing countence: [1] and doomed is he! -

Note 1 (Quran Ref: 111:1 )
The real name of this uncle of the Prophet was Abd al-Uzza. He was popularly nicknamed Abu Lahab (lit., "He of the Flame") on account of his beauty, which was most notably expressed in his glowing countenance (Baghawi, on the authority of Muqatil; Zamakhshari and Razi passsim in their comments on the above verse; Fath al-Bari VIII, 599), Since this nickname, or kunyah appears to have been applied to him even before the advent of Islam, there is no reason to suppose that it had a pejorative significance. -
The expression "hands" in the above clause is, in accordance with classical Arabic usage, a metonym for "power", alluding to the great influence which Abu Lahab wielded.
Before you write another comment, please do the search, and you'll find out that you have the wrong hand out.
Best wishes.
Posted by: mikeghouse March 3, 2010 5:04 PM
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ARF, I have challenged many a guys before, if this paper allows, let's have it. There is nothing in Quraan or any holy book that is wrong, it is your misreading my friend, if you are determined to paint Islam or Christianity in bad light, no one can do anything about it, but if you genuineely seeking to share and learn, they are wholesome books for the good of mankind.
The name is Arif. Challenging people to defend your faith is futile. Both can never agree on anything. Quran is not a holy book, its a filthy one. Verses like this;
Qur'an 111:1. Yusuf Ali: "Perish the hands of the Father of Flame! Perish he!"
read the full thing it gets worse. This is filthy speak from a creator in ANY context. Koran is a hodge podge and its clear an un-educated person penned it. It is a book that cannot stand on its own without the Bible or Jewish text. It has no head or tail, it is not chronological. People (your "Brothers") can use it to justify anything. One can stone a woman for adultery and award 100 lashes to anyone they choose. You have been duped, you are a convert, you may love the word revert but I think that is repulsive believing all mankind is muslim. Looking at your arguments I see a very simple man who is being used.
safiyah111: Go and read your namesake and decide yourself who this "prophet" of yours really was, a criminal rapist or a war lord ravaging his criminal desires. either ways this man (your prophet) was nothing less than a thug and a criminal. If he lived today he'd be in an asylum if not killed.
Posted by: Arif2 March 3, 2010 4:15 PM
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Islam is more about Justice, peace and harmony.
Mike Ghouse
Posted by: mikeghouse
Mike, it looks to me like this makes you a member of a tiny minority within your faith.
A tiny minority, by the way, that does not include people like Muqtedar Khan.
Honestly I hate arrogant jerks like him, whatever their religion.
Posted by: ZZim March 3, 2010 1:55 PM
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I believe the essence of Islam lies in humility in this context, "...my faith is not superior or inferior to any." It is time for us to push the refresh button.
The need for co-existence is inherent in Islam. Co-existence can occur when we respect the otherness of other, so beautifully narrated in Sura Kafirun, “to you is your faith, as my faith is to me”. Qur’aan does not say or denigrate the other faith in each one of the six verses of the chapter (http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/2008/07/sura-kafirun-un-believers.html ), it puts the other on the same pedestal as the Muslim.
The Madinah document was initiated by the Prophet, where he offered religious freedom to all and his signature was not Mohammad the Prophet of God, but rather Mohammad son of Abdullah. It was a secular government he ran in Madinah and he acknowledged the otherness of other faiths. Had he believed that other faiths were wrong, he would not have initiated that document.
Islam is more about Justice, peace and harmony. It is unity in diversity and all religions are motivated by the same. To claim mine (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism or any faith) is superior amounts to arrogance and that has been the reason we have had conflicts in the society. Back to Islam, God loves the most, the one who forgives and the least, one who is arrogant.
Mike Ghouse
Posted by: mikeghouse March 3, 2010 1:24 PM
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Asalaamu Alaikum, Brother;
I agreed in large measure with what you have said regarding your discomfort with the United States government engaging in activities that are clearly aimed at converting individuals aboard to Christianity. The bottom line for me is this: I am not a Christian and I do not want any of the money I pay in taxes spent in this way-period. I say this without reservation.
I, however; do disagree with your concluding statement that "...my faith is not superior or inferior to any." That might be how you personally feel but I do not think the majority of the scholars would agree with you on this point. Muslims affirm that there is only one god who is Allah and that Muhammad, the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, is his messenger. This affirmation is made by Muslims five times a day during their daily prayers. This is not an opinion. This idea is announced in many places and in as many ways as one can think to express it by Allah in the Qur'an.
Allah the All Mighty Says: "This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favor upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” [Quran 5:3]
This statement was not reserved just for those gathered to hear the Prophet Muhammad, the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, recite this. Allah makes it very clear that this statement was to all of mankind-then and in the future. The truth is always superior to falsehood and as Allah says in the Qur'an:
"Nay, but We hurl the true against the false, and it doth break its head and lo! it vanisheth." 21:18
Allah clearly states what joy awaits the believers here and in the next life while not understating what horrors await disbelievers in the next life. These joys and horrors are Allah’s to give and His promises are true.
As a Muslim I do not want anyone to suffer the fate promised to the disbeliever. Not proclaiming the Qur'an is the truth and not suggesting to those I meet that they take a serious look is at it is the worst kind of cruelty that I could inflict on anyone.

Posted by: safiyah111 March 3, 2010 11:16 AM
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Wow, what a jerk.
Typical Islamic double-speak. The guy's world-view is so biased he probably has no idea how twisted his words appear to anyone not already on his side.
Posted by: ZZim March 3, 2010 9:45 AM
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As far the comment by ABHAH in reference to "goose pontificates". It is Ghouse, I hope you read the stuff when you respond.
I did not get the content out of it, please be specific
Mike Ghouse

Posted by: mikeghouse March 3, 2010 9:43 AM
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Dear Mr. ABHAH1
here is a response to your question about
Quraan 2:256 free will v. 9:29 compulsion and Jiziya

From time to time I take up challenges, I believe that all the holy books are the wisdom of living a balanced life in the society with the society. Quraan is frequently and deliberately maligned based on mistranslations by the Europeans during the Crusades to paint Islam as a bad religion to sheild their own political insecurities.
In the compilation below; a man challenges the "no compulsion" verse 2:256 in Quraan with 9:29 at Washington post article and my response below.
Link for this article: http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/2010/03/quraan-2256-free-will-v-929-compulsion.html
Mike Ghouse

Posted by: mikeghouse March 3, 2010 9:39 AM
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Dr. Khan,
I stood in a room in Kuwait City full of books about every aspect of Islam, in every major language in the world. The books were systematically shipped around the world as part of a proseylatizing effort. Please don't tell me that Islam does not have lifelong missionaries and systemic efforts to convert others. I've met Muslim missionaries in many parts of the world.
John Morris
Posted by: revmorris March 3, 2010 8:26 AM
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Goose pontificates to Arif thus:
“There is nothing in Quran ... that is wrong, it is your misreading my friend.”
Well here is my reading of it.
“A book with no chronology of events or a sustained theme other than a supremacist selfserving document to its author, a desert warlord. It is replete with incitements against the other and obsession with sex and violence. It is riddled with inconsistencies and outright contradictions. It lists legends and myths from Arab, Persian and Sumerian pagans along with embellished stories and quotations from the Old and New Testaments as well as the Jewish Talmud and pre-Islamic Arab poets. It is full of scientific heresies, mathematical mistakes, historical blunders, grammatical errors and logical fallacies. The book talks of flying horses, speaking ants and arguing birds. It describes an afterlife gardens with rivers of wine and honey and brimming with young black eyed receptive beauties placed there along with preteen boys, who double as bartenders, to service the believers in Mohammad in an eternal celestial orgy.

Posted by: abhab1 March 2, 2010 10:38 PM
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Muqtadar Khan asserts:
“The Quran states very clearly that there is no compulsion in religion. There is no need for compulsion, since the truth is elf evident (Quran 2:256).”
As an educated man he should definitely know that this verse about no compulsion in religion was mentioned in the early part of Mohammad’s ministry while living in Mecca among a largely hostile population. Later when he and his followers migrated to Yathrib and his followers became numerous enough to threaten Mecca his tune changed; he abrogated (cancelled) this verse and many other somehow tolerant verses and replaced them with more intolerant ones such as Quran 9;29 which openly incites the Muslims to wage war on the non-Muslims till they accept him as the messenger of Allah.

Posted by: abhab1 March 2, 2010 10:15 PM
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Nuclear power energizes the world; we enjoy the benefits of it, yet the same power is dangerous in hands of wrong dudes. Is it the Nuclear power or the user?
Religions are beautiful, if every one gets it as Jesus intended, Mohammad wanted, Moses taught, Krishna explained, Nanak practiced, Buddha enlightened or Zathustra pointed out... there would be no problem. The problem is the nuclear power is in the wrong few hands.
Clear thinking; neither Jesus nor Mohammad wanted to go stamp the people, all they wanted was a better world following the principles. They were looking at the results and not the means. Religion is not the bad guy here.
ARF, I have challenged many a guys before, if this paper allows, let's have it. There is nothing in Quraan or any holy book that is wrong, it is your misreading my friend, if you are determined to paint Islam or Christianity in bad light, no one can do anything about it, but if you genuineely seeking to share and learn, they are wholesome books for the good of mankind.
Mike Ghouse
Foundation for Pluralism
Posted by: mikeghouse March 2, 2010 7:59 PM
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PROSELYTIZATION is a manifestation of the SUPREMACIST foundation of Christianity & Islam.
No one else has this serious flaw that Christians and Muslims have in their "religions" or spiritual systems. Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Jews, Wiccans, Animists, etc.. are all trying to make themselves better, not trying to undermine others.
Conversion has caused some of the biggest problems in third world countries.
The "charity" and "kind deeds" are insincere and deceptive actions, and therefore, are acts of evil.
Muslims & Christians don't seem to get the basics of goodness and spirituality. Pretending to be good while having and ulterior motive fools no one and is an act of evil. This can lead to crusades and suicide terrorism.
REMEMBER: Almost all religious conflicts in the world involve Muslims or Christians on one side or both.
Sneakiness, deception, conversion, undermining other cultures, etc... is offensive and nonspiritual.
You really feel the urge to do charity? Go to the inner city in America and help those in need. Look in your own family and help those who are depressed or drunk or angry.
Stop going to 3rd world countries and causing problems & hurting others.
Posted by: clearthinking1 March 2, 2010 7:38 PM
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By telling yourselves islam is the fastest growing religion then you'll begin to believe it. Its not. With a horrid book like the Koran and a womanizing war mongering prophet no one is buying your religion. Marrying a western woman and converting her is not spreading of islam.
Please refrain from quoting your koran, it is a book of clear conflicting views, it seems where ever you find a peaceful verse there is an equal and opposite horrid verse. The message in islam is quite clear and there is no room for interpretation; conversion by any means is sanctioned and force is always recommended.

Posted by: Arif2 March 2, 2010 7:27 PM
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Muqtedar well written piece.
When you buy a $700 suit for $100, you will call all your friends to go get one.
I guess the same zeal enters one's mind if they are rejoiced with their faith.
The purpose of religion is to bring a sense of composure and a balance within oneself and with what surrounds; life and environment. All religions or traditions whether scripted or not, have the same goal; to create a continual balance.
Arrogance is the mother of all conflicts that is why every possible tradition out there requires one to bow, kneel or prostrate to show humility and acceptance of a greater being than ourselves. To believe my faith is better than yours is sheer arrogance, it breeds conflicts, and assumes that other faiths are less than mine; and "they" need to catch up, Hell no!
Spirituality and Arrogance are inversely proportional. To be religious is to be humble and to be a peace maker.
There is no need to have institutions of proselyteziation. Every faith is beautiful, however one should have complete freedom to choose what he or she wants to believe or ritualize. Let there be no compulsion in religion. (Quraan 2:256).
After all, NO ONE is responsible for my actions other than myself, that I have to reflect upon in my solitiude and be accountable on the elusive Day of Judgment.
I am a Muslim and I proclaim, my faith is NOT superior or inferior to any. My faith requires me to be humble and my role is to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill that is what leads to the kingdom of peace. My faith works for me as your faith works for you, you enjoy your faith and I will mine. (Quraan 109:6)
Mike Ghouse
World Muslim Congress

Posted by: mikeghouse March 2, 2010 7:24 PM
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