PLEASE VISIT www.CenterforPluralism.com for all information


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

You, me and us.

I loved this poem on diversity by my facebook friend Shamim Sadiq and pleased to share with my world of Pluralism. She originally wrote in praise of Obama, and now enhanced it reflect the diversity of our nation.

You, Me ,Us-----
Beautiful picture of Diversity

Watching Joel, Mary, Imad’s effort made me tearful
My soul however echoed, silly just be hopeful

It’s amazing how they are working on diversity
To fill our hearts with tranquility

People in Kenya are in awe, and excited
The hope inspired in them makes everyone delighted
People in England are saying that men of peace are here
Indonesia is proud of them and feels their presence every where

The whole world is raising the toast of cheers
The men of diversity are here to answer our prayers

There was a time when an African American was considered three fifth of a human
The president challenged that, now everyone is saying ' You Go Man "

Poverty and hunger is a big issue around the world
Lets all work together on that war, and write that goal in gold
Nations could never be won over with war
Try negotiating a peace strategy ,which will take us very far

America is a land of opportunity
Let the world know that we believe in world harmony

Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Bahais, Hindus, Natives and Atheists are all one
Under one umbrella of God, each with different road to run
Be the anchor of world peace, and bring people together
Peace helps us come closer, hatred will just take us away farther

Let us be the chosen ones to connect the world
Turn it into a nice latticework, with cords of strength that will hold
There will be no nations but one big family
Kenya, India, South Africa, will all be together and happy

I know we can do it, so please let us not let others down
Let’s work together and replace people’s frustrations and frown

I want to look forward to going to Iran, Iraq, and meet the people like me
This fuzzy vision, over the course of years have made it difficult for me to see
That John, Mary, Isaac, or Mohammed is my relative from another mother
We all are one , guarded under one roof of our protector

Let you, me be the one chosen to handle the worldly chaos
We will have a plan, if we follow the directions of heavenly boss

Say to yourself the world is my home, and people are my family
I'll work on integrating them, and turn it into one big assembly

Hope, peace, change on earth is my Motto
I will work hard towards it, starting pronto

Peace on Earth
Shamim Sadiq

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sharia Law: Not in America

American Muslims have placed their trust in the American justice system and will continue to oppose the Public Sharia laws as they are currently applied in many places across the globe. I will be one of the first ones, if not the first one, to stand up against it. The Muslim majority in America is happy with the American system and does not want to have Public aspect of Sharia law here in America. A majority of Muslims (Moderates/Middle path that the Prophet suggested) will feel comfortable with this piece. However, a few need some time to absorb this, that is the way with the ultra-conservatives in any religion.

Sharia in its simplest form is a how-to manual based on the Qur'an and the Hadith (Prophet Muhammad's sayings). It is a human effort to understand the concept of justice enshrined in the Qur'an for day-to-day living. American Muslims have placed their trust in the American justice system and will continue to oppose the Public Sharia laws as they are currently applied in many places across the globe. I will be one of the first ones, if not the first one, to stand up against it. The Muslim majority in America is happy with the American system and does not want to have

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Unity Day USA - a 911 Memorial Event

We are pleased to invite you to Unity Day USA; a purposeful event to bring Americans together. The idea for Unity Day USA was first conceived on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 and took its current form on Sunday, September 11, 2005. We cannot let things happen and drift into the abyss of incoherence. It is an initiative to come together to stand up for the safety, security and cohesiveness of America.

Continued: http://911unitydayusa.blogspot.com/

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Parliament of World’s religions summit in 2014.

Themes for the summit of Religions in 2014

The theme that might capture our imagination and encapsulate our issues in 2014 would be, “A legacy for the next generation” or “A legacy for seven generations.” It is not a new idea; it is a tradition of the native peoples of America.

The issues that affect our lives in the coming decade will continue to be environment, water, hunger, religious and ethnic intolerance. If we shy away from consciously shaping our future, we may drift into the abyss of incoherence. We may be fighting against deeply entrenched positions rather than finding solutions to the common issues.

Although the environmental future looks gloomy, the world is a better place today because of a good legacy bequeathed to humanity by people of all faiths that came before us. We owe it to the coming generations to leave the world a little better than we found it, to usher an era of justice and peace. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) described a good deed as an act which benefits others, such as planting a tree that serves generations of wayfarers with fruit and the shade with a clear realization that we may not be the beneficiary.

A theme like, “A legacy for next generation” can also address the issues we consistently face. The social cohesion in particular and religious integrity in general continues to be challenged. The anti-Jewish, Gay/Lesbian, Catholic and Immigrant protest by Fred Phelps last week; the courts ordering to tear down the Sikh Gurudwara in Austin; the challenges against the planned Muslim center near ground Zero; the shootings at the Holocaust Museum in DC; the Arizona anti-immigrant laws; the rights of a woman to be a preacher and the resistance she faces to be the president and a host of other trends may scar the social fabric of our nation in the coming years. God has his own ways of repairing the world and the Parliament of Worlds Religions in 2014 may serve as a catalyst to a positive future.

“Sharing the planet together” is another viable theme. A dash of unselfishness is a necessity for all of us to feel safe and secure, it sails an individual or a nation through the good and bad seas fairly smoothly; indeed it is an insurance policy against the vulnerable moments of life.

God’s creation is intentionally diverse and each one of the seven billion of us has his own unique thumb print, DNA and a mind, and it is time we respect the diversity of thought and worship as well.

The pastors, pundits, imams, rabbis, shamans and other religious and spiritual leaders have a responsibility to bring about a new paradigm in our thinking; consciously creating “a legacy of pluralism” for the next generation.

The Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions was created to “cultivate harmony among the world's religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.”

A coalition of diverse community organizations is developing in the DFW Metroplex and is humbly seeking to be represented by every religious, social, ethnic, cultural and diverse landscape of our region.

The greater Dallas/Fort worth is blessed to be one of the three cities bidding to host the Parliament of World’s religions in 2014, the others being Guadalajara, Mexico, and Brussels, Belgium. The horizons of the religious landscape is opening up from constriction to inclusion.

The parliament had a specific theme in each one of its previous three events. “Hearing Each Other, Healing the Earth” was the theme in Melbourne in December, 2009, with a focus on inclusion of the Native traditions. Nearly 6,500 people representing 220 traditions attended some 600 programs in six days. Barcelona, Spain, took on “Pathways to Peace” in 2004 to understand the integration issues with the influx of immigrants from North Africa, about 9,000 people from 75 countries participated in the event. After the successful defeat of Apartheid by the catalytic inter-religious movement, a new energy was need to lunge forward and they chose the theme of “A New day Dawning” in Cape Town, South Africa. In 1993 the Volunteers at the Parliament of the World’s religions made a commitment to hold the event every five years.


Mike Ghouse is a speaker on Pluralism and Islam and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day; a frequent guest on the media. His work can be found in three websites and 22 blogs listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/

Dallas Morning News : http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2010/07/texas-faith-dallas-and-the-201.html

My response to a comment at the Dallas Morning News:
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It is always good to hear a different point of view, since I was a witness to the 2009 Parliament event in Melbourne, Australia. I have an enriching experience to share.

One of the problems was that they packed 600 programs, and in my interviews with people on the street and inside the hall was that they wished they had attended all. I attended every program between 7:30 AM to 10:30 PM that I could possibly attend, including the plenary sessions. Indeed, that was a good problem to have. There were so many volunteers that you could not be lost any where in the convention center. Bringing over 220 religious traditions together under one roof was not easy, but they handled it very well including the last minute changes.

For those of us who desire to witness as many religious traditions as they want, the parliament event is the one to go to. You get to listen to the most revered scholars on the earth.

Like any family, personal or business budget, the Parliament has a budget to do the right thing and it is a challenge to the people of North Texas, rather Americans to see that they raise the money. $8 Million Dollars is a paltry sum if we evaluate the conferences that take place in North Texas. If all the Citizens of Metroplex pay $4/each by foregoing a coffee and a soda for one year, the money is there. We are the BIG D and we can do bigger things than that.

Dallas/ Fort Worth Metroplex has more than 150,000 Hotel rooms and at least three large convention Centers. We have handled conventions of more than 20,000 people at a time. We are a great city and we can host any event any time of the year. The National Builders, Lenders, Realtors, software conventions have carried over 15,000 people in each one of their events. I am sure about 4% of the people were dissatisfied in all those events, Parliament event is no exception. Even our own guests at our parties have that ratio.

There was a lot of interaction; interfaith as well as intra-faith, obviously nothing will be satisfactory to every one who attends the event, but an overwhelming majority was indeed satisfied. Virtually every room was packed with people, the topics were fascinating and the interactions were incredible.

On the last day of the event, there was flag ceremony; being a pluralist I jumped in and became a facilitator to what happened there; I asked each one of the persons to pick a flag of the nation that is not theirs, it helps to step into others shoes and feel it. I asked the Rabbi from Israel to pick up the Palestinian Flag and vice versa with the Imam from Palestine, I asked an Indian Swami to grab the Pakistani Flag and an American to grab the Cuban flag… I went around and around advocating picking flags of others. The exhilarating feeling of being the other was incredible. People rejoiced that to the hilt. It was an enriching experience. The picture are all there at www.Parliamentofreligions.org and http://www.peacenext.org/

We are one of the most diverse Cities in the United States and a convention like that will become a catalyst for the much needed social cohesion.

Last week, as a Muslim I stood up and joined in with the Jews, GLBT, Catholics, Immigrants and others and offered prayers of Good will outside and inside of the Holocaust Museum and other places. Indeed, the Holocaust Survivors including Max Goldblatt and one of the founders of the Holocaust Museum, Mike Jacobs and other members joined in with me for the goodwill prayers. This is the kind of Dallas I envision, standing for each other and being there for each other and we hope that the Parliament will become a catalyst in helping us all look to each other as Americans and nothing but Americans, meanwhile we need to continue with our individual and group efforts.

Mike Ghouse

I am glad you made the comment, indeed, the Parliament is not about one world church; here are the founding principle which they adhere to:THE PRINCIPLES1. Promotes interreligious harmony, rather than unity2. Based on convergence of purpose, rather than consensus of belief and practice3. Operates through facilitation, rather than formal structure4. Seeks to build trust as much as agreement

Wednesday, July 21, 2010



Interfaith is not about conversions or proselytizing, it is about learning the otherness of other. You will be surprised to learn that many things we know about the others are myths and falsities, propagated by parties who have an interest in making the others look bad – and cash on it from the gullible.

It is like everything else in life, there will be a few who will abuse their privileges, be it the presidents, priests, rabbis, imams, pastors, pundits or shamans... or doctors, engineers, politicians, fathers, mothers and the ordinary you and I.

Interfaith is no exception, its intention is to hear the other and learn first hand what they have to say about themselves, rather than believing the dished out versions by the media or the frightened (right wingers) ones.

The organizing principles of the parliament of world’s religions are worth learning; http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/

• Promotes interreligious harmony, rather than unity
• Based on convergence of purpose, rather than consensus of belief and practice
• Operates through facilitation, rather than formal structure
• Seeks to build trust as much as agreement

Truth sets one free, the myths we have come to believe about others and subsequent negative attitudes we carry towards others harm us. We are guilty about the mis-perceptions of Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jews and others; it is time to clean our hearts from impurities and tune in with the pure cosmic energy that permeates all of us. It's like being home.

I have cherished Karen Armstrong’s writings where she say, if you read a sentence in any of the scriptures, and it bothers you, keep reading until you find the real meaning that God loves us all, then you would have understood the essence of that religion. I would add, don’t give up until you get it, even if your pastor, rabbi, shaman, pundit or imam says otherwise, you have to bear the anguish on your own. Finding the truth is your own responsibility, it will set you free. Interfaith is an honest effort to tell who each one of us is rather than believing the propaganda. A few most certainly come to hunt and harvest the poor souls, but most are there to learn.

Learning about others need not mean infidelity to your own faith, but it means enrichment of one’s own faith, knowing that all the faiths, in their own ways are making an effort to create a better world. Indeed, that is the truth.

My own faith is stronger today than it was ever before and I am secure enough in my faith to declare that, my faith works for me as your faith works for you and I will not claim that my faith is superior to yours, as it amounts to arrogance… religion is about humility and not arrogance, arrogance gives birth to conflicts where as humility builds bridges and brings people closer. And that is what our creator wants; for us to co-exist in harmony with the given differences.

Interfaith is a good thing; my daughter exclaimed once, “Gee Dad God can be worshipped in so many different ways.”


Mike Ghouse is a speaker on Pluralism and Islam and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day; a frequent guest on the media. His work can be found in three websites and 22 blogs listed at www.MikeGhouse.net

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Draw Muhammad Day - A Muslim Cartoonist


This is one of the best articles I have read on the Cartoons, I have written several on the subject and have offered pluralistic solutions to the imbroglio, but Mr. Wilson has done it right. It is really not religion stupid, it is the evil need to hate some one, denigrate some and fakely feel secure and worthy in their lives.

The miscreants are always looking to tempt and aggravate those, who are too eager to be aggravated. As a society, if we can limit this cock fights to them, we can be free from such hate contamination. Really, on the other hand if no one reacts, there will be no temptations to mischief.

As I read the comments, I see a few horses jumping aimlessly and bringing in topics that has nothing to do with the article. I face that kind of comments on face book and I ask the commentators to stay within the subject and say anything they want, but don't horse around and waste every one's time on non-related topics. I delete them after the warnings.


A Muslim cartoonist on "Draw Muhammad Day"
by G. Willow Wilson

When Seattle cartoonist Molly Norris was put on an Al Qaeda hit list for her "Draw Muhammad Day" project, my inbox started filling up.

Since I'm one of the only practicing Muslims in the American comics industry, people assumed I had some kind of profound insight into the reasons these cartoon incidents keep flaring up. But the only explanation I have is too simple to satisfy anyone: they happen because hate sells. It sells in the West, where anti-Muslim hate groups feed on incidents of Muslim rage; it sells in the Muslim world, where extremists are only too happy to use examples of Western intolerance to win over new recruits. This is the reality we live in: any satirized depiction of the Prophet Muhammad feeds into a global propaganda war, whether the artist intends it or not. There is no longer any such thing as artistic immunity in the battle of images, and to think otherwise is fatally naive.

Molly Norris thought otherwise. But as soon as she realized what she'd gotten herself into, it was too late: by taking the offending images off her website and issuing a bewildered apology, she enraged the Islamophobes who were ready to hail her as a martyr to their cause. In the opposing camp, Al Qaeda spokesman Anwar Al Awlaki was unwilling to give up such a plum opportunity to rally support for his jihad. A tepid explanation was not what either party wanted. Extremists of all stripes need blood and conflict in order to survive. Molly Norris has no true supporters: in order to be of any use to either the Islamophobes or the jihadis, she must be a blasphemer whose life is in jeopardy. As a peacemaker she loses her utility.

This is the central tragedy of these endless cartoon scandals. No one is looking for a resolution. Drawing insulting depictions of the Prophet Muhammad has become a favorite pastime of hipster racists, whose bulbous-nosed bushy-bearded 'satire' resembles the anti-Semitic cartoons of the Third Reich. Thanks in no small part to the vigorous, often violent outcry from hardliners in the Muslim world, these artists are elevated to a kind of freedom-of-speech sainthood whether their work has any real merit or not. Death threats are issued, lives pointlessly imperiled, careers of pundits--never themselves in any danger--made overnight. Noted American Muslim leader Imam Zaid Shakir put it best: this isn't the clash of civilizations. It's the clash of the uncivilized.

Molly Norris never drew a picture of the Prophet Muhammad as a wild-eyed Semitic bogeyman. She drew a cartoon teacup, the sort of thing you might find in a children's picture book. Her intent was to inject a little innocent humor into an increasingly absurd conflict. What she didn't realize is that there is no room left for innocence or humor in what has become a cynical exercise in mutual provocation. In honor of Draw Muhammad Day, her legion of unasked-for followers posted cartoons that were more and more grotesque and hate-filled. The result was a threat against Norris's life from an al Qaeda spokesman--and fellow American--who does a better job of caricaturing himself than a cartoonist ever could. She disavowed her own comparatively innocuous cartoons, took down her website, and went into hiding. But the battle begun in her name rages on.

What Norris failed to understand is that by creating events like "Draw Muhammad Day", artists hurl rhetorical stones that go straight through their enemies and hit Muslims like me. Al Qaeda isn't hurt by Draw Muhammad Day. Its entire PR campaign is built on incidents like these. Without the Molly Norrises and Jyllands Postens of the world, Al Qaeda would have to get a lot more creative with its recruitment strategies.

Artists who caricature the Prophet inevitably claim, as Norris has done, that they never meant to hurt ordinary Muslims, but ordinary Muslims are the only ones who are hurt. As a Muslim in the comics industry I spend more time than is good for my mental health defending the art and the religion I love from each other. Events like the fallout from Draw Muhammad Day make me think I'm wasting my time--the hate runs too deep on both sides. My conscience won't let me support the criminalizing of art, but neither will it let me support a parade of cartoons depicting lurid, racist stereotypes of Arab men and passing them off as satire of a holy figure.

Molly Norris claims she never meant for this event to become a hate-fest. As silly as that sounds--anyone who's spent more than half an hour on the internet could have told her how this would turn out--I believe her. If provocation was her objective, she could be basking in the light of notoriety as we speak. Instead she's being vilified not only by extremists like Al Awlaki, but by her own former supporters. She's learned the hard way that this conflict was never about her art or her ideas. As her fans turn their backs, looking for someone with a better stomach for scandal, it's clear that no one was ever really interested in what she had to say.

G. Willow Wilson is the author of The Butterfly Mosque, a memoir about her conversion to Islam and life in the Middle East; as well as the award-winning comic books AIR and CAIRO.

Evangelical Atheists?


I agree with Reza in the article below that the few Atheists give a bad name to others, perhaps it is the same percentage as in other religious groups; 1/10th of 1%. As a society, we may want to learn to accept that every group, religious or otherwise has a mix of ultra liberals to hard core evangelists. Every possible category in one group is also in the other, and we must resist the temptations to brand any group with a singular label.

As a Pluralist Muslim, I have done radio shows called wisdom of religions, all the beautiful religions. Indeed, the programs were from A to Z, Atheism to Zoroastrianism and every one in between.

My audience surged for the shows on Atheism and same goes with the workshops, the most attendance was for Atheism; that was three years ago. It is changing dramatically every day, there is a survey that indicates that ten percent of the Americans are Atheist or Humanists.

For the annual Unity day programs we present in Dallas in commemoration of 9/11, I joined in two Atheist groups to invite them to be represented on the stage with every tradition, as it is a non-exclusive event. I was kicked out of the groups because I believed in God; I know that is not all Atheists, but it is the fundamental evangelical atheists among them who gave me the shaft. However, I am connected with many Atheist/Humanist and I see the value of their beliefs without subscribing to it and I must state that they are as legitimate to the believer as mybelief is to me or your belief is to you.

I was an Atheist myself for a very long time and found the resistance among interfaith groups to keep the Atheists out, that led me to establish the foundation for pluralism to be inclusive of those who believe in no God, one God and multiple representations of God. We exist and that is a fact, we might as well make our existence enjoyable, after all belief should not be the source of conflict, the only real conflicts are one’s space, sustenance and nurturance, all else is intangible and don’t have to be in the category of conflict.

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker, writer and an activist of Pluralism, Islam, and Civil Societies. He is mitigater of conflicts and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. http://www.mikeghouse.net/

Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett: Evangelical atheists?
By: Reza Aslan

One cold spring day in London, as I crossed the bustling square at Piccadilly Circus, I looked left instead of right (a typical American tourist) and was nearly run down by a careening double-decker bus with a flash of letters emblazoned along its side:
The slogan is now ubiquitous and not only in London. When I first saw it I laughed, amused that atheists in the UK were miming propaganda techniques perfected by evangelical groups in the US, whose billboards dot the American landscape ("Having truth decay? Brush up on your Bible!"). I likely would have thought no more of it had not a friend informed me that the driving force behind the London bus ads was none other than the dean of the so-called "new atheists"--Darwin's Rottweiler, himself--Richard Dawkins. If you are wondering what an esteemed evolutionary biologist and respected Oxford University professor is doing placing billboards around London proselytizing atheism, you are not alone.

There is, as has often been noted, something peculiarly evangelistic about what has been termed the new atheist movement. The new atheists have their own special interest groups and ad campaigns. They even have their own holiday (International Blasphemy Day). It is no exaggeration to describe the movement popularized by the likes of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens as a new and particularly zealous form of fundamentalism--an atheist fundamentalism. The parallels with religious fundamentalism are obvious and startling: the conviction that they are in sole possession of truth (scientific or otherwise), the troubling lack of tolerance for the views of their critics (Dawkins has compared creationists to Holocaust deniers), the insistence on a literalist reading of scripture (more literalist, in fact, than one finds among most religious fundamentalists), the simplistic reductionism of the religious phenomenon, and, perhaps most bizarrely, their overwhelming sense of siege: the belief that they have been oppressed and marginalized by Western societies and are just not going to take it anymore.This is not the philosophical atheism of Feuerbach or Marx, Schopenhauer or Nietzsche (I am not the first to think that the new atheists give atheism a bad name). Neither is it the scientific agnosticism of Thomas Huxley or Herbert Spencer. This is, rather, a caricature of atheism: shallow scholarship mixed with evangelical fervor.

The principle error of the new atheists lies in their inability to understand religion outside of its simplistic, exoteric, and absolutist connotations. Indeed, the most prominent characteristic of the new atheism--and what most differentiates it from traditional atheism--is its utter lack of literacy in the subject (religion) it is so desperate to refute. After all, religion is as much a discipline to be studied as it is an expression of faith. (I do not write books about, say, biology because I am not a biologist.) Religion, however it is defined, is occupied with transcendence--by which I mean that which lies beyond the manifest world and towards which consciousness is oriented--and transcendence necessarily encompasses certain theological connotations with which one ought to be familiar to properly critique belief in a god. One should, for example, be cognizant of how the human experience of transcendence has been expressed in the material world through historically dependent symbols and metaphors.

One should be able to recognize the diverse ways in which the universal recognition of human contingency, finitude, and material existence has become formalized through ecclesiastical institutions and dogmatic formulae. One should become acquainted with the unmistakable patterns--call them modalities (Rudolph Otto), paradigmatic gestures (Mircea Eliade), spiritual dimensions (Ninian Smart), or archetypes (Carl Jung)--that recur in the myths and rituals of nearly all religious traditions and throughout all of recorded history. Even if one insists on reducing humanity's enduring religious impulse to causal definitions, dismissing the experience of transcendence as nothing more than an anthropological (e.g. Edward Tylor or Max Muller), sociological (think Robertson Smith or Emile Durkheim), or even psychological phenomenon (ala Sigmund Freud, who attempted to locate the religious impulse deep within the individual psyche, as though it were a mental disorder that could be cured through proper psychoanalysis), one should at the very least have a sense of what the term "God" means.

Of course, positing the existence of a transcendent reality that exists beyond our material experiences does not necessarily imply the existence of a Divine Personality, or God. (In some ways, the idea of God is merely the personal affirmation of the transcendent experience.) But what if did? What if one viewed the recurring patterns of religious phenomena that so many diverse cultures and civilizations--separated by immeasurable time and distance--seem to have shared as evidence of an active, engaging, transcendent presence (what Muslims call the Universal Spirit, Hindus call prana, Taoists call chi'i, Jews call ruah, and Christians call the Holy Spirit) that underlies creation, that, in fact, impels creation? Is such a possibility any more hypothetical than say, superstring theory or the notion of the multiverse? Then again, maybe the patterns of religious phenomenon signify nothing. Maybe they indicate little more than a common desire among all peoples to answer similar questions of "Ultimate Concern," to use the Protestant theologian, Paul Tillich's famous phrase. The point is that, like any researcher or critic, like any scientist, I'm open to possibilities.

The new atheists will say that religion is not just wrong but evil, as if religion has a monopoly on radicalism and violence; if one is to blame religion for acts of violence carried out in religion's name then one must also blame nationalism for fascism, socialism for Nazism, communism for Stalinism, even science for eugenics. The new atheists claim that people of faith are not just misguided but stupid--the stock response of any absolutist. Some argue that the religious impulse is merely the result of chemicals in the brain, as though understanding the mechanism by which the body experiences transcendence delegitimizes the experience (every experience is the result of chemical reactions). What the new atheists do not do, and what makes them so much like the religious fundamentalists they abhor, is admit that all metaphysical claims--be they about the possibility of a transcendent presence in the universe or the birth of the incarnate God on earth--are ultimately unknowable and, perhaps, beyond the purview of science. That may not be a slogan easily pasted on the side of a bus. But it is the hallmark of the scientific intellect.

Reza Aslan is a columnist at the Daily Beast and author of two international bestsellers No god but God and How to Win A Cosmic War. This essay is adapted from the book Religion and the New Atheism.

Islamic terror is real, as is Jewish and Christian terror

Brad Hirschfield, I appreciate your bluntness and I want to be blunter on the topic.

Whether it is wars, genocides, massacres or mass murders, there is always a man behind it who initiated and responsible for it. By bringing him to justice, justice can be served and faith in the people can be restored leading to peace.

Blaming religion is like barking in the dark, religion is intangible, you cannot jail it, you cannot hang it and you cannot electrocute it. It is gutlessness on our part (particularly the right wingers) to blame the religion and pass the buck...on to no one.

For thousands of years, it has become a bloody fashion to blame the religion and that is why we were not able to bring justice or restore faith in the system. Let's blame where it belongs and bring justice and restore the balance in the society.

Nuclear power in the hands of good people has been beneficent with light and energy, same thing in the hands of rogues have been destructive, we destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan, shame on us and messed up own economy with deficits.

Had we gone after the criminals, justice would have been restored at a minimal cost and the fabric of society would not have been torn.

It is a new paradigm, and all of us need to ponder on it. I do disagree with you that religions inspire crimes, it is the ugliness in individuals that inspires, not the religion. We should not let any one to blame the religion and allow them to escape the punishment.

MikeGhouseFoundation for Pluralism

Islamic terror is real, as is Jewish and Christian terror


What should we call terrorists, some of whom claim to be motivated by their religion? Can one be an Islamic terrorist? What about a Christian terrorist? Does what we call terrorists matter?

Failing to call Islamic terror, Islamic terror, is dangerously naïve, if not willfully so. The same can be said for Jewish terror and Christian terror as well. All three exist, and for the purposes of this conversation, it makes no difference that they exist to differing degrees.

When terrorists sit at the feet of religious teachers who inspire their violence, when that violence is experienced by the perpetrators as the fulfillment of a religious obligation, and when they call out the name of God before hitting the plunger or pulling the trigger, that is religious terror, be it Islamic, Jewish or Christian. That is how the terrorists see it and for us to say that we know better than they do about the meaning of their own actions is absurd.

Not only is the current policy of shying away from admitting the truth about religious terror foolish, it is dangerous. One cannot address a challenge that remains unacknowledged. So unless one believes that playing ostrich - hiding one's head in the sand and assuming that because we ignore the problem it will go away, is best course to follow, it's time to switch policies.

We need to admit that faith is like a fire - it can warm a home or burn it down. It's not the fire; it's how it is used. We need to simultaneously call out those who use their faiths as destructive fires and also remind people that just because terror is an expression of some people's faith, it is not the only expression of that faith, or even an essential part of it.

Clearly, people who run around 'explaining' that one faith or another is inherently violent, terrorist, or more dangerous that the others don't know much about history. In fact, all three Abrahamic faiths have both shed the blood of others in the name of God, and had their blood shed by others for the exact same reason. But that is all more reason to stop pretending and start addressing the very real problem of religious terror, including Islamic terror.

Ironically, the people who should be at the forefront on this are Muslims themselves. After all, more Muslims die in the name of Allah than do Christians or Jews. We do those victims, not to mention our own national security, no good by denying the religious ground from which that terror springs. Nor do we help when we equate any one act in the name of Islam with an entire 1,500 year tradition.

There is Islamic terror, just as there is Islamic humanitarian relief. We need to appreciate the existence of both, fight the former and cooperate with the latter. We stand at a cross-roads and pretending that we do not simply because it is more convenient, simply will not do.

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Comments from facebook friends;

Nick Veltjens
You are right, David, and you too, Mike. In the end it has always been the head of the nation or the government that makes war, as said by Immanuel Kant and others. He said that a democracy exists only if every person has the right to vote, that makes him a "citizen". But even that has gone awry, as citizens are only now in the process of learning... See More to use their political understanding. Ultimately change s towards true equality or pluralism will have to come from those citizens, you and me, that is from the bottom up. All dictatorships and most governments will act from the top down. True concensus will ultimately be possible, but it requires fair negotiation (and education) between the opposed sides.

David L. Ponedel
In my view, changes to a religion that will last must arise from within, not from without. Designating a name to terrorism has a certain usefulness in identifying the source of cruelty, but over the long haul it denigrates the innocent as well as the perpetrators. Those of the faith must distinguish between universal truth and misguided practice. It is they who must withhold support to effect positive change. We must support them in that effort. Name calling makes that more difficult.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Is a mosque at Ground Zero religious freedom too far?


Is a mosque at Ground Zero religious freedom too far? Thanks to Dallas Morning News for presenting different points of view. Our own Rabbis and Pastors have spoken respectfully.

Indeed, it is another opportunity to the world to see what we are made of; the world will see the spirit of our freedom and who we are, we are open to others, our freedom does not scare us, we are secure with ourselves and secure with the God given diversity; and we live with confidence of who we are.

We set the tone for the world, so other nations can emulate us and not the other way around.

It is a Muslim cultural center that is planned near the site of ground zero, it is a great initiative to build bridges and work on creating a better world. The Neocons are determined to create chaos out of it and I hope they can see the goodness it brings in creating a cohesive society. It will be open to the public and interfaith dialogues will be carried on.

I was on Fox TV with Hannity and nearly brought up the same issues. It should be looked up as a bridge building event. First of all it is not a Mosque, it is a community center with a Mosque in it and secondly, every community should have a community center in it.


You are welcome to write your comments at the end of the Newspaper story, or end of this blog. the first few comments are interesting.

Mike Ghouse

TEXAS FAITH: Is a mosque at Ground Zero religious freedom too far? Wayne Slater/Reporter Bio E-mail News tips


The debate over a mosque near Ground Zero has rekindled questions about religious expression in a nation that treasures religious freedom. Plans for the $100 million mosque just blocks from the site of the 9/11 attack have angered the families of survivors. It's become an issue in the New York governor's race where Democrat Andrew Cuomo answered his Republican opponent's objection to the mosque this way: "What is the country about if not religious freedom?"

There are conflicts, of course - say, when religious expression violates the First Amendment (school-mandated prayer) or endangers lives (outlawing Appalachian snake handling). And there's the annual dustup over singing Silent Night in a public building, which never seems fully resolved. But the debate over the mosque is different - and raises a more fundamental question.

What are the limits to religious expression in America? Are there any? Should there be?

Our Texas Faith panelists weigh in with a thoughtful discussion on the issue:

KATIE SHERROD, Independent writer/producer

First of all, curtailing mandated prayer in public schools is not a restriction on religious expression. To the contrary, it is a defense of religious expression because it allows ALL religions to express themselves as they see fit without the state forcing non-Christians to listen to Christian prayers. Prayer in public schools is not forbidden. Any student may pray privately in any way they choose. What is forbidden is state-sanctioned prayer.

Because let's not kid ourselves -- state-mandated prayers in the USA are always Christian prayers. Imagine the uproar if Christian kids were forced to listen to an imam pray to Allah over a school loudspeaker. That is also the case with the singing of Silent Night. It's a Christian song, as are most Christmas songs of course, given that the holiday celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. Why should Jewish and Muslim school children have to sing Christian songs? Again, imagine the uproar if the school decided everyone was required to attend a Seder in the cafeteria at Passover.

The building of the mosque near Ground Zero is another case entirely. Muslims have purchased land to build a building in which Muslims will pray and have services. The people who frequent that mosque will not be forcing anyone else to worship there or to listen to their prayers. This is exactly what the First Amendment is meant to protect. People walk by all sorts of things on their way to and from Ground Zero, including profane and offensive graffiti. Having to walk by a beautiful mosque should be no more offensive than having to walk by the beautiful St. Paul's Chapel.

Timothy McVeigh, a Christian, blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing many children as well as adults. The Episcopal Cathedral is right across the street and was heavily damaged in the blast. Yet not one person objected to its being rebuilt near that Memorial because a Christian had committed that terrorist act. Wrapping up xenophobia in outrage over 9/11 does more to dishonor the memory of those who died on that day than does the construction of mosque in a country founded on religious freedom.

GEOFFREY DENNIS, Rabbi, Congregation Kol Ami in Flower Mound and faculty member, University of North Texas Jewish Studies Program

Andrew Cuomo said it all. The establishment clause protects the freedom of all religious groups, especially the ones that the majority might view with suspicion. There are a few well-known limits to religious expression in our society, the chief one being that government space and functionaries (a very small part of our lives) are and must be religion neutral. Whatever a teacher, policeman, or agency staff person may believe (and they do believe anything and everything), they may not use their position or the government facilities and resources under their auspices to promote their beliefs, or the beliefs of any religious group, regardless of how much political power or popular support such belief may enjoy.

But that's the government sphere, which is really a unrelated issue from the case we are considering - the freedom to practice religion in the private sphere, like on a piece of private property in lower Manhattan. In such cases, the freedom of religion is virtually inviolate.

LARRY BETHUNE, Senior Pastor at the University Baptist Church, Austin

The boundaries between religion and state have been hammered out in a host of legal rulings and since the adoption of the First Amendment to the Constitution in 1791. The original amendment read "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...." In the 1925 Gitlow vs. New York decision, the Supreme Court interpreted the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to apply First Amendment protections to state and local governments as well as the federal government.

The establishment clause creates what Thomas Jefferson called "the wall of separation between church [religion] and state." The court has consistently interpreted it to mean "the state cannot favor any one religion over another religion or irreligion" in cases where religious and political leaders have conspired to legislate their religious beliefs for all to follow. The continuing disrespect of American religious liberty by religious extremists and the exploitation of religious issues by politicians to gain power means maintaining the separation of religion and state requires constant vigilance.

On the other hand, religious liberty cannot be used as an excuse to break the law without consequence. While a person may disobey the law for religious reasons, he or she must expect legal consequences to follow. Civil disobedience inspired by religious fervor (as in the case of the civil rights movement) has brought unjust laws into disrepute so that they were repealed. But courageous people had to be willing to pay the price for their disobedience until the laws were changed. On the other hand, acts of violence, extortion, and financial dishonesty perpetrated in the name of religion have been rightly prosecuted by the state without changing public opinion about the laws or leading to successful first amendment cases.

Given the continuing antipathy of some members of international Islam towards the United States, the establishment of a mosque near ground zero is understandably painful to families of victims and anxiety-producing to the community. One could hope the congregation would be sensitive to this experience and choose a different location. On the other hand, Islam did not sponsor the terrorist acts of 9/11. The Islamic extremists who did do not represent all of Islam any more than abortion clinic bombers represent all Christians. The state has a justified interest in closely monitoring the activities of a mosque with a concern about ties to international terrorism in the same way it has an interest in monitoring the financial activities of churches and synagogues regarding tax reporting or childcare safety. Congregations should operate openly and without secrecy in order to belie even the appearance of illegal activity. But when all is said and done, American religious liberty extends to Islam as much as any other religion, including Christianity, and a curtailment of their rights because of the extreme actions of some amounts to an abridgement of the religious liberty of us all.

GEORGE A. MASON, Senior Pastor Wilshire Baptist Church, Dallas

What we should long for in this country is a day when religious expression can flourish without fear. And that includes being able to welcome Muslims as good neighbors in our communities without suspecting that they wish us harm because so believe their religion is inherently violent and fosters hatred against Westerners in general, and Christians and Jews in particular.

The proposed Cordoba House project near the Ground Zero site could be a place of enduring witness to a spirit of reconciliation, tolerance and education. The location inflames the issue. It feels to some like dancing on the graves of those whose lives were lost at the hands of terrorists who used Islam to justify their unspeakable deeds. But the location also makes it the best place to redress the horror. It has the potential to be a place of permanent penance and an olive branch of peace.

Limits to the First Amendment are still best handled by applying the so-called Lemon test. The three-part test asks the government to prove that a statute -- in this case that would prohibit the free exercise of the Muslim community --has a secular purpose, that its primary effect is not to inhibit nor promote religious expression, and finally that it does not result in excessive entanglement of government and religion. In this case, you have to argue convincingly that prohibiting the mosque is in the reasonable interest of safety of Americans, that its primary effect does not inhibit the expression of the Muslim community, and that doing so would not be excessively intrusive. Lawyers would parse the words more closely, but I believe that is the essence of it. And on these bases, it's hard for me to imagine that government action to prevent the building of this mosque would be legally defensible.

WILLIAM LAWRENCE, Dean and Professor of American Church History, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

Every freedom that is guaranteed as a right under the Constitution has some limits. Free speech does not include the right to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater. The right to bear arms, despite recent decisions by the Supreme Court, does not include the freedom of an individual citizen to amass an arsenal of nuclear weapons. And the freedom of religious expression does not provide an absolute blanket to cover everything that claims freedom under the "establishment" clause just because it declares itself to be a religion.

For example, if some Americans who trace their ancestry back several hundred years to pre-colonial days in Mexico choose to renew the religious cult of the Aztecs, they could certainly claim a constitutionally protected freedom for doing so. But they would not be free to reinstitute the Aztec practice of offering human sacrifice. One cannot engage in criminal behavior under the umbrella of religious freedom.

To use another example that is less violent though no less criminal, an individual claiming to be a preacher of God's word can buy air time on television and invite viewers to send contributions in support of the preacher's "ministry." But, as we learned in the case of Jim Bakker some years ago, that freedom cannot be used as permission to engage in fraud.

More subtle than these issues are the ones involving religious freedom and public (e.g., state-owned) property. Under the protection of the Constitution, any Christian group is free to sing "Silent Night" on Christmas Eve. But no Christian group is entitled to claim as a special privilege--let alone a right--to sing sectarian songs as an expression of state policy or on state property. No Jewish group is entitled to claim as a special privilege--let alone a right--to have Rosh Hashanah services in the county court house.

None of these appears to be the principle at stake in regard to the possible construction of a mosque in lower Manhattan. Adherents of Islam clearly and unquestionably are entitled to the protections of religious freedom under the Constitution. Any action to preclude or pre-empt plans to build the mosque would be an effort to "prohibit the free exercise" of religion by Muslims. Even if we accept the judgment that some interpretations of Islamic belief were among the motivating factors that led the perpetrators to commit violence on September 11, 2001, we cannot abridge the Constitutional freedom that is guaranteed to Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, and others. For the same reason, just because Timothy McVeigh clung to a twisted version of faith and patriotism when he chose to bomb the Murrah Building, we will not ban churches or patriotic organizations from erecting buildings in Oklahoma City.

If Americans still believe that the Constitution truly matters, we should celebrate a desire to build a mosque in New York City. Otherwise, we will have not only abandoned our Constitution, we will have adopted the ideology of those in Iran who would not want a church or synagogue to be built in Tehran.

JOE CLIFFORD, Pastor and head of staff, First Presbyterian Church, Dallas

There should be limits to religious expression in America. The Yearning for Zion episode from 2008 serves as a classic example of the need for these limits, and the complexities of enforcing them. Building permits for adherents of a major world religion should not define these limits. While I can certainly understand why some of the families of the 2,976 victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks would not want a mosque erected in the vicinity of where their loved ones were murdered, I think it is a mistake to define policy on the basis of their pain.

To ban any Muslim presence from the neighborhood because of the actions of 19 terrorists is to fall into the same flawed ideology of the terrorist who label all Americans as evil. Truth be told, at least 23 Muslims were included among the victims of the 9/11 terrorists. Equating Islam to the terrorist acts of 19 people perpetuates the ignorance Americans have of this world religion. According to a 2009 Gallup poll, 63% of Americans admit having little or no knowledge of Islam, yet 53% hold an unfavorable opinion of the religion, and 41% admit prejudice against Muslims. The report goes on to say, "Those who report they do not know a Muslim are twice as likely to express 'a great deal' of prejudice against Islam."

Maybe the presence of a mosque would provide people an opportunity to meet true Muslims who adhere to the religion whose name has at its root the word "peace." (Salaam) By issuing a building permit to Americans who want to build a mosque, we bear witness to the freedoms that define our nation and prove the absolutist ideologies of terrorists to be a lie.

DARRELL BOCK, Research Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

The first point is that issue has a fallacy embedded in it that is important. It is that all Muslims are violent as these 9/11 terrorists are. That is not the case. It would be like equating all Christians with those who kill abortion doctors. There is a violent strain in segments of Islam, but that should not be attached to all Muslims. However, ultimately the question is about freedom of religious expression in our country. Now in our pluralistic context one cannot have it both ways. Yes, for some and no for others. All citizens have these benefits as well as visitors we welcome. The only place we curtail this expression is where the state is seen to endorse its expression, especially a particular expression. Islam is a recognized faith so the rights that obtain to Muslims are part of what attains to Christians, Jews, and atheists (and the atheist's right not to worship at all). This is built into the American structure.

CYNTHIA RIGBY, W.C. Brown Professor of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

In the spirit of full disclosure: I am originally from New York. In September of 2001, my father and both of my brothers were living and/or working close to the World Trade Towers. When the attacks occurred, one of my brothers got on the roof of his office building with a video camera. He took too-clear footage of people jumping out of windows; on the audio you can hear the horrific moment when he and his friends realized that what was happening was not an accident, but an act of terrorism. At home in Austin, I could not get a phone line through (to check on my family) for several hours. Everyone was OK, but my dad (who had yet to arrive at work) could not go to his office for several weeks.

I support religious freedom, and do not believe we can ban a major world religion from establishing a mosque in a major US city. I think there is a possibility that the presence of the mosque could promote healing. As anyone with any sense is pointing out, the terrorists were Muslim, but their behavior is not consistent with the teachings of Islam. To ban Muslims from putting up a mosque because of the actions of the terrorists would be like banning Christians from establishing a church close to a Planned Parenthood clinic that had been bombed by a person who said he did it in the name of Christ.

That said, I ask Muslim people of faith to consider NOT building the mosque so close to Ground Zero - at least not for a time. For Muslims themselves to refrain from building even though they certainly have the right to do so would, I believe, almost certainly promote healing. It would demonstrate a sensitivity to the sufferings and fears of those most affected by 9/11. It could very well create a space for conversation that would advance mutual understanding.

Growing up on Long Island, I had many friends who were Jewish. As a Christian believer, I wore a little golden cross my father gave me when I was in the fourth grade. But I remember when I realized, close to the time when I left for college, that this cross caused my Jewish friends pain. What was a symbol of life and hope for me reminded them of the history of Christians oppressing, and even working to annihilate, the Jews. I took off my cross with some sadness, realizing that it was inadvertently communicating to many around me something that was directly contrary to what I believe Christianity is really all about. Ironically, the better witness to my faith in Christ was not wearing the cross, but taking it off.

Symbols function. They are neither inherently life-giving, nor inherently life-denying. They mean different things to different people, and in different times. When do we take off the beloved necklace? When do we decide to build a worship center in a different location, so as not to disturb still-healing wounds? To me, what we should be discussing is not who has the right to do what where, but how we as spiritual leaders can best bring new life, rather than offense and further misunderstanding, to a broken world.


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Thank you.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Zoroaster, Prophet of Zoroastrianism

"The Abrahamic religions were preceded, and decisively influenced by, followers of an earlier prophet.The tiny world wide communities of Zoroastrians are no doubt pleased to get any mention in Cif belief – even if it is only to provide alphabetical balance to a list starting with the Bahá'ís.:" The Guardian. Indeed, we have reversed the Alphabetical order for the Zoroastrians to start the program first. http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2010/07/zoroaster-prophet-of-zoroastrianism.html

The story in Guardian follow my comments;

Zoroastrians have always been a part of the foundation for pluralism in our workshops, radio shows (over 25 Hours) and my greetings at every interfaith event, which most of you know it by now. They are constantly mentioned in our writings and talks. We have to practice inclusion and exclude no religion, that’s what pluralism is all about; inclusion.

Indeed, the Mission of our other organization, World Muslim Congress is to work for a world of co-existence through inclusiveness and participation. As a member of diverse family of faiths, our efforts will be directed towards justice and equity to attain peace for the humankind with a firm grounding in commonly held values. We cannot have advantages at the cost of others. Such benefits are temporary and deleterious to lasting peace. We believe what is good for Muslims has got to be good for the world, and vice versa, to sustain it.

They are a part of the Annual Thanksgiving Celebrations for the last 15 years, part of the Unity Day USA for the last 6 years and the Holocaust and Genocides event for the last three events. Our priest in Dallas Dr. Poras Balsara has graced us with his presence in many of my personal events including my son’s wedding and Mr. Firdosh Mehta has been a part of every event we have done.

As a group, I worked with them in removing the shameless “Alexander the Barbarian” (some call him the Great) form the movie poster of that name standing in front of the Farvahar, the Zoroastrian religious symbol.

A few of us from Dallas wrote and signed a petition a few years ago to the Iranian government to stop harassing the Zoroastrians. (Shame on all those majorities where the minorities are harassed..., any nation exception to this?)

The United Nations celebrated their 5000 years of heritage a few years ago.

My mother’s closest friend was a Zoroastrian in my town, we used to call her “Parsima”, they owned an estate in Yelahanka called “Bahramji Estate” and had huge rose flowers garden. Every week “Parsima” would come to buy groceries in the town and after that she will visit my mother and they talked for several hours. A frail woman and always I get the image of Mother Teresa and her toggle in my mind.

India’s industrial development is owed to Jamshedji Nasserwanji Tata and the information movement is also partnered by the Tatas’. One of the most respected Supreme courts Judges was Nana Palkhiwala. I believe one of the famous movie stars of India, Sohrab Modi was a Zoroastrian, some say he was Jewish but I have not done much research into it. The famous American New York Philharmonic conductor Mr. Zubin Mehta is a Zoroastrian. The Parsees own all the breweries in Pakistan and I had a chance to chat with one of their daughters on my flight to London, she was fascinating. There was a movie made about their struggle during the partition of India and Pakistan called Earth 1942 with Aamir Khan in it, it was a darn good movie. Pakistan founders wife was a Zoroastrian, India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s’ husband was a Zoroastrian and two Prime Ministers of India Sons of the Zoroastrian father. One of the world’s renowned Cricket commentators was a Parsee and was from Pakistan, I had the honor of speaking with him and had address the people of Dallas on my Radio show years ago…. Their celebration of New Year is green.

Dallas is blessed to have about 50 families and I am familiar with most of them. They are all in the community pictures of the links I have provided above.

Now the Parliament of Worlds Religion is possibly going to be held in Dallas in 2014, we are one of the three bid cities. A group of volunteers is working to bring the event here and if your organization and you, I mean any religious tradition would like to be a part of the bid, look us up at: http://www.parliamentofreligions.org/

The Concept of one God need not be threatening if we all understand the intent behind the word "One God". It is extensively used in the monotheistic traditions, it is not opposed to "many iconic representations" of God, and rather it is the oneness of universe, oneness of creator and oneness of humanity. When there is oneness, you would feel the pain for the rape victims in a remote village or pray for the people who are being washed away in floods. It brings the humanity together.

In Judaism and Islam there is an emphasis about no God but God, it is stressed to make the point of oneness with the creator, so we can feel the pain of other humans no matter where they are. It avoids the apathy that they are worshippers of XYZ God and their pain is not my pain. Which Hinduism titles as ekantha or Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam or the other traditions call it one God. Reverend Moon, whom I admire, calls "one family under God”. We are seven billion unique beings God has intentionally created us to be different, look at our minds, our thumb prints and DNA's, each one is unique, if we can learn to respect the God given uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

To read a summary about Zoroastrianism - http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Religion_Zoroastrianism.asp

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker, writer, optimist, educator and an activist of Pluralism, Justice, Islam, Peace and Civil Societies. He is a conflict mitigater and a goodwill nurturer offering pluralistic solutions on issues of the day and is a frequent guest on the media. Mike's work is reflected at three websites & twenty two Blogs listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/


Zoroaster – forgotten prophet of the one God


The Abrahamic religions were preceded, and decisively influenced by, followers of an earlier prophet.

The tiny world wide communities of Zoroastrians are no doubt pleased to get any mention in Cif belief – even if it is only to provide alphabetical balance to a list starting with the Bahá'ís. Even those who take a close interest in the more exotic or esoteric of religions tend to have a vague grasp on what the followers of the ancient Persian (or maybe Bactrian) prophet, Zarathustra (Zoroaster in Greek) – born around 800 BC – actually believed. This is a great pity since even a non-believer must be impressed with the evidence of how the religious ideas first expressed by Zoroaster were fundamental in shaping what emerged as Judaism after the 5th century BC and thus deeply influenced the other Abrahamic religions – Christianity and Islam.

Born at a time when the peoples of the Iranian plateau were evolving a settled agriculture, Zoroaster broke with the traditional Aryan religions of the region which closely mirrored those of India, and espoused the idea of a one good God – Ahura Mazda. What became known eventually in the west as Zoroastrianism was also the first to link religious belief with profound attachment to personal morality. In Zoroastrian eschatology there is much which has become familiar from reading the Jewish and Christian testaments: heaven, hell, redemption, the promise of a Sashoyant (Messiah), the existence of an evil spirit Ahriman and – most striking of all – the prospect of a final battle for the salvation of man at "the end of time" between Ahura Mazda and Ahriman leading to the latter's final defeat.

The main contact between westerners and Zoroastrians came in India where they were known as Parsees (Persians), descendants of those who took part in a large scale migration from Persia after the Muslim conquest of that country. Zoroastrians were held (quite wrongly) to worship fire because they kept a permanent flame in their temples. Some even questioned whether they were monotheists at all because Ahriman was referred to as an evil "god". But all the Abrahamic religions have also struggled to explain "evil" in the world which is why they gave Satan an important role.

The first encounter between the ancient peoples who developed historical Judaism and the Persian religious ideas of Zoroastrianism seems to have come either during or shortly after the captivity in Babylon. It was the Persian king of kings, Cyrus, who liberated the Hebrews from Babylon and one of his successors, Darius, who organised and funded the return of some of the captives (probably along with many Persians) to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Nehemiah and Ezra also reorganised the traditional religion of the Judaeans and Israelites. What emerged was a stricter monotheistic version which was consistent with basic beliefs of the Persian imperial religion – Zoroastrianism.

Those who might doubt how Persian imperial policy so decisively shaped what we know as Judaism should reflect on the remarkable and first ever declaration of belief in one, universal God by the biblical writer known as "Second Isaiah" during this period. Indeed Isaiah describes King Cyrus as a "Messiah" and the chosen instrument of Yahweh. Interestingly there is evidence that the Persian imperial policy towards the religion of their subject peoples – to allow the traditional name of their gods to be retained but to revise the religions themselves in the image of Zoroastrianism – was also applied in Babylon and Egypt as well as Palestine.

Some claim that a belief in monotheism in Judea developed a little before the Babylonian conquest and exile. But although there is evidence for a centralisation of the different Canaanite-style cults into the worship of Yahweh in the capital – Jerusalem – over this period the most which can be said was that a form of monolatry, a belief in one God for a particular people had emerged.
The Persian influence on Judaism was powerful and long lasting. Certainly the profound belief in the end of days exhibited by the Dead Sea Scroll communities in the immediately pre-Christian era and indeed the images employed by the Christian evangelist, John, in his Apocalypse, display a clear continuity of influence.

What – at the very least – were the deep affinities between Zoroastrianism and Judaism goes a long way to explain what over the centuries were the close and friendly relations between Persians and Jews. The influence of 20th century religious-political ideologies have poisoned that relationship. Perhaps a greater acknowledgement by Jews, Christians and Muslims of their Persian Zoroastrian inheritance would be a step to improving those relationships.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bottom line prayers (wishes)

Prayers and wishes could be synonyms, when I pray for you or wish for you, the essence is similar. However if we call it prayers, some of our humanist brothers and sisters may feel excluded as prayers are usually associated with asking God to shower his blessings. However, if we call it a wish, we may have more inclusiveness in it. For linguistic purposes, I will use the word prayer to mean both prayers and wishes.

Years ago when my son Jeffrey was about eleven and my daughter Jasmina was six, I took them to every place of worship from Baha’i to Zoroastrian and every one in between. Invariably they would ask, “Dad, what are they saying?’ As a parent, I learned to translate those wishes in the most simplistic language for them and not get flabergasted to the likes of the question, " how were we born?"

In every religious tradition the meaning remains nearly the same;

- Thanking the Causer
- Praising the Lord
- Singing in the glory of the creator
- God is Pure
- God is the Creator
- God is the Nourisher
- God is the Sustainer
- Supplications
- Forgiveness
- Confessions
- Seeking help
- Wishing well for others

No matter how you translate, you could not veer off from the messages above. Of course the humility is signified with bowing, kneeling or prostrating or simply closing the eyes, different acts but the same value to the performer.

My kids and I have been to just about every place of worship, however my son missed the Synagogue and both of them have missed out visiting the Native traditions, the Ismaili and Bohra places of worship. My daughter however has been a witness to the conversation on Atheism or Humanism on my Radio shows which he missed. The idea is for them to know about various traditions and be open to the beauty of each one of them and prepare them to look at other humans being with dignity. We have to consciously create a better world.

These are some of the places we have been to;

- Bahais (Ben Moghaddas’s home),
- Buddhist (Grand Prairie, Richardson),
- Christian (Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Catholic and Mormon)
- Hindu (Main temple, Swami Narayan, Caribbean, Hare Krishna),
- Jain (Richardson)
- Jewish (Temple Shalom & Emanuel)
- Islam (Richardson, Carrollton, Irving, Allen (Shia, Sunni and Ahmadiyya)
- Sikh (Garland)
- Zoroastrian (Home and other places)


Around 1994, my daughter and I were in the Dallas/ Fort Worth Hindu Temple. We were in the midst of the devotional songs in the sanctuary and as usual my little girl would get on her knees and look around as if no one is watching her and then whisper the standard question in my ears, to which I reel off.... God is the Nourisher, sustaine... sweeite they are saying to thank God for the life. OMG, I want those moments back in my life… how much I loved those tender moments!
She could not contain her excitement, right in the middle of the Bhajans, the six year old stands up with her eyes wide open, and in an excited voice blurts out, “Gee Dad, that’s cool, God can be worshipped in so many different ways!” Indeed that sentence has become a part of my teaching in Pluralism. Pluralism is simply respecting the otherness of other and appreciating the god given uniqueness of each one of the seven billion of us.

We can learn from children, they are pure, they see the beauty in diversity and cherish everywhich way one worships the divine.

I will leave you with this thought; as we would not give them rotten and stale food, why would we bias them towards fellow beings?

Here is something you can start, when you talk with your children inluding the grown up children, don’t upload them with hatred or ill-will towards any human or any religion. Can you do that?

The bottom line of your prayers and wishes is for the other person to be at peace and be happy.

My next essay will deal with our responsibility to raise Children with no malice. I will be happy to share and speak with your friends, place of worship, a family gathering or an office on how to co-exist in harmony by identifying real conflicts and not so real conflicts. We honor God by honoring every which way one acknowledges the causer of the universe.

God bless you.

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker, writer, optimist, educator and an activist of Pluralism, Justice, Islam, India, Peace and Civil Societies. He is a conflict mitigater and a goodwill nurturer offering pluralistic solutions on issues of the day and is a frequent guest on the media. Mike's work is reflected at three websites & twenty two Blogs listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/

Friday, July 9, 2010

Muslim acts of heroism during Holocaust

If I were to define Islam in another word, it would be justness or justice. The Muslims in Dallas have taken the initiative to commemorate and reflect on Holocaust and Genocides for three years now. http://www.holocaustandgenocides.com/
Mike Ghouse

July 7, 110 Wednesday 4 Av 3870 10:31 IST

New booklet reveals Muslim acts of heroism during Holocaust

"The Role of Righteous Muslim Persons," initiated by Faith Matters, an interfaith organization.

LONDON – A new publication highlighting Muslim acts of heroism during the Holocaust will be published on Wednesday, chronicling the role played by Muslims who defended Jews during World War II.

The 34-page booklet, titled "The Role of Righteous Muslim Persons," was initiated by Faith Matters, a London-based interfaith organization that works toward reducing extremism and fostering social cohesion in the UK. The aim of the booklet is to inform religious communities and the general public about the littleknown stories of courageous Muslims who stood up against injustice, protecting Jews during the Holocaust.

Guided by their Muslim faith and personal desire to do what was right, they protected and saved the lives of many potential victims. The publication also aims to counter the narrative that no Muslims played a part in the defense of Jewish communities during the War.

The work focuses on people deemed "Righteous Gentiles" by Jerusalem's Yad Vashem and highlights the role played by individuals, families and communities in countries such as Albania, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In Albania, Jews were not victims of the Nazis because of a national code of honor called "Besa," a desire to help those in need, even those of another faith or origin.

The booklet also tells the story of Muslim lawyer Khaled Mahameed, founder and curator of the first Arab Holocaust museum in Nazareth, who believes that by understanding such atrocities, one can stand up for justice and equality.

"This booklet is needed now more than ever, especially when there is very little in the public domain about the role that Muslim communities played in the Holocaust, as well as numerous articles and Web sites which repeat the mantra that Muslim communities are overwhelmingly negative in their thoughts and views about the Holocaust," said Fiyaz Mughal, founder of Faith Matters and editor of the booklet.

"It highlights the noble deeds and courageous acts carried out by Muslims towards their Jewish neighbors, and I hope that faith communities will use the booklet as a tool to encourage greater understanding and respect towards each other," he added.

"It is important to remember and learn from the actions of brave people who risked their lives to save others during the Holocaust," said Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust. "These stories of individuals who faced great dangers to help Jewish people are inspirational."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Standing up for Jews, Gays and Mexicans, why should you?

Pastor Fred Phelps is staging protest against Jews, Gays and Lesbians and the Mexicans right here in Dallas, Texas. Here is an opportunity for you to stand up for the rights of others and add purpose in life. Join us for goodwill prayers and hope the positive energy will open people’s hearts and minds towards each other, leading to appreciating the value of living in harmony. - Mike Ghouse

Action itemsContinued: http://mikeghouseforamerica.blogspot.com/2010/07/standing-up-for-jews-gays-and-mexicans.html


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

FOX TV, Sean Hannity and Mike Ghouse about NASA tonight

I am preparing a few talking points and request you to give me short sentences and phrases to talk about this tonight Tuesday, July 6, 2010 at Sean Hannity Show on Fox News. I am particularly requesting my friends from native traditions to share their perspective.
Daniel Pipes will be opposing it and I will be supporting this intiaitive.
" NASA has outreached Russia, China, Israel, India and Saudi Arabia to put their astronauts on the space mission, let the world come together on science and exploration"
"Religion is the biggest influence in one's life, it is time we give some weight to religion, and bring aboard Muslims, Native Americans, Hindus, Bahais, Jews, Christians, Buddhist and others to be a part of creating a better world, better world through science and research"

Continued: http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2010/07/fox-tv-sean-hannity-and-mike-ghouse.html

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker, writer, optimist, educator and an activist of Pluralism, Justice, Islam, India, Peace and Civil Societies. He is a conflict mitigater and a goodwill nurturer offering pluralistic solutions on issues of the day and is a frequent guest on the media. Mike's work is reflected at three websites & twenty two Blogs listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What Interfaith Means To Me

Interfaith allows one to learn first hand what and how other faiths wanted to be known, rather than the versions propagated in the media.

If we can learn to respect and accept the otherness of other, then conflicts fade and solutions for co-existence emerge.

Mike Ghouse

What Interfaith Means To Me

Beth Katz

June 28, 2010, at 06:59 AM

Beth Katz, founder and executive director of Project Interfaith.  -

Beth Katz, founder and executive director of Project Interfaith.

When Neighborhood News approached me about writing a column on interfaith work and religious and cultural diversity in our community, I jumped at the chance. Why? Because our neighborhoods are one of the most important fronts for growing, understanding and forging relationships in our community, which are at the heart of what interfaith work is all about. In future columns, I will explore dimensions of religious and cultural diversity in our community and provide you with opportunities to further learn about them. I also will examine what we can do in our homes, neighborhoods and in our community to make Omaha a place where people of all beliefs and cultures are valued and included. But before we delve in, I want to start by sharing with you what the term "interfaith" means to me and I invite you to post what it means to you.

Interfaith is not about agreement. It's about trust and authentic interactions.
The point of interfaith work is not to get everyone to agree because, let's face it, having differences is what makes us religiously, spiritually and culturally diverse. We are all part of a community, whether that be a neighborhood block, a city, or some other structure of belonging. Having a vested interest in getting to know, and, hopefully, supporting one another will enhance the vibrancy, health, and overall quality of life for all members of our community. So the focus of interfaith work, as far as I am concerned, rests in creating and sustaining trust and relationships by providing meaningful, creative ways for people of diverse beliefs and cultures to interact and connect. Using the arts, bringing in thoughtful speakers, and providing trainings and resources for professionals and community members are just some of the ways that we at Project Interfaith work to foster these relationships.

Interfaith means including people of all beliefs even if they are not connected to a religion or formal organization
As I mentioned before, interfaith work is fundamentally about relationships and understanding. It's about creating healthy neighborhoods and communities where people of all faiths, beliefs, and cultures are valued and included. But to ensure that all community members are valued and included, we have to have a basic understanding of one another, and this can only be accomplished by giving all members of our community meaningful opportunities to learn, share, and connect. This requires us to reach out and engage people who are very much rooted in a religious tradition. It also means that we must reach out to those who are not — and everyone in between.

Interfaith means getting to know yourself
In order to fully participate in interfaith experiences, you must have a solid understanding of your own beliefs and culture. This doesn't mean that you need to be some sort of spiritual leader or a religious scholar. It just means that you have taken stock of who you are and are open to exploring this further. While it's true that for many people, interfaith interactions often cause them to reflect, investigate, and sometimes question their own beliefs and traditions, I've found that this frequently leads people to develop a deeper understanding of their own religious/spiritual and cultural identity and awakens a desire to learn more about their tradition and themselves.

So I've given you a few ways in which I define interfaith and I'd love to hear your thoughts. I also welcome suggestions for topics of future posts and any questions you may have about religious and cultural diversity, especially as it relates to our community.

Beth Katz is the founder and executive director of Project Interfaith. You can find future columns about faith in our community the first Monday of every month on www.metroneighborhoodnews.com. Beth was bitten by the interfaith bug in college at Creighton University, where she first got involved in interfaith work as the co-founder of a student interfaith group. Her passion for creating a world where people of all faiths,  beliefs and cultures are valued and included led her to come back to her hometown of Omaha after graduate school to start Project Interfaith. You can reach her by leaving a comment for her on this site, friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter at @bethkatz. To learn more about Project Interfaith, visit www.projectinterfaithusa.org.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

July 4th - what does freedom mean to you?

May you feel blessed and free, happy July 4th!What does July 4th mean to you?

July 4th means freedom to me and I continue to debate with myself which one of the two is most important to value to me, Freedom or Justice?Thank God for America, where we the people cherish and value the freedom endowed to us by the creator. I chose to be an American and I am blessed to be one in my heart and spirit. I have come to revere our constitution for the value it places on equality...

Now a few tid-bits about July 4th followed by the list of events that led to American independence, the declaration of independence, Bill of rights and the link to our national Anthem sourced form Library of Congress and Wikipedia.

continued: http://mikeghouseforamerica.blogspot.com/2010/07/july-4th-what-does-freedom-mean-to-you.html

Friday, July 2, 2010

Sulha Joint prayers by Jews and Muslims

'Sulha' Prayer at Abraham's Tomb in Hebronwww.youtube.com

A group of Jews and Muslims came to pray together for 'sulha' (reconciliation) at the Tomb of Abraham in Hebron. It's also called Ma'arat Hamakhpela or Haram il-Ibrahimiya. The soldiers couldn't believe to see it--Jews and Muslim coming here to pray...together? This is... the final scene in the film...


There is more good on the earth than otherwise, let us share and propogate in the same proportion 99:1I have been sharing good stories of co-existence and please continue to add, we need more of this.

Thank you.

Mike Ghouse

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Own Private India

I don't know what to make of the following article..... it is funny, it is critical and it highlights the change... 
Indeed as Indians we are taking the responsibility to be a part of the society, it is necessary that we integrate rather than assimilate. However, we need to be ready for the change, our kids, grand kids or their kids will fully assimilate into the society, our heritage becomes their history.
The safety and security of a society depends on integration where people of different religions, nations and races attend each others weddings, funerals, birthdays, graduations and other celebrations as normal event.  I just want to share a bit of my own personal life - my late wife Najma's funeral was attended by nearly 2200 people at the mosque, we had people from every religion, race, different orientations and others and they all came to pay respects to her. Thanks to all.
For most of us, this is our permanent place as we may take our last breath on this land, and those of us who will be buried, it would become our permanent address. Thank God the cemeteries in America are eternal.
What is your take?

My Own Private India

Click here to find out more!

Illustration by John Ueland for TIME

I am very much in favor of immigration everywhere in the U.S. except Edison, N.J. The mostly white suburban town I left when I graduated from high school in 1989 — the town that was called Menlo Park when Thomas Alva Edison set up shop there and was later renamed in his honor — has become home to one of the biggest Indian communities in the U.S., as familiar to people in India as how to instruct stupid Americans to reboot their Internet routers.

My town is totally unfamiliar to me. The Pizza Hut where my busboy friends stole pies for our drunken parties is now an Indian sweets shop with a completely inappropriate roof. The A&P I shoplifted from is now an Indian grocery. The multiplex where we snuck into R-rated movies now shows only Bollywood films and serves samosas. The Italian restaurant that my friends stole cash from as waiters is now Moghul, one of the most famous Indian restaurants in the country. There is an entire generation of white children in Edison who have nowhere to learn crime. (See pictures of Thomas Edison's Menlo Park.)

I never knew how a bunch of people half a world away chose a random town in New Jersey to populate. Were they from some Indian state that got made fun of by all the other Indian states and didn't want to give up that feeling? Are the malls in India that bad? Did we accidentally keep numbering our parkway exits all the way to Mumbai?

I called James W. Hughes, policy-school dean at Rutgers University, who explained that Lyndon Johnson's 1965 immigration law raised immigration caps for non-European countries. LBJ apparently had some weird relationship with Asians in which he liked both inviting them over and going over to Asia to kill them.

After the law passed, when I was a kid, a few engineers and doctors from Gujarat moved to Edison because of its proximity to AT&T, good schools and reasonably priced, if slightly deteriorating, post–WW II housing. For a while, we assumed all Indians were geniuses. Then, in the 1980s, the doctors and engineers brought over their merchant cousins, and we were no longer so sure about the genius thing. In the 1990s, the not-as-brilliant merchants brought their even-less-bright cousins, and we started to understand why India is so damn poor.

Eventually, there were enough Indians in Edison to change the culture. At which point my townsfolk started calling the new Edisonians "dot heads." One kid I knew in high school drove down an Indian-dense street yelling for its residents to "go home to India." In retrospect, I question just how good our schools were if "dot heads" was the best racist insult we could come up with for a group of people whose gods have multiple arms and an elephant nose. (See TIME's special report "The Making of America: Thomas Edison.")

Unlike some of my friends in the 1980s, I liked a lot of things about the way my town changed: far better restaurants, friends dorky enough to play Dungeons & Dragons with me, restaurant owners who didn't card us because all white people look old. But sometime after I left, the town became a maze of charmless Indian strip malls and housing developments. Whenever I go back, I feel what people in Arizona talk about: a sense of loss and anomie and disbelief that anyone can eat food that spicy.

To figure out why it bothered me so much, I talked to a friend of mine from high school, Jun Choi, who just finished a term as mayor of Edison. Choi said that part of what I don't like about the new Edison is the reduction of wealth, which probably would have been worse without the arrival of so many Indians, many of whom, fittingly for a town called Edison, are inventors and engineers. And no place is immune to change. In the 11 years I lived in Manhattan's Chelsea district, that area transformed from a place with gangs and hookers to a place with gays and transvestite hookers to a place with artists and no hookers to a place with rich families and, I'm guessing, mistresses who live a lot like hookers. As Choi pointed out, I was a participant in at least one of those changes. We left it at that.

Unlike previous waves of immigrants, who couldn't fly home or Skype with relatives, Edison's first Indian generation didn't quickly assimilate (and give their kids Western names). But if you look at the current Facebook photos of students at my old high school, J.P. Stevens, which would be very creepy of you, you'll see that, while the population seems at least half Indian, a lot of them look like the Italian Guidos I grew up with in the 1980s: gold chains, gelled hair, unbuttoned shirts. In fact, they are called Guindians. Their assimilation is so wonderfully American that if the Statue of Liberty could shed a tear, she would. Because of the amount of cologne they wear.

See TIME's Pictures of the Week.

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