B U L L E T I N
PLEASE VISIT www.CenterforPluralism.com for all information
Sunday, February 28, 2010
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: email@example.com
His birthday is called Milaad, Moulood, Eid Milad-un-Nabi, Yom–e-Nabi and other names. Please be aware that not all Muslims celebrate his birthday, it was Prophet’s humility that he asked God to be one’s focus and not him, he said praise the lord and celebrate him and his creation, and he did not celebrate his birthday nor he allowed others to, he said find your joy in gratitude to the eternal one. Of course, when you love someone you cherish them and sometimes you make a God out of them. Indeed, the romantic poetry (Urdu/Hindi) in the subcontinent is laden with it “Mera pyaar kah raha hai, ke tujhe khuda bana loon”, “my love is suggesting me to make a God out of you.” Christians can relate with that thought well when it comes to Christ.
Personally I have been comfortable with each tradition, I believe that as beauty is in the eyes of beholder, faith is in the heart of the believer. I look at the devotion of the person and not the ritual.
Last evening at Milaad Celebrations called, “Texas Mowlid Celebrations” it was euphoric. It was good to see different Muslim denominations come together and rejoice the birth of prophet. It was good to experience the differences and enrich with the diversity of praise to the peace maker. I appreciate the efforts of Dr. Mansoor Mian and Asif Effendi of ILM center in Dallas to bring the communities together.
As a Muslim Pluralist, I tend to see reflections of all faith and traditions in any event I attend or a part of. My mental translator converts things into essence from rituals.
1. The Hare Krishna folks say Lord Krishna appeared on earth rather than born, as he exists in different manifestations. A similar thought was expressed about Muhammad that he was not born, he was always there, and he appeared. Muslims of different hues, have a different take on this.
2. The idea that God became apparent through Muhammad sounds very much like Christian belief about Jesus, through Jesus you come to the lord.
3. One speaker talked about intellectual connection where as the other one talked about divine connection. I guess whatever suits one works for the one. However, this prompted me to share my own experience. When I read Karen Armstrong’s book Muhammad, I saw the man he was, a whole new dimension, someone I can relate with, someone who is human and makes decisions like we all do. Karen narrates this beautifully as how humans strive to bring a balance and sense to the society.
I recommend this book to everyone to read, it is enlightening. She has portrayed him as a human being that he was. Among Muslims we differ about his persona, to some he is divine, to some he is human. To me he was a human and he has made that clear every time… to paraphrase him, “I am like you, I will die like everyone else and be absorbed in the process of nature, do not build a tomb for me, it’s the message of God that I want you to follow, don’t paint my pictures (the picture in this article is his name and it reads Muhammad) you need to remain with and worship God the eternal and not me.” He shared the eternal wisdom of the Golden rule, what is good for you has got to be good for the other and vice versa to sustain harmony and peace.
The cultural part of Milaad is about appreciating and singing songs in praise of Prophet Muhammad, the peace maker. The devotion is identical to Janmashtami (Krishna's appearance) songs and Christmas Carrols. I am sure people of faith can relate with their own celebrations. The essence is appreciation, the rituals are different.
The Singers, called Naat Khwaans, the reciters of poem in praise of the prophet were simply outstanding, particularly the conclusionary one, “Ya Nabi Salaam Aliaka…” I found myself in tune with the chorus (Names of the speakers and singers will be updated when possible).
For Muslims there is lot more depth and meaning to it, but for non-Muslims, this gives them an idea about the festival. It is part of the Pluralism education, so we all can know each other and learns to enjoy each other with our own uniqueness. Years ago, I ran a weekly Radio program called "festivals of the world" and shared about each festival. I try to make it simple enough that most people can get the essence of it.
Mike Ghouse is a thinker, writer, speaker, optimist and an activist of Pluralism, Interfaith, Co-existence, Peace, Islam and India. He is a frequent guest at the TV, radio and print media offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. His work is reflected at three websites and 22 Blogs listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/
Saturday, February 27, 2010
In behalf of the World Muslim Congress and Muslims in general, we strongly condemn the Talibans for killing two members of the Sikh community in Pakistan. Jaspal Singh and Mohan Singh, who were beheaded for not converting to Islam. Continued: http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2010/02/muslim-condemn-beheading-of-sikhs-by.html
Friday, February 26, 2010
Its full moon on Sunday February 28, 2010. Moon watching is reccomended. By the way, all these holidays are based on Lunar calendar; Milaad, Holi and Purim.
FULL MOON ON SUNDAY FEBRUARY 28
There is something special about full Moon. I have always enjoyed being in it, there is a serene energy that permeates one’s body.
SEASON FOR PEACE & NON VOILENCE
January through February is designated as the Season of Peace, where the messages of peace are floated on a daily basis. Usually it is the message of peace and non-violence practiced by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
Holi is celebrated at the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of the lunar month Phalguna which usually falls in the later part of February or March.
In Vrindavan and Mathura, where Lord Krishna grew up, the festival is celebrated for 16 days. Krishna is believed to have complained to his mother about the contrast between his dark skin complexion and Radha's fair skin complexion. Krishna's mother decided to apply colour to Radha's face. The celebrations officially usher in spring, the celebrated season of love.
Holi is a festival of radiance in the universe. During this festival, different waves of radiance traverse the universe, thereby creating various colors that nourish and complement the function of respective elements in the atmosphere.
Milaad - Prophet Muhammad's birthday Celebrations. The life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is studded with examples of nurturing goodwill and mitigating conflicts; the essence of peace. He was called the Amin, the truthful, the trustworthy and Rahmatul Aalameen, a blessing for the entire humanity. He was a peace maker. I will be speaking on the topic on Saturday, February 27th
Purim is a festival that commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people of the ancient Persian Empire from Haman's plot to annihilate them, as recorded in the Biblical Book of Esther (Megillat Esther). According to the story, Haman cast lots to determine the day upon which to exterminate the Jews. Charity to the poor, sharing food with friends, and vigorous merrymaking mark the observance.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH
Black History Month Parade is a parade that celebrates the culture, heritage, history and accomplishments of Black Americans in the United States and across the World.
Black History Month is a remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. It is celebrated annually in the United States (US) and Canada in February and the United Kingdom in the month of October. To show they we treated unfairly.
The remembrance was founded in 1926 by United States historian Carter G. Woodson as "Negro History Week.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
US can benefit by understanding religion's role worldwide, report says
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
By Online Editor
By Dennis Sadowski Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- If the United States is to engage the world in a more effective and meaningful way, it must broaden its view of the role of religion in other countries beyond terrorism and counterterrorism strategies, a new report concluded.
Released Feb. 23 by the Chicago Council of Global Affairs, the report offers U.S. diplomats and policymakers a framework to better respond to the growing influence or religion in the affairs of the world's governments, said R. Scott Appleby, director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and a co-chairman of a task force that wrote the report.
"What we're calling for is a more consistent, integrated approach that is tailored, not going beyond the bounds of what's necessary," Appleby said at press briefing at Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.
"You would you think in a way, isn't this happening already, but for complicated and historical reasons, the answer has been no," he said.
The report, "Engaging Religious Communities Abroad: A New Imperative for U.S. Foreign Policy," recommends that throughout the U.S. government it's time to "understand and respond to religiously inspired actors and events in a way that supports those doing good, while isolating those that invoke the sacred to sow violence and confusion."
Appleby said the report calls for a new approach to foreign affairs that expands engagement with religious players around the world beyond the traditional government sectors of the State Department and the military and intelligence communities.
"There's been a real reluctance for people in our government to engage religion and yet under the radar, unofficially, it's become so apparent to people in government who are working on health care, on development, conflict resolution, that if you don't engage religious actors you're left behind," he said. "Opportunities for resolving conflict and building peace may be lost."
Task force co-chairman Richard Cizik, president of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, said that understanding the role of religion in societies around the world will lead to broader development for all people.
Appleby told Catholic News Service that he, Cizik and others involved in preparing the report were scheduled to discuss its findings Feb. 23 with Joshua Dubois, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
"We have a sense of urgency about this question because the world has brought this to our door," Appleby said.
More than a year in development, the report was prepared by a 32-member task force convened by the Chicago council. Members included religious leaders, academicians, policymakers, constitutional lawyers and members of the media.
Redefining foreign policy will require developing "detailed knowledge of religious communities, leaders and trends while moving beyond traditional state-to-state relations," the report said.
The task force recommended a series of actions for U.S. government to take as it expands its consideration of the role of religion in its work overseas.
The report called for mandatory training on the role of religion in world affairs for U.S. government and diplomatic officials. It also recommended tapping into the expertise and skills of military veterans and civilians returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The task force suggested that the president clarify that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit American officials from working with religious communities abroad in the conduct of foreign policy even though there are constraints on the means those officials may choose to do so.
In the process of engaging religious communities abroad, the task force urged that the U.S. work more closely with schools, hospitals, social services, relief and development and human rights programs sponsored by religious organizations.
"While these activities may appear to be nonpolitical, in the aggregate they have a powerful influence over peoples' lives and loyalties," the report said. "By engaging with institutions providing these services and assisting them in their endeavors, the United States can help build good will in religious communities and connect directly with ordinary citizens rather than just engaging with regimes."
In addition, the report recommended that America engage religious political parties even if they oppose U.S. foreign policy. It also recommended that the U.S. reaffirm its commitment to religious freedom and clarify what it means.
Other recommendations focused on embracing the promotion of democracy and human rights worldwide in a way that would lessen anti-American attitudes among religious parties and working with multilateral organizations such as the United Nations to expand and deepen their involvement with religious actors.
"Without a more serious and thoughtful engagement with religion across a host of issues and actors, U.S. foreign policy will miss important opportunities," the report concluded. "America's long history of influencing the international understanding of democracy and human rights will be compromised."
Copyright © 2010 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
The Chicago Council released its task force report, Engaging Religious Communities Abroad: A New Imperative for U.S. Foreign Policy, on February 23, 2010, in Washington D.C. at Georgetown University.
The task force cochairs discussed report findings and recommendations at a media breakfast and a lunchtime public release. E.J. Dionne, Washington Post columnist and professor at Georgetown University; and Afeefa Syeed, senior culture and development advisor, Asia and Middle East Bureaus, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), provided commentary on the report during the public program.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs convened a task force of thirty-two experts and stakeholders – former government officials, religious leaders, heads of international organizations, and scholars – to bring a diverse perspective to the debate over how to successfully engage religion on an international level.
Religious communities are central players in the counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan, development assistance, the promotion of human rights, stewardship of the environment, and the pursuit of peace in troubled parts of the world. The success of American diplomacy in the next decade will be measured in no small part by its ability to connect with the hundreds of millions of people throughout the world whose identity is defined by religion.
President Obama's historic speech in Cairo on June 4, 2009, with its promise to engage with Muslim communities, was an important step in the right direction. The report of this task force takes the next step in developing a strategy to engage religious communities of all faiths in addressing foreign policy challenges.
Generous support from the Henry Luce Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York has made this Task Force possible.
For online resources related to the report and to religion and U.S. foreign policy, visit Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.
American foreign policy's God gap
David Waters, "On Faith" blog, Washington Post
February 23, 2010
US can benefit by understanding religion's role worldwide, report says
Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service
February 23, 2010
Should religion be part of foreign policy? Uncompromising Western Secularism
Michael Stone, Portland Progressive Examiner
February 23, 2010
'God gap' impedes U.S. foreign policy,
task force says
David Waters, Washington Post
February 24, 2010
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
4:05 PM Thu, Feb 18, 2010 Permalink Yahoo! Buzz
Sam Hodges/Reporter Bio E-mail News tips
The release below gives details on a fast-approaching program at Southern Methodist University:
On Tuesday evening (Feb. 23) at 7 p.m. at SMU's Hughes-Trigg Theater in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center (http://smu.edu/maps/flash/) , the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance (www.dallasholocaustmuseum.org) is hosting a special program exploring the role of the newly-established Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission.
The program is free and open to the public, and complimentary valet parking is provided.
The Commission was established during the last session of the Legislature and signed into law last summer. State Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) and State Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) co-sponsored the bill creating the commission, which was passed unanimously.
Texas is the nation's 13th state to establish a commission or council devoted to Holocaust and genocide education. By law, the commission--considered the most important development in Holocaust education in Texas in years--is to help preserve information and experiences of the Holocaust and other genocide events. The commission will also work with organizations, agencies, museums, survivors and liberators to provide information and experiences and to coordinate memorial events in the state.
The SMU program will explore the commission's purpose in a Q&A format moderated by Texas Tribune Editor Evan Smith, formerly president and editor-in-chief of Texas Monthly. The panelists include Senator Shapiro; Peter Berkowitz, a Houston business executive who chairs the commission; Amy Fisher-Smith, an associate professor of psychology at University of Dallas, and a Holocaust educator; and Elliott Dlin, Museum Director of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance.
Texas is home to several hundred Holocaust survivors, and a few are expected to attend the event, co-sponsored by the Memnosyne Foundation (http://memnosynefoundation.org/) and the SMU Human Rights Program (http://smu.edu/humanrights/)
Posted by Mike Ghouse @ 2:57 PM Sun, Feb 21, 2010
I am glad to see our state passed the bill to recognize Holocaust and Genocides. I hope Dallasites will take the time to attend the program and learn and reflect upon the terrible things that we humans have inflicted upon each other.
The Jewish community has borne the suffering of the Holocaust for over sixty years; it is time for us to share it. No community should bear the suffering alone; we all have to stand up, and be there for each other.
Thank God the awareness is increasing; from one event in 2006 by the American Muslims, it has grown to three events this year; the III Annual Reflections on Holocaust and Genocides on 24th, the Gay and Lesbian commeration on 27th and now this event by the Holocaust Museusm in collobration with the Memnosyne Foundation.
Holocaust was a major human tragedy and a failure of humanity.
And perhaps the first time in our history that we acknowledged the genocides of the indigenous Americans and Native peoples of Americas in a public forum along with other tragedies.
I want to applaud the people of Dallas for attending the event. They were Atheists, Bahai, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Wicca, Zoroastrians and from sevral ethnicities and nationalities.
It was an educational program, where 7 speakers reflected on 7 topics for 7 minutes each. Then 7 commentators made comments about 7 different situations. The topics ranged from the Holocaust to Genocides, massacres and tragedies.
Among Genocides, Massacres and other tragedies we reflected upon the Indigenous American people such as the Mayans, the Toltecs and the massacres of the Native people right here in Dallas, we touched upon Darfur, Polpot, Congo, Armenia, Rwanda, Falun Dafa, Burma, Tibet, Bosnia, India, Gaza and the transatlantic slave trade. Through these representative events, our goal was to reflect upon every human tragedy. The words do not describe the sufferings of people in full, we have to work with the limited choice of words, but have a big heart to feel the pain and suffering of every human being, not just my people or my tribe, but every one. Let there be one negative energy of suffering that we are part of, together we can work on getting out of it.
There is a shameless cruelty in us, either we shy away or some times refuse to acknowledge the sufferings of others, worrying that it will devalue our own or some how it amounts to infidelity to our own cause, and shame on us for justifying massacres that the victims deserved it or they asked for it.
We learned a few simple things that we can do to prevent such tragedies. It was a purposeful event to learn, acknowledge and reflect upon the terrible things that we humans have inflicted upon each other. We also learned that our safety hinges on the safety of all others around us.
We learned to see each other with dignity, and honor the otherness of other. Gatherings such as this offer hope and opportunity for a secure and a safer world.
Of the several acknowledgements, a few notable ones are;
1. other peoples suffering is as legitimate as ours;
2. some one related to us through faith, ethnicity, land mass or race has been a butcher too,
3. it takes courage to see ourselves as perpetrators, while it is easy to ourselves as victims;
4. we can see the light at the end of the tunnel when politics is stripped;
5. we can value others suffering without lessening our own;
6. the overriding desire to highlight my own gets softened, when we value others pain;
7. the sense of responsibility for creating a better world was present in us.
It is an initiative of American Muslims striving to build responsible civic societies. The event was organized by the Foundation for Pluralism, where co-existence is our value. We appreciate the sponsorship by the Center for Spiritual Living, all the three are Dallas based Organizations.
And to every community that has endured holocaust, genocides, massacres, bombs, annihilation, land mines, hunger, rape, torture, occupation and inhuman brutality, the least we can do in the process of healing is to acknowledge every one's pain in one room, as one people. We have to teach tolerance and acceptance.
We have begun the process of coming together as one people, to stand with you, we are indeed one world and one humanity, and caring for each other brings safety and peace to all of us. I cannot be safe if the people around me are not, and I will not have peace if people around me don't. It is in my interest to seek a peaceful world for one and all.
A full day conference is planned for Wednesday, January 26, 2011 to discuss every human tragedy, please submit a thoroughly researched 500 word abstract about the event you'd like to discuss to -HolocaustandGenocides@gmail.com
Mike Ghouse, Chair
Holocaust and Genocides
Posted by Matthew Cappiello @ 5:01 PM Sun, Feb 21, 2010
Good to hear about this fantastic initiative!
Posted by Len Ellis @ 7:57 PM Sun, Feb 21, 2010
Indeed, more education and information about these tragedies is of utmost importance. Without such, the possibility that these horrific events can occur again is real. I hope that along with the history, a great deal of attention is placed on what allowed these events to occur, mainly, that people watched and did nothing. When we see people being persecuted, when we see people denied basic human rights, we must raise our voices and say "no!" The mantra associated with The Holocaust is "Never Again", yet to be true to the to the call, requires first that we even know about what happened, and second, that each of us take responsibility for our role.
I applaud these educational and participatory events, I encourage all to attend, and to speak out and speak up, for these atrocities still occur in our world today.
Dallas Peace Center
Posted by Harbans Lal @ 12:22 AM Mon, Feb 22, 2010
Yes, we will attend. Sikhs are those who suffered because of religious and ethnic hatred. They like to join all to make it sure that the hatred is transformed into understanding of the human suffering all over the world. The idea of sharing the suffering of the world is a powerful one to move the world where such atrocities are never inflicted on any human being, and if and when it ever happens again, it may be shared by all.
DFW Sikhs for Interfaith Understanding
Posted by Surinder Kaul @ 8:47 AM Mon, Feb 22, 2010
As a Kashmiri Hindu, I applaud the mention of our plight at the reflection program on January 24, no one cares about our issue, it was a relief to see them mention it.
Posted by Mike Ghouse @ 9:58 AM Tue, Feb 23, 2010
It is our duty, a moral obligation to acknolwedge the pain and suffering of all people. There is a shameless cruelty in us, either we shy away or some times refuse to acknowledge the sufferings of others, worrying that it will devalue our own or some how it amounts to infidelity to our own cause.
We all have to learn to see eye to eye, face to face, some one related to us via land mass, faith or race was a butcher, it does not mean, you and I are. We have to bring about a change by simply being human - feeling the pain of other no matter who it is, that is what makes us human.
We are looking forward to All day conference in January 2011 to acknowlege every human suffering, whether they are technically genocide or not. LIfe is precious and must be valued.
Mike Ghouse, Chair
Holocaust and Genocides
Friday, February 19, 2010
The Jewish News of Greater Phoenix published a letter and am glad it allowed to publish a different point of view as well. The following three letters are appended in the sequence; Cynthia Brooksworth, Dr. Jasser Zuhdi and Mike Ghouse (yet to be published).
"On Jewish-Muslim Dialogue
I found the article titled "Jewish-Muslim course uses texts to foster dialogue" (Jewish News, Feb. 12) a bit troublesome. To begin with, the author indicates that according to many Muslim scholars, Islam does not exhort Muslims to kill nonbelievers. This is blatantly untrue.
It takes very little research to find many quotes from Muhammad and the Quran that exhort the followers of Islam to "fight with the Jews 'til some of them will hide behind stones. The stones will (betray them) saying, 'O Abdullah (slave of Allah)! There is a Jew hiding behind me; so kill him'" and to "make war on non-Muslims until idolatry shall cease and God's religion shall reign supreme."
Muhammad said: "Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war."
And Sharia Law says: "'Jihad' means to make war on non-Muslims."
There are many other such passages in the Quran and in the sayings of Muhammad that are typical of what standard Islam teaches. It's not just the murderous jihadists who follow these words. The words are those of Allah and are immutable and for all time, according to most practicing Muslims.
In order for real dialogue to take place, the offensive texts from the Quran and the sayings of Muhammad should be discussed openly, especially those that are anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-American and anti-infidel ("infidel" meaning anyone who isn't a practicing Muslim) and that exhort Muslims to kill nonbelievers. If that's what this course purports to do, I wish the teachers and students a lot of luck.
Some of us in the Valley have been doing Jewish-Muslim dialogue before it was in vogue, in fact before 9/11. Our small, local Jewish-Muslim dialogue group, the Children of Abraham, started in 2000 and continues to meet.
Rabbi Reuven Firestone's new, more ambitious efforts based in a graduate course at the University of California, Berkeley (as reported by Sue Fishkoff) seem to be headed in the right direction. But the real substance of the course will be revealed in the frankness of the dialogue between Rabbi Firestone and the interestingly unnamed Muslim scholar.
This is also, most importantly, with the assumption that they not be bogged down in tiring apologetics from the Muslim scholar, which would give students a false sense of ideological comfort.
The letter writer above dives right into the scriptural issues this type of dialogue desperately needs to address. The Islamic "scriptures" cited are radical interpretations, which radical Muslims (Wahhabis) would associate with "their" form of Islam but which are not the translations and interpretations of Muslim scripture that I learned in "my" Islam.
Yes, those excerpts do exist and do fuel global jihadists and their theo-political fascism. But the important thing is the brewing civil war within the "House of Islam" over whose interpretations will prevail.
The supremacist interpretations are real and gaining ground, but if they predominated from the faith of a quarter of the world's population, the world would have perished long ago. Each passage the letter writer cites has - and needs - an alternative interpretation and a clear rejection from modern Muslims.
For example, the so-called quotation in which the Prophet Mohammed states "And the Jew will hide behind the stone and the tree, and the stone and the tree will say: 'Oh servant of Allah, Oh Muslim, this is a Jew behind me. Come and kill him!" is a forgery. I and many Muslims believe it was never stated by the Prophet Mohammed, regardless of what the radical imams like Yusuf Qaradawi of the Muslim Brotherhood think.
To dismiss our evolving Muslim civil war over scriptural exegesis and authenticity in Islam and hand over the reigns of the faith to a vicious minority of radical Muslims would be to surrender.
We have a lot of work to do, and I hope and pray that some day the silent majority of Muslims wake up and convincingly demonstrate in the court of public opinion that the Bin Laden narrative is not "our Islam."
These realities can only come out in honest dialogue. If the dialogue denies the reality of radical interpretations, it will fuel dangerous apologetics. Similarly, if it exaggerates the radical narrative, it will fuel the dismissal of the most important solution to radical Islam - a modern Islam that chooses peaceful, pluralistic interpretations of scripture and history and ultimately separates mosque and state.
M. Zuhdi Jasser
President, American Islamic Forum for Democracy
Peace is the ultimate unstated goal of every faith and tradition; indeed, to be a muslim is to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill.
Just like Dr. Jasser, I was dismayed reading the quote ascribed to Prophet Muhammad. There is always a few among us (all of us) who find flaring conflicts as a source of livelihood and flood the market with un-verified statements, conflicts keep their business of fear monering alive.
There are several myths like that, it is time to face them squarely and adderss them. I ask the Jewish community to put every card on the table, let's find veracity to such statements and go from there. I will take up the challenge and time to address the myths, rather false myths about Islam and Quraan.
At this moment I beg apology from my Jewish, Christian, Hindu and people of other faiths for not paying attention to deliberate mis-translations of Quraan by Neocons Christians, Neocon Jews and Neocon Muslim to propagate myths about the Quraan.
Here is the link to an Apology to Jews, Christians and others
Mike Ghouse, President
World Muslim Congress
Monday, February 15, 2010
Your friend Mike Ghouse missed the opportunity for a greater personality.
Rashad Hussain is an activist par-excellence from my home town Dallas and is greatly influenced by the Indian ethos of Pluralism and inclusiveness. He would fit right in with President's Obama’s idea of one world, where we respect every nation and their sovereignty.
He will strengthen the pluralistic values of America, and President’s desire to encourage the community of nations to review our values of Liberty, Justice and co-existence as catalysts for prosperity. As a Special envoy to the OIC, Rashad will initiate a positive relationship between America and the Muslim nations, I am proud of his heritage; an Indian, a Muslim and an American.
We have to maintain a healthy balance within our communities and with all nations, what is good for America has got to be good for the world and vice versa to sustain the equilibrium, he is the right man for the job. May God bless him in uplifting America’s role in creating a better world for the good of all.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Sagan, " Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every 'superstar,' every 'supreme leader,' every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam."
# # #
An Alien View Of Earth
by Nell Greenfieldboyce
NASA/JPLTaken in 1990 by NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft, the "pale blue dot" photo shows what our planet looks like from 4 billion miles away. Earth is the tiny speck of light indicated by the arrow and enlarged in the upper left-hand corner. The pale streak over Earth is an artifact of sunlight scattering in the camera's optics.
Audio Gallery: Views Of Earth From The Middle Ages To The Space Age
Historian Robert Poole Explores Images Of Earth Through The Ages
text sizeAAAFebruary 12, 2010 This week marks the 20th anniversary of a photograph. It's a very dramatic photo, even though, at first glance, it's mostly dark and seems to show nothing at all.
But if you look closely, you can see a tiny speck of light. That speck is the Earth, seen from very, very, very far away.
Two decades ago, Candice Hansen-Koharcheck became the first person to ever see that speck, sitting in front of a computer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in California. "I was all alone, actually, that afternoon, in my office," she recalls.
Her office was dark. The window shades were drawn. She was searching through a database of images sent home by the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which at the time was nearly 4 billion miles away. "I knew the data was coming back," she says, "and I wanted to see how it had turned out."
Finally, she found it.
"It was just a little dot, about two pixels big, three pixels big," she says. "So not very large."
But this was the Earth — seen as no human had ever seen it before.
What's more, an accidental reflection off the spacecraft made it look as though the tiny speck was being lit up by a glowing beam of light. "You know, I still get chills down my back," says Hansen-Koharcheck. "Because here was our planet, bathed in this ray of light, and it just looked incredibly special."
And yet, if you weren't searching for it, that special little speck would be almost invisible. The Apollo astronauts had taken photos that showed the Earth as a big blue marble, swirling with clouds and continents. But this picture showed the smallness of Earth in the vastness of space.
A New Perspective On The Planet
The late astronomer Carl Sagan eloquently tried to express how he felt about this photo in his book Pale Blue Dot:
Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every 'superstar,' every 'supreme leader,' every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
Robert Poole, a historian at the University of Cumbria in the United Kingdom who wrote a book on images of Earth from space called Earthrise: How Man First Saw the Earth, says this particular photo shows what an extraterrestrial might see as it approached our solar system.
NASA Center: Jet Propulsion LaboratoryOnboard the Voyager spacecraft is a 12-inch, gold-plated record with greetings in 59 languages, music samples and images.
NASA Center: Jet Propulsion LaboratoryOnboard the Voyager spacecraft is a 12-inch, gold-plated record with greetings in 59 languages, music samples and images.
Radiolab: Hear Carl Sagan And Ann Druyan's Guide For Aliens
Feb. 12, 2010"This is not our view. We've managed to go out and get the view that somebody else might have, whereas the early Apollo pictures of the blue marble were our own view of Earth," Poole says. "Like most people, I saw it in the newspaper not long after it was taken and kind of intellectually I thought, 'This is amazing!' "
A Photo That Almost Didn't Happen
Pictures like this are still few and far between. They are not exactly easy to take. In fact, we almost didn't get this one. Sagan lobbied for it early in the Voyager 1 mission. But others objected that taking it might fry the spacecraft's camera. That's because the Earth is so close to our extremely bright sun. "There was a reluctance to take any kind of risk when we would point back towards the sun; we didn't want to accidentally damage the cameras in any way," says Hansen-Koharcheck.
"Oh, there was a lot of debate as to what its value would be," recalls Edward Stone, who was — and still is — the chief scientist for the Voyager mission. "It was not a scientific image. It was really, I think, an image to sort of declare that here, for the first time we could take such an image, and second of all it provided a new perspective of Earth and its place in our solar neighborhood."
But the idea was shelved for years, as Voyager 1 flew through the solar system and did its science, sending images back from Saturn and Jupiter.
In 1989, the mission was winding down — some staff was going to leave. And Sagan made a last-minute request to please, please, take this unique photo before the opportunity disappeared forever. The decision went to the top levels of NASA "because it was going to extend the mission in terms of imaging capability for an additional six months or so and that of course did cost money," explains Stone.
"I did get a visit from Carl Sagan. We talked about a lot of things. And somewhere in that conversation he mentioned this idea," recalls the then-head of NASA, retired Vice Adm. Richard Truly. "I thought, heck, with Voyager so far away, if it could turn around and take a picture of the different planets including the Earth, that that would really be cool. And so I was a great advocate of it, although I can't take any credit for it."
In 1990, late on Feb. 13 — or on Valentine's Day, in the time zone used by the Voyager 1 team — the spacecraft turned its cameras to Earth.
A Relatively Tiny Object In The Vastness Of Space
Later, the image was released to the world to great fanfare. But it never really captured the popular imagination like the famous Apollo images.
"I think it was hard — it's still hard — to get really your head around the fact that our solar system is so immense, compared to Earth," says Stone.
To get the full impact of this photo, Stone says, you really have to see it up on a wall, as part of large panorama that Voyager 1 took of the solar system's distant planets.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab used to have just such a display with the full mosaic of photos posted up in an auditorium, says Hansen-Koharcheck. "And to show the whole thing it covered, oh, I don't know, 12 or 14 feet," she says — of mostly empty black space, with just a few pinpricks of light showing the planets. One of them was labeled Earth.
"One of the guys that took care of that display told me one time that he was forever having to replace that picture," says Hansen-Koharcheck, "because people would come up to look at it and they would always touch the Earth."
Voyager 1 is now about three times farther away than it was 20 years ago, says Stone. The spacecraft still routinely phones home, although its cameras no longer take photos. But if it could send back another picture, the little dot that is Earth would look even fainter and even smaller.
Valentine’s Day is a designated day to celebrate love, where two people choose to express their affection for each other. Through out the history, words have taken on new and expanded meanings, so is Valentine's Day.
Valentine Day is a universal expression of affection between any two individuals. Between husband and wife, between two people in love, be it mother and son, father daughter, brother sister, friends, uncles, aunties, Grand Pa and Grand Ma.
Continued - http://mikeghouseforamerica.blogspot.com/2010/02/valentines-day-taking-on-universal.html
Saturday, February 13, 2010
Speak up Muslims
The word "Fatwa" is wrongfully associated with "death threats", it may be wise for us, until we educate the public that it is merely an opinion, and instead use the word "Opinion". The word Fatwa carries a negative perception and until it is removed, it is not wise to use the word in this context. After all, we are using the English language to communicate and let the language be in English.
Furthermore, this "Fatwa" will be wrongfully propagated as Anti-American... continued: http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2010/02/bad-fatwa-by-muslim-american-body-about.html
Friday, February 12, 2010
As a community of people of the faith, we need to discourage such behavior, and as a Muslim I want to parttake in rebuilding of the synagogue Library by shipping a few books on Judaism that I have treasured.
Books are the most they want at this time.
Violence in Crete Against Synagogue: Library Destroyed
According to a news report, the 600-year old synagogue of Crete has been the victim of two
separate arson attacks that devastated their entire library.
Professor Igor H. de Souza, Professor in the Committee on Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago writes that the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass., has offered to replace some of the titles.
"I'm writing this to see if anyone has any of the books in the list of the books they are looking
to replace. If you do, and would like to donate them, please get in touch with me and I will take care of the shipping costs. They need a variety of books, such as encyclopaedias, dictionaries, etc, in several fields, in English, Hebrew or Greek." Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information and for a link to the list of books, see http://www.yiddishbookcenter.org/node/610
Shared by Graeme Sharrock
U.S. condemns two arsons at historic Synagogue in Crete
Tagged with: Anti-Semitism in Greece Donate to Etz-Hayyim synagogue Etz-Hayyim arson fires Etz-Hayyim Synagogue in Crete Torching of synagogue in Crete U.S. condemns
More .Burned remains of sacred treasures. Etz Hayyim Synagogue Photo.
By Salim Jiwa
WASHINGTON – The U.S. has strongly condemned the second torching of a historic synagogue on the Island of Crete calling it an example of anti-Semitic action designed to terrorize Greece’s Jewish community.
“We strongly condemn the January 5 and January 16 arson attacks on the Etz-Hayyim Synagogue in the city of Chania on the island of Crete,” a state department spokesman said on Wednesday. “The Synagogue dates back to the Middle Ages and is one of the last Jewish monuments on the island. An attack on the Etz-Hayyim Synagogue is an attack on Greece’s history and heritage,” said a press release issued Wednesday evening.
“The second attack caused severe damage to the Synagogue, destroying nearly 2,000 books and severely damaging the building’s wooden roof,” the state department spokesman said. The small Jewish community on the Island had worked hard to try and restore some of the damage done in a January 5 attack when the second attack occurred in the middle of the night, according to a blog on the synagogue’s website.
“This attack was clearly intended to intimidate and terrorize Greece’s Jewish community and is only the latest of several incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism throughout Greece over the past few years,” said state department spokesman Mark C. Toner.
“We applaud the Greek government for condemning these attacks and taking a strong stand against anti-Semitism and racism,” said Toner. “Our Embassy in Athens is in contact with the Synagogue. Embassy officials will be meeting with their Greek counterparts to underscore U.S. concern over this incident.”
A blog on the website of the synagogue said community members had scraped, primed, polished and oiled some of the wood work and marble flooring when the second attack took place. “On the night of Friday, January 15, after more than a week of work on the sanctuary – newly scraped, primed and re-painted; the wood-work oiled with lavender and the marble floor polished – we met for Erev Shabbat prayers and Kiddush,” said the blog.
“Later we locked the synagogue and returned to our homes feeling that we had set our steps forward. Saturday morning at 3:30 AM however the Synagogue’s director was wakened by the alarm that had been set off in the Synagogue and rushed there accompanied by two helpers to find the entire main office ablaze.”
“They began putting out the fire with the garden hose as the firemen had not yet succeeded in getting their hoses connected. When the mains were finally connected the firemen set to work – by 4:45 the fire was only smoldering and all that remained of the upper and lower office was completely gutted,” said a news blog.
“Everything in the main office – e.g. two computers, complete Talmud, Midraschim, 2 sets of Rashi lexicons (Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew) plus many reference books and the entire archive of the Synagogue have all been destroyed.
“By noon the Siphrei Torah along with all of the silver ornaments (rimonim, tassim, yads etc.) and a precious early 17th century illuminated Qur’an were removed to a secure location. It was a sad moment to see them being taken away from the Kal as it was a joyous moment when they had been installed in 1999. But we are determined that they will come back!”
- Those wishing to donate to rebuild the synagogue can go here.
Arsonists attack synagogue in Crete
Last Updated: Saturday, January 16, 2010 11:01 AM ET Comments104Recommend23CBC News A synagogue on the Greek island of Crete was hit by arsonists for the second time in three weeks, police said Saturday.
The attack happened in the city of Chania when an unknown number of people entered the building, broke through a first-floor door and started a fire, police said.
Fire officials said the blaze partly destroyed the synagogue's wooden ceiling, as well as many of its archives, computers and CDs. Police say about 2,500 books, many of them rare editions, were destroyed in this attack and a previous arson attack three weeks ago.
Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2010/01/16/crete-synagogue.html#ixzz0fMVGxSKD
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
From global poverty to societal degradation and environmental issues the beginnings of the new millennium have presented humanity with challenges on a scale never seen before. The prevalence of these trends has shown that we now exist in a pivotal time in our history that could potentially determine the direction of the future state of mankind. However, in the midst of these challenges there also exists a unique potential for great change in the world.
Most notably, the recent tragedy in Haiti, has displayed a sign that much of the world has never seen before. For the first time humanity has witnessed solidarity, coexistence, and promotion of social awareness amongst all nations and peoples to respond quickly and willingly to the dire needs of human beings and the society around them. For some the tragedy in Haiti, exposed them for the first time to realities of poverty, human suffering and societal degradation. Moreover, what is unknown by some of these people is that these issues exist in many nations and communities around the world.
Thus, this calls one to wonder if we as international communities are able to unify to respond so quickly and willingly to a humanitarian and global cause why can’t other ones around the world be met with the same amount of awareness and effort. If there are so many other social issues around the world that should be brought forth why are they not addressed? Additionally, if there are so many vital causes why can’t we dedicate our time, effort and knowledge to solve them? These are all important questions asked by many people around the world that have recognized the dire need for change of the state of mankind and our planet. But interestingly, what is not known by many people around the world is that there exist sufficient resources, knowledge and welfare to solve many of these issues.
As a result, many leaders around the world have come to the realization that the path to sustainable peace and development of all nations and societies is not based on national interests or the efforts of government leaders but must in fact start with the individual citizen. For humanity to move forward as one global community we as global citizens must not only come together in unity to educate ourselves about these issues but also work concertedly with our efforts and welfare to resolve them. Here in the United States of America as one of the most pluralistic countries in the world that has established itself based upon the notions of equality, liberty and justice for all there exists a great opportunity to initiate this global movement towards sustainable peace and development of all humanity.
Thus, as a part of this movement we at the Foundation for Pluralism have proposed a project in an effort to promote this cause, it will be called Project Soam.
Project Soam will be a collaborative societal project in the DFW Metroplex to promote social awareness, solidarity, development and co-existence amongst humanity. The word Soam comes from an Arabic word that is widely used in the Muslim book the Quran meaning "to abstain from personal actions in order to dedicate oneself towards a noble duty or cause", thus in Project Soam individuals, institutions and service organizations are all called upon to sacrifice their welfare, effort and time to provide sustenance and development towards the most vital causes of humanity and environment around us. As a global community whose wounds and entanglements are felt by all nations and people, let us join together in order to dedicate ourselves towards this great cause for the future security and welfare of all mankind.
Strategic Plan for Project Soam
The Project in itself involves 2 main focuses
1.Raising money, charity and recruiting volunteers for various international development, relief and humanitarian organizations.
2. Recruiting volunteers from all ages and communities to work with organizations and institutions that focus on local humanitarian, societal development and environmental causes. These organizations and institutions causes’ will be featured in the Week of Soam in which individuals will give a few days to dedicating themselves to working on local causes of their choice.
Project Soam Structure
The founder of the Project Soam Kamran Cheikh will speak personally to institutions, schools and organizations to promote Project Soam and establish potential general fund venues. In the months of either April or May depending on the time constraints and number of organizations participating in the project, the Foundation for Pluralism will host Service fair/lecture nights that will give both representatives from both local and international causes a chance to speak about their organization’s work.
Volunteers from various schools, communities and institutions will be encouraged to come and listen to speakers as well as potentially sign up for causes and donate charity. For international organizations this will give them a chance to also collect donations from attendants and also recruit volunteers for their organization. Local causes will have an opportunity to recruit volunteers for their part in the Week of Soam which will occur a few days after the Project Soam service fair/lecture nights. Each individual will choose a few days of their choice dedicated to a cause of their interest. An individual may choose a different cause for each day or choose to work on the same one for each day. On the days of Soam volunteers will start their work in the early morning and work until early evening.
What is needed?
• Local representatives from international humanitarian, development and relief organizations to speak about the work and causes that they deal with as well as collect charity and recruit volunteers to send abroad for their organization.
• Representatives from local service organizations, religious as well as non religious institutions that have particular local humanitarian, development or environmental causes they are interested in promoting to lecture and recruit volunteers for their causes. Even if organizations are not giving a lecture they are encouraged to be present at the service fair nights to recruit volunteers for their cause.
• Volunteers needed whether they be local activists, religious on non religious institutions, High schools and University service and peace groups to sign up for the Week of Soam featured by local organizations. Volunteers are also encouraged to come to the service fair nights who are interested in volunteering with international organizations.
• Donators needed from general community for general fund that will be given to all international organizations that participate in the project. Venues for collecting general fund such as High schools, businesses and Universities are also needed.
Inspired by a passion for peace and service and the Qur’anic call to benefit all humanity, Project Soam was founded by Kamran Cheikh in 2010. He is a graduate from the University of Notre Dame with a B.A in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies. He now works on the Executive Board for the non for profit organizations the Foundation for Pluralism and the World Muslim Congress. Project Soam is an initiative sponsored by the Foundation for Pluralism and supported by its partner organization the World Muslim Congress. (the non-profit status by IRS is in the works).
My heart is in tune with the Native Americans and the native people around the world. I am sensitive to what they have endured over the centuries, it is time for all of us Americans to come together and acknowledge their contributions and honor their tradition with the Native American Heritage Day.
Ms. Ruth Bryan, with a Cherokee heritage in her veins has taken the initiative to make this happen, with ample signatures she will be powered to go forward.
Could you please sign this online petition to commemorate an annual Native American Heritage day? if you want to remember it, just go to www.FoundationforPluralism.com and sign the petition.
Here is the link - http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/naheritageday
The civility of a nation is expressed in terms of how it cherishes its minorities; it’s under privileged, the weak and insignificant segments of the society. In an ideal society each individual member of the society feels free from fear, and feels secure knowing and believing that the rule of law applies to one and all. Justice is the core value of such a society.
There are still nations out there, who are yet to take their first step towards the goal of civility, and thank God, we Americans have come a long way and are blessed with the opportunities and wherewithal’s to do it.
Each community, each nation and each faith is like a beautiful bus; when you plan to go somewhere, you make sure all its tires have the same amount of air pressure for it to run effectively, to give better mileage, lasting tire wear, all the mechanical parts must be greased, all the parts must be checked for a safe, stable and sure journey.
We need to work together to ensure that every one is on par to ride the road of progress, we need to fill the tire if the pressure is inadequate, instead of asking the tire to fill itself. Whose loss is it if the tire does not fill itself?
We need to work for a well balanced, smoothly functioning society. Ignoring one tire or a community is an irresponsible thing for the bus journey.
Peace and prosperity of our World hinges on justice and plurality, absence or deficiency of it will cause the BUS to slow down. It is in the interests of Community of the Nations to bring up the people in ditches on to a level playing field, and let them compete from that point forward. Imagine each community to be a tire of the bus, if all the tires have adequate air pressure, the smoothness of the journey is certain, assured and safe.
Each one of us needs to be the 'source' of goodwill to bring that equilibrium. You and I are not safe if the world around us isn't. All change begins with you and me. And I pledge that whatever I do, I will do it to bind people together, and will be a source of goodwill.
There is a heritage day for the people of Asia Pacific, for the African Americans and it is time for the Native American Heritage Day.
Mike Ghouse is a thinker, writer, speaker, optimist and an activist of Pluralism, Interfaith, Co-existence, Peace, Islam and India. He is a frequent guest at the TV, radio and print media offering pluralistic solutions to issues of the day. His work is reflected at three websites and 22 Blogs listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/
A few pictures for the heritage site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeghouse/sets/72157623272139347/show/
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
In U.S., Religious Prejudice Stronger Against Muslims 43% of Americans admit to feeling some prejudice toward followers of Islam Analysis by the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More than 4 in 10 Americans (43%) admit to feeling at least "a little" prejudice toward Muslims -- more than twice the number who say the same about Christians (18%), Jews (15%) and Buddhists (14%). The findings are based on a new Gallup Center for Muslim Studies report, "Religious Perceptions in America: With an In-Depth Analysis of U.S. Attitudes Toward Muslims and Islam," released Thursday.
In a separate question asking Americans to express their overall view about each of the four religions evaluated, Islam is the most negatively viewed. Nearly one-third of Americans (31%) say their opinion of Islam is "not favorable at all" versus 9% who say their opinion is "very favorable." This stands in contrast to Americans' views of Christianity and Judaism, which are far more likely to be "very favorable" than "not favorable at all," while Buddhism draws almost equally positive and negative opinions at the extremes. Gallup conducted the nationwide U.S. survey between Oct. 31 and Nov. 13, 2009, spanning the Fort Hood shooting in which a U.S.-born Muslim military doctor killed 13 people on the Army base on Nov. 5.
The new report further explores variables that are associated with extreme prejudice ("a great deal") toward followers of Islam as well as variables that may be related to lack of prejudice. To download the full report, go to www.muslimwestfacts.com . Key findings from the report will also be released next month in Cairo, Egypt. The Gallup Center for Muslim Studies conducts its Washington, D.C., and Cairo launches with its Muslim West Facts partner, the Coexist Foundation.
Survey MethodsResults for this Gallup Panel study are based on telephone interviews with 1,002 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct.31-Nov.13, 2009. Gallup Panel members are recruited through random selection methods. The panel is weighted so that it is demographically representative of the U.S. adult population. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3.4 percentage points.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
Obama's decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan represents a decisive endorsement of the strategy of domination. Instead of using his presidency to challenge the ideology of the war makers, Obama has become one of the most brilliant and nuanced articulators of the "war as the path to peace" worldview. It is essentially the same argument that was used to defend the Cold War, the war in Vietnam, and the projection of U.S. military power around the world for the past sixty-five years.
"We must begin," Obama told the world on December 10, 2009, while receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in Stockholm, "by acknowledging the hard truth: we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified."
Obama doesn't tell us why he thinks this is true, except to point to the past. Now imagine if a leader had said, "We will not eradicate ... in our lifetime" and substitute in that blank space any of the following: slavery, sexism, apartheid, segregation, hunger, environmental destruction, child abuse, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, or any other global evil. Many of us would probably say, "Whoa, you might be right -- we can't know for sure -- but certainly whether you are right or not on any of these issues will be affected by whether you prioritize the abolition of these problems. If our leaders start by assuming that x, y, or z cannot be abolished, they will likely put less energy into doing so than they might, so this kind of diagnosis becomes self-fulfilling."
In his Nobel Prize speech, Obama acknowledges that his position is in stark contrast to that of Martin Luther King Jr. when King was awarded the Nobel Prize. Then he jumps to the Moral Man and Immoral Society approach championed by Reinhold Niebuhr and subsequently used by conservatives and neoconservatives to justify the Cold War and the war in Vietnam: what is moral for an individual is not necessarily what is moral for a society. According to this view, a nation must be guided by self-interest and the need to defend its own citizens, not the self-interest of the whole planet (though in the twenty-first century our self-interest depends on the well-being of everyone else on the planet -- a point that Obama does not consider). So, Obama goes on, "As a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by [King and Gandhi's] example alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people."
We recognize that the president of the United States has a special responsibility to defend the United States from attack. We have never been doctrinaire pacifists -- but then again, neither were King and Gandhi (both of them recognized circumstances in which they might not oppose the use of force). But we do believe that in most circumstances, the threat of force against us must be overwhelmingly clear, the danger immediate, and all other potential strategies besides war must have been exhaustively tried. None of these is the case with regard to Afghanistan.
In fact, Obama would be hard pressed to convince objective observers that there is an immediate threat to the American people that could not be resolved by ending poverty in the Middle East, from Gaza to Afghanistan. Without trying that approach, Obama is on weak ground to argue that he is applying "just war" theory.
But in Stockholm, Obama wasn't considering the strategy of generosity. The only alternative he considers is one of total nonviolence a la his caricature of King and Gandhi, and that one he dismisses by warning: "Make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism -- it is a recognition of history: the imperfections of man and the limits of reason."
The Meaning of "Evil"
There is so much ideological baggage built into these sentences it is hard to disentangle them. First, there is the religious/metaphysical belief that "Evil" exists in the world. This is a claim that has been substantially challenged by many of us, and which I take on in The Left Hand of God. Many spiritual progressives acknowledge that evil acts have happened and that young children often inherit personalities, character structures, and ideological frameworks from people who have acted in evil ways or who have supported institutions or religious and secular practices that have embodied evil. First and foremost, they inherit a propensity to solve problems through violence.
Living in a world based on an unequal distribution of food, housing, and security -- in a world where some of the powerful media glorify violence, and where various branches of secular and religious ideologies preach a philosophy of self-interest and domination over others -- encourages us to think and act in hurtful ways. But that is very different from ontologizing Evil as an "existent reality." For a fuller discussion of this issue, please read Erich Fromm's 1973 classic The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. From our standpoint, there is much to do to reduce evil actions and ideas that encourage evil practices and institutions that inflict hurt on others, but that is different from insisting that there is such an entity in the world as Evil. We can develop individual and social practices, institutions, and therapies to reduce evil actions or ideas or institutions, whereas Evil seems like a metaphysical category that cannot be eliminated, and hence provides the justification for a militarism that itself perpetuates and expands immoral and destructive violence and hurtfulness.
When Nonviolence Does Work
Next, there is Obama's reference to Hitler, which once again gives Hitler the victory of allowing his existence to become the reason why we must act in similar ways to his, showering violence on innocent civilians (and yes, the United States did that extensively in Iraq; and in the past year, the Obama administration has been responsible for the murder of hundreds more civilians through its use of drones to pick out "suspected" terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan).
And no, it is not obvious that Hitler could not have been stopped through nonviolence and generosity. That would not have worked when he was using the German army to invade neighboring countries, starting in 1938. But it was not too late in 1924, and possibly not even in 1933 or 1934. Had the victorious allies after World War I initiated a Marshall Plan for Europe and followed through with generosity and genuine caring for the well-being of everyone affected by that war, and had progressive movements in Europe been aligned with the worldviews of a Martin Buber and a Mahatma Gandhi rather than the worldviews of Stalin, Trotsky, and nationalist-oriented social democratic parties, then yes, Hitler could have been stopped through nonviolence.
The absurdity of comparing the estimated one hundred terrorists of al-Qaida in Afghanistan in 2010 (people who have almost no weapons and no access to atomic bombs) with the power of the German army when Hitler could not have been stopped by nonviolence (namely after 1938) reeks of intellectual sloppiness, if not of dishonesty. Isn't it time for us to recognize that not every threat to American power (or for that matter, to Israeli security) is Hitler?
A defender of military escalation could now argue, "Sure, they don't have Hitler's power yet, but certainly they would like to have it, and they might eventually overthrow the government of Pakistan and get their hands on nuclear weapons." Yes, they might. But so might China decide that in order to gain greater economic power it should use its atomic weapons against the United States. Or Israel might decide that to protect itself from the possibility that Iran might get and use atomic weapons it would be best for Israel to make a preemptive strike on Iran. In fact, the basic strategic argument for Israel's occupation of the West Bank and its stranglehold on Gaza is that if Palestinians ever get real power, they might use it against Israel. And in fact, that was the argument used by whites to maintain power over Blacks in South Africa.
The Torah makes clear when dealing with this issue that there needs to be an act through which this "might" starts to become an "is." It says if a person comes toward you with the intent of killing you, you have the right to kill first. But the intent is necessary but not sufficient. The person must be in the act of fulfilling his intention. The reason should be obvious: people or even the rulers of nations may have fantasies of eliminating other states, peoples, religions, or ethnic groups, but until they act to make that murder actual, their fantasies or desires are not sufficient grounds for preemptive action.
What Gives the United States the Right to Intervene?
What grounds did we have for a violent attack on the Taliban? The Taliban did not strike the United States but rather, according to the official story, it was al-Qaida. Al-Qaida was given shelter by the Taliban, who did not recognize the right of the United States to put al-Qaida leaders on trial. The United States then intervened militarily and put al-Qaida on the run by overthrowing the Taliban government. But it was not the Taliban who executed an attack on the United States.
True enough, the Taliban often engage in evil acts of violence, particularly against women seeking equality and rights. But so too does the government of China in regard to Tibetans; the government of Russia in regard to Chechnyans; the governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Syria in regard to their own populations; and the government of Israel in regard to Palestinians. In short, we can wish other countries had different systems or different leaders, but that is different from claiming that our wishes provide a sufficient justification for violent intervention. To take another example: the United States incarcerates between 2 million and 3 million people at any given time, thus denying freedom to more people than any other society on earth. Many of the prisoners' "crimes" turn out to be motivated by a desire to feed their families in the face of stark material deprivation. Many others are incarcerated due to the application of universal standards (like anti-drug laws) in a racist manner (giving jail time to people from communities of color while providing alternative treatment modalities to whites). How would we feel if China or some other soon-to-be-powerful country someday decides that in order to bring freedom and justice to our society, it must use its most sophisticated weapons to overthrow the repressive government of the United States and stop it from abusing human rights?
Maybe there are circumstances where that could be justified. World War II was one such. The Hutu and Tutsi massacres in Rwanda were another such moment. But we'd want to see very careful limits on such interventions. They should be a product of open democratic debate and should only occur if a majority of the people in the countries seeking to intervene are convinced of the morality of such an intervention. And military interventions should only occur after adequate and serious efforts to involve the countries of the world, and those representing a majority of the world's population should agree to such an intervention.
The United States has no right to appoint itself the policeman of the world's moral ills, particularly given our "dirty hands" with regard to past interventions. Our interventions are often motivated by economic and military-power desires that have nothing to do with the moral gloss our leaders put on these interventions. If the United States took a few years to urge other countries of the world to build an international force to protect the rights of women in Afghanistan, and if it promised to leave and let that force be the enforcers of human rights, it would have a much better case for involvement should such a force be impossible to create. But the United States has only asked the countries of the world to join under its own military ventures, and these are rightfully suspect.
President Obama has used his massive credibility with liberals to persuade a section of them to support his war. Before his speech, a majority of Americans opposed the war (please remember that in case anyone tries to tell you "Americans are intrinsically militarists"). Over 54 percent opposed the war until a supposedly progressive president made an unequivocal intellectual and policy commitment to pursuing it, and then his majority was only possible because of the many conservatives and Christian fundamentalists who have always been soft on violence against others. Now the New York Times has come around, largely on the basis of seeing how his Nobel Prize acceptance speech insisted that even while engaging the war against "a vicious adversary that abides by no rules," Obama claimed that the United States must remain "a standard-bearer in the conduct of war." This is a stretch, at best, seeing as the Obama administration has allowed "extraordinary rendition" of suspected enemy combatants, has failed to prosecute the CIA employees who allowed Blackwater thugs to murder Iraqis alongside the military, and has authorized the drones that have killed large families and civilian gatherings.
What the United States Should Do
The United States should turn to the UN and seek an international force with the mission of a) holding an honest election in which the Taliban would be invited to participate; b) protecting institutions of civil society; and c) creating safety in the major cities of Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the United States should lend support to regional negotiations and to a broader settlement of the disputes between India and Pakistan, which continue to stoke the violence in Afghanistan. Most important, the U.S. government should launch a Global Marshall Plan with its first focus on the Middle East (from Gaza through Afghanistan), including massive humanitarian aid to the desperately poor Afghan population. The ability to deliver such aid would be enhanced if it were not perceived as intermingled with military occupation by the United States.
At the core of our approach is a recognition that "the enemy" is often a projection of our own worst fantasies on others, who in turn are projecting their worst fantasies on us. American leaders, like most political leaders on the planet, seem incapable of imagining how the world looks from the perspective of the hungry, the relatively powerless, or those who have been subjected to outsiders trying to impose their regimes, economic systems, and worldviews. Obama has failed to learn the lessons of Vietnam: one cannot win a war against a population that has been fighting for many decades for its own independence. No matter what America's stated war aims, the people of Afghanistan perceive the American military presence as generating far more violence and destruction than they faced before the United States got involved. As Senator Russ Feingold put it, " I think (our presence) is increasing the extremism and increasing the resentment toward the United States."
Indeed, what Feingold predicts has already happened. According to a letter from a recent visitor to Afghanistan:
After eight years of misguided bombing raids to kill Taliban who are living in villages surrounded by civilians, we have created a new multi-headed enemy. Today the Taliban are different from the original fundamentalists who waged a war in the name of Islam. According to the director of the Peace and Reconciliation process in Kabul only about 10 percent to 15 percent of Taliban are ideologically motivated today. The rest are a combination of poor villagers angry at U.S. bombing, out of work youth, former militia, drug smugglers, plain thugs, and those from the countryside who distrust any national government, no matter whose it is.
Most of these people, observers in Kabul believe, would put down their weapons if offered money, land, jobs, and personal security.
A statement from the Campaign for Peace and Democracy that dozens of peace activists and I signed in October 2009 pointed out that U.S. actions in Afghanistan and Pakistan must be viewed in the context of a global military system much more massive and far-flung than most Americans realize. Officially, over 190,000 troops and 115,000 civilian employees are stationed in approximately 900 military facilities in forty-six countries and territories -- and the actual numbers are far greater. In the words of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, U.S. military spending of more than $600 billion a year "adds up to about what the entire rest of the world combined spends on defense."
So it is not unreasonable to notice that the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan have been part of a comprehensive effort to assert U.S. strategic power and credibility, in the Central and South Asian region and globally -- the power to control energy supplies, to overawe rivals, to intervene wherever Washington deems necessary, and to engage other countries in U.S. power projection. Since 2001, the United States has established nineteen bases in Afghanistan and neighboring countries, inserting a military presence into an area that Russia and China also seek to influence.
Women's Rights in Afghanistan
The argument that the United States must stay involved in Afghanistan to protect women from oppressive variants of Islamic fundamentalism is compelling but ultimately not persuasive: women's situation under the Karzai regime remains horrific. President Karzai signed a disgraceful law earlier this year applying to Shia women that gives a husband the right to withdraw basic maintenance from his wife, including food, if she refuses to obey his sexual demands. It grants guardianship of children exclusively to their fathers and grandfathers, and requires women to get permission from their husbands to work. If the Karzai government in Afghanistan, bolstered by the Obama war, manages to stay in power, women will continue to face massive denial of human rights, though better than the situation they would face if the Taliban win.
My comrade Arthur Waskow suggested -- partly tongue-in-cheek, but partly to encourage thinking outside the box -- that we call a conference of the independent women's organizations in Afghanistan. Organizers could offer micro-loans for grassroots economic development to any ten women who apply as a group (loans ranging from $1,000 to $5,000). And they could offer ten revolvers and 1,000 bullets to each group of women: one gun and fifty bullets for each woman for target practice, and fifty bullets for defense against anyone who comes to assail them for being uppity. If any women's group chooses not to receive the guns but to take their chances on nonviolence, their micro-loan doubles. Then the United States leaves -- generals, predators, drones, and all -- except for continuing contact with the micro-loan organizations.
A similar plan has been suggested for all of Afghanistan -- to offer massive financial aid to those Taliban who put down their guns and join a peaceful effort to stabilize the country. It would be far cheaper than the kind of open-ended commitment the Obama administration is making to Afghanistan. I would welcome an international intervention, sans NATO, with the sole aim of providing protection for the women of Afghanistan.
A Better Strategy for Homeland Security
One reason why many spiritual and religious activists celebrated the outcome of the 2008 election was the perception fostered by the Obama campaign that the new president really understood that militarism and the use of force to achieve American objectives should be relegated to the dustbin of history, at least until every nonviolent strategy has been exhaustively tried. Indeed, in his private meeting with me in 2006, Obama explicitly embraced the Tikkun/NSP perspective that a strategy of generosity would necessarily be more effective than a strategy of domination.
The Tikkun/NSP strategy was given teeth by the vice chair of the Progressive Caucus of the House of Representatives, Keith Ellison, who has worked with us to develop a Domestic and Global Marshall Plan (DGMP). Under this plan, the United States would lead the advanced industrial societies of the world in committing between 1 percent and 2 percent of its Gross Domestic Product each year for the next twenty to end global poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education, and inadequate health care, and to repair the global environment. This strategy for "homeland security" would be far more effective than the futile strategy of domination against countries that might at some future time pose a threat to the United States.
Now that Obama has decided to escalate the war in Afghanistan, many of Obama's most fervent supporters -- including the many religious and spiritual progressives who believed he would turn our foreign policy away from militarism and toward creating a more caring world economic system -- are expressing dismay to each other. Spiritual progressives have long known what Obama seems not yet to have absorbed in a serious way: that the path to peace must be a path of peace, and that you cannot bomb and kill your way to security. Obama's escalation of the war in Afghanistan has left us feeling bleak and betrayed.
The "American Depressions" portrayed on the cover of this issue of Tikkun are not only about the over 10 percent of the population unable to find work. They involve a psychic and spiritual depression. Having allowed ourselves to hope that the Obama administration would unequivocally commit to a new worldview, masses of Americans who supported Obama are now filled with confusion and despair.
We spiritual progressives should not allow ourselves to succumb to this depression. We must continue to help Americans (including our political leaders) to recognize "the other" as fundamentally another part of ourselves. We are one human race. The illusions of our fundamental differences that supposedly justify us in war making must be overcome. We face a major challenge in saving our planet from the consequences of our own destructiveness. War is not the way to achieve the new consciousness that is needed to save the human race, so every possible nonviolent means must be used to avoid war before it has started, and to stop it now that it is being escalated. But as Congressman Keith Ellison points out in an interview in this issue of Tikkun, this is not a time to give in to despair. King didn't, Gandhi didn't, and we must not either.
We know full well that the military-industrial complex and the forces on Wall Street and in the media are certain to ridicule such efforts and to repress those who take them seriously. We continue to believe that deep inside Obama would like to be part of a different kind of world, but advisers have convinced him that a military path is the only "realistic one." Our task remains to provide concrete alternative ways of thinking and policy development. That's why it is so important that you come to join us at our conferences (February 15 for one day in San Francisco, and June 11-14 in Washington, D.C. For more info, visit www.tikkun.org/conference). We will continue to be a bastion of hope and a visionary advocate about how to achieve safety and security for all the people of the world and for our endangered planet.