B U L L E T I N

PLEASE VISIT www.CenterforPluralism.com for all information

-----------------------------

Sunday, February 24, 2013

First Muslim Intra-Faith Dialogue at Boniuk Center

MUSLIMS TOGETHER IN HOUSTON
Thursday, February 21, 2013. 

This was the first of its kind Intra-faith Dialogue between Ahmadiyya, Sunni, Shia and WD Muhammad Groups of Muslims.  This dialogue is not an effort to reconcile the differences, or finding convergence, it was merely to begin a process of sharing where we agree or disagree, and honestly acknowledging our differences without judgment. The panel made every effort not to appease any one, but to state their own position politely in a genuine dialogue without ever considering the other opinion to be anything less. It was not an effort to convert the other, but rather our struggle (jihad) to understand each other genuinely. Precedence to this effect was set up by the man himself; Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), some of which I shared last night.  

Ghouse. Dr. Shaikh, Al-Qazwini, Pardee, Ali, Haneef, Motley
CLICK ON PIC TO SEE A LARGER VERSION
I am pleased to express my gratitude to Dr. Milton and Laurie Boniuk, Chairperson, Executive Director Michael Pardee and coordinator BJ Smith of the Boniuk Center. Dr. David Leebron, President of Rice University, and Sabrina Motley, Director of Asia Society. 

Thank you for sponsoring the first of its kind dialogue among Muslims themselves, the outcome and the tone of the dialogue was very encouraging. I also thank Dr. Basheer and Dr. Saleha Khumwalla for hosting the intra-cultural dinner.

Dr. Boniuk, your center, Rice University and Asia Center have unleashed an initiative that will grow and give hopes for a better world, a world where a fellow Muslim or a human need not be  uncomfortable, apprehensive or afraid of the other. Indeed, it is small step for Muslims, but a giant leap for mankind. Your enthusiasm for Intra-faith Dialogue among Muslims is one the most critical efforts in centuries, and we appreciate it.

This program would not have been successful without Michael Pardee’s dedication; he relentlessly pursued this until the job was done executed perfectly. It was not an easy thing to bring diverse people together, congratulations Mike.

Of course, the success hinged on our guests who attended the event to a packed house, they participated with silence, applause and questions, and hopefully have walked away with a hope that there is a reason to believe that the efforts like this will bear fruit.  I cannot thank enough to our Panelists, Imam Azhar Haneef, Imam Wazir Ali, Imam Moustafa al-Qazwini and Imam Dr. Zia Shaikh for responding to some of the toughest questions with grace, precision, fullness and within the given time.

The only thing I wish different was time allotted for the program; I wish it was two hours. But, on the other hand, I am happy that due to time limitation, a good foundation is laid and a good tone is set up for Dialogue-II as a progression, and setting up a model for similar conversations elsewhere.


The Department of State has listed me as a stop to dialogue with visiting Scholars, Imams, Ministries and Religious men and women from North Africa, Middle East, Central Asia and China. Our interactive conversation on Pluralism and interfaith is usually set for 4 hours and over the last ten years, I must have exchanged or taught Pluralism to over 100 such men and women, and indeed the Saudi Interfaith Dialogue was seeded here in Dallas. I must report to you, that the programs have been as exciting as our program on the 21st, they are as much tuned into Pluralism as we are here, but yet, their message has not reached their masses, no media has given coverage to such great things. Where is the gap? And what are we missing? There is a disconnect somewhere and we need to work on it in Asia, particularly in Pakistan, Iraq, Bangladesh and India.

This dialogue by no means was an effort to reconcile the differences, or finding convergence, it was merely to share where we agree and honestly acknowledge our differences without judgment. The panel has made every effort not to appease any one, but to state their own position politely in a genuine dialogue without ever considering the other opinion to be anything less. It was not an effort to convert the other, but rather our inner struggle (jihad) to understand each other genuinely. Precedence to that effect was set up by the man himself; Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), some of which I shared last night. 


Indeed, we lived up to what a real dialogue ought to be per Rabbi Gordis, “Dialogue only has meaning if it respects the autonomy of the other; absent that respect we have monologue.”



Your input for Dialouge-II in the comment section below would be appreciated, we are all in this together. If you write a fine short statement, we will include it in one of the articles in the coming months.

THE PROGRAM

Sabrina Motley, Director of the Asia Society and Michael Pardee, Executive Director of the Boniuk Center shared the visions of their respective organizations.

The Boniuk Center for Religious Tolerance at Rice “is dedicated to nurturing tolerance among people of all and no faiths, especially youth, and to studying the conditions in which tolerance and intolerance flourish.  Their mission is to understand the conditions that make peaceful coexistence possible and to promote these conditions locally, nationally and throughout the world.”

Asia Society has a similar mission, “Asia Society is the leading educational organization dedicated to promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among peoples, leaders and institutions of Asia and the United States in a global context. Across the fields of arts, business, culture, education, and policy, the Society provides insight, generates ideas, and promotes collaboration to address present challenges and create a shared future.”

Together, the Boniuk Center and the Asia Society have facilitated meaningful inter-faith and intra-faith dialogue series to promote understanding from within the diverse family of faiths and with other faiths. Indeed, they have had meaningful dialogue within the Christian and Jewish traditions, and now they are extending the opportunity to the Islamic tradition. 

Please note, it was not easy to put this program together, as Michael Pardee mentioned earlier. 25 Imams were invited, and only four decided to address the issue and not pass the buck on to the next generation. Indeed, these are the denominations that have most of the conflicts, particularly between Sunni, Shia and Ahmadiyya. Although WD Muhammad tradition is Sunni, their presence is critical, as WD Muhammad is the first one in America to start the interfaith Dialogue and rightfully called America's Imam. They do not have the conflicts with any group as others have,  and their embrace is larger than others and we look up to them for guidance.
Mike Ghouse, the moderator begins the program with greetings in a few religious traditions. May we be drenched and soaked in peace, and together, let’s hope to produce peaceful outcomes.

Greetings of Salaam, Shalom, Peace, Satsriakal, Namaste, Alla-abho, Hamazor Hama ashobed, Buddha Namo and wishes in every possible way known to mankind.(The meaning of greetings at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eo3a8wX6SXQ)


Tonight’s program is Unique and first of its kind, there have been efforts, but not a serious conversation like the one we are holding tonight. We have about an hour of dialogue followed by Q & A. We will do our best to cover a few topics that will subtly serve as a foundation for this process of mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill.



We realize this is a pilot project, the first of its kind dialogue in the United States. We, the panelists and the moderator take the responsibility seriously to lay the best possible foundation for future dialogue, and Boniuk Center becomes the guiding light. Again thanks for Mike Pardee

My role as a moderator of the event is to set the tone of the dialogue and shape the outcome of the conversation.  The outcome will stand on respecting the otherness of the other and accepting the uniqueness of each tradition without judgment. The most important aspect of this process is to have the panelists respond to the questions asked precisely, fully and within two minutes.

We will address the issues with grace, and the civility that Prophet Muhammad had advocated.

Sura Fatiha Recitation by Hafiz-e-Qur’an Mr. Khamanwalla.

Islam is a universal faith that has embraced every race, ethnicity, language and culture. Indeed, the Quran opens with gratitude to the lord of the universe and ends addressing the whole humanity as well.

Yet, at this precise juncture in history, the Ahmadiyya Muslims are persecuted in Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh, and the Shia Muslims are harassed and killed in Pakistan daily, and oppressed in Bahrain, Iraq and other places. The Sunnis are facing severe challenges in Syria as well.  These developments are getting worse by the day and there is a need for a way out. I hope our dialogue will be a small step in that direction, a gift from the Asia Society.

Dialogue; indeed, this is a dialogue. I am pleased to Quote Rabbi Gordis, one of my mentors in the art of dialogue, he was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, in 1964

“Dialogue only has meaning if it respects the autonomy of the other; absent that respect we have monologue. True conversation may uncover areas of convergence but is most important in helping to understand areas of divergence. The question for participants is: Is that divergence threatening or problematical or it can be a source of enlightenment and enrichment by broadening the perspectives and insights on the experience of being human that one gains from one’s own religious tradition.”

Dialogue requires active listening, and responding to the issue with the intention of mitigating conflict, we must continuously avoid going into different directions, if we need clarity to our positions.

Sura Kafirun in Qur’an is my guidance to conduct civil dialogue. In this Chapter (Sura) the Qur’an addresses the believers (in other systems) in the most dignified way, putting everyone on par without putting anyone down. It is an exceptional example of civil conduct for one to follow. Nowhere in this chapter has it claimed the faith of Muslims to be superior and other's to be inferior.

This chapter is about consciously nurturing civility in societies. It is not about overlooking the differences and focusing on commonalities, it is simply about accepting the otherness of other. You are who you are and I am who I am and let's figure out how we can co-exist with the least tensions.

Prophet Muhammad’s example served the foundation for Pluralism; he taught how to respect the otherness of others without having to agree with the other.

Briefly the peace treaty between the Quraish of Mecca and the Muslims of Medina was ready for signature, the terms were all agreed upon. However, the representative of Quraish Mr. Suhayl Ibn Amr looks at the signature line and objects to the name of the other signatory written as Muhammad, the Prophet of God. He blunts, you are not the prophet of God…… you can imagine the scenario of Prophet’s associates feeling angered for such a blasphemous statement, but the Prophet did something amazing. He asked Hazrat Ali to redo the name as Muhammad son of Abdullah, Ali refused, and most would too, so the prophet erased the part “prophet of God” and had inscribed “son of Abdullah” the deal was signed. (A few Muslims who believe in blasphemy laws need to study this phenomenon)

The point is Prophet respected the otherness of the other, without compromising on the principles, he knew Suhayl ibn Amr did not believe him to be the prophet of God, but believed him to be truthful and trustworthy man, and knew him as Son of Abdullah. The key lesson is to learn to respect the otherness of the other in prophetic tradition. Prophet’s work was mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill.

(Not included in the talk but worth a serious dialogue  among Christians and Muslims about  the persona of Jesus, a source of original conflict between the two groups that began in AD 957 by a Syrian Pastor who declared, “Quran is a false book written by a false prophet” because Jesus is described as a prophet in Quran, and not the God incarnate as written in the Bible – this statement must have been repeated a million times and we held a full blown conference on the topic – The second issue that is the source of conflict between the Jews and Christians was the false, but a propagated notion that Jews were Christ Killers)  


The first interfaith dialogue in the US was established by America’s imam Warith Deen Muhammad, although Ahmadiyya Muslims have taken steps in the direction sine establishing their mission in1929.

This dialogue by no means was an effort to reconcile the differences, or finding convergence, it was merely to begin a process of sharing where we agree, and honestly acknowledging our differences without judgment. The panel has made every effort not to appease any one, but to state their own position politely in a genuine dialogue without ever considering the other opinion to be anything less. It was not an effort to convert the other, but rather our struggle (jihad) to understand each other genuinely. Precedence to this effect was set up by the man himself; Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), some of which I shared last night.
Our esteemed Imams will now establish how to deal with the issue and what makes one a Muslim and who sets the theological boundaries and its impact on generational differences? Is there a need for reform and what should be the focus in building cohesive Societies within and without?

By nature religions are conservative, and hold on to the values passed on for generations. By all means feel free to be yourselves! No need to appease or no need to denigrate the other.

 Please take a minute or less to sum up about your tradition,
Please recite the verse 2:148 and explain what is good work, and what does “God has the power to will anything” mean?

 (Asad) for, every community faces a direction of its own, of which He is the focal point. [123] Vie, therefore, with one another in doing good works. Wherever you may be, God will gather you all unto Himself: for, verily, God has the power to will anything.
What is good work?
What is the key issue that you hear about each one or anyone that makes you think they are less of a Muslim or no Muslim
Panelists can respond if the differences are worth mentioning.

Please explain verse 2:62, once again what does it mean to lead a righteous life?

[2:62] surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who (1) believes in GOD, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.
What makes one a Muslim and who sets the theological boundaries?

Has living in America affected the outlook and separation of culture and religion? What does the next generation think about these differences?

Dr. Boniuk’s objective was to explore what Muslim organizations are out there that can bring these groups on a common platform. What does it take to heal and to come together and what does it take to create peaceful societies?
Asia Society is working on this objective and what can we do about Asia, where nearly 2/3rds of Muslim live, and nearly 75% of them live under the light of democracy. What are the solutions to what is happening in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Indonesia… about the intra-faith conflict, what needs to be done there?  The Ahmadiyya and Shias are persecuted, harassed and being killed, what does it take to stop it?  

What are you willing to do? What can you do? What each one of the Muslim can do, what are the simple step. (Due to time constraints I did not mention what we are doing – for the last three years during Ramadan, a few of us are visiting Mosque a day to break the fast (Iftaar) without skipping any denomination, and are make an effort to visit different mosques for Friday (Juma) sermons).

For the responses, we will wait for the video and the transcripts, meanwhile, if you the reader have viable answers, please share in the comments section below.

This dialogue is a small step for the Muslim kind, but a giant leap for humanity. I hope it will encourage more dialogue and full day conferences with a single goal; mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill, the theme in every action of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
… The organizers, the Imams, much of the audience I talked with, and I have walked out with the satisfaction of producing a worthwhile dialogue for us to ponder and take the necessary steps to advance conflict mitigation and goodwill nurturence.

r-l: Dr. David Leebron, Laurie Boniuk and Dr. Milton Boniuk
Dr. Zia Shaikh, Moustafa Al-Qazwini, Azhar Haneef, Wazir Ali
Mike Ghouse in the background

Referenced links:

  1. This report - Muslim intrafaith Dialouge
    http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2013/02/muslims-talk-with-muslims-at-boniuk.html
  2. Houston Chronicle about Intra-faith Dialogue http://www.worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2013/02/muslim-intra-faith-dialogue-in-houston.html
  3. Rice Center's Report of the event
    http://news.rice.edu/2013/02/22/commonalities-in-focus-at-rare-intrafaith-dialogue-on-islam/ 
  4. Quran on how to conduct civil dialogue
     http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/2008/07/sura-kafirun-un-believers.html
  5. Rabbi Gordis on Conducting a dialogue 
    http://wisdomofreligion.blogspot.com/2007/02/religious-dialogue-basics.html

  6. Saudis, Interfaith and Pluralism
    http://pluralismcenter.blogspot.com/2013/01/saudis-interfaith-and-pluralism.html

  7. Warith Deen Muhammad appreciation week in Dallas 
    http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2012/06/wd-muhammad-appreciation-week-in-dallas.html
  8. Criticism of Prophet, God and Quraan
    http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2012/11/criticism-of-islam-prophet-muhammad.html
  9. Pluralism Greetings in Chicagohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eo3a8wX6SXQ 

  10. Mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill. 
    http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2012/01/mission-of-world-muslim-congress.html
  11. Standing up for Jews
  12. Ramadan Daily - visiting a Mosque a day for Iftaar
  13. Full blown conference on Qur’an by Non-Muslim Clergyhttp://quraanconference.blogspot.com/2012/12/pastor-robert-jeffress-ignites-quraan.html 
  14. Pluralism Speaker
    http://www.mikeghouse.net/InterfaithSpeaker_MikeGhouse.asp
  15. Muslim Speaker
    http://mikeghouse.net/MuslimSpeaker.MikeGhouse.asp

  16. My Curriculum Vitae
    http://mikeghouse.net/MikeGhouse-CV-09192012.pdf
      


....... Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace, IslamIsraelIndiainterfaith, and cohesion at work place. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at www.TheGhousediary.com. He believes in Standing up for others and has done that throughout his life as an activist. Mike has a presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News; fortnightly at Huffington post; and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site www.MikeGhouse.net indexes all his work through many links.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Muslims speak with Muslims

Ken Chitwood of Houston Chronicle asked the following questions about the intra-faith dialogue in Houston and here are my responses to the questions;

INTRA-FAITH DIALOGUE BETWEEN
SUNNI, SHIA, AHMADIYYA AND WD MUHAMMAD DENOMINATIONS 

Describe the outline of the event at the Asia Society. Who will be involved? What is the schedule? What is the format? What is the expected outcome?


PROGRAM OUTLINE:


The Intrafaith Dialogue on Islam is a presentation of Boniuk Center's Bridge-Builder Series to be held at the Asia Society Texas Center,1370 Southmore Blvd, Houston, Texas 77004 on Thursday, Feb. 21st. There will be a reception @ 6:30 P.M. and the event will start at 7:00 P.M. Registration required due to limited seating at - InfoDeskASTC@AsiaSociety.org 


The event will be opened by Mike Pardee, the Executive Director of the Boniuk Center for Religious Tolerance; he will introduce the officers of the Boniuk Center, Rice University and Asia Society.

The moderator Mike Ghouse, Religious and Cultural Pluralism Commentator, President of the Foundation for Pluralism and America Together Foundation will take the dialogue forward.  The event will be graced by a panel of four Imams representing four different traditions within Islam.

Imam Azhar Haneef, Vice President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of the US, Silver Spring, Maryland. Imam Wazir Ali, Masjid Warithud-Deen Mohammed and Masjid Al-Qur'an, Houston, Texas. Imam Moustafa al-Qazwini, Founding Director of the Islamic Education Center of Orange County, California, and Imam Dr. Zia Shaikh, Author and resident scholar of the Islamic Center of Irving, Texas.

This is an extraordinary event in the United States, if not the first, it certainly is a rare event of intra-faith dialogue among Muslims. Islam is a universal faith that has embraced every race, ethnicity, language, tradition and culture. Indeed, the Quran opens with gratitude to the lord of the universe and ends addressing the whole humanity as well in the last chapter. Our esteemed Imams will share about how they deal among themselves and with others. What makes one a Muslim and who sets the theological boundaries and its impact on generational differences? Is there a need for reform and what should be the focus in building cohesive Societies within and without?

We will touch upon the dynamics of Muslim societies here in the United States, as it resembles with the interactions within Asian societies. According to the latest Pew Survey 61.7 % of all Muslims reside in Asia and it behooves for the Asia Society to have a model dialogue to understand the dynamics.  Conflict within religious tradition is no news to the Jewish and Christian traditions, but how they accept each other is news.

We hope to close the event by 8:30 including a few questions and answers followed by refreshments for the attendees. Arrangement for nightly prayers called Isha is also made for Muslims who wish to join the prayers.  


WHO WILL BE INVOLVED?

The Boniuk Center for Religious Tolerance at Rice “is dedicated to nurturing tolerance among people of all and no faiths, especially youth, and to studying the conditions in which tolerance and intolerance flourish.  Their mission is to understand the conditions that make peaceful coexistence possible and to promote these conditions locally, nationally and throughout the world.”

Asia Society has a similar mission, “?Asia Society is the leading educational organization dedicated to promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among peoples, leaders and institutions of Asia and the United States in a global context. Across the fields of arts, business, culture, education, and policy, the Society provides insight, generates ideas, and promotes collaboration to address present challenges and create a shared future.”

Together, the Boniuk Center and the Asia Society have facilitated meaningful inter-faith and intra-faith dialogue series to promote understanding from within the diverse family of faiths and with other faiths. Indeed, they have had meaningful dialogue within the Christian and Jewish traditions, and now they are extending the opportunity to the Islamic tradition.  

 OUTCOME

This is a pilot project, first of its kind in the United States. The panelists and the moderator take this responsibility seriously,  and will lay the best possible foundation for future dialogue.

We hope to have consensus on a few issues, and acceptance of difreferences as well. The dialogue will be carried in
 the examples set by Prophet Muhammad, we will learn to respect the otherness of other and accept the uniqueness of each tradition with due respect.


You are a self-described "pluralist." Explain that position in your own words…

A pluralist is someone who respects the otherness of others. Indeed, if we can learn to respect the otherness of others and accepts the God given uniqueness of each one of the seven billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge. In religious terms, pluralism is respecting every which way one appreciates or worships the creator.

Religion is about humility and not arrogance, humility builds bridges to create a better world, whereas arrogance is destructive and generates conflicts and resentment. After all God has not signed a deal with any one behind others back to claim superiority of one belief over the other. The purpose of religion is to bring peace to an individual and live in balance with what surrounds him or her; people and the environment.

My role as a moderator of the event is to facilitate the panelists to respond to the questions asked, and address some of the toughest issues with grace. We need to understand how cultural and generational nuances manifest themselves in various communities; the role of grace, fellowship, and forgiveness in their traditions; the effects of theological differences within family of faiths and if there is a need for reform, and what should be the focus?

 I will be invoking the practices of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in how he dealt with the conflict and refer to the ideals embedded in Chapter 109 of Qur'an that I teach in conducting a civil dialogue. 

Why are you hosting this event?

This event is critical to setting the tone of dialogue among Muslims, and as a pluralist activist Muslim, who regularly interacts, speaks, writes and visits Mosques of every denomination with no prejudice, this is a God-given opportunity for me to moderate this event and I thank Michael Pardee for this opportunity.

I hope to educate, and motivate people in creating a cohesive environment to work, socialize and function effectively, and offer pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.

The  deep commitment I have in building cohesive societies, where no human has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of the fellow human is matched by my extensive work in inter and Intrafaith.   I have been teaching and conducting workshops on every religion including Atheism, have done 520 hours of radio talk show on every religion, and write weekly at Dallas Morning News and each one of the article weaves through at least three religions in a given article, I write regularly at Huffington post, and many periodical around the world. Additionally I have a strong presence on National and Local TV and Radio media.

My dream is to initiate a course and teach pluralism and co-existence, and a book is in the making as a text. Pluralism is our future, and as a futurist, based on the trends, I foresee, that two generations from now, we would be comfortable in saying, my religion, culture or life style is one of the many choices, and further down the road, a significant number will proclaim that my way of life is not superior or inferior to any.

By the end of 2020, there will not be a major work place in America or other places, where you will not find people of different faiths, cultures, ethnicities, races, nationalities and social backgrounds working, eating, playing, marrying, and doing things together.
They will consider ‘claiming superiority’ would be sheer arrogance and religion (a major part of life to many) is believed to imbue humility that builds societies, communities and nations in creating that elusive kingdom of heaven where all of us can live  without apprehension or fear of the other.
We need to prepare ourselves for those eventualities to prevent possible conflicts and lay a good foundation for nurturing goodwill and effective functioning of the societies.  Exclusive communities will become a thing of the past. (Foundation for Pluralism, Pluralism Center)

Being a Muslim, I am deeply committed to nurturing the pluralistic values embedded in Islam (World Muslim congress). The role of a Muslim is to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill, most people get that, a few don’t, just as with any other religious group.

 

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace,Islam, Israel, India, interfaith, and cohesion at work place. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at www.TheGhousediary.com. He believes in Standing up for others and has done that throughout his life as an activist. Mike has a presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News; fortnightly at Huffington post; and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site www.MikeGhouse.netindexes all his work through many links. 

 
What do you think Asian Muslims have to add to the general conversation regarding Islam in the U.S.? Texas? Globally?

Muslims like all humans are designed to be free; a majority of Muslims live in Asia and nearly 2/3rds of them live in democratic environments. They deeply believe in freedom of speech and pluralistic values taught in Qur'an and the prophet. They grew up in an environment where they interacted, went to school, worked with and inter-married Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and others. Respecting the otherness of others comes naturally to them.

Most Muslims feel Americans live a more Muslim life than Muslims in the Muslim majority nations. The biggest value is the sense of equality and humility imparted in every ritual aspect of Islam, which they see it practiced in America every day, even the president stands in the line to take his (hope her some day) food when he is with our soldiers. Justice is the other most important value to them and they love the American Justice system. 

Muslims have much to contribute to the well being of the United States through the Islam they practice and of course, Texas has one of the largest Muslim populations in the United States.  The Asian Muslims have a great potential to affect the outcomes of the world in shaping pluralism and co-existence. The late Gus Dar of Indonesia, where the largest number of Muslims live, has done remarkable work in Pluralism, and his highness Aga Khan of the Ismaili Muslim community (predominantly Asian) has dedicated a center for pluralism in Canada. In the United States, Dr. Eboo Patel, and I, Mike Ghouse (both Asians) are relentlessly pursuing and nurturing pluralism and its value in building effective societies where no human has to live in apprehension or fear of the other.

 Why is such a conversation as this panel will be having timely?

At this precise juncture in history, the Ahmadiyya Muslims are persecuted in Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh, and the Shia Muslims are harassed and killed in Pakistan daily, and oppressed in Bahrain, Iraq and other places. The Saudis and Iranians are at odds and refer to each other as Shia and Sunni, Ahmedinejad was cautiously received in Egypt, and he was treated as an outsider. These developments are getting worse by the day and there is a need for a way out.


I am glad the Asia Society is living up to its mission, “generates ideas, and promotes collaboration to address present challenges and create a shared future.” Indeed Boniuk center is nurturing tolerance through these dialogues. I thank them for facilitating this. I am deeply committed to pluralism and have been working on it for the last twenty some years and it’s a joy for me to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill. Indeed that is how I have defined the role of Muslims at my other organization; world Muslim Congress.

This dialogue is a small step for the Muslim kind, but a giant leap for humanity. I hope it will encourage more dialogue and full day conferences with a single goal; mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill, the theme in every action of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

I hope this conversation becomes a catalyst for positive changes that the two organizations and the foundation for pluralism and world Muslim congress aspire to achieve.  
......................................

Friday, February 8, 2013

Texas Faith: Do we need a new national conversation about marriage?

Humanity is diverse, that's God's intentional creation. The male/ female ratio has always remained around 50/50 with +/- 2 points variation on either side. The world would never be 100% male or female, likewise the world would never be 100% Gay, it will be a natural 10-15% of the population. Mike Ghouse


Texas Faith: Do we need a new national conversation about marriage?

By Bill McKenzie / Editorial Columnist
Dallas Morning News, Published on February 5, 2012

Ten panelists contributed to this forum, to read the contributions from all the panelists, please visit - http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/2013/02/texas-faith-do-we-need-a-new-national-conversation-about-marriage.html/

Has the conversation about marriage reached a dead-end in our country, as Blankenhorn suggests? If it has, please explain what you would like this conversation to now include. If you think we don't need a new conversation, please explain.

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas, and Speaker on interfaith matters, diversity and pluralism

The conversation on marriage has just opened up, and we are far from reaching the dead-end. But until that time we will need two parallel societies. They will not be in conflict with each other, but each on its own path.

What is missing in the conversation is our untapped ability in understanding the wisdom of God. As humans we are disgustingly selfish, and grind on to the selective verses that suit our insecurities to force the weak (minority) into obedience, as if we gain something.

The conservatives among us, particularly those who are Christians and Muslim, are stuck in the dished-out versions of the Sodom and Gomorrah story. We need to follow Jesus in spirit, and follow the merciful and inclusive God of the Universe (Quran).

God has endowed us with free will. He let Adam make the mistake without slapping him for eating the forbidden fruit. Instead, he kicked us out, and gave us an opportunity to multiply and live out in a bigger world with free will. He wanted us to figure out living with each other without punishing the few, who opt not to multiply.

As a futurist of interfaith trends, I have been struggling to understand sin. I found guidance in Buddhist literature about sin from this analysis, which I read on ReligionFacts.com:

"'Sexual misconduct' has thus traditionally been interpreted to include actions like coercive sex, sexual harassment, child molestation and adultery. As homosexuality is not explicitly mentioned in any of the Buddha's sayings recorded in the Pali Canon (Tripitaka), most interpreters have taken this to mean that homosexuality should be evaluated in the same way as heterosexuality, in accordance with the following principles: I) Intention - Is the act motivated by love, generosity and understanding? And ii) consequential - does the act cause harm and regret (in oneself or others) or benefit and joy?"

As a pluralist, I draw upon different religious scriptures, and here is a corollary from Quran about carrying on a civil dialogue. "Respectfully, I do not practice what you practice, and you do not practice what I practice, so you live with your belief as I do with mine, as long as we understand our differences and not harm each other."

The dialogue must continue until we learn to respect the otherness of others and live in harmony. No one's belief should be thrust on the other. That kind of freedom is a hallmark of civil societies.
 …
The phobias that acknowledging and accepting the gay sexual orientation will cause more people to become gay is as ridiculous as saying eating Chicken will make you a Chicken. The sooner we accept this, the quicker we can put this fear behind and move on with our lives, instead of harassing and denigrating fellow humans. Thank God, I am blessed to be friends with all of God's creation including many gay and lesbian friends. The alarmist attitude will evaporate one day, why not junk it now? Indeed, it's a blessing to be free.
…..

References:

 New York Times piece on Blankenhorn. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/30/us/in-shift-blankenhorn-forges-a-pro-marriage-coalition-for-all.html?_r=0

American Values, marriage a new conversation
http://www.americanvalues.org/marriage-a-new-conversation/index.php

Buddhism about Homosexuality
http://www.religionfacts.com/homosexuality/buddhism.htm

Quran about Civil Dialogue
http://www.religionfacts.com/homosexuality/buddhism.htm
 

. . . . . . . Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace, Islam, Israel, India, interfaith, and cohesion at work place and standing up for others as an activist. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at www.TheGhousediary.com. Mike has a strong presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News, fortnightly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site www.MikeGhouse.net indexes everything you want to know about him.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and I

As a kid I learned things about him and did not relate with him at all, he was too divine and remote for me. All that changed when I read the book "Muhammad" by Karen Armstrong. She narrates his life from a non-religious point of view, as a civic leader of the society, a dimension that I appreciated it very much. Karen Armstrong's book is one of the five reasons I chose to become a Muslim after a lapse of nearly three decades. He was a man that I can relate with, making decisions that create trust, mutual respect and a sense of fairness among his people at that time. That was indeed the role of every prophet and peacemaker of the time. Mike Ghouse

How I Connect With Prophet Muhammad
Published by Huffington Post
On 01/25/2013 9:48 pm
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/how-i-connect-with-prophet-muhammad_b_2547782.html

 
 


How do I relate with the prophet? I don't wear clothes like him, eat like him or live like him. But when it comes to respecting fellow beings, nurturing goodwill, mitigating conflicts, forgiving others and building cohesive societies, I can relate.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was born on 12th day of Rabi' al-Awwal, the third month of the Islamic calendar, and the year was 571 A.D. The birth celebrations will continue through this week, and if you wish to greet a Muslim, you can say, Milaad (birth) Greetings, Happy Maulood-an-Nabi, Maulood-an-Nabi Mubarak, happy Eid Milaad and Milaad's blessings to you.

First thing first, he took the larger view of the society and became a model of what it takes to be an exemplary citizen. The first requirement of any civil society is to trust each other in living their daily life safely and without fear of the other. He earned the trust of the society for being truthful, honest in his dealings, trustworthy and just. The Jews, Christians, pagans and others called him Amin, the trust worthy. That was indeed the first foundational Sunnah (prophet's example).

Wherever he saw conflicts between people, he found a way to mitigate and nurture goodwill amongst them. Indeed, he was committed to building a cohesive society, where no one feared the other, and he continuously built upon creating balance and harmony in the society. Blessed are the peacemakers, said Jesus! Indeed, Prophet Muhammad is my mentor.

Muslims celebrate his birthday in a variety of ways, including cooking the simplest food as an expression of humility. They sing the likes of Christmas carols, called Milaad, Nasheed, even Milaad Carols and other names. I have found it peaceful to think about his work and reflect on how I could relate with him, the ultimate peacemaker.

Do I forgive often? Do I stand up for the rights of others? Am I a blessing to fellow humans? Do others feel secure and safe around me? Today, I have concluded my day with a short prayer and a commitment and get on the road. God willing, I will follow him to the best of my ability.


As a kid I learned things about him and did not relate with him at all, he was too divine and remote for me. All that changed when I read the book "Muhammad" by Karen Armstrong. She narrates his life from a non-religious point of view, as a civic leader of the society, a dimension that I appreciated it very much. Karen Armstrong's book is one of the five reasons I chose to become a Muslim after a lapse of nearly three decades. He was a man that I can relate with, making decisions that create trust, mutual respect and a sense of fairness among his people at that time. That was indeed the role of every prophet and peacemaker of the time.

When someone hurts me, I think of the prophet, he advised against score keeping and piling revenge and aggravating each other, and I love the freedom it gives me, freedom from brooding and obsession to get even with the other.

When someone dialogues with me, prophet's words jump at me, to respect the otherness of other, without having to agree but respectfully differ and move on. Indeed, it is a big lesson in conducting civil dialogue.

When I am frustrated, I think of prophet's narration, God told him to do his work, and not worry if people don't get his message, give them the room to make up their own minds, and let me guide them, and you respect everyone's free will.

Every day, I think about the Prophet, how he would have found a solution to a given conflict, and all I see is the application of the principles of fairness and justice to every human, with goodness and inclusiveness.

My spiritual mentors are Muhammad (pbuh) and Jesus (pbuh), and my civic mentors are Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama.

When I think of getting even with someone who maligns me, I think of the advice of Prophet Muhammad and Jesus: The best thing we can do is to forgive the other; it brings relief and frees us from being possessed.

When I see injustice done to others, the prophets words ring again, the least you can do is to speak out against injustice. Injustice to one is injustice to the whole humanity.

When I see inequality in our society, our immortal declaration of independence kicks in for me, that all men are created equal. I think of prophet's last sermon, where he said no man is superior to the other and that all are equal.

Whenever I think of the liberation of women, I think of the prophet, he was perhaps the first women's libber; and he officially liberated women from the shackles of the bondages. He was a radical of his time, as Jesus was, and said women are free to marry or divorce, own their own business and property, separate from their husbands, and he introduced the idea of consent and free will in marriage. Let's not judge America by the Newtown, Aurora and Oak Creek murderers, and let's not judge Muslims by the misogynistic men among them either.

Whenever I feel judgmental toward others, the prophet's voice pulls me back, only God knows everything about the other, not me, then let me not judge anyone without the full knowledge.

When I think of standing up for others, I think of Gandhi and MLK, if we don't stand up for others, why should anyone stand up for us.

Whenever the idea of being better than others crosses my mind, I think of the prophet, who said, I am a human like you, and don't make a God out of me or paint my pictures and put me on the pedestal. He even said to his daughter, you earn your paradise through your good deeds, the good you do to the fellow beings and not because you are the Prophet's daughter.

Whenever arrogance attempts to creep in me, I hear the words of the prophet, "Treat all prophets the same, no human is above the other" -- instead of saying I am the greatest prophet and listen to me. Feeling and practicing equality is the way for creating peaceful societies.

I will be writing a full chapter on the prophet in my upcoming book, as to how I relate with him in my daily life, and I have learned to give a 20 minutes motivations talk on "Prophet the Peacemaker" and that is rejoicing.


Further reading:
Milaad Mubarak!


 Follow Mike Ghouse on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MikeGhouse 
----------
Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace, Islam, Israel, India, interfaith, and cohesion at work place and standing up for others as an activist. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at www.TheGhousediary.com. Mike has a strong presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News, fortnightly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site www.MikeGhouse.net indexes everything you want to know about him.