PLEASE VISIT www.CenterforPluralism.com for all information


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Heartiest Greeting from plural and inclusive Banaras!

Dear Lenin Raghuvanshi,

What a delight it is to hear from you, and about Pluralism.

If there is a special duty for me to do like a speech on pluralism, I can work on making the trip in a short notice.

Here is my bio on pluralism
A whole lot more is at www.foundationfopluralism.com and http://foundationforpluralism.blogspot.com and of course my site www.theghousediary.com and http://MikeghouseforIndia.blogspot.com

Please send an invitation to process visa in a hurry.

Thank you
Mike Ghouse,
Pluralism Center | Education, Research and Activism
Pluralism is "Respecting the otherness of others"
Studies in social, religious, cultural and political pluralism

In a message dated 7/24/2014 10:04:29 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time, pvchr.india@gmail.com writes:

Heartiest Greeting from plural and inclusive Banaras!

Varanasi, one of the oldest and continuously inhabited cities in the world is known also as Banaras or Kashi and incorporates the different school of thoughts, religions which makes it the centre of attraction among people across the globe.

One side it is known as the prominent city for followers of Hindu religion and on the other hand it is known also as the place where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon[i] (dhamma chakkra parivartan) in 528 BC. It is one of the holy cities of Jainism, and one of the epicentres of the Bhakti movement (a current dating back to Hindu medieval times very close to Sufi Islam, ed.) Guru Nanak Dev, founder of Sikhism, visited Varanasi in 1507 and was inspired by the city. The three Tirthankars[ii] of Jain religion were also born at this place. Thus Varanasi holds equally high place among followers of Hindu and other religions.

Varanasi has been the birthplace and work place for Sant Kabir[iii], Sant Raidas[iv] and Sen Nai, opposing sectarian thinking, communalism and casteism. They established the dignity of labour with spiritualism. Maulana Alvi brought here the world famous Banarsi silk artisan saree work that now has a Bollywood celebrity as its brand ambassador. Banaras has been home to several great personalities from the field of art, culture, music and literature.

A poet-saint, reformer and philosopher Tulsidas[v]' doctrine has been described as an assimilation and reconciliation of the diverse tenets and cultures of Hinduism taught reconciliation. Munshi Premchand[vi], an Indian writer famous for his modern Hindustani literature was famous for both his Hindi and Urdu writings. Great author Bhartendu Harishchandra, Jai Shankar Prasad, Dr Shyam Sunderdas and Acharya Ramchandra Shukla have had Baranas as their home.

The city has had four Bharat Ratna(the highest civilian award of the Republic of India)[vii] recipients too. The Shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan[viii], Lal Bahadur Shastri[ix] the second prime minister of India, Pt Ravi Shankar[x] the renowned Sitar player and Bhagwan Das[xi] an Indian Theosophist who was allied with the Hindustani Culture Society and was active in opposing rioting as a form of protest. For a time he served in the Central Legislative Assembly of British India. As an advocate for national freedom from the British rule, he was often in danger of reprisals from the Colonial government. He was the fourth recipient of India's highest civilian award. He established the Kashi Vidyapeeth in association with Mahatma Gandhi.

In the 16th century, Varanasi experienced a cultural revival under the Muslim Mughal emperor Akbar who invested in the city, and built two large temples dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu. The Raja of Poona established the Annapurnamandir and the 200 metres (660 ft) Akbari Bridge was also completed during this period. The earliest tourists began arriving in the city during the 16th century. In 1665, the French traveller Jean Baptiste Tavernier described the architectural beauty of the Vindu Madhava temple on the side of the Ganges. The road infrastructure was also improved during this period and extended from Kolkata to Peshawar by Emperor Sher Shah Suri; later during the British Raj it came to be known as the famous Grand Trunk Road.

Anie Basent[xii] the prominent British socialist, theosophist, women's rights activist, writer and orator and supporter of Irish and Indian self-rule was active in city and Theosophical Society of India. In April 1911, Besant met Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya[xiii] and they decided to unite their forces and work for a common Hindu University at Varanasi. The Banaras Hindu University started functioning in October 1917 with the Central Hindu College as its first constituent college.

There is something special about the Banaras Gharana[xiv] of music that is based upon Indian classical instruments quoting Hindu Gods and Deities and it also incorporates the Sarod[xv] from Afghanistan, Shehnai[xvi] and Sitar[xvii] from Persian culture with the same pride as they do for the Indian instruments.

Reconciling various branches of Indian philosophy from Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Bahai, Jainism, Sikhism, Sufism, and Jew all have an equal connect in this ancient city that believes Varanasi as a centre for pluralism and inclusive cultural based on reconciliation and diversity. This has been the heritage of pluralism and inclusive culture based on civilization of River Ganga.

 People across the world can learn on how to live and make co-existence meaningful even as there are differences among people yet they live in harmony as inclusive culture based on diversity and pluralism. It is therefore necessary that Varanasi or Banaras be given status of a Living HERITAGE CITY of inclusive and plural culture. It is necessary that the city of faith, belief, indigenous wisdom and logic be declared a heritage city. It is required that the water in the city should be Ganga Jal (water) and not Ganda (dirty) Jal. Rivers are central to our culture and civilization. People's survival, religious believes, Peoples' life, dignity spirituality and civilization are linked to them. I suggest, the government should consider handing over the management of rivers to the department of culture. Sand (Bul) the favourite animal of Lord Shiv be given dignity/honour in the city and provide health support to them by trained veterinarian.

It is necessary that the old city be conserved as heritage as done in Singapore and the new city be developed with expansion plans for future in sight. The artisans of the city be given means of livelihood. Weaving, toy making, zardoji be promoted and helped grow. It is noticeable that police and military badges of various countries are made in Varanasi. Dress of Hindu Gods and Deities are made by Muslims in Varanasi. The history of pluralism, inclusive culture based on reconciliation be taught to young students in the schools. This is not important just for the sake of the past but for the very fact that in India and South Asia, there is a need to end communal/sectarian thinking based on caste and to bring “positive conflict resolution” that shall be the manner to develop complete concept of citizen in the region.

This shall help to put an end to torture and large scale organised violence arising out of casteism, sectarian thinking and communal fascism.

It is in this very context that a BANARAS SAMMELAN (Banaras Convention) has been called upon on August 09, 2014 at the Moolgadi Kabirchaura Math[xviii],Kabirchaura, Varanasi,India at 11 am. The programme shall start with the Panchnaad by Pt Vikash Maharaj[xix] (renowned Sarod player) and Pt Prabhash Maharaj (Tabla player).

You are cordially invited as a distinguished guest for the programme as an ambassador of inclusive and plural culture.

Yours truly
Lenin Raghuvanshi
General Secretary

[xix] http://www.panditvikashmaharaj.com/

समावेशी व बहुलतावादी संस्कृति के लिए बनारस कन्वेंशन

समावेशी और बहुलतावादी संस्कृति वाले शहर बनारस की तरफ से आपको हार्दिक अभिवादन!

आज हमें गालिब की बनारस के बारे में लिखी निम्नलिखित पंक्तियाँ याद आ रही हैः
त आलल्ला बनारस चश्मे बद्दूरबहिश्ते खुर्रमो फि़रदौसे मासूर
इबातत ख़ानए नाकूसियाँ अस्तहमाना काब-ए- हिन्दोस्तां अस्त
(हे परमात्मा बनारस को बुरी दृष्टि से दुर रखना, क्योकि यह आनन्दयम स्वर्ग है। यह घण्टा बजाने वालों अर्थात् हिन्दुओं की पुजा का स्थान है। यानी यही हिन्दोस्तान का काबा है।)

दुनिया के प्राचीनतम शहरों में एक बनारस/वाराणसी/काशी विभिन्न विचार धाराओं, धर्मों के साथ दुनिया भर में आकषर्ण का प्रतीक रहा है। जहां यह हिन्दूओं का पवित्र शहर है। वहीं महात्मा बुद्ध के प्रथम उपदेश (धर्म चक्र प्रवर्तन) के लिए बौद्ध धर्मावलम्बियों का प्रमुख केन्द्र भी है। जैन धर्म के तीन तीर्थंकर यहीं पर पैदा हुए। साम्प्रदायिकता व जातिवाद के खिलाफ संत कबीर, संत रैदास व सेन नाई की जन्मस्थली तथा कर्मस्थली यही रही है। वही दूसरी तरफ बनारस की बनारसी रेशमी साड़ी को मौलाना अल्वी साहब ले आये। समन्वयवाद के तुलसीदास, हिन्दी व उर्दू के महान कथाकार मुंशी प्रेमचन्द, महान साहित्यकार भारतेन्दु हरिश्चन्द्र, जयशंकर प्रसाद, डा0 श्याम सुन्दरदास एवं आचार्य रामचन्द्र शुक्ल और बनारस घराने के प्रसिद्ध संगीतकारों की जन्मभूमि व कर्मभूमि यही रही है। वाराणसी से चार भारत रत्न महान शहनाई वादक उस्ताद बिस्मिल्लाह खाँ, देश के दूसरे प्रधानमंत्री लाल बहादुर शास्त्री जी, महान सितार वादक प0 रविशंकर और स्वतंत्रता संग्राम, ऐनी बेसेन्ट व हिन्दुस्तानी कल्चरल सोसाइटी से जुड़े तथा महात्मा गांधी के साथ काशी विद्यापीठ की स्थापना करने वाले डा0 भगवान दास का जुड़ाव यहीं से रहा है। बनारस घराना के संगीतज्ञ जहाँ एक तरफ हिन्दू देवी-देवताओं की स्तुति पर अपना शास्त्रीय संगीत प्रस्तुत करते हैं। वही अफगानिस्तान से आये सरोद, ईरान से आये शहनाई व सितार का गौरव के साथ उपयोग करते है। भारतीय दर्शन की विभिन्न शाखाओं के साथ हिन्दू, इस्लाम, ईसाई, यहूदी, बहाई, बौद्ध, जैन, सिख, सूफी सभी का बनारस से जुड़ाव रहा है। जो बनारस को बहुलतावाद व समावेशवाद का केन्द्र बनाता है और यह केन्द्र गंगा तटीय सभ्यता का हेरिटेजहै। जिससे भारत ही नहीं, पूरी दुनिया के लोग सीख सकते है कि अपने अन्तर्विरोधों के साथ सहिष्णु व फक्कड़ तरीके से कैसे रहा जा सकता है। इसलिए जरुरी हो गया है कि आस्था, विश्वास व तर्क के शहरबनारस को हेरिटेज शहरघोषित किया जाये। उसे गन्दा जलनहीं, ‘गंगा जलमुहैया कराया जाये और भगवान शिव के प्रिय साड़ को बनारस शहर में पीने का पानी और पशुचिकित्सक भी मुहैया कराया जाये। सिंगापुर की तर्ज पर पुराने शहर को हेरिटेज के तौर पर संजोया जाय और नये शहर को आधुनिक दुनिया की तरह बसाया जाय। वही शहर के बिनकारी, खिलौने के काम, जरदोजी को प्रोत्साहित व संरक्षित किया जाय। विदित है कि दुनिया के विभिन्न सेनाओं व पुलिस के बैज भी बनारस से बनते है। हिन्दू देवी-देवताओं के वस्त्र बनारस के मुस्लिम बुनकर बनाते हैं। बनारस के बहुलतावाद और समावेशी इतिहास को कम से कम बनारस के स्कूलों में जरुर पढ़ाया जाय। ये इसलिये जरुरी है कि केवल बनारस में ही नहीं, बल्कि भारत व दक्षिण एशिया में जातिवाद व साम्प्रदायिक सोच को खत्मकर इंसानों के बीच सकारात्मक एकता (Positive Conflict Resolution) स्थापित किया जा सके, जो नागरिक बनाने की प्रक्रिया को मजबूत कर सके। जिससे जातिवाद व सम्प्रदायवाद से होने वाली यातना व संगठित हिंसा को समाप्त किया जा सके। इसी परिपेक्ष्य में बनारस के मूलगादी कबीरचैरा मठ में 09 अगस्त, 2014 (शनिवार) को बनारस सम्मेलनकार्यक्रम का आयोजन 11:00 बजे सुबह से शुरु होगा। कार्यक्रम की शुरुआत पं0 विकास महाराज (प्रसिद्ध सरोदवादक) व पं0 प्रभाष महाराज (तबलावादक) के नेतृत्व में पंचनादसे शुरु होगा। जिसमें आप सादर आमंत्रित है।

Lenin Raghuvanshi
Founder and CEO
People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR)
An initiative of Jan Mitra Nyas ISO 9001:2008
SA 4/2 A Daulatpur, Varanasi - 221002 India
Mobile no.+91-9935599333
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Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.
--The Buddha

“It is possible for those who are different in all kinds of ways, to cohere as a unified community.”
– Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Nelson Mandela

"We are what we think. With our thoughts we make our world." - Buddha
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Congratulations to Rabbi David Saperstein to lead Religious Freedom Initiative

Obama Nominates First Non-Christian to Lead Religious Freedom Initiative
Courtesy Religion Dispatches

S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced yesterday that President Barack Obama is nominating the first non-Christian, Rabbi David Saperstein, to the post of ambassador for international religious freedom.
Saperstein has served as head of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism for more than 30 years, been a member of the advisory council for the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and teaches First Amendment and Jewish law at Georgetown Law school.*

In his remarks on Saperstein’s religious freedom pedigree, Kerry called him “the gold standard,” pointing to his work “across faith lines,” with “women of faith networks,” and with “American Muslim communities.”
Saperstein was a leader of the broad coalition that pushed for passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993, but, as RNS noted, Saperstein was critical of the way the Supreme Court majority interpreted RFRA in the Hobby Lobby case. And despite telling the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “We believe deeply in RFRA and robust religious liberties,” some conservative Christians, like the Family Research Council’s Rob Schwarzwalder, remain skeptical:
Additionally, Rabbi Saperstein’s well-known liberalism is troubling. For example, he criticized the Supreme Court’s decision last month in the Hobby Lobby case, endorsing the idea that the federal government has the right to tell business owners they must provide coverage of contraceptives that can cause abortion.**
The RNS story goes on to point out another potential hitch in the process of confirmation:
Saperstein is an outspoken defender of Israel, and his vocal activism may be unsettling to some given the role of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in shaping global politics, particularly in the Islamic world.
Still, Saperstein’s nomination has been welcomed by progressive advocates and some conservative evangelicals, including Russell Moore, president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, who said:
Rabbi Saperstein is a respected thinker and leader who brings gravity to this important task. He has my prayers and my pledge of full cooperation. The downgrade of religious freedom and the persecution of religious minorities around the world must end.
*Saperstein also serves on the boards of People For the American Way (where I am a senior fellow), the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, and he’s the chair of the Public Religion Research Institute’s board.
**The contraceptives in question don’t cause abortion.

Peter Montgomery, an associate editor for Religion Dispatches, is a Senior Fellow at People For the American Way Foundation where he was on staff for 15 years. Before that he was associate director of grassroots lobbying for Common Cause and wrote for Common Cause Magazine, an award-winning journal featuring investigative reporting about the federal government.

Louisville Eid Celebrations, Prayers, Misogyny, Urdu and the film.

URL - http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2014/07/louisville-eid-celebrations-prayers.html

Despite the problems in the world, life should go on!  Our kids need to see the problems but must be taught to move on in life and learn to create a better world through such experiences. 

Perhaps, we can cherish what we have done in raising our kids to be friendly with fellow kids regardless of their religion, race, ethnicity or other uniqueness. Indeed, that is the very first model of citizenship that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) initiated; he was called Amin, a sum total  of many qualities among them are the truth teller, honest, unbiased, non-judgmental,  trustworthy, caring and respectful of his neighbors; Jews, Christians, Pagans and others at that time.  Very few of us want our kids to be bigots, and almost all of us want our kids to grow up with an open mind and an open heart. Thank God for that.

Most Parents want their kids to have a better life, and they fix them up with material things. I hope they fix them with things that will make them a better and caring human as well. 
At this time, I am concerned about the ugliness of a few Jewish and Palestinian parents who teach hatred towards the other. Man, they are messing up their kids, when they grow up they will have difficulty in working and relating with normal people. I hope it becomes a norm with the Jewish and the Palestinian parents in the conflict zones to teach their children about the suffering, and I pray that the Jewish and Muslim parents don’t screw up their kid’s life by injecting hatred for each other and I pray that the kids will reject their parents hatred for the other. Parents may have had a bad time, should they make it bad for their children too? I pray not. 

Indeed, life is a gift of God and we have to do everything to preserve it, and express our gratitude for what we have, and pray for those who lost the loved ones and all their life time’s love of labor in the ongoing conflicts, wars, massacres and genocides.  

This Ramadan has been a blessing, none of the Mosques I have been to in the last 30 days, none, not one of them preached hatred towards any, and they simply prayed for the victims. I hope the same is true in our churches, synagogues and other places, as I intend to visit them and hope to find goodness in the places of worship..  Article at Oped News  

Now coming to this Eid - I have lost the desire to take pictures; I just took a few even though camera was with me in the car or on the shelf at home.  But it was good to see every one appreciate the blessings of Ramadan while praying for the well beings of the victims of the conflicts.


It was good to visit a few friends’ homes for the Eid, a beautiful tradition that most of us have brought forward. We also stopped by at the River Road Mosque; it was good to see families gather there on a social basis. Eid is a time to catch up with most people. Great food everywhere, and finally we had our family gathering at home, and Yasmeen cooked some of the most fabulous dishes. 


I am sensitive to bias, prejudices, misogyny, racism, Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, Anti-Hinduism, homophobia and other evils of the society. My antennas pick up the tiniest vibrations and I speak out.  Check out Ramadan’s Pluralism Message

The convention center was a great place to accommodate the Muslims of Greater Louisville and loved the open hall - with no wall separating men and women although they were in two different sections. I did not take pictures, but the arrangement was good. 

The Imam who delivered the sermon at the convention center was good, but for the insensitive misogynistic comment. He began his talk by addressing the women, asking them to quit talking and control their kids…. That is awful! Only women talk? Where does he live? Men gossip and chatter as much as women do in our society, and children are equally managed by either parent; it’s just not the mothers.  

I talked to the Imam after the prayers, and asked him not to be misogynistic in the future. He can always address the noise makers, whoever they are, but not point to a group of people; in this case women – that is stereotyping.  By the way, this is the men thing, and men from every faith, race and ethnicity are guilty of it, and I visit every place of worship from Aztecs to Zoroastrians and every one in between, the story is the same. All we can do is take corrective steps. Indeed, Islam teaches us to give dignity to every woman and a child, and we must.  We need a sensitivity training for men.


Someday, when I have a little time, I would like to know more about APPKI, an organization that I have come to admire. I just found out that Dr. Aftab Ahmed was also one of the founders of the APPKI. You guys and gals are blessed ones to have open hearts and minds, keep it up. Indeed, it was Jinnah’s dream to have a Pakistan or its representation to be inclusive of ever Pakistani regardless of his or her faith or ethnicity and you guys have done it. This note is an update to the article I wrote about APPKI at Huffington post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/the-pakistani-american-do_b_5323434.html


I am pleased to commence a monthly or bi-monthly informal gathering to exchange poetry and literature in Urdu and Hindi languages. The first session would be at Yasmeen’s house on Wednesday 7-8:30, tea and light refreshments will be served and we can rotate this in different homes. It will be intellectually refreshing to have a gathering like this. But please RSVP by texting me at (214) 325-1916, I don’t want to have 50 friends over and not be ready for it.


Produced by America Together Foundation, a non-profit organization. 

The Film is based on a successful real life event about ordinary people effecting extraordinary changes. It is a story about skillfully managing conflicting issues of safety of Americans overseas, upholding freedom of speech, improving perceptions about Islam and preserving sanctity of religions.

The film depicts human fears, apprehensions; thrill seeking, suspense, drama, romance, disappointments and the role of justice during the attempted Quran burning event in Mulberry, Florida.

It is an epitome of nonviolent conflict mitigation and goodwill nurturance based on the teachings of Jesus and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Hopefully the world will see a new paradigm in making; what Muslims ought to be, and how they will respond to future incidents of Quran Burning, criticism of Islam, and cartoons of the Prophet. It will be good for Muslims and good for the world. Indeed, blessed are the peacemakers.Tax deductible Donations of $1000, $5000, $10,000 or greater can be made at: http://americatogetherfoundation.com/donate/


(214) 325-1916
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 a book with the same title is coming up. Mike has a strong presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is a frequent guest on Sean 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.

I am blessed to be a Pluralist, and wish the same to you. Amen

It feels sacred to embrace and be embraced by every human on the earth. Thank God for not cutting off that large umbilical cord between me and the creation, and I feel blessed to be connected with everyone.

I am in my comfort zone with friends from every walk of life - political right to the left, theists to atheists,  and social conservatives to progressives. It is not easy, but when you put in the effort and succeed, life is full of joy. We are a part of the whole and I pray that we all realize we are merely the specks in this huge expanse of universe, interconnected with everyone and interdependent on each other in this web of life. Let's not mess with this web.

God bless you, Amen!

Thank youmike
Mike Ghouse | President
(214) 325-1916
Center for Pluralism


Studies in Social, religious, cultural, Gender, Political and work Place Pluralism. Pluralism is neither a religion nor rule of law, it is merely our attitude of "Respecting the otherness of others." and accepting the God-given uniqueness of each one of the 7.2 Billion of us.

Ramadan’s pluralism message for Muslims - Saudi Gazette


Tariq A. Al-Maeena 

Mike Ghouse is from the World Muslim Congress, a think tank committed to nurturing the pluralistic values of Islam. This group is about Muslims and their civic responsibilities; it is not about religious practices but simply about learning and creating a religious, social and civic space for Muslims in the community of faiths.

For this Ramadan, Mike would like to get the following message out: “By the end of 2020, there will not be a major city in America, and perhaps in the world, where you will not find people of different faiths, cultures, ethnicities, races, nationalities and social backgrounds working, eating, praying, playing, marrying, and doing things together. This is bound to create conflicts, and thus we need to prepare ourselves to deal with such eventualities.

“The guidance can be found in every religious tradition; all of them were committed to creating cohesive societies where no one had to live in apprehension or fear of the other.

“I am pleased to reiterate the Islamic tradition in this essay. The Holy Qur’an 49:13 says that God has created us into different tribes, communities and nations. It was indeed His choice to create each one of us to be unique with our own thumbprint, eye print, DNA, color and taste buds. Yet, the whole creation was put together in perfect balance and harmony (55:7).

“That brings us to pluralism which is defined as, ‘respecting the otherness of the others and accepting the (God-given) uniqueness of each one of us.’ ‘You are who you are, and I am who I am.’ Q109:6 (Yousef Ali). ‘To you be your way, and to me mine.’  Your faith is dear to you as mine is to me, together, we have to live and work on maintaining that harmony for our good and for the Creator’s joy. God’s religion is peace.

“Such diversity is bound to create conflict and mess up the delicate balance, so the Holy Qur’an encourages that the best among you are the ones who know each other. Indeed, knowledge leads to understanding and understanding to acceptance and appreciation of the God-given uniqueness of each one of us, and with that conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

“Pluralism is your choice to have good manners, and a good attitude toward fellow beings as guided by the Holy Qur’an, the Prophet (peace be upon him) and common sense. My focus of this essay is application of God’s recommendation ‘to know each other’ within the fold of Islam and with members of the diverse family of faiths.

“A majority of us are saddened with the day-to-day events in the Muslim world, calling each other infidels and killing each other in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and elsewhere. The Holy Qur’an says killing one person is like killing the whole of humanity. You are not to kill a single soul unless it is in self-defense. We talk about unity, and spew so much hate for the other in the same breath; it needs to stop as God wants peace.

“I am appealing to those Muslims who have the integrity to match their words with their actions, and pray for the integrity of others who lack it.

“During this Ramadan, please make an effort to do your Iftar (breaking fast) in every mosque of varying denominations, or at least seek God’s guidance to remove hate and bias from our hearts for each other. Invite each other, not to discuss differences but to know each other to learn to respect the otherness of others, and accept each other, so that conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

“Take some fruits and dates and just go there and let the imam or the volunteers know that you are from a different tradition and are making a sincere effort to be part of the larger community in every which way you can.

“Over the last four years, I have been to almost every mosque of every denomination in the United States. I have chronicled the uniqueness of each tradition with full respect at RamadanDaily.com.

“When you visit your friend’s house, you don’t criticize how they have arranged their furniture; in fact you may reluctantly praise it, but never put it down. You don’t dare criticize how their kids keep their rooms, eat or talk. For God’s sake go to other mosques with the same attitude, the attitude of pluralism.

“This year, we have four Fridays in Ramadan; make an effort to attend at least four major denominations on each Friday.

“Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was called Amin, the trustworthy, truthful and just and the person around whom people felt secure. We need to follow similar principles within our society. We need to have comfortable working relationships with everyone from all faiths including fellow Muslims of different denominations.

“The life of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is a bold example of living civility, with openness and confidence. The greater value he taught was to respect the otherness of others. Let’s follow him and build friendships with people of faiths and no faiths and become Amins of society.

“Together as Muslims, let’s make the world a safe and secure place for every one of God’s seven billion to live cohesively. Let’s not blame others, but do our share of good in our own mosques, neighborhoods, communities and towns on a smaller level. This is our home. M. Ghouse”

Just think what the world would be like if we did just a little bit of that?

— The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter@talmaeena

Religious Pluralism Versus Intolerance: Sectarian Violence in Indonesia


It took me an hour to recover from what's happening with the Muslim world after reading the following article about Indonesia.  We have to take steps to change things, and I hope, we the people consciously consider the worthiness of the  ideology of building  the "Aakhira" while robbing the "Hazira".

God has given the life to enjoy it, live up to it, and if we cheat on this gift of God,  and focus on life hereafter at the cost of here now, we are betraying him.  55:13 (Y. Ali) "Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny?"   

Next sermon I hear in a mosque about dying to build life hereafter, betraying the life here.  I will have to speak up. You think the Muslim problem emanates from this?

 There was hope that Indonesia will follow the inclusive governance set in motion by the Prophet (pbuh) in Madinah, work together with people of other faiths, despite the differences.  Indeed he called "Ummah" to include all residents of Madinah, be it Christian, Jews, Pagans and others. But that is not what is happening in Indonesia. 
The same dream of Jinnah is shattered by the successive Pakistani leaders. Fanaticism is taking over and support for fanaticism is also visible.

 The only hope we have is the number of moderate Muslims,  I would venture to say 98% of Muslims are moderates who want to get along with all of God' creation. If only we can get them to speak up against fanaticism.  If ten of us speak against one puny voice, it will shut him down and possible start the process of reducing the number of men hell bent on Aakhira.

Amongst us, in our emails, we get one or two fanatics that actually welcome the murderer Al Baghdadis' Caliphate.  If a few of us let them know that it is not good for Muslims or any one, may be some of them will run with their tail in their legs. Islam is about freedom and not imposition.

We have a choice to be righteous and speak out, or remain quite as not to rock the boat, before too long the boat will sink if we don't stop fanaticism.

Et tu, Indonesia?  Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has betrayed Islam to let sectarian and religious violence go unchecked. Same goes with Nawaz Shariff in Pakistan. Neither of them have fulfilled the duties of the heads of the state to protect its women, minorities and children. Shame on them!

Mike Ghouse
World Muslim Congress, a think tank
x x x 

Religious Pluralism Versus Intolerance: Sectarian Violence in Indonesia

By , King's College London | July 8, 2014

Religious pluralism has been under threat and sectarianism on the rise during the ten-year (2004-2014) tenure of outgoing president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (also known as SBY). During his two terms in office, Indonesia has seen rising tensions both between and within religious groups, increasing religious intolerance, and more cases of religiously inspired violence. This antagonistic climate has led to the closure and burning of churches, the displacement of Shi’i communities, physical violence against civil society activists campaigning for religious pluralism, and even the lynching of Ahmadis. Colluding local and regional authorities not only undermine the rule of law by failing to prosecute the perpetrators, but even seek to “resolve” tensions caused by the presence of minority groups by condoning—and sometimes stimulating—intimidation and hate crimes against them.[1]

Significance of Indonesia and Its Relevance to MEI-MAP

These apparently domestic issues have wider significance for three reasons. First, in addition to being the largest Muslim nation-state in the world and a regional heavyweight in Southeast Asia, Indonesia also has the potential to become a global force on par with countries such as Russia and Brazil; second, its strategic location in an area where the United States, Chinese, and Indian interests meet makes it an important factor in the repositioning of a future world order;[2] and finally, fifteen years of experience with a democratization process demonstrates that shaping a democratic political system for a pluralist society is hard work that must involve both institutional reform and the formation of a civil society capable of facilitating peaceful coexistence among diverse members of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious population. As a self-proclaimed “natural bridge” between the Muslim world, Asia, and the West,[3]Indonesia offers a cautionary lesson for other Muslim countries planning alternative political trajectories in the aftermath of regime change.

The History of Islam in Precolonial and Colonial “Indonesia”

Recent advances in historiography offer an important corrective to the persistent image of Indonesian Islam as a largely mystical veneer covering up older Hindu-Buddhist deposits. These findings provide a more varied and accurate picture that helps us understand religious tensions in Indonesia.
Indonesia’s way of dealing with what are the “two sides of the same coin” of religious plurality—coexistence and confrontation—is shaped by its longue durée history.[4] As a political entity, the geographical space now known as Indonesia is a colonial and postcolonial construct encompassing a patchwork of regional cultures, which are politically dominated by the Javanese and collectively part of the greater maritime Southeast Asian milieu. While the majority of its peoples now self-identify as Muslims, this is the outcome of a lengthy and peaceful Islamization process that started relatively late. Even though Indonesian contact with the West and South Asia predates the advent of Islam, the religion did not gain a foothold among the locals until the 13th and 14th centuries. This was the beginning of a gradual process of adherence, conversion, adaptation, and interaction that continues to this day.[5]
While giving rise to a Muslim culture unique to the island world of the Malay-Indonesian archipelago, believers from this eastern periphery of the Dar al-Islam also stayed abreast of developments elsewhere through sustained contacts with the centers of Islamic learning and political power. The Indian Ocean functioned as the ecumenical contact zone of the Middle East-Asia nexus,[6] allowing for intellectual and political exchanges that deeply impacted Indonesian society. Throughout the colonial period, Southeast Asian Muslim leaders had appealed to the Ottoman Caliph-Sultan for support against Western imperialism; in the early 19th century, pilgrims returning from Mecca to West Sumatra were inspired by Arabia’s Wahhabi movement to rise up against local notables and their colonial backers. At the start of the 20th century, Islamic leaders began establishing Muslim mass organizations (Ormas) for the emancipation of their constituencies, including the modernist Muhammadiyahin 1912, the puritanical reformist Persatuan Islam (PERSIS) in 1923, and the traditionalist Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) in 1926. The support bases which some of these organizations can mobilize are unparalleled anywhere else. Muslim assertiveness was further stimulated by a number of other external factors, including a rise in Christian missionary activity, the arrival of movements such as the Ahmadiyya from other parts of the Muslim world, and the influx of alternative spiritual organizations, like the Theosophical Society.[7]

The Tribulations of Indonesian Political Islam During Early Independence (1945-1965)

As the largest postcolonial Islamic political party until the NU secession in 1952, Masyumi managed to function as an umbrella organization bringing together different segments of Indonesia’s Muslim population. Although most Islamic parties accepted the building of a nation-state as a given, the insertion of a reference to Islamic law into the country’s constitution has been a persistent feature in their agendas. The failure of this initiative remains a constant source of frustration.
The so-called “Jakarta Charter”—an amendment designed to impose adherence to Shari’a on Indonesia’s Muslim citizens—was considered too divisive to be included in the constitution, both by Sukarno’s nationalists and more secular-minded Muslim politicians, including Vice-President Mohammad Hatta and one-time Prime Minister Sutan Sjahrir. Instead, the state espoused thePancasila, or Doctrine of Five Principles, which insisted on the Belief in One God. Although this provision does not assume any particular religious tradition, it gave formal acknowledgment only to Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. This left indigenous beliefs and Confucianism without official recognition, and failed to resolve or account for lingering sectarian tensions between and within religious traditions.
For radical Islamists of the Darul Islam, led by Kartosuwiryo, this was reason to proclaim a renegade Islamic state in parts of West Java, Sumatra, and Sulawesi in 1949.[8] In addition, new waves of Christianization in the 1950s—and again in the 1960s and 1970s—along with the influence of “non-standard Islams,” remained a cause for concern among Muslim leaders.[9] When Masyumipoliticians sided with these secessionists after the introduction of Guided Democracy in 1959, Sukarno completed his power grab by banning the party.

Redefining the Role of Islam Under New Order (1965-1995)

The military-dominated New Order regime of General Suharto continued to clamp down on all forms of political Islam, forcing former Masyumi activists to change tactics and switch to religious proselytization (da’wah) and puritanical religious training (tarbiyah) on university campuses. Meanwhile, certain Muslims and technocrats were co-opted by the government to take part in its economic development policy, and given space to articulate an Islamic discourse that accepted the Pancasila Doctrine and advocated religious pluralism. This preferential treatment, combined with a disproportionately prominent role for Christians, ethnic Chinese, and “non-standard Muslims” in trade, finance, economic advisory teams, the upper echelons of the military apparatus, and security think tanks, bred resentment among “Shari’a-minded” Muslims.[10]

Regime Change and the Early Reformasi Years (1999-2004)

Consequently, Suharto’s efforts to play up his own Islamic credentials in the face of an unmistakable Islamization of Indonesian society and public life amounted to too little too late. Ethnic and religious motivations were blurred in the political violence that marred the prelude to regime change.[11] Events also pointed to the deepening schism within the Muslim bloc. On the one hand, the free election of progressive NU leader Abdurrahman Wahid as president and his more pragmatic Muhammadiyah counterpart, Amien Rais, as speaker of the consultative assembly signaled the rise of the Muslim intelligentsia. On the other hand, Islamic political parties captured only one-third of votes in parliamentary elections.
The momentary power vacuum and breakdown of law and order in the immediate aftermath of New Order’s collapse also saw a re-emergence of secessionism in staunchly Islamic Aceh and the rise of blatantly intolerant Muslim militias and vigilantes such as Laskar Jihad and the Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam, FPI). Often in active collusion with the security apparatus, which consisted of military and police forces disoriented after a decade in power, Laskar Jihad became involved in violent clashes between Muslims and Christians in the Eastern Islands. At the same time, FPI began terrorizing religious minority groups and moderate Muslims in cities and provincial towns throughout the country.
While Islamic parties on the national level failed once again to secure the insertion of an “Islamic referent” in the constitution, the devolution of power from the central government to provincial and local authorities offered a window of opportunity to regional administrations for introducing and enforcing elements of Islamic law in regions such as Aceh, Banten, West Java, and certain parts of Sulawesi. Meanwhile, terrorist attacks by Muslim radicals on Bali and in Jakarta drew Indonesia’s domestic and international security polices more closely into the U.S.-led global “War on Terror,” providing the tools to act against religious extremists.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s “Religious Nationalism” (2004-2014)

A partial return to New Order seemed evident when retired general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was elected president along with Jusuf Kalla, leader of the erstwhile government party Golkar, as vice president. A statement issued by the president indicating that he would heed the advice of the semi-official Indonesian Council of Islamic Scholars (Majelis Ulama Indonesia, MUI) in all religious matters encouraged the head of the council’s fatwa drafting committee, conservative NU scholar Ma’ruf Amin, to orchestrate the release of a series of fatwas in July 2005. These declarations condemned the concepts of secularism, pluralism, and liberalism as “un-Islamic”; they also opposed interfaith prayers and stigmatized minority Muslim groups, such as the Shi’a and Ahmadis, as “deviants.”
Although formally outranked by Sahal Mahfudh—the moderately progressive but meek General Chairman of MUI and General President of the NU—Ma’ruf Amin succeeded by teaming up with MUI Secretary General and puritan Muhammadiyah prominent, Din Syamsuddin. This conservative-reactionary coalition was further consolidated when, in the same year, Syamsuddin took over as Muhammadiyah chairman, ousting his moderate predecessor Ahmad Syafii Maarif as well as progressive intellectuals Amin Abdullah and Abdul Munir Mulkhan.[12]
Opponents of the fatwas responded by establishing the National Alliance for the Freedom of Religion and Belief (AKKBB), a broad coalition of progressive Muslim and non-Muslim civil society activists who used Pancasila Memorial Day 2006 to advocate religious pluralism and protection of religious minority groups. Support from the notoriously indecisive SBY was lackluster, and he actually continued to court the Islamic bloc with his party’s vague slogan of “religious nationalism.” Meanwhile, an ineffective security apparatus and notoriously inept judiciary have been unable to mete out proper justice against the most notorious Muslim radicals and hate preachers. This polarized setting has inspired Muslim vigilante groups to not only persecute Christians, Ahmadis, and Shi’a—in 2008 they even attacked an AKKBB rally.[13] Because many of the NGOs in this alliance draw upon universal human rights standards and receive foreign funding, they also stand accused of being Western stooges.[14]
Thanks to the efficient management of Jusuf Kalla, a Muslim businessman with good relations in both Islamic and military circles who had already impressed the public with his handling of 2003 Tsunami crisis and significant contributions to the political resolution of the Aceh problem, SBY was able to secure landslide re-election victory for himself and his Democrat Party. In his second administration, he failed to capitalize on his mandate to defuse interreligious tensions, decrease intra-Muslim polarization, and bolster religious tolerance. Instead, he allowed his interior minister, Gamawan Fauzi, to characterize the FPI as an “asset to the nation” that needs to be “empowered” to play a role in the state’s social policy strategies—a position that effectively vindicated the violence and hate crimes committed by such vigilante organizations.[15] Advocates of religious freedom feel abandoned after the U.S.-based Appeal to Conscience Foundation inexplicably decided to confer the statesman’s award for religious tolerance in 2013.[16]


Indonesia’s ethno-religious plurality and the historical role of political Islam provide the setting for the story of inter and intra-communal relations. The oscillation between religious toleration, sectarianism, and religiously motivated violence is enabled by a variety of factors, including the unprecedented openness of the public sphere after the regime change of 1999; the concomitant political-religious polarization resulting from the emergence of Islamic militias and vigilante organizations along with the establishment of NGOs and other civil society initiatives that advocate religious pluralism; the devolution of powers from the central government to provincial and local authorities underReformasi; the government’s ambiguous attitude toward protecting religious plurality; and the state’s backing of controversial MUI rulings.

[1] Carool Kersten, Islam in Indonesia: The Contest for Society, Ideas and Values (London and New York: Hurst Publishers and Oxford University Press, 2014).
[2] Nasir Tamara, Indonesia Rising: Islam, Democracy and the Rise of Indonesia as a Major Power (Singapore: Select Publishing, 2009); Anthony Reid, Indonesia Rising: The Repositioning of Asia’s Third Giant (Singapore: ISEAS, 2012).
[3] Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, “Indonesia: Global Reach, Regional Role,” Lecture at the London School of Economics, 31 March 2009, accessed 15 April 2014.
[4] Eric Tagliacozzo (ed.), Southeast Asia and the Middle East: Islam, Movement and the Longue Durée (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009).
[5] Syed Farid Alatas, “Notes on Various Theories Regarding the Islamization of the Malay Archipelago,” The Muslim World 75, 162-175.
[6] Azyumardi Azra, The Origins of Islamic Reformism in Southeast Asia: Networks of Malay-Indonesian and Middle Eastern ‘Ulamā’ in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (Honolulu: Allen & Unwin and University of Hawai’i Press, 2004); Michael Laffan, The Makings of Indonesian Islam: Orientalism and the Narration of a Sufi Past (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2011).
[7] Yudi Latif, Indonesian Muslim Intelligentsia and Power (Singapore: ISEAS, 2008), 114-115.
[8] Chiara Formichi, Islam and the Making of the Nation: Kartosurwiryo and Political Islam in 20th Century Indonesia (Leiden: KILTV Press, 2012).
[9] Jan Sihar Aritongan and Karel Steenbrink (eds.), A History of Christianity in Indonesia (Leiden: Brill, 2008); Robert W. Hefner, “Where Have All theAbangan Gone? Religionization and the Decline of Non-standard Islam in Contemporary Indonesia,” Michel Picard and Remy Madinier (eds.), The Politics of Religion in Indonesia (London & New York: Routledge, 2011), 71-91.
[10] Carool Kersten, Cosmopolitans and Heretics; New Muslim Intellectuals and the Study of Islam (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 78.
[11] John T. Sidel, Riots, Pogroms, Jihad: Religious Violence in Indonesia(Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2006).
[12] In 2014 he also succeeded the deceased Sahal Mahfudh as General Chair of MUI.
[13] François Raillon, “The return of Pancasila: secular vs. Islamic norms, another look at the struggle for state dominance in Indonesia,” Michel Picard and Remy Madinier, 92-113.
[14] Julian Millie, “Impossible ideal?“, Inside Indonesia, 115, accessed 17 April 2014.
[15] Ezra Sihite, “Home Minister Clarifies Comments Calls for FPI to Be ‘Empowered,” Jakarta Globe, 29 October 2013.
[16] “Franz Magnis-Suseno: Religious Tolerance is SBY’s Responsibility,”Tempo, 4 June 2013.
Carool Kersten is Senior Lecturer in the Study of Islam & the Muslim World at King’s College London. In addition, Dr. Kersten is Deputy Research Director of the Centre for Religion Theology and Public Life and a member of the Centre for the Study of Divided Societies. He is also a research associate of the Centre for South East Asian Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Dr. Kersten is the author of Islam in Indonesia: The Contest for Society, Ideas and Values (Hurst, 2014); co-editor with Susanne Olsson of Alternative Islamic Discourses and Religious Authority (Ashgate, 2014); and co-editor with Madawi Al-Rasheed and Marat Shterin of Demystifying the Caliphate: Historical Memory and Contemporary Contexts (Oxford University Press, 2012). This article was originally published in the Middle East Institute.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Epoch Times.