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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ramadan’s Messages of Pluralism

Ramadan’s Pluralism Message | Intrafaith and Interfaith goal
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.  

Quran 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); Planets and plants were programmed to operate with precision (Q55:5) year after year, and humans were given a free will with the responsibility to maintain that balance for their own good or perish like the earlier species through climate changes or conflicts.

 

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. Q
109:6 (Y. 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.

God knew such diversity is bound to create conflict and mess up the delicate balance, so he encourages us in the same verse 49:13, 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 not a regulatory system like Secularism, or theocratic governance, but  your choice to have good manners, and  a good attitude towards fellow being as guided by Quran, the Prophet 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 diverse family of faiths.

Within the fold of Islam

A majority of us are saddened with the day to day events in the Muslim world, calling each other infidels and killing the other in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and elsewhere.  Quran says killing one person is like killing the whole 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 go 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 Iftaar (breaking fast) in every mosque, particularly in the Shia, Sunni, Ahmadiyya and WD Muhammad 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 if you have a few dollars or just go there and let the Imam or the volunteers know that you are from a different tradition and 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 every mosque of every denomination in the United States, except the Nation of Islam, and the Progressive Muslims. Insha Allah, I intend to make the trip to Washington DC or New York.  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, wear or talk.  For God’s sake go to other Mosques with the same attitude, the attitude of pluralism. 

This year, we have 4 Fridays in Ramadan; make an effort to attend at least four major denominations on each Friday.
Dealing with fellow members of diverse family of faiths;
 
Prophet Muhammad was called Amin, the trustworthy, truthful, just and around whom people felt secure. We need to be Amins of the society.  We need to have comfortable working relationships with everyone from Atheists to Baha’i, Buddhist, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Jewish, Native Americans, Pagans, Sikh, Wiccan, Zoroastrians and every one in between including fellow Muslims of different denominations. We should not be dumbfounded when it comes to the right knowledge about others, preferably as they express it and not what is dished out to us about them. We ought to take pride in knowing all of God’s creation expressed in different faiths and traditions.    

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) life is a bold example to live civility, openness and with confidence.  He had offered a space in his Mosque for the visiting Christians of Najran to pray after the interfaith dialogue.  Had they prayed, they would have called on Jesus as son of God and Prophet would not have objected it. The greater value he taught was to respect the otherness of others. Remember he also had his signature revised in Hudaybiyyah treaty – From Muhammad (pbuh) Rasool Allah to Muhammad (pbuh) bin Abdullah.  It was to respect the otherness of others.  Let’s follow him and build friendships with people of faiths or no faiths, and become Amins of the Society.

Together as Muslims, let’s make the world a safe and secure place for every one of God’s 7 billion to live cohesively.  Let’s not blame others, but do our share of good in our own Masjids, neighborhoods, communities and towns on a smaller level.  This is our home.

Please study:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/american-muslim-agenda-a-_b_5528706.html 

Additional Reading:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Atheism in Saudi Arabia

ATHEISTS IN SAUDI ARABIA
URL - http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2014/06/in-cradle-of-islam-growing-number-of.html

God tells in Qur'an, " ... Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error ..." [2:256]

This is Islam's unambiguous affirmation of freedom of faith, which also applies to changing of faith. The Qur'an illuminates before the humanity the two highways [90:10], one of which leads to salvation. Islam is an invitation to the highway toward salvation, but it is based on

FREEDOM OF CHOICE.

The role of the Prophet was to explain what it means.  To paraphrase his quote, you cannot force anyone to believe what they don't, it has to come from within and if they can see the value in it.

The sad part of religion, any religion be it Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism or the others, a majority of the folks get it, some don't.  No one should trample on one's freedom to eat, drink, wear, or believe what he wants. There shall be no compulsion.

Indeed, Islam or any religion thrives where there is freedom. Saudi Arabia can enforce their extreme rules as the policy of their government but not as Islam. I cannot call it repugnant, because in the United States we still have the Death Penalty, and our Congressmen and Senators still make stupid remarks about women. Had we not had the rule of law, or if we vote in the conservatives by mistake, we can see them want to emulate Saudi Arabia when it comes to LGTB, Women's rights and other rights.

Freedom of speech, assembly and expression are the way to go, the governments have to be righteous to feel secure. Indeed, I can safely conclude,  freedom is directly proportional to how secure the government is, and Saudi Government (Not Islamic) is not, will crumble within two decades.


Mike Ghouse
Center for Pluralism
www.FoundationforPluralism.com

www.MikeGhouse.net

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.


# # #


 
Atheism explodes in Saudi Arabia, despite state-enforced ban 
Worshippers outside of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia (Credit: Associated Press)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Father's day gifts | Mothers are Fathers

FATHER'S DAY GIFT S | MOTHERS ARE FATHERS
URL - http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2014/06/fathers-day-gifts-mothers-are-fathers.html

Gone are the times when gifts were a surprise, coming are times where you list your gift choices on Amazon or some such site - to make it easy for the loved one's to order it. Whatever happened to "I know my father" and "know what he would enjoy"? The surprise factor is still good! There was a time, when my son and I had exchanged the exact same gift which we both cherished.

Let me not forget and be insensitive to those who do not have a father, abusive father or ashamed to be associated with one. I admire you for being who you are without a father or a father figure. All of us would find our own balance in one way or the other, that is the law of life, and I admire you for being who you are - a good giver, even though you may not have been a recipient of such love.

God willing, I will write a small article on father's day to appreciate my father M. Abdul Rahman and my father figure Everett A Blauvelt, who have showered tremendous affection and caring. I hope you would reflect on such blessed figures in your life - a sense of gratitude seeps in when expressed, and brings serenity in life.

To rekindle that beautiful connection, of knowing what your father would like and want, my friend Dr. Amer Suleman floated a great idea. When his kids asked him what he wants for Father's day, he said to them, "the greatest gift would be to speak to me in my language - Urdu; at least three sentences." Now the kids can surprise their fathers in their own language… it takes effort and thought process to figure out the surprise.

This is also a great idea to keep our Children's earth green.

MOTHERS ARE FATHERS

I admire all those mothers who have been a great father to their children, through a variety of life situations. My wife Yasmeen has been a good father besides a great mother to her daughter Maheen, and I know a whole lot of other mothers who have raised their children with a lot of caring and affection - they deserve a big appreciation on father's day

Share are your thoughts, together we can create a few good moments in our lives to cherish?



Share are your thoughts, together we can create a few good moments in our lives to cherish?

Mike Ghouse
www.MikeGhouse.net

Texas Faith: In love and marriage, do different faiths really matter in America?

DO INTERFAITH MARRIAGES MATTER?
 

http://interfaithmarriages.blogspot.com/
When a couple is deeply committed to marry, they go ahead and get married anyway without the ceremony due to religious restrictions, but they sorely miss out on the integral part of their tradition they grew up with; a religious cultural wedding. There is good news for such couples now; an interfaith wedding.

As a Pluralist, I am blessed to have performed numerous weddings for couples in their own religious traditions like the Hindu-Christian, Muslim-Jain, Jewish-Christian, Muslim-Hindu and other combinations. We can highlight the beautiful wisdom of each faith as a part of the sermon to bring a sense of completeness to their wedding.


Texas Faith: In love and marriage, do different faiths really matter in America?

By Rudolph Bush
rbush@dallasnews.com
10:47 am on June 10, 2014 | Permalink

Recently, I attended the beautiful wedding of two friends, one from a Jewish family and one from a Christian family. The ceremony largely followed the Jewish tradition with occasional mention of the bride’s Christian upbringing.

I began to wonder, witnessing this blending of two people into one couple bound under God, what place separate faiths really serve in our society. If we are honest, there is no justifying the fundamental difference in belief between Christians and Jews or the other major faiths. But in cases like these, it is our cultural homogeneity that is more important than the tenets of our faith.

Given that, what does faith really mean in circumstances like these? Is faith or religion simply ceremonial? Or are we overcoming divisions in the name of something greater – that is – love?

Read our panelists’ responses below.

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism and speaker on interfaith matters, Dallas


Religions don’t marry, but people do, and what brings them together in the first place is a shared interest, evolved out of living their daily life at work, school, gym, bars, conferences and even the place of worship, indeed, that is what connects them.

These couples must be admired by one and all. In an increasingly egocentric world, when people have difficulty in getting along, they are setting a new standard of respecting the otherness of others (defined as Pluralism).

It is disappointing to many couples, that their clergy or the parents insist on the other person to convert to their faith tradition, some do, and some fake it and some are not even comfortable with the idea.

When a couple is deeply committed to marry, they go ahead and get married anyway without the ceremony due to religious restrictions, but they sorely miss out on the integral part of their tradition they grew up with; a religious cultural wedding. There is good news for such couples now; an interfaith wedding.

As a Pluralist, I am blessed to have performed numerous weddings for couples in their own religious traditions like the Hindu-Christian, Muslim-Jain, Jewish-Christian, Muslim-Hindu and other combinations. We can highlight the beautiful wisdom of each faith as a part of the sermon to bring a sense of completeness to their wedding.

There is a cautionary side of the interfaith marriage, as Naomi Schaefer Riley reports in her book, How Interfaith Marriage is Transforming America, “The growing number of interfaith couples don’t know what they’re getting into. Interfaith couples tend to marry without thinking through the practical implications of their religious differences. They assume that because they are decent and tolerant people … they will not encounter difficulties being married to someone of another faith.” She insists, “But faith is a tricky thing and it sneaks up on people,” especially at significant moments when the pull of old loyalties supposedly outgrown reasserts itself. “The death of a loved one, the birth of a child, the loss of a job, a move to a new city — all of these things can give people a sense of religious longing, a desire to return to the faith of their childhood.”

One must be fully secure in himself or herself to learn to accept each other’s uniqueness, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

To read the other panelists, go to Dallas Morning news at
http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/2014/06/texas-faith-in-love-and-marriage-do-different-faiths-really-matter-in-america.html/#more-40530
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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 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 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.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Second largest religion in each one of the 50 states of the United States of America

THIS MAP WILL GENERATE ISLAMOPHOBIA AND ANTI-SEMITISM
URL - http://foundationforpluralism.blogspot.com/2014/06/second-largest-religion-in-each-one-of.html


As Americans, we have to guard ourselves from the insecure men**, who pretend to be frightened and galvanize the radicals. Its all about money, and they know how to dupe us all. They will go ballistic on this statistics and spread falsities. You may find a rise in Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism.  

 


I will be ready to combat these rascals by allaying their fears that Muslims and Jews mind their own business, take care of their families, do their jobs sincerely, earn an honest living and educate their children to be contributing citizens of America. A a few may support Israel and a few may support Palestine and Hindus may support India and Bahai's will work hard to protect fellow Bahai's in Iran, who are being persecuted.

We cannot let any one destroy the cohesive fabric of America, I am on, and ask some of you to become the team America to preserve our harmony.


** I would rather call them insecure men and women, rather than right wingers.
Mike Ghouse | President
(214) 325-1916
Center for Pluralism
Studies in Social, religious, cultural, Gender, Political and work Place Pluralism.
Pluralism is "Respecting the otherness of others."
www.Foundationforpluralism.com

http://FoundationforPluralism.blogspot.com
www.MikeGhouse.net



Courtesy Mental Floss


Today's map, from the Washington Post's Reid Wilson, uses data from the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies to pinpoint the second-most practiced religion in each state. (Christianity is first in each state.)
If you'd like to see it broken down by all denominations, here's another map that goes county-by-county:
Here's a larger view of the key:
See Also: 25 Maps and Charts That Explain America Today (Washington Post)
The Afternoon Map is a semi-regular feature in which we post maps and infographics. In the afternoon. Semi-regularly. Thanks to Reid Wilson for sharing this one.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Myths Circulating About Muslims

This is a good response to common myths about Muslims by Nivedita Menon, this could be more fact filled, but will work. Over the years I have written many such responses be it about the prophet, Quran, Muslim women, and other things about Islam,  and are available on this site www.WorldMuslimCongress.com and other sites.


The right wing Hindus, Jews, Christians and Buddhists love to hate Muslims, just as it happens the other way around. Its time to bust the myths about each other by sane moderate majorities from these groups to create a better world of understanding each other with harmony.

By the way, my book standing up for others will be released within two months, it's about standing up from Atheists to Zoroastrians and everyone in between. The world becomes a better place when we all stand up for each others' basic human rights

Mike Ghouse
www.MikeGhouse.net

# # #


Myths Circulating About Muslims
by  
Courtesy of Kafila  

As the 2014 elections begin, the time has come again to state the obvious. In the context of massive propaganda campaigns, the subtle use of stereotypes, and the fact that both the Western and the Indian media share certain basic biases, many people end up believing in a range of myths about the adherents of the world’s second largest religion. This is a quick attempt at exposing those myths.

Myth: ‘Muslim’ countries are never secular. Muslims do not tolerate minorities in ‘their’ countries but demand minority rights in other countries.

The world’s largest Muslim majority country is Indonesia (total population approximately 25 crores, larger than Pakistan). Indonesia is a secular democracy. Indeed, its population is almost a mirror image of India’s – 88% Muslim, 9% Christian, 3% Hindu, 2% Buddhist, etc. (as compared to India, which has a population that is 80% Hindu, 13.4% Muslim, 2.3% Christian, etc.) Indonesia’s national slogan is “Unity in Diversity.” Yes, Indonesia has occasional riots and bomb blasts, but so does India.

In reality the majority of Muslim majority countries in the world are secular. Several large examples include Turkey, Mali, Syria, Niger, and Kazakhstan. Despite having Islam as ‘state religion’, Bangladesh’s government is also secular in law. The same is true of many other countries. Only six countries in the world claim to use Islam as the basis of their law making – and their total population is roughly the same as the population of Indonesia, Turkey and Kazakhstan combined. In other words, the vast majority of Muslim majority countries are secular, and the vast majority of Muslims live under secular governments.

Myth: Not all Muslims may be terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslims.


Even if we accept the government’s definition of who is a terrorist in India, this is entirely untrue. In India, less than a third of the organisations banned as “terrorist” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act are Muslim organisations. Internationally, the group that engaged in the most suicide bombings in the world was the LTTE in Sri Lanka – a militantly atheist group whose members are mostly of Hindu and Christian origin.

It is also not true that Muslim organisations engage in the most violence in India. Between 2005 and 2014, as per the South Asia Terrorism Portal, twice as many people were killed in ‘terrorist incidents’ by Northeastern militant organisations and “left wing extremism”. These are all non-Muslim organisations, and the largest Northeastern organisation in this period (ULFA) has a mostly Hindu, upper caste leadership.

Besides, the definition of “terrorism” that the government uses is contradictory. Killing twenty people by a bomb blast is considered terrorism, but the killing of thousands of people in 1984 or more than a thousand people in Gujarat in 2002 (or, for that matter, the killing of 40 people in Muzaffarnagar, 68 people in Orissa in 2008, etc. etc.) are not. All riots involve planning, stockpiling of weapons and systematic attacks. Why then are they not considered terrorism?

Myth: Muslims have always been fundamentalists and are ‘more religious’ than followers of other religions.

Recent history shows that this is a lie, and also exposes where current “Muslim fundamentalism” comes from. Just forty to sixty years ago, in most of the major regions of the world with high Islamic populations – Indonesia, the Middle East, north Africa – the strongest political forces were secular leftists. This took many forms: the Indonesian Communist Party, the Nasserite and Baa’thist regimes in Egypt, Syria and Iraq, the Iranian government of Mohammed Mossadegh, etc. In these countries, especially in the Middle East, it was the United States and its client states (such as Saudi Arabia) that sponsored, financed and armed right wing and religious fundamentalist organisations, precisely in order to counter the strength of the secular leftists whom they opposed. Israel’s role in propping up Hamas to counter the PLO is also well known. This reached its height in the 1980s with the war in Afghanistan, with the US bankrolling and training the people who later founded Al Qaeda. It was during this period as well that the US financed and supported the Zia regime in Pakistan in its “Islamisation” drive. The current strength of the Islamic fundamentalist movement in the Middle East is a result of American strategy, which involved finishing off all leftist resistance while tolerating and encouraging Islamic fundamentalism.

Above all, to repeat the key point, Islamic fundamentalism is a political phenomenon created by a particular history – just like Hindutva, Christian fundamentalism and every other form of right wing movement. The myth of the inherently fundamentalist Muslim owes a lot to European mythmaking around the Crusades and subsequent efforts to prop up their empire in India. But people continue to recycle colonial self-justifications as if they are true.

Myth: Muslims always start violence. Hindus only ‘retaliate’ or ‘act in self defence’.

Every single group that has ever engaged in mass killings has claimed to be ‘retaliating’ or ‘defending themselves’.’  The September 11 attacks in the US were justified as “retaliation” for the killing of lakhs of people in Iraq (through sanctions) and in Palestine by the US and Israel.  If you believe the emails being sent before the Delhi and Ahmedabad bomb blasts in 2008, the blasts were “retaliation” for police atrocities and the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat.  In 2008 Christians were massacred in Orissa in “retaliation” for the killing of a VHP leader. Going back further in history, the Nazis justified the Kristallnacht- their first state-sponsored riot against Jews, in which thousands of synagogues and homes were destroyed – by claiming it was “retaliation” for the murder of a German diplomat and necessary to ‘defend themselves’ against ‘international Jewry’.

The reason for this is simple – the only way to convince people to commit inhuman atrocities against other people is to make them believe that they are “defending themselves” or “paying back.” The sheer inhumanity of talking about “retaliation” is obvious. Would those who claim “Hindus only retaliate” be comfortable if a Bihari militia were to massacre Maharashtrians as “retaliation” for attacks by the MNS and the Shiv Sena? Would they accept if Northeastern armed organisations carried out massacres of Delhiites in “retaliation” for atrocities and racism against Northeasterners in the capital? It is a mark of how low we have come as a society that so many people go around mouthing these slogans today, as if gangrape and massacres can ever be justified by “retaliation” and “self-defence.”

Myth: Hindus do not kill based on their religion. Only Muslims do, because their religion requires them to.

In Gujarat in 2002, in Delhi and other cities in 1984, in Bhagalpur in 1989, and in most other riots, the overwhelming majority of those who died were from minority communities (Muslims, Sikhs, etc.) Then we have the recent instances of bomb blasts by Hindutva organisations. The majority of the killers in all of these incidents were Hindus, and the organisations that drove the killings called on them to kill non-Hindus. Would it be accurate to say they killed because Hinduism required them to do so? No, clearly, in all those instances, the attackers and the organisers were political groups seeking political goals (and dressing them up as religious goals). This is exactly what far right Muslim groups do too.

Every religion has groups that urge conflict with other religions, and holy texts in every religion contain things that endorse atrocities (just look at the what the Manu Smriti says about women and Dalits, or the Old Testament of the Bible says about massacres of non-Jews). This does not mean that followers of those religions follow those texts literally. The vast majority of Muslims, like the vast majority of Hindus, Christians, or any other group, have never killed anyone and never will.

Myth: Muslims are united and act together, while Hindus are divided and weak.

Every election study ever done has found that Muslims vote in the same manner as any other community votes – for facilities, on the basis of the candidate, whether they like a political party, etc. In practice also Muslims are no more united than any other group; they have internal divisions on religious, caste, gender, regional, language and countless other lines, just like any other community in India. If Muslims were “united”, one would expect that they would be represented well in Parliament. In fact, Muslim MPs constituted only 5.5% of the outgoing Lok Sabha, even though they are more than 13% of the population.

If anything, in today’s cities the idea of “Muslims all live together” has been created by discrimination against them and them being forced to live in particular ghettos. Meanwhile, in voting, people worry about their own physical safety; just as a Bihari will not vote for a Shiv Sena candidate, most Muslims would not vote for the BJP. This is, once again, common sense. A party which has built itself around calling you foreigners, terrorists and anti-nationals is not likely to win your vote.

Myth: The government favours Muslims and pampers them.

On the contrary, official data indicates systematic discrimination against Muslims.  The Sachar Committee found that availability of bus stops, roads, bank branches etc. is lower in Muslim majority areas, even when compared to nearby villages with a Hindu majority. Muslims on average received only 2/3 the loan amounts disbursed to other minorities.  The proportion of Muslims living in pucca houses is lower than the general population, both in cities and in villages, even if compared to others at their level of poverty.  Muslims form less than 3% of the IAS officers and 4% of IPS officers, even though their population is about 13% of the total. Overall, the Sachar Committee concluded that on average Muslims are at roughly the same socioeconomic level as Dalits and adivasis.

Similarly, in a study published in the Economic and Political Weekly in 2007, the authors responded to 548 job advertisements from private sector companies with three identical applications – one with a high caste Hindu name, one with a Dalit name, and one with a Muslim name. Even though the applications were otherwise identical, the Dalit name was approximately one third less likely to get called for an interview, and the Muslim name was two thirds less likely. In both the public and the private sectors, Muslims are denied opportunities across the board.

Myth: But Hindus cannot buy land in Jammu and Kashmir!

Non-Kashmiris cannot buy land in J&K – just as non-Himachalis cannot buy land in Himachal Pradesh, outsiders cannot enter Nagaland without permission, non-Uttarakhandis can buy only small plots in Uttarakhand, etc. Many parts of India have these regulations to protect local populations. The issue has nothing to do with religion.

Myth: The Muslim population is increasing faster than the Hindu population, especially because Muslim men can have many wives. Their aim is to become the majority.

The National Family Health Survey has found that young Muslim women have the same fertility rate as young Hindu women of the same economic level. The slightly higher growth rate for Muslims overall is due to the fact that, on average, Muslims are poorer than Hindus. Common sense would also indicate this. Kerala, which has a Muslim population of approximately 25%, also has the lowest population growth rate of any State in the country. Poverty and lack of facilities are far more important than religion in deciding how many children you have. The fertility rate of Muslims in States like Tamil Nadu and Kerala is far below that of Hindus in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar or Rajasthan, for instance.

As for Muslim men marrying many wives, it is blindingly obvious that this can make no difference to population growth, since if one Muslim man has two wives, that means some other man will have no wife (given that the populations of men and women are roughly equal). Meanwhile, the NFHS found (in the only survey that looked at this) that approximately 5.8% of Hindu men have multiple wives, while only 5.73% of Muslim men do.

Myth: Muslims got ‘their’ country when Pakistan was created, now they should leave ‘our’ country.

The first active political leaders to talk of separate countries for Muslims and Hindus were those who would later be part of the Hindu Mahasabha. Bhai Paramanand, later president of the Mahasabha, demanded this in 1905. The demand for Pakistan did not emerge from the Muslim League until 1940, and then as well it was a political demand by a political party. Huge numbers of Muslims opposed the idea of Pakistan, including the biggest Islamic religious school in India – the Deoband seminary – and President of the Congress party, Maulana Azad, who was one of India’s greatest freedom fighters. The demand for Pakistan was a demand by a political party, not a demand by Muslims as a whole.

In short, it’s simple: Muslims are human beings, with as much diversity and free thinking as any other group of people. In this climate of intense hate-mongering against Muslims, it’s necessary to reject these racist myths and instead stand up for a world that values human dignity.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Derailing the Modi Train

MODI WILL BE PULLED DOWN BY HIS OWN GROUP, IF HE DOES NOT WATCH HIS BACK
URL- http://foundationforpluralism.blogspot.com/2014/06/derailing-modi-train.html

While Modi is committed to fixing the ills of India, the men at Hindu Heritage Forum are determined to derail the Modi train, unless we dialogue with them, the journey becomes difficult for every one.  I am willing to take the lead and hope my Hindu, Muslim, Dalit, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain friends will join me in the dialogue. I believe 90% of the Signatories of the GHHF letter are good people, signing the letter blindly. 
The real conflicts are not between Hindus, Muslims, Dalits, Christians, Sikhs Jains and others, but between two ideologies.  India has two kinds of people;  the ones who unite, and the ones who divide;  the ones who believe in freedom, and the others who want to restrict the rights of others; ones who believe minding their own business and the others who meddle in how others live.

Every Indian should have the freedom to breathe, eat, drink, wear and believe whatever the hell he or she wants,  then the pragati will be for real and sustainable. If people fight over these issues, our constitution should put them in their place for the common good of Indians. 

Thanks to GHHF- the Global Hindu heritage Foundation out of Frisco, Texas for posting their 2nd letter at Dallas Indians, if Modi considers even tenth of their recommendation, which I seriously doubt, then India can beat Pakistan in extremism and religious intolerance. 

Solution 

I hope I am not wrong, but I believe Modi will put an end to corruption, rape terrorism,  honor killing, female infanticide, disrespect for women, and most certainly communal riots. Let's pray for his success in these areas.

Bad things will continue to happen, as long as good men will do nothing about it.  What we need to do is call these men at GHHF, their phone numbers are listed below, and ask them to show it to their adult children who are born and raised in America, even if half the kids approve of this, I will back off. Is that fair?

If these men are reasonable, I would like to call on them and have a meeting.  I know for a fact that, of the 50 or so signatories below - 90% would not subscribe to this ideology -we will have to have a long dialogue with the 5%  of them, and pray that God will give them some sense. I will take that step.  How many of my Hindus friends will join me?

These men at GHHF bring shame to India's rich heritage

Imagine a repulsive bill pending in the house, America is a Christian Nation and has 80% Christians and they should dictate the terms to others. 

1.  Demanding Hindus, Muslims, Jews and others to place a cross in the sanctuary of their places of worship.

2. Force Hindus, Muslims and others to start their day with a pledge to serving Jesus to prove their loyalty to America

3. Print new currency notes and coins with the picture of "Jesus Christ"

4. Demand Hindus, Muslims and others to worship Jesus to prove their loyalty, or else go back to their countries.

5. Make it compulsory for every Citizen to pledge allegiance to America and not India, as they have renounced their citizenship, if they want to retain it, then leave America or live here as a 2nd class Citizen. 

6. Ban the word Minority and take away all the rights of Hindus, Muslims and others.

Mike Ghouse is Public Speaker, thinker and an author commited to building cohesive societies, and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. Everything about him is at MikeGhouse.net and many links to media, websites and blogs.

________________________________________________

Here is the actual GHHF Letter.

How to make Bharath a Hindu Rashtra by "Hindu Voice."

GHHF is very happy to endorse the letter that was sent to Sri Narendra Modi and support all the points written by Sri Deivamuthu to make Bharath a Hindu Rashtra. This is a very powerful, thought out letter containing numerous points highlighting the richness of Sanatana Dharma. To preserve the ideals of Vasudaika Kutumbum and embrace the inclusive philosophy, not exclusive, that brings all people together irrespective of religion, caste and creed. Contribution to humanity through science, morals, ethics, art, philosophy, yoga, meditation, scriptures, and ahimsa addressed by Hindus is unparalleled in the annals of history. We have to revers the course of action that was hateful to Hindutva must be reversed. It is high time that all Hindus express their views with one voice demanding the needed changes in the constitution where every citizen is given equal opportunities to contribute to their fullest to articulate the meritocracy to take Bharath to highest levels of human achievement. All barriers such as minority reservations, article 370, article 28, minority educational institutions, atrocities act, dowry act, school curriculum and others that impede the progress must be removed to make the way for unbridled freedom to flower.

            We print the letter of Sri P. Deivamuthu as was sent to the Prime Minister.

GHHF Core Team

My Letter to PM on Simple ways to Hinduise Bharat
P. Deivamuthu, Editor, Hindu Voice
(This letter was sent by Speed Post on 28th May 2014)


27th May 2014
Shri Narendra ModiJi
Prime Minister of India
Gujarat Bhavan, New Delhi 110001

Dear Prime Minister, Modiji, Pranaam.

Sub: Simple ways to Hinduise Bharat

At the outset, let me congratulate you for leading the BJP to a grand victory, and becoming the first non-Congress Prime Minister of our nation with a clear majority. Your oath taking ceremony on 26th May was indeed grandeur, with the presence of many Hindu saints and RSS leaders.

Hindu Voice, a Monthly in English and Hindi, is not unknown to you. Directorate of Information, Govt. of Gujarat, is a Life Member of Hindu Voice. Copies are also posted to you personally. You have also conveyed your Best Wishes to Hindu Voice, many years ago, vide your letter dated 7th March 2003.

Hindu Voice has special relationship with Gujarat. It was launched in April 2002, in memory of the 58 Karsevaks burnt alive at Godhra on 27th Feb. 2002. Hindu Voice has been consistently campaigning for making you the PM candidate. In fact, in my editorial in Hindu Voice as early as June 2008, I had pleaded that you be declared as the PM candidate for the 2009 parliamentary election itself. I am happy that this has happened in 2014 and because of that we have got our Second Independence.

As the Editor of Hindu Voice, I have been propagating that Hindutva (Hinduism) is Rashtriyatuva (Nationalism), and Hindutva is the only unifying factor of all Indians. Hindutva  encompasses everything humanity stands for, including secularism and democracy. Hindutva is not divisive; it is inclusive. I am sure that most of our Muslim and Christian brothers too will agree on this fact. By electing BJP and its allies overwhelmingly, the people have confirmed my stand.

Therefore, more emphasis should be placed on Hindutva, so that our unity is further strengthened, and secularism and democracy thrive.

This will also be in accordance with our constitution. Our constitution bears the pictures of Sri Ram, Sri Krishna, Lord Natraj, Lord Mahavir, Lord Bhuddha, Vedic Yajna, Kurukshetra, GeetaUpadesh, Lanka Vijay and Sita Uddhar, etc. etc. Therefore, it is a Hindu Constitution.

Our Constitution Makers too were well aware that the identity of our Nation is Hindu. Vedic slogans like 'SatyamevaJayate', 'Satyam, Shivan, Sundaram', 'Dharma-Chakra-Pravartana', etc. were used by various Govt. Depts. Because it is a Hindu Nation, they felt, India was, is and will always remain 'secular'. Hence, they never felt the need for the word 'secular' in the preamble to our Constitution (which was inserted by Smt. Indira Gandhi during Emergency). Hindus, by nature, are secular, and Hinduism is perforce secularism.

Here are a few more proofs that India is a Hindu nation - legally, spiritually and culturally. Indian Satellites are named Aryabhata, Baskara, Rohini, etc. Our missiles are named Agni, Prithvi, Akash, etc. Our war ships are named INS Vikrant, Viraat, Vikramatitya, Godavari, Ganga, Brahmaputra, Shivalik, Abhay, Sarayu, Sukanya, Varuna, Tarangini, etc. Our Submarines are named Sindhudhvaj, Sindhughosh, Sindhuratna, etc. Our battle tanks are named Arjun, Bhishma, Ajeya, etc. All the above names are associated with Hindu culture. If one enters into the BARC Complex at Trombay (Mumbai), one is pleasantly surprised to find that all the multi-storey buildings there are named Aruna, Varun, Godavari, Kaveri, Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, Prayag, Narmada, etc. - all our sacred rivers.

However, the Nehruvian Congress had not only tried to hide these Hindu spiritual and cultural elements in our constitution, but had tried to drain the nation of its spiritualism and culture. It was trying to detach this nation from its Hindu roots and make India into an adharmic (dharma-nirpeksh) state. Hence it had spread a canard that Hinduism is communal and only minorities are secular, which led to divisiveness in the society. This anomaly has to be set right and the nation has to be brought to its Hindu moorings, which is its soul.

Now that you have made India Congress-free and there is a radically transformed environment in the nation, there needs to be a paradigm shift in your Govt.'s approach towards 'secularism' and 'communalism', in letter and spirit. Your Govt. should recognise the spiritual and cultural sentiments of the people and our Constitution Makers, and hinduise Bharat. Muslims and Christians need not fear. There will be complete religious freedom in a Hinduised Bharat, but their loyalty to Bharat should be beyond doubt.

While development and good governance is important, which I am sure you will provide, the need for national integration is of paramount importance. Going to a Temple, Mosque or Church is a personal choice, but every one should be absolutely loyal to Mother India. We have had enough of Nehruvian Secularism and Macaulayism. Now, let the country get back to its civilisational roots. Hence, you should take the following steps to Hinduise Bharat.

Your Govt. should proclaim and propagate that (a) India was, is and will be a Hindu nation, citing the above examples, (b) Hindutva (Hinduism) is Nationalism (Rashtriyatva) and not communalism, as the Nehruvian Congress has made us to believe; (c) Hinduism is a Way of Life, as confirmed by our Supreme Court, and is not against any religion; (d) any act done in the name of Hinduism is not communal; It is just national, and conforms to our constitution, and (e) the survival of secularism and democracy, and the unity and integrity of India is directly related to the preservation and growth of Hinduism.

            The following simple methods will make India a truly Hindu nation - in other words more secular and democratic - without in any way altering the basic features of our Constitution.



1.     Print new currency notes and coins with the picture of "Maa Laxmi", replacing Mahatma Gandhi's picture. Hindus identify money with Devi Laxmi. So, befitting that sentiment, it is natural that MaaLaxmi's picture should appear on all currency notes and coins. Withdraw all old notes.

    The UPA Govt. had brought out coins embossing the picture of Sister Alphonsa, Cross, Vaishnav Devi. etc. So there is no legality involved in putting the picture of Maa Laxmi on currency notes. This will also solve the black money problem within the country. Also, the picture of Devi Laxmi will deter ISI from printing counterfeit notes in Pakistan.

2.     Make the slogans 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and 'Vande Mataram' compulsory for every citizen, to ensure their absolute loyalty to India - Indian first and Hindu, Muslim, Christian later. These were the slogans which kindled nationalist feelings amongst Indians and brought them together during our freedom movement. They unite all Indians, irrespective of their caste, creed, language, religion and region.

    At the time of partition, BabasahebAmbedkar desired that there should be exchange of population - all Muslims must be sent to Pakistan - as Dr. Ambedkar knew that Islam and democracy can not co-exist. Dr. Rajendra Prasad desired that those Muslims who stayed back must be disenfranchised - no voting rights for Muslims.  While Babasaheb's suggestions are time-barred, we can implement Dr. Rajendra Prasad's suggestions and weed out those who say 'I am a Muslim/Christian first, Indian later'. Any one refusing to say  'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and 'Vande Mataram' should be disenfranchised. The application form to enrol new voters should carry an undertaking to this effect. Also, these slogans should be made compulsory for every Govt.  employee.

3.     Make the singing of our National Anthem - Jana Gana Mana, and ending it with 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and 'Vande Mataram' - compulsory for all candidates at the time of filing their nomination papers for MPs and MLAs.  If any one fails or refuses to sing Jana Gana Mana, ending it with 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and 'Vande Mataram', his nomination should be rejected. Otherwise, we cannot stop a Pervez Musharraf, Dawood Ibrahim or an Abu Salim from fighting election, and may even become the PM.

4.     Similarly, at the time of taking oath by MLAs, MPs, Ministers, CMs, PM, and President, they should say at the end 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and 'Vande Mataram'. Refusing to say so will disqualify him from holding that position.

5.     Ban the word 'minority'. No where in the world, citizens are divided in to 'minority' and 'majority' on the basis of religion. (Are Hindus/Muslims settled in USA, UK, Canada, etc. called minorities there?) Our Constitution too prohibits the word 'Religious minority'. In fact, it was a distort by our Nehruvian Congress with vote bank consideration. We are all Indians, with equal rights and duties. Going to a temple, mosque or church is one's personal choice.

6.     This will naturally bring us to the 'National Minority Commission Act of 1992' - an act meant to divide the Indian society. This act itself is unconstitutional. It ultra vires Article 15 (1) of our constitution. ("The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them"). It goes without saying that the appointment of the Sachchar Committee is also unconstitutional.

7.     Bring in an "Endangered Civilization Protection Act" to save Sanatan Hindu Dharm, Hindu civilization, Hindu practices, Hindu believes, Hindu scriptures, our heritage, culture and traditions, and to stop conversion.

8.     Give Moral Policing Powers to some of our Hindu Organisations. To protect villagers from Maoists, SalvaJudum was created, in Chttisgarh. Similarly, to protect and preserve Hindu Dharm, Believes, practices, scriptures, culture, tradition, etc. moral/cultural policing rights should be given to selected Hindu Organisations and Ashrams. Their members, working in tandem with the local police, should have the power to stop any one from demeaning or tarnishing Hindu Gods, Hindu Way of Life, Hindu culture, Hindu scriptures, etc., arrest them and hand them over to the Police for further action. They can also identify infiltrators and hand them over to the police for deportation.

9.     Make the lighting of our traditional lamp at every Govt. function compulsory. Any one refusing to light the lamp must be disqualified. Similarly, all Govt. offices should perform "SatyanarayanPooja", once in a year. It is purely scientific as Yagna purifies the atmosphere.

10.     Bring a new law to declare any one as persona non grata, who intentionally - insults our National Anthem;  refuses to say 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and 'Vande Mataram'; shouts Pakistan Jindabad; insults our security forces; burns our National flag; spews venom in the name of religion and castes; talks of dividing India; supports giving away any part of India; talks of human rights for terrorists; etc. Their voting rights and fundamental rights must be forfeited, and they be allowed to just subsist.

11.     All the criminals in jail, especially those arrested for terrorist activities, must be forced to do Yoga for one hour every day morning. They must also be given religious discourse every day evening for two hours, by different Hindu sadhus. This will reform 80% of the criminals.

12.     Remove all religious subsidy. No Islamic country gives subsidy to Haj. Giving subsidy to Haj and Jerusalem is against secularism. Also scrap all reservations on religious basis.
13.     Bring in Uniform Civil Code, with provisions that any one having more than one wife or more than three children will be debarred from standing for election.

14.     Ban Slaughter of Cow and its progeny, and give incentive to Cow Rearing (Go Palan). When a cow bears a calf, the person who maintains the cow should be given a lump sum as incentive.

15.     Give incentive to VedPatshalas and Sanskrit learning. Schools teaching Sanskrit and students learning Sanskrit should be given incentive. Incentive being given to Arab learning should be withdrawn. We do not want to spread Arab culture in India.

16.     Pave the way for building a magnificent Ram Temple in Ayodhya, and also for reconstructing temples in Mathura and Kashi.

17.     Vedic slogans like 'SatyamevaJayate', 'Satyam, Shivan, Sundaram', 'Dharma-Chakra-Pravartana', etc. must be restored with
its original glory. Every govt. stationery should carry the slogan 'SatyamevaJayate'. DD logo should include 'Satyam, Shivan, Sundaram', and the Chair of Lok Sabha speaker should bear 'Dharma-Chakra-Pravartana'. All these vedic slogans were removed by the Nehruvian Congress.

18.     Review laws governing Hindus, which tries to destroy Hindu family institution. For example, the Domestic Violence Act, 2005, trivializes Hindu marriages as Civil Contracts and promotes live-in relationship. It also ridicules the spiritual and cultural significance and sacredness of Hindu marriages. We worship women as goddesses - Laxmi, Saraswati and Durga - and also Arthanareeshwar for giving half of his body to his spouse. Such a spiritualism and culture cannot be allowed to be hijacked in the name of women empowerment.

19.     Shiv Sena supremo late BalasahebThackrey and Shri Subhash Desai (present MLA, Goregaon, Mumbai) were debarred from voting for six years, for asking for votes in the name of Hindutva. Why no Muslim or Christian is similarly debarred for asking for votes in the name of Allah and Jesus Christ, which they wantonly do? This must be reversed. Asking for votes in the name of Hindutva or Hinduism is no offence, as it is a way of Life according to our Supreme Court. Conversely, Make asking for votes in the name of Allah and Jesus Christ an offence.

20.     Ban the use of Loudspeaker in Mosques and Churches. In a secular country claiming to respect all religions, shouting publicly that 'There is no God except Allah' and 'Jesus is the only Saviour' is preposterous.

21.    Your Govt should free Hindu Mandirs from govt. control. Also the Govt. should provide basic facilities at all Hindu Pilgrimage sites and River Ghats (such as Wash rooms, bahrooms, change rooms, etc.)

22.     Change the name of our Motherland to 'Bharat' by removing the ambiguity in the Constitution and the word 'India'. Also, change names of all places and roads - like Allahabad, Aurangabad, Ahmedabad, Aurangzeb Road, St. Xavier Road, etc. - with that of our freedom fighters.

23.     Change the weekly holidays from Sunday to Monday or Tuesday. {The timing of presenting Indian budget in parliament was changed from5.30 pm (which was continued by the Nehruvian Congress, to suit Britishers) to 11.00 am by the NDA Govt.}.

24.     Change the school uniform of girl students - from Skirts (meant for Christian nuns) to Salvar-Kamis with Thuppatta.

After winning the elections, your visiting Kashi and performing pooja and Ganga Aarthi there (on 17th May) proudly sporting the sacred ash and tilak on your forehead, in the full glare of the TV is indeed a bold message to the nation that you are a Hindu Nationalist. Your bowing before parliament and placing your forehead on its steps (on 20th May), exactly like Hindu devotees do before a entering temple, proves that you are showing the nation of its Hindu ethos. Please extend this further and Hinduise Bharat by implementing the above suggestions.

If you implement even some of my above suggestions during the first few years of your Prime Ministership, I am sure the entire nation will remain indebted to you. A Hinduised Bharat will vote for you to be its PM for at least another two terms.

Thanking you and wishing you a long inning as PM,

Yours, In the Services of Bharat Mata

P. Deivamuthu, Editor, Hindu Voice.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Why Is It So Hard To Convert to Judaism?

RELIGIOUS CONVERSIONS AND PLURALISM

URL -
http://foundationforpluralism.blogspot.com/2014/06/why-is-it-so-hard-to-convert-to-judaism.html
I am much closer to a reformed Jew than the orthodox.  No, I am not Jewish,  I am a Muslim. But on the issue of conversion I am in tune with the Orthodox Jews - I have chased many people away seeking to convert to Islam, I asked them to spend that time in learning about their own faith, something they are familiar with and at times have shared the wisdom of their religion.

Being an Atheist for half of my life, I chose Islam, not because it is superior, but because I was familiar with it and it suited my belief in pluralism.  If not, any faith would have been a good vehicle for social living in harmony. By the way Judaism, Islam and Hinduism are closer to Atheism - God is not a being or a thing in these faiths and you cannot give an acceptable image either. While Hinduism sees it in many forms, Islam and Judaism null it out.

Anyone who boasts that his religion is superior, better, oldest, wisest, scientific, logical etc, has not really understood his or her religion. Religion is about humility that builds bridges, mitigates conflicts and nurtures goodwill. To claim any hint of superiority is killing the essence of religion- arrogance is the mother of all conflicts and religion is about peace and not conflicts.
Personally one should have the freedom to eat, drink, wear or believe whatever one wants, however, I don't see the need for conversion, there is nothing wrong with the religion you believe in, it works for you, its like your mother. But if you want change, you should go for whatever religion suits you without any guilt or restrictions.
This is my response to an article, "Why Is It So Hard To Convert to Judaism?"


If you look to religion from Mr. Spock's perspective, you see religion as an instrument to bring "togetherness" within an individual and with what surrounds him or her - life and matter.  All religions serve the same purpose.

None of the Masters wanted to create a group to be against the other, all they were interested was in creating societies where no individual had to live in fear of the other.  They wanted everyone to subscribe to the idea of social harmony and respecting life of the other as their own.

Every one of them from Zoroaster, Moses, Confucius, Krishna, Buddha, Mahavira, Jesus, Muhammad, Nanak, Bahaullah, umpteen Shamans in native traditions to the peace makers like Gandhi, MLK and others wanted to build cohesive societies. And NONE of them wanted any one to convert against something, but rather to be the inclusive individual.

Very few of us have seriously questioned the need to convert, or even questioned the veracity of the claims that Jesus or Muhammad wanted people to convert - convert to a good human or specific political group that is opposed to others?  In another decade, more of us will be questioning, and Religion would become a beautiful choice for personal consumption rather than political instrument to control others.

As Cosgrove said, "First Hillel converts, and then Hillel teaches. First you join and then, once you are a vested member, you figure out what it is all about." Indeed, Muslims have made conversion easy - just say that you believe in one God and Muhammad (pbuh) is his prophet. Then comes learning about Islam and living a life of Islam. Most people get their religion rights, a few don't,  and make a mess for others.

What amazes me with all religions is - they have forced religion into outwardly appearances and names. That is the first thing a convert is looking for; how do I look Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Christian or whatever.  I wish we all redefine us in terms of character reflection rather than caps, clothes, beards and wears. 

We have reduced religion into "appearance" rather than imbuing its essence that is to make you a contented happy being.

When I go into a place of worship, and I have been to every place, what I see is the devotion of the individual, and not the physical movements, it is the humility that permeates him or her and not the show off. It is the same devotion expressed in so many different ways.

Lastly, I raised my kids with an open mind - they have been to most places of worship. I did not want them to be bigots when they grow up.

At each place of worship, my little girl would quietly nudge and ask, "Dad, what are they saying?" - for a six year old, I learned to simplify it, "Sweetie, they are appreciating God for providing food, clothing, home and a world to live, and thanking him for good parents, family and friends. " In all honesty, you cannot translate anything other than this, no matter where you go.

One day, we were in the midst of Bhajans (chanting hymns) sitting crossed legged on the floor in the Hindu temple.  When she nudged me, I knew what was coming … that beautiful face was admiringly looking into my eyes… and like a cassette player plays when the button is pushed, I said. "Sweetie, they are…."

Then what came was a big surprise of my life. She jumped up, raised her hands, and said, "Gee Dad, it is so cool that God can be worshiped in so many ways."

Mike Ghouse  is Public Speaker, thinker and an author committed to building cohesive societies, and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. Everything about him is at MikeGhouse.net and many links to media, websites and blogs.

# # #
Why Is It So Hard To Convert to Judaism?

Editorial
Courtesy: The Jewish Daily Forward

Published June 02, 2014, issue of June 06, 2014.

In February 2013, Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove of Park Avenue Synagogue, as fancy and important a place as its name suggests, floated an intriguing idea. In a sermon to his congregation on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Cosgrove urged the Conservative movement, his movement, to become much, much more welcoming to anyone interested in converting to Judaism.

He cited the famous talmudic story of the would-be-convert who approaches two dueling rabbis, Shammai and Hillel, asking to learn the entire Torah on one foot. Shammai dismissively pushes the man away. Hillel, instead, converts him immediately, teaching him that the Torah’s central message is: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. The rest is commentary. Go and learn.”

“The order of events is often missed, but it is instructive for us today,” Cosgrove said in his sermon. “First Hillel converts, and then Hillel teaches. First you join and then, once you are a vested member, you figure out what it is all about.”
Related

    Don't Believe in God? Come Aboard!
    Finding God in the Other
    Man in Search of God

Cosgrove’s sermon created a stir, and he repeated his proposal before various meetings and conventions during the past year. He’s not the only one to suggest that conversion become simpler, quicker, cheaper and way more welcoming. There’s even a discussion about this in the latest edition of the Conservative movement’s official magazine.

Enough talk. Time to do something.

We who care about sustaining the future of the modern Jewish family, who want to confront the tide of assimilation and disengagement with positive, affirming Jewish values, or who simply like being Jews and want to pass that along, need to radically rethink conversion. Instead of playing hard-to-get, or acting as if Jews are part of a club with admission standards higher than Harvard Law School, we need to open our arms, drop our reluctance, lower the barriers and not just welcome converts to join our synagogues. We need to encourage people to become Jews, in their way, in their time — especially when marriage and child rearing are involved.

“Some people don’t talk about money or sex. Jews don’t talk about conversion,” notes Rabbi Joy Levitt, executive director of the JCC in Manhattan, who has thought a lot about this issue. “I don’t understand why. I think it’s a wonderful thing. I have a lot of confidence in the tradition’s ability to work its magic on people.”

Think this isn’t a problem? Read the latest issue of Voices of Conservative/Masorti Judaism, which to its credit published a couple of pointed articles criticizing the status quo. “I think it’s hard for anyone who grew up Jewish to understand how intimidating — how downright scary — it can be for a non-Jew to set foot in a synagogue or make an appointment with a rabbi to discuss conversion,” writes Darcy R. Fryer, a historian and teacher who converted in 1998.

The title of her story, “Too Long a Wait,” suggests one of the barriers placed before the convert. Fryer studied for 14 months; many rabbis require at least a year, ostensibly to experience the annual Jewish calendar. There’s the cost — hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, in conversion classes. There’s the tradition of turning away a would-be convert three times, just to test her resolve and dedication.

Why stretch out what is essentially an emotional decision? As Fryer writes, “most of my figuring out how to live as a Jew came after I converted, just as couples figure out how to be married after they get married and parents how to parent after they have children.”

Even the words we use stigmatize. We refer to a person as a “convert” rather than a “Jew.” We give this new Jew a Hebrew name affixed with “son of Abraham and Sarah” rather than with his (presumably) non-Jewish parents. When that name is read aloud in synagogue, he is labeled. And we wonder why the process can be alienating.

As Levitt says, “We should use convert as a verb, not a noun.”

There is, let’s be honest, an underlying hypocrisy here: We ask more of the convert than we do of the Jew by birth. That’s especially true as the number of Jews “of no religion” increases and the intermarriage rate soars for the non-Orthodox, two key findings of last year’s Pew Research Center’s survey of American Jews. We don’t ask Jews by birth to study for a proscribed time, to pass a test, to prove themselves. All you need is one Jewish parent and little else in your life to qualify for a free trip to Israel with Taglit-Birthright.

For centuries, there was good reason for Jews to hold tight to the clan and avoid even the appearance of proselytizing, lest they antagonize their neighbors and the powers-that-be. But the situation is reversed now. Our reticence to promote ourselves and our reluctance to welcome newcomers is the exact opposite of what’s expected in the digital age.

Jonah Peretti, founder and CEO of Buzzfeed, one of the nation’s fastest-growing media companies, spoke to a media summit last year and used a comparison of Mormons and Jews to make a point about the nature of social interaction that is relevant here.

“There was one Mormon for every 10 Jews [in 1950]. Now there are more Mormons in the world than Jews. Why is that?” Peretti asked. It’s not because Mormonism is a higher-quality religion than Judaism. “The real reason is that Mormons actually focus half of their time on practicing their religion and the other half of their time on how to spread their religion,” he said. “The idea matters but so does the mechanism for spreading the idea.”

We don’t suggest that Jews don Mitt Romney-like suits and skinny ties and go around spreading the Gospel for a year or two. But somehow we have to harness the passion, dedication, indeed the confidence that Mormons exude and overcome our reluctance to share our faith and culture with anyone the least bit interested in joining us.

“Everybody wants their lives to be more meaningful,” Levitt observes. “We have what to offer here.”

This is a campaign tailor-made for the Conservative movement. Orthodoxy clings to the traditional notion that years of study and observance must precede conversion. (And that’s in America. The Israeli rabbinate sets the bar impossibly, cruelly high.) The Reform movement has little incentive, given its embrace of patrilineal descent and the increasing willingness of its rabbis to perform interfaith marriages.

But Conservative Jews could be to the modern world what Chabad-Lubavitch is to the traditional: a center of exuberant outreach. Such an embrace could also help Conservatives with the central paradox of their attitudes toward intermarriage: Conservative rabbis may not perform, or even attend, an interfaith marriage, and yet expect that the new couple will somehow gravitate toward their synagogues. This may be a principled stand, but it’s not a sustainable one.

Ironically, in a series of videos released by the Jewish Theological Seminary for the upcoming holiday of Shavuot, several Conservative scholars cited talmudic teachings emphasizing the need for straightforward and undemanding conversion.

We should have no fear of diluting Judaism by making conversion easier. It is a radical transformation of identity, but so is being born into a Jewish family, except the new Jew has made a choice, one we should hasten and embrace.

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/199214/why-is-it-so-hard-to-convert-to-judaism/#ixzz33bwp2Vri

Monday, June 2, 2014

Anti-Muslim and Anti-Christian Frisco meeting by Global Hindu Heritage Forum in Dallas, Texas

The Title should have been opposite of Anti-Muslim or Anti-Christian, as it turned out to be not-anti-at all. But since it is a continum of the letter, we kept the same title.

http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2014/06/anti-muslim-and-anti-christian-friscy.html


An Alarming letter was posted by Global Hindu Heritage Foundation and held an anti-Muslim and anti-Christian rally in Frisco, Texas - so I went to the meeting. The agenda was not the same as it was in the letter.

I think Indians in general and Muslims in particular need to hear Madhu Kishwar, she will be in town through Thursday in New York. She threw me off with her perspectives, with a grain of salt and skepticism, I did hear her full one hour talk. A critique turned defender of Modi. A few notes for your to ponder upon. 

An alarming letter was posted by the Global Hindu Heritage Foundation at our forum, DallasIndians@yahoogroups.com . The letter was outright discriminatory, tearing India apart kind of letter, and was sent to India's newly elected Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi. The letter was insane, and it was hard to believe that Indians living in America want to discriminate and deny equal rights to Christians and Muslims in India. I just could not fathom that most of the men on the list were Medical Doctors and PhD's.  The letter and my response to the letter is at: http://foundationforpluralism.blogspot.com/2014/06/tearing-india-apart-hatefilled-mindset.html  
 

The occasion  was the 7th Annual Hindu Unity Day in Frisco. Unity of each community and Unity of communities must be appreciated.  By the way, the first Hindu Unity day in Dallas was organized by the Foundation for Pluralism on June 17, 2005 in Dallas.
I wanted to attend the event to understand what goes on. A few years ago they had organized a summit on Islam – and I had asked them if there was any Muslim on the panel, there was none, and they ignored my request and perhaps passed judgments on Muslims without the presence of Muslims. It is always good to be engaged and hear each other’s point of view; when it is about the each other.

The speakers were Madhu Kishwar and Dr. Graham Schweig. The first session before lunch included several Dallas based organization heads talking about their efforts in campaigning for Mr. Narendra Modi, and I missed the first speaker Kalyan Viswanathan, who might have delivered a negative speech. I did not hear Dr. Schweig’s speech as I had to leave.

Madhu Kishwar delivered a full hour’s speech “Modi and the Media – setting the record Straight” – it was a pleasant surprise, there was no hatred spewing out for Muslims or Christians. Usually fund raisers get people riled up against something or someone to get people to open their check books, and a lot of people fall prey for that. I have been to the fund raisers of right wing Jews, Christians and Muslims as well, and have spoken up against their rhetoric.

Madhu Kishwar was rather inclusive in her approach.

Whenever she mentioned a positive statement about inclusion of Muslims – people clapped out of their hearts.
I have always believed that humans instantaneously react with goodness, it’s only when they deliberate they get corrupted.   Indeed, in my response to GHHF letter I had mentioned that a majority of the signatories on that letter probably did not even read the contents and had simply signed it, for a few to carry forward. It is hard for me to believe that so many people in a group could subscribe to such vitriolic pronouncements,  and most of them would not have signed it, had they read it.

It was refreshing to hear her. She threw in a lot of information that I need to verify and absorb.  It is always good to verify before you believe, when the information is different than what we have heard it all along.  I ran into her again at the Sonu Nigam Show, and she assured me that her reports are legitimate and said the Nanavati Report was accurate.
Some of her points:

She was bashing the media for not agreeing to the clean chit by SIT - to me democracy exists because of the press, good, bad and ugly. There are some great statements by Jefferson and others on the topic.

Do you realize, both the left and right have exactly same complaint? That the media in on other's side.

She thinks - BJP was not convinced that Modi was not involved in the riots as accused, that hesitancy was reflected in the talks and acts of BJP.

Per her Modi has done a lot of good things, but never flaunted it.

50% of Muslims Voted for Modi in Gujarat on February 24th 2002 results.

The hell broke loose within a couple of days – she asks, why would Modi initiate riots when Muslims voted him so overwhelmingly?

28 Muslim Organizations headed by Kader Bhai in Rajkot had asked for a cemetery plot which Modi had granted, and Modi never claimed or flaunted about it.

He is not divisive as claimed. Sab Ka Sath; sab ka Vikas has been his slogan from the very beginning.
I really liked when she spoke my language – that is she will not accuse any one exclusively without seeing the same mistake in others.  Referring to Togadia, she said, Muslims are no exception; we have our own share of Danga-ee (trouble makers).  It was not Modi that needed the riots, but it was the Congress who needed it. (we have to assess this).

She claimed Army was called in immediately. And deployed on 3/1 – George Fernandez, the then Defense Minister apparently toured the riot torn place on 2/28 while the riots were still going on.  

I bought the book - but wont't be able to read it, as I have to wrap up my book without any excuse.

Because of the differences or dominance of Hindus, most  of  the Muslims, Christians, Dalits and Sikhs have stayed away from being a part of India based organizations.

All I ask Indian Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and others to be involved with Indian organizations, we have to be a part of the society, and all others have to be a part of our lives. Otherwise, all of us would remain in shells not knowing what goes on, we will be harming ourselves and our nation by not being a part of each other. We have to live together, at least our relatives have to live together in India and we need to care for all.


Mike Ghouse is an Indian American Public Speaker, thinker and a writer committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.