By Yoginder Sikand, New Age Islam
Two days after Christmas, some 150 interfaith activists from different faith backgrounds—Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, Bahais and others—got together at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, a national monument in Washington DC built to honor the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, at an event organized by The American Muslim Institution and the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS), one of the largest Muslim communities/mosques in the United States, and supported by several other organizations. The occasion was the first joint Christmas and Milad-un-Nabi celebration to commemorate the birth of Jesus and the Prophet Muhammad respectively. Milad un-Nabi was observed on 24th December, and Christmas, as usual, on the 25th.
Addressing the gathering, Mike Ghouse, spokesman for The American Muslim Institution, said:
“We have more steps to take towards a cohesive America. At the American Muslim Institution, we take this responsibility seriously and we work to forge the ideals of one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. We are committed to a cohesive and safe America for everyone."
“Evil exists because good people do nothing about it, but we the good people are doing something about it. We are condemning the evil acts of ISIS, and sending them a clear message that the world condemns their acts”, Mr. Ghouse said. He explained that “Muslims are sick of the terrorists—ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and their ilk.”
Christians and Muslims make up nearly half of the world population, Mr. Ghouse noted, adding that it is their “duty to restore God’s vision and our dream of harmony and peace on earth for we are all in this together.” The other half of the world’s population, Mr. Ghouse said, is guided by great men like Zarathustra, Moses, Krishna, Rama, the Buddha, Confucius, Mahavir, Guru Nanak, and many others. “All spiritual masters have taught us to be kind and gentle to the fringe among us,” Mr. Ghouse said. “Each one of them taught to respect the sanctity of life.”
God places the responsibility on all of our shoulders to keep the world intact, Mr. Ghouse stressed. “We all have the obligation to co-create a safe and secure society for all people. A world where everyone minds his own unique life, be it social, cultural, spiritual or religious, yet nurtures the connectivity of all beings.”
Jesus and the Prophet Muhammad, he said, created a vision of such a cohesive world in the form of heaven, where every soul would live in eternal bliss; a conflict free zone, living their own bliss and letting others live theirs. “This vision is expressed in the form of Pluralism, an attitude of respecting the otherness of others and accepting the God given uniqueness of each one of us. When we reach that level of integrity in our attitudes, conflicts fade and solutions emerge; and that was their vision.”
Both Jesus and the Prophet Muhammad were “a mercy to mankind”, Mr. Ghouse said. “Together they offered solutions to restore the world through forgiveness, humility, kindness, justness and acceptance of the otherness of others, which is crystallized in our definition of pluralism as respecting the otherness of the others and accepting the uniqueness of each one of us.” “Pluralism is an attitude of live and let live, and it is applicable in every aspect of life including culture, society, religion, politics, gender, food, ethnicity, race and other uniqueness,” he explained.
“By the end of 2020,” Mr. Ghouse said, “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, playing, marrying, and doing things together. We need to prepare ourselves for those eventualities to prevent possible conflicts, and lay a good foundation for nurturing goodwill and effective functioning of the societies. Exclusive communities will become a thing of the past. If you live amidst others, you must also respect the otherness of others, as you expect them to do the same for you. Yes, we can learn to respect the otherness of others and accept the God-given uniqueness of each one of the seven billion of us.”
Mr. Ghouse concluded by saying, “We are committed to building cohesive societies, where no human has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of a fellow being.”