By Dr. Mike Ghouse
Are American Muslims the only ones who are apprehensive at this time? The answer is an emphatic no! At this time every one of the 322 Million Americans is concerned about the immediate future of his or her space in America. How do we turn things around? However, the Americans who are most vulnerable at this time are Muslims and I wanted to find answers.
As a passionate practitioner of Pluralism, I was seeking guidance from an individual who is my mentor along with Prophet Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Pope Francis and my own father. MLK was within my reach; I could stand with him and reflect for answers.
So I walked up to the Tidal basin in Washington DC to meditate in presence of Martin Luther king Jr., the weather was cold, but the presence of MLK was heartwarming! I have been here many times, including October 16, 2011 when the memorial was unveiled by President Obama. Crowds of people were visiting, but I was in my own world seeking guidance.
America would not have been the great nation it has become, had it not been for the efforts of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., I was admiring them. Today, I can proudly say, America is God’s own country where you can find people of every race, nationality, ethnicity, language, culture and religion. We see God as one, none and many and in every form; male, female, genderless and non-existent, being and non-being, nameless and with innumerable names. America is a representation of all of God’s creation, there is nothing like this.
None of the immigrants would have come to the United States and made this nation great, if they had to sit in the back of the bus, drink water from a different fountain and live a dehumanized humiliated life. Thanks to the majority of the White Americans and MLK for being the catalyst for making America a great nation! I am here today, because of their vision and the civil rights act. Thank you Dr. King. I thank you every year for making America a great nation.
My cell phone Alarm got me out of my meditative trance, and I decided to walk and read the stone carving across me. It read, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
I Screamed - Eureka!
Everyone turned around and looked at me as if I was nuts. Without batting an eyelid, I pointed towards the engraving, this was the advice MLK gave to deal with intense conflicts, a few simply nodded affirmatively and few walked away. I felt in my guts he was talking to me the American Muslim. I recall my dream from early 2000 when Mahatma Gandhi patted on my back and said, “Son you have work to do.” This was exciting to me and this is my calling. I knew no problem is insurmountable and I wanted to talk to my fellow Americans, particularly Muslims.
We have built this great nation in the last 240 years and if you have the desire to move from darkness into light you can do it. My inner voice said, “Mike, the time is now, go out and make the effort and have patience, as Lord Krishna had advised Arjuna in the Hindu Epic of Mahabharata to do his duty and leave the results to the creator.
Humanity Survives On Hope
The voice said, you can contribute to the hopes of American Muslims, and secure their future, thus build a cohesive America where each one of the 322 Million Americans can live with hope and sense of security. The gloom and doom has got to be driven out. Darkness cannot drive darkness out, only the light can do it. The intellect in me argued –Would Muslims listen to you? Then I remembered the story my mother told me, “Once Prophet Muhammad expressed his frustration to God that people were not listening to him, what he should do? God shot back, “Muhammad do your duty and it is up to me to guide people to accept your message or not” Ha! What a relief it was.
So Here Is My Message To American Muslims
This is the year of great American Integration. Muslims have to be contributors to the goodness of America despite getting the short end of the stick.
Our approach ought to be conflict mitigation and goodwill nurturence and not confrontation; this was Prophet Muhammad’s approach in dealings with conflicts. Confrontation causes both sides to dig in their heels and keep them on pins and needles, where as discussions and dialogue, however frustrating they might be opens up new vistas of cooperation. That is what Pluralism is all about; respecting the otherness of others. There is a whole chapter in Quran on that.
Whether the issue is Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, LGBT, Race or the other, they are American issues that affect us all, and together as Americans, we will find pluralistic solutions to issues of the day that we all can live with. Injustice is the biggest destroyer of tranquil societies.
My safety hinges on the safety of people around me, so it is in my best interests to work for the safety and goodness of fellow Americans.
Many a Muslim ‘leaders’ are conformist chickens and run like hell if anyone makes even the slightest of noise. They are afraid and cannot cope with dissent and disagreement. They just don’t have the courage to take the stand for doing the right thing. Leadership is having the vision to foresee the problems and cobbling reluctant people and opposing views together through agonizing discussions and move towards maintaining the dynamic equilibrium of the societies. It takes guts and we hope to train enough Muslim leaders to take those steps.
Democracy has not seeped into many a Muslim organizations. The controlling men are afraid of discussions and willingly kill good ideas and rot in mediocrity. We need to remember that sustainable decisions are made after due discussions.
Thanks to our Imams, they are a blessing and play a key role in reshaping Muslim relationships with fellow Americans. In the past, we have asked the Imams, and they have come through it, we asked them to pray for the release of Yazidi women, persecuted Christians or harassed Shia, or call on them to urge Muslims to honor our Veterans on the Veterans Day, they have done it all. Fellow Americans need to know this, and we are going to do a lot more now.
Between the Imams, Muslim Scholars and us, we will test each other in stretching beyond our sketchy religious boundaries created in middle ages, but will unequivocally stick together and remain within the Pluralistic traditions of Islam.
We need to reach out and talk with those who are polarized and those who are not friendly. We have had great success with people who were written off by fellow Muslims as right wingers as if we are the bloody wrong wingers. We will continue to work with them and endure the humility if necessary for achieving greater good for them, for us, and for all of us.
It is time for Muslims to take the steps necessary to allay the fears of fellow Americans and undo the tensions, remove the suspicions and restore trust among Americans. This is what a Muslim ought to be; a conflict mitigater and a goodwill nurturer.
What is good for Muslims has got to be good for others and vice-versa for the goodness to be sustainable. There is a shortage of visionaries among Muslim or they have simply given up, if you are the one, time is now to pick up the ball and run.
We are planning to hold two major conferences and a whole bunch of activities listed at the Center for Pluralism and World Muslim Congress for the purpose of rebuilding trust with fellow Americans.
Do American Muslims want Sharia?
We owe it to fellow Americans to clarify the myths about Sharia, and propose fixing this problem through a conference that is being planned with Islamic scholars and those who are opposed to Sharia to make the event credible. Let’s “clear the air” of misunderstandings for all Americans. We need to put this fear behind and move on with our lives.
Does Quran Promote Violence?
This is not only for concerned Americans, but for Muslims as well. It is a book of guidance for the whole of humanity to build orderly societies. The Quran is about building cohesive societies and not exclusive societies. The Quran is not about governing other people but living in harmony with all of God’s creation. In effect Quran tells you to mind your own business and let others mind theirs.
If you are a “doubting Muslim” about Quran, this seminar is for you. Many a Muslims seem to be faith deficient. Shamefully a few Muslim scholars have deliberately misinterpreted 60 verses to make Allah un-friendly towards Jews and Christians. This needs to be fixed. Here is an article at Dallas Morning News.
America is a great nation and we have to do everything to keep it that way by including and assuring fellow Americans who are disaffected that they need not worry; their culture and their way of life will not change due to immigrants or Muslims. We are all better off in making sure America remains America. You are who you are and I am who I am; let’s learn to live with each other by respecting the otherness of others and accepting the God given uniqueness of each one of us. We love this country and we will fight to keep it that way.