By Mike Ghouse
Americans Muslims are fully committed to a strong, peaceful, prosperous and secure America. As Americans, we uphold, protect, defend and celebrate the values enshrined in our constitution. Our faith reinforces the creed of "One Nation under God, with liberty and justice for all."
The unidentified and un-expressed dream of every human being is to live in a society where he or she can live without fear and worries. This is part of the story of Muslim contributions toward that American dream. These are the small steps, but a giant leap for America (to honour Neil Armstrong).
Indeed America is God's own country, represented by everything God has created, from geological formations to geographical diversity, and presence of every race, ethnicity, religion, language and culture. There is nothing like it from sea to the shining sea.
While America is enriching itself with assimilation and integration to be more representative of God's creation and his will for humanity to live in harmony, it is also facing difficulties in the process. First, the pilgrims came to avoid religious persecution elsewhere followed by various denominations of Christianity, and ethnicities (nationalities) from within Christianity, then Jews and others came, and with the passing of civil rights act, everyone from around the world came.
Every time a group wanted the constitutional rights be applicable to them, they had to fight what's was theirs to begin with. It took more than 100 years for women to be considered equals and their right to vote came with the passing of women's right to vote in Colorado in 1893, and it took almost three more decades for the nation to approve it. It was 1964's Civil Rights Act that considered African Americans to be equal to vote. The law books were always right, but its understanding was distorted to suit the status quo. The truth ultimately triumphs and we have welcomed and embraced everyone guided by the principle that all men are created equal. Now, Muslims and GLBT communities are clamoring to be equal, and Hindus will be next as their numbers increase.
Thanks to the Democratic National Convention, where speaker after speaker asserted the right of individuals to marry whom they loved, giving a sense of security to fellow Americans who are gay and lesbian.
That leaves the Muslims to fight their battle. Indeed, they are not alone; the fellow Americans are with them as has been the case for nearly 200 years of our history. Muslims are doing everything to be a part of the society and here are good positive indicators of what Muslims are doing to make it easy on every one to be counted in.
Let me begin with two simultaneous trends developing to address the acceptance of Muslims as "equals" beginning with interfaith movement, and Muslim initiatives.
One of the shameless outcomes of 9/11 was letting our enemies win. Osama bin Laden and his gang wanted to weaken America, and we let them, by pitting one American against the other. Bin Laden and company were also successful in slapping their criminal acts on to an innocent bystander: Islam. Many of us were simpletons to have bought that instantly without realizing that we cannot kill, hang, bury, shoot and beat up on religion, and we cannot annihilate it either; it is an intangible thing. Thanks to Obama, he closed the loop by restoring justice and putting an end to the nagging misery.
A whole industry of opportunist was born to capitalize on it; they targeted Muslim Americans and fooled us again and made their good. A whopping $42 million were thrown at the hate industry to pit one American against the Muslim Americans instead of building bridges. The news media did not question the groups, and the vultures were hovering around for a piece of Muslim flesh.
We are all in this together.
The first part of the solution starts with pluralism and interfaith movement, and the second part is coming from Muslims. Together we have to work on restoring sanity to LGBT community, safeguarding women's rights, and save the Hindus and other communities from going through the same crap.
Let me begin with a bold statement of the future. We are not ready for this yet, but the next generation will be "nearly" ready. The main stream drivers of all religions in general, and Muslims and Christians of America in particular, will be ready to utter the following statements in whole or parts:
As beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, faith is in the heart of the believer. My religion is beautiful to me as yours is to you; my religion brings peace to me by connecting me with the creator just as yours; my religion teaches me to be good to myself and everyone and everything that surrounds me, just as yours.
Pluralism is a simple concept, imagine our paths as two parallel tracks, like the railroad tracks, which can run miles and miles smoothly. Each track minds its own business, and has no intention of colliding with the other, nor do they have the need to feel superior; they accept each other's role to carry the train as smoothly as they can. You practice your faith, and I'll do mine and both can run smoothly.
On Sept. 11, 2001, I was on radio for eight hours getting the Dallas/Fort Worth's civic, religious and other leaders on the air to bring coherence out of chaos. One off the outcomes was goading and initiating interfaith prayers and learning to walk in other's shoes.
Many organizations stepped up their interfaith work. The Foundation for Pluralism in Dallas started building bridges through workshop on understanding every religion, doing more than 520 hours of radio talk shows in understanding everyone of the major traditions like atheism, Baha'i, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, Wicca, Zoroastrianism, Native and interfaith. The foundation has published more than 600 articles on pluralism including nearly 100 pieces in the Dallas Morning News and more than 40 pieces at The Huffington Post and Washington Post.
One of the many big Muslim initiatives is the Unity Day USA held around Sept. 11 of every year for the last eight years. It is a Muslim initiative to bring Americans together to rededicate our pledge for a safe and secure America.
Please join us with your family and friends to be together as Americans and witness the efforts of Muslims in bringing Americans together. Your presence is a valuable expression of unity and fortifies our commitment to a pluralistic America.
Event: 8th Annual Unity Day USA
Date: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Time: 11:30 AM -1:30 PM**** (Marine Guards)
Where: Unity of Dallas,
Address: 6525 Forest Lane, Dallas, TX 75230
On this Unity Day USA, we, the people of the United States of America of every faith, race and ethnicity, will gather to express our commitment to co-existence, safety, prosperity and the well being of our nation.
Many other organizations have contributed to this phenomenal growth in American pluralism. Some of them are Eboo Patel's Interfaith Youth Core, Aga Khan's Pluralism Centre in Canada, Diane Eck's Pluralism Project and my Foundation for Pluralism, the centre for studies in pluralistic societies. All these organizations are committed to understanding and working towards building pluralistic societies.
The Muslim Organizations' Contribution Toward A Cohesive America
Even though Islam is rooted in pluralism, the last time pluralism was understood and became a part of the mainstream Islam was in medieval Cordoba, and during the rule of mogul emperor Akbar in India.
After that Islam has been flooded with arrogance, just like Christianity and other faiths, where other faiths were considered inferior to be saved by them. Religion did not change a bit, it was the same religion, but the influencers effectively changed the attitudes of its practitioners.
Good for Muslims and good for America is only a part of the statement, the whole statement is, what is good for Muslims has got to be good for the world, and vice versa to sustain the beneficent goodness for the whole humanity. Indeed, it is the slogan of the World Muslim congress, established in 2003 in Dallas, Texas, a think tank with the full diversity of Muslims and non-Muslims participating in it to work toward a world where all of us can live our own lives without looking down on others.
All of the articles and discussion are based on the verses from the Quran and examples of the Prophet's life. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is considered by Muslims as a mercy to mankind; however, a few Muslims deny him that role. Ask Asia Bibi and Rimsha Masih of Pakistan, and Pastor Naderkhani of Iran and a few others: They have no reason to consider the Prophet to be a mercy to the mankind. The responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of Muslims and non-Muslim alike to change that notion. Prophet Muhammad is indeed a mercy to the mankind, and Muslims need to demonstrate that through their actions of being a mercy to fellow beings. The World Muslim Congress boldly voices these concerns and gives it a currency. One can visit www.WorldMuslimCongress.org.
His highness Aga Khan clearly sees the roots of pluralism in Islam, and has graciously established the Global Centre for Pluralism which disseminates academic research work on Pluralism in Islam. Indeed, his speeches and writings are in inspirations and an essence of pluralism in action. However, the main stream Islam is still struggling with the idea of pluralism, which is Islam in every sense. Please visit http://www.pluralism.ca/.
Although I am a speaker on pluralism and Islam, I attended the certification course offered by the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Dallas/Fort Worth. I was one of the many participants, and it was a delight to sit in and learn about their program.
There is a dire need for an Islamic educational institution to recognize the roots of pluralism in Islam, and prioritize it as the need of the day. Unless we are a part of the whole, and become participants and contributors in the overall Goodness of the society we live in, we will remain on the fringe.
This is the first main stream Muslim organization in America that has gone bold with its emphasis on pluralism. I was floored and wanted to shout, "Long live America!" It was endearing and encouraging sitting in the class and learning about pluralism and what it takes to understand the concept.
This organization is an affiliate of ING, Islamic Networking Group, and is built on a strong foundation based on the Religious Liberty Clauses of the First Amendment, "Congress shall make no law establishing religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" and the verse from Quran 49:13: "O humankind, We created you from a male and a female, and We made you into races and tribes for you to get to know each other. The most noble of you in the sight of God are those of you who are most conscientious. And God is omniscient, fully aware."
The ISB strictly adheres and lives within the boundaries set by the First Amendment and its vision is a world in which people of all religious backgrounds are understood, respected, and their contributions valued. Its mission is to promote interreligious understanding, tolerance and harmony through dialogue and religious literacy.
This was coming home for me; we have been speaking and writing about pluralism since 1996, when many did not even know how to pronounce the word. Indeed, the World Muslim Congress and Islamic Speakers Bureau are driven by the same Verse from Quran 49:13.
It is a clear guidance to find solutions. The world is fraught with issues and conflicts because we do not know each other, and have built up myths about the other, and when we learn and know each other, conflicts fade and solutions emerge. It is such a coincidence that both the organizations have similar mission and vision.
I admired Syed Ali, Alia Salem, Br. Hazim and Imam Nadim Bashir for their non-stop insistence to stick with the approved text and avoid wandering away from it. It was a delight to hear them hammer on the First Amendment; no preaching, absolutely no preaching, not even a hint of preaching. I loved Sister Alia's humorous threat, "I grade your papers, and if I smell proselytizing, I will cut you off." NO, she did not say those words, but it was a clear message to remain within the bounds. It is a new paradigm for some Muslims, and it is a new experience for me to see a Muslim institution take this posture, it's a dream come true for me and perhaps a majority of Muslims.
The greatest news is the road taken by our esteemed imams of Dallas/Fort Worth, who have chosen to go through the rigor of certification process, to deliver a consistent message of goodness. Thank God it is happening now.
The other part of the integrity of the organization was the emphasis they placed on your affiliation: If you are currently involved in any sort of missionary work, you cannot represent the Islamic Speakers Bureau of ING. I value this and I am wholly invested in the idea. All my work was driven by finding the truth for myself and others, and in essence, it was conflict mitigation and goodwill nurturing; the bottom line of Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) civic work.
Pluralism is one of the most misunderstood concepts, and at times shunned believing it to be a compromise, or giving up one's identity. Pluralism is not a religion, it is not a mish-mash of religions, it is not even an effort to bring religions together. It is simply respecting who you are, as you are created by same process (God) as everyone else. It is an attitude of finding ways to co-exist with least conflicts. A pluralist is someone who believes in living his own life and letting others live theirs. Muslims and non-Muslims must find the truth before they judge, truth comes from genuine inquiry, after all God wants his creation to function smoothly.
Americans Muslims are fully committed to a strong, peaceful, prosperous and a secure America. As Americans we uphold, protect, defend and celebrate the values enshrined in our constitution. Our faith reinforces the creed of "One Nation under God, with liberty and justice for all."
God bless the USA.
Mike Ghouse is committed to nurturing the pluralistic roots of Islam.