Mike Ghouse’s speech at Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s 63rd Annual Convention/ Salana Jalsa
Saturday, July 3, 2011 m Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
THEME: Islamic Concept of Freedom
Speech follows the note:
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Dr. Imam Yusuf Zia Kavakci inspires me, a long time ago, he had said, “ you have the ability to bring the umma together” and Alhamdu Lillah I have made several efforts in bringing Muslims together including Ahmadiyya, Bohra, Ismaili, Kurdish, Shia, Sufi, Sunni and Warith Deen Muhammad Muslims on a number of occasions. Indeed, you will find a few examples at - http://www.mikeghouse.net/MuslimSpeaker.MikeGhouse.asp
Sunni Muslims believe that Jesus will come back in the end times as the Messiah, whereas the Ahmadiyya Muslims believe that Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is the Messiah. As a Muslim without bias, I honor their belief without believing what they believe. Other than this singular difference, there is not much of a difference at all. From Adhan to Salat, fasting to Zakat and other arkans to Hajj, they are same, indeed Prophet Muhammad holds "exactly" the same place in their tradition as with other Muslims. I urge Sunni Muslims to open their hearts and minds towards fellow Muslims. Surah 49:13: "O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Allah Knows and is Aware." Muslims from post colonial era may never be able extricate themselves from what is given to them, but the next generation in America will be open enough to see Muslims as Muslims and nothing but Muslims based on Shadah at its core.
We have to honor the uniqueness of each group of Muslims, indeed Prophet Muhammad had given us guidance and prophesised that we will eventually form 72 groups, and encouraged us to race in doing good things for the good of humanity, all of us will earn God's grace in the process, but one of us will be showered with bonus for doing the extra good. Only Allah knows that and we cannot pre-empt Allah in juding any one of us. Indeed, we have to be respectful of God and Prophet's prophecies.
About 7000 Ahmadies from across the United States gathered in Harrisburg this Independence Day weekend to celebrate their 63rd Annual convention. The Ahmadies are one of the first group of Muslims to establish their mission in the United States (1920) and they are holding their conventions since 1948.
It was an outstanding program, topics were relevant and the event ran like a precision machine. Everything was on time and seldom a speaker exceeded the given time. I enjoyed the simplicity of lunch and breakfast– lentil, pita bread and fruits served in hygenical environment, shortest imaginable lines, clean tables, clean floors, clean bathrooms, it was a joy to observe the details. It remided me of the efficacy of the Ismaili Muslims whose events are adminitered with perfection. There were several members from the State department and video and written messages from members of congress, governors and other dignitaries were a part of the presentation. They have initiatied an award program to honor those who have served the interests of humanity, among them was a Congresswoman from California. Two of the several programs that were fascinating were; Science and God, and Nile will not stop.
This weekend The Islamic Association of North America held their convention in Chicago and I believe some 40,000 people attended the program. Jazak Allah for the success everywhere. There are several such conventions and I hope we can participate in all.
I appeal to you to consider writing a proposal urging all Muslim organizations to plan on a joint convention in 2012 before the election. Let’s hear and listen to each other without judgements. If we can't do that in America, then no one else can do it and if we don’t articulate this need to race together in doing good, then no other nation will. We have to create a template for other nations to consider. Muslims together can become participants and contributors in the world peace for the good of humanity.
I value the humanitarian work done by Ahmadiyya, Bohra, Ismaili, Kurdish, Shia, Sufi, Sunni and Warith Deen Muhammad Muslims. There is indeed a net gain for Islam collectively, and we must appreciate them all. Islam is universal and it is universal enought to absorb all of us in its embrace.
Let’s learn to respectfully disagree on certain issues but at least know all the great things we do and become a catalyst for each other’s growth.
Here is the outline of my speech:.
As-Salam o Alaikum
Upon declaration of our independence on July 4, 1776, two of the first three heads of states who recognized the sovereignty of the United States were Muslim. That is two out of three recognitions came from Muslims, invariably we have been a part of America from the word go.
Morocco was the first state to recognize the independence of the United States of America, and they signed the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship; first of its kind. Friesland, one of the seven United Provinces of the Dutch Republic, was the next to recognize American independence (February 26, 1782) and Tippu Sultan, the King of Mysore State (India) was the third. According to Dr. Range Gowda, Tippu Sultan’s historiographer, the congratulatory letter to America is preserved in a French Library.
It was a coincidence, that General Cornwallis who surrendered to George Washington in the battle of York Town in 1781 was the hired gun to defeat Tippu Sultan through deceit in the 4th war of Mysore against colonialism in 1799.
What does July 4th mean to Muslims in America?
Freedom is one of the most cherished values of humanity and I am pleased to share its arrangement in American and Islamic space. Both emphasize the freedom of conscience, justice and liberty.
Please be aware that a few men in Islam, America and other religions don’t live up to the ideals of their own faith, while the majority cares and wants to get along with other.
The very first step on American soil puts a smile on an immigrant’s face; if not you, it has happened to your parents, grand or great grandparents. It’s the same exuberance you witness on a baby’s face when she stands up for the first time, same exhilaration when a toddler eats the food on his own for the first time or the freedom written all over the face of a student when he or she graduates from school. Indeed, that was my feeling when I walked in to the Immigration center at JFK Airport some thirty years ago.
The next step for an immigrant is to earn his or her Citizenship and take the pledge, “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Reciting, “One Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” is like coming home for Muslims. Indeed, Islam rests on the foundation of Tauheed, the oneness of God, oneness of universe and oneness of mankind with liberty and justice. If Qur’aan, the holy book of Muslims can be summed up in one word, it would be justice. Justice imbues a sense of security and trust among people leading to peace and prosperity. Our country started out with the constitution that no other nation on the earth had done before.
Not a day goes for Muslims without expressing their gratitude for the first Amendment, gratitude is a part of our tradition and just about every Muslim says Alhamdu Lillah, praise the lord in the course of normal conversation. The First amendment reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” It is this law that has opened all of God’s creation in America to worship God every which way they know God.
Muslims cherish this freedom and see the corollaries in Qur’aan and strongly wish that the Muslim nations follow the Madinah treaty where Jews, Christians and others were treated as one community and one ummah, the treaty reads the Jews have their own religion as Muslims have their own to practice. The Conditions of peace and war and the accompanying ease or hardships must be fair and equitable to all citizens alike. A Believer will not make the freedman of another Believer as his ally against the wishes of the other Believers.
Qur’aan declares in 2:256, “There shall be no compulsion in matters of faith” one is free to believe and practice his or her own faith as he or she chooses to. In verse 6 chapter 109 of Qur’aan, the guidance on conducting a civil dialogue is concluded with, “Unto you, your moral law, and unto me, mine.” In essence the faith is in the heart of the believer as beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. It is respecting the otherness of other in America that Muslims honor every day.
Muslims thank God each time they hear the Equal opportunity Mantra, “You will not be denied an opportunity based on your race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Invariably they think of the speech Prophet Muhammad delivered in his last sermon, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good action."
As American Muslims, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
American Laws holds the criminals individually responsible for their crimes; it is your heinie that is hauled off to the jail. You parents, siblings, spouse, kids, community or religion are not responsible for your actions. Muslims know that well, on the Day of Judgment you stand alone with your deeds, the good things you have done to fellow beings count in your favor, while your parents, spouse, kids and leaders will be busy with their own accountability. You are on your own!
The Prophet tells his own daughter that she will not get a free pass to paradise because she is a daughter of the prophet; she has to earn it on her own through good deeds to fellow beings, such is the emphasis placed on individual responsibility.
“You are innocent until proven guilty” sounds like a verse from Qur’aan. An observant Muslim recites that God alone is the judge and we must refrain from judging others, they do that at least 17 times a day and some do it 51 times. Muslims love the wholesomeness of Justice and they love America.
I urge every one of us to commit to building a Cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension of the other. Let our nation
Indeed, the essence of freedom is directly proportional to the ability to question oneself, question one's own faith, myths and prejudices about others and find answers to set one free.
God Bless America and God bless our men and women in the uniforms protecting our freedom.
Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker, writer and a frequent guest on Hannity show and nationally syndicated Radio shows and Dallas TV, Radio and Print Media. He presides America Together Foundation and is committed to building a cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. Over 1000 articles have been published on Pluralism, Interfaith, Islam, India and cohesive societies. Two of his books are poised to be released this fall on Pluralism and Islam. He is available to speak at your place of worship, work, school, college, seminars or conferences. His work is encapsulated in 27 blogs, four websites and several forums indexed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/