"What is your real name?" Mike Ghouse, that is my real name.
Ever since I stepped onto this soil, the American soil, there is not a week that has passed without being asked, “What is your real name” and I say, “It is Ghouse; Mike Mohamed Ghouse” and I have been uttering this sentence for the last 34 years.
Added: 5/24/15 : A handful of right leaning Muslims and right leaning Hindus who hate the idea of Pluralism cook up stories about me without knowing a thing – all they have to do is ask or Google. There are three funny and serious stories about the name.
First of all, the name "Mike" is not copyrighted or patented; it is a name like any other name for anyone to have. Secondly, for the purpose of clarification, the name "Mike" or "Michael" has been in India much before it was adopted in Europe. And those few Muslims who ask, I have the answers for them in this essay. There was a right wing Muslim who questioned the Aligarh Muslim University for listing me as a high profile speaker, and I shared this article with him but he did not get it, he still called me names for choosing “Mike.” Another prominent right wing Muslim wrote extensively about me decrying that I chose the name to kiss-ass the white people.
Two of the right wing Hindus wrote that I am deceiving the Americans with the name by pretending to be a Christian. None of them had visited my website, I am from Bangalore but they were quoting Mumbai or Hyderabad and one even wrote I was from Cochin. It amazes me how petty these men are. I am glad to hear them, it keeps me on my toes. I am pleased to announce that I belong to the whole world. I have no barriers between me and another soul. Two of the right wing Hindus wrote that I am deceiving the Americans with the name by pretending to be a Christian. None of them had visited my website, I am from Bangalore but they were quoting Mumbai or Hyderabad and one even wrote I was from Cochin. It amazes me how petty these men are. I am glad to hear them, it keeps me on my toes. I am pleased to announce that I belong to the whole world. I have no barriers between me and another soul. Why Mike? My birth name is Mohamed Ghouse and Sardar is my alias name, the name which my family and a few close friends call me, and it is a tradition in Bangalore for my generation to have an alias name. My chosen legal name is Mike Mohamed Ghouse. Mr. Everett Blauvelt managed the Uthmaniya site and I was in touch with him every day. In December 1977, my father Mohamed Abdul Rahman passed away in India. It affected me deeply as I did not have the full satisfaction of serving him. I wanted to take care of him but he had always said, he will earn his livelihood till his last breath, great man did it as he said he will do. He did not receive my paycheck that was to go for his personal use as he had agreed (In Indian tradition, the men and women give the entire paycheck to family). I took care of my family for several years after his death, but was not able to serve him personally as I had wanted to, that left a vacuum to serve in my life. Here comes Everett Blauvelt, more or less filling my need for a father figure. He was there for me and regularly inquired about my Mother and my family back home. We became friends, and on holidays we went shopping, and went eating in different restaurants in Khobar and Dammam. Now addressing my Muslim friends: When God offered a choice to Adam and explained the consequence of eating the fruit and not eating, Adam chose to eat and he had to be expelled as agreed. The angels argued with God that it was not fair, he could have slapped Adam and stopped him from eating and the expulsion would not have happened. God said, look, I am the God and did offer choice to Adam, and he chose what worked for him. I am the God, if I don't honor my own word, who will? Then he ordered the angels to upload "free will" into the DNA of all humans. When you hear that freedom and liberty are the inalienable rights, that is what it meant in Quran and in our constitution. By the way Islam is not a new religion, it never claimed to be one. Islam has clearly asserted that it is an extension of what was in practice before. Jesus and all others religious head had similar experience of taking one step further from what was practiced before. However, a small percentage of their followers become fanatics and compelled others to change their faith, and now Hindus are doing the same thing forcing people to change or preventing them from changing. I continue to condemn conversion by force, it is wrong to to force any one to believe against his or her will. Muhammad is my mentor
It does not matter to me if you believe in one God, two Gods, many Gods or no God. You live your life and I live mine. The following note is about understanding the idea of one God. The idea of oneness was the first step towards building a cohesive society and subscribing to the idea of one ultimate God that was common to all was the need of the day. Hinduism calls it Vasudhaiva Kutumubukum - the whole world is one. What a relief it was, it freed the men from the blame games and mitigated the mundane conflicts. The wisdom was a panacea to the conflicts among people Each merchant in Mecca, a trading center then had his own Icon representing “his” values, and when the conflicts arose between two merchants, it was their “personal God-Icon” who rescued or won them their battle in business. The conflicts remained a daily routine, sort of the Wild West in America some 200 years ago.
It was a time period when an individual's greed and his drive to control the resources, wealth and women turned him into pitting his version of God against the others.That was not only in Mecca, but that was the case all around the world then and it is the same now. Subscribing to one common God, with all the non-conflicting attributes packed into one, an abstract idea of God which everyone could relate to was the need of the day. The idea of the oneness of God and oneness of humanity was a source of healing and bringing unity to the given diversity. Muhammad (pbuh) received revelations about the oneness of God, and commonness of humanity despite the differences. He understood that very well when he recited God’s words (Quran 49:13) that we were born to a single couple and made into different tribes, communities, nations, and faiths, and with that uniqueness conflicts are bound to happen and the way to move ahead is to know each other, when we know each other myths disappear, conflicts fade and solutions emerge.
In his last sermon, he delivered one of the best equality statements – that no human is superior or inferior to the other, the words are almost identical to our immortal Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal. Muhammad revealed this to his family and friends, and they started seeing the value in the conflictlessness of "Your God" versus "My God" and moving on to "our God" - a common denominator God. Thus the word subscribing to the idea of one supreme* God came into being, the Arabic word for submission for peace was "Islam" and the one who submits to the idea of oneness, and conflictlessness was a Muslim, a submitter to harmony.
Hold it my friends, you will not go to the same church, synagogue, mosque or a temple, if you don’t like the environment or the sermons, you go where you are comfortable, and you choose what suits you. Islam suits me well, I fit right into it. Not the Islam you hear on Fox, but the pristine Islam that was created by Muhammad and not visible to you, which the majority of Muslims silently practice. It is here live and active, please go to www.WorldMuslimCongress.com and you see that Pristine Islam. List of my mentors; Jesus Christ, Prophet Muhammad, Buddha, Krishna, Mahatma Gandhi, Maimonides, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, my father Abdul Rahman and mother Khairun Nisa. And among the living mentors; Pope Frances, Barack Obama and Aga Khan. (Latest update: Dali Lama is dropped- as he did not say a word about his fellow Buddhists massacring their fellow country men in Burma - I need to study more to add back). Name Bias in Melbourne The entrance to the Al-Aqsa mosque was guarded heavily and Israel had banned the entry for non-Muslims, as a nut case fanatic Jew had opened the fire on praying Muslims on a Friday, and had killed over two dozen worshippers. So the inquisition began and I went thru the grill of proving the Israeli soldier that I was a Muslim, (they assumed I was a Christian for my name) and he finally asked me to recite the Shahadah (Muslim pledge) and told me to move, and on that very precise moment, I heard a loud gunshot and reflexively balked, "what was that?" OMG, he pulled me over again, and asked with piercing eyes, are you really a Muslim? I said, hell yes. He asked why did you ask about the Gunshot, and I said, I wanted to know what that was? He repeated, you are a Muslim? He pulls over the Palestinian Guard who asks me to repeat the process and additionally asks me to recite another small chapter, Sura Ikhlas and proceeds to ask more questions while the Israeli guard looks on. At that moment I was frustrated enough and entertained the thought of pulling my pants down to show him that I was a Muslim… thank God for the interruption from the Dutch Imam ahead of me, who said let’s go, that held my funny thoughts back.. I realized that the Jewish and Muslim Men have the same thing in their pants and I recall that this method was shamelessly used to identify Jews and Muslim alike during massacres. Any way I recited the Sura’s and was let go. But I did not want to go without finding about that sound... that they did not even bat an eye for it… they laughed and told me that it was to mark the end of Sahri/ Suhoor time (early dawn meal in Ramadan) that I was not familiar with. My Journey in to Islam In the mid 1990's, when Islam was attacked by everyone on TV and Radio, as usual I was randomly flipping pages in different holy books to see what I get to read. I flipped a page in Bhagvad Gita, and it read "finding the truth is one’s own responsibility". That turned my life around, and I went about seeking the truth and realized the false translations of Quran as enumerated above… and started digging and searching for truth - almost everything in the market about Islam was false, I deliberated about it, and researched if Islam suited me, and fits my pluralistic inclinations... to respect all of God's religions and creation.. And Islam did that for me, and I chose to become a Muslim, several of my friends called me crazy that I chose to call myself a Muslim around 9/11, so be it. Truth stands on its own. What about Other Religions? Let me assert this very clearly - a statement that I made upon receiving the "Religious communicator of the year" award by Religious writers association. My religion works for me as other's religions work for others and I will never claim my religion to be superior or inferior to any. Claiming superiority of your religion is arrogance which destroys relationships between individuals, families, communities and nations, where as every religion is designed to bring humility in the individuals which builds relationships. As a Muslim I have challenged fellow Muslims, and as a religious person, I will challenge other religious followers to show where they can claim superiority, other than the circular logic. Quran is clear - God loves people who forgive and who are humble, and does not favor those who are arrogant. I could have chosen any faith, and all faiths are equally dear to me. None is superior or inferior, it is what you know and what suits you. Islam suits me as I align with it. Islam is about free will, justice, humility and dignity to all of God's creation - life and environment. I define religion as a system that guides one to live in balance with himself or herself and how to live with others in harmony. Dr. Shaykh Rashid Gannouchi emphasizes, " The role of religion is to answer the big questions for us, those relating to our existence, origins, destiny, and the purpose for which we were created, and to provide us with a system of values and principles that would guide our thinking, behavior, and the regulations to which we aspire." He adds, "Islam is a religion of civilization" which he suggests elsewhere is the essence and purpose of every world religion.
I was in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia from 1977-1980 with Fluor Corporation, and at one time, I was the Deputy Controller of Finance and worked directly for Pat Waugh, the big man. I was the Chief for Banking and Cash Operations and managed the operations of 5 sites – Ras Tanura, Shedgum, Uthmaniya, Jubail and Dhahran North, Yanbu was added later.
Mr. Blauvelt started calling me "Mike" way back in Saudi Arabia much before I came to the states. Since then, "Mike" has become a part of my name to honor our friendship. He is a father figure to me and is the one who sponsored and goaded me to come to the United States. (Old writing: Thank God, he will be 96 in January 2012.) He passed away at the age of 97 on April 13, 2013. I had promised him that on his 100th birthday, I will ask Sean Hannity to give him a call; he was a fan of Hannity. I may do something in 2016 on his birthday, when he would have been 100.
That’s how I got the name Mike, and upon my citizenship confirmation, it became my full legal name "Mike Mohamed Ghouse." I wouldn’t want to be called anything but Mike. My mother wrote me letters with that name and that is all I wanted and that's my authorization, and I don’t care what anyone says. That’s how my name will be inscribed on my head stone with a phrase – “Died with Prejudice towards none”, that is if I don’t get scattered in the air with a plane crash. Every day, I make an effort to live without bias.
I would like to remind my Muslim friends that the name Muhammad was given to the Prophet. He was born into a Pagan family (Pagan is not and should not be a derogatory term- it is an identity), and at the age of 40, after pondering about life, religion, God, human suffering and the poverty, just as the Buddha did, Muhammad (pbuh) received revelations and enlightenment about oneness of God, and commonness of humanity despite the differences. Once he became aware that he was preaching a new idea to build cohesive societies, he did not change his name, it remained Muhammad.
There is no such thing as a Muslim name, names are names, it is a different story that you want to name your kids from the people you admire and live amongst. But it is not mandatory in Islam.
There was no need to change any one's name. The big names in Islam like Khadija (prophet's wife), Abu Bakr Siddique (1st caliph), Umar bin Khattab (2nd caliph), Uthman bin Affan (3rd Caliph), Ali bin Talib (cousin and the final righteous caliph), Fatima (daughter), and others were their given names at birth as pagans, and when they became Muslims. They were not required to change their names, and neither the name of the prophet was changed; it remained Muhammad.
Indeed, there never was a requirement to change any one's given name. Not only that when the Arabs moved to the east in Iran or west into Egypt, the people of those lands were asked to consider the new value of oneness of God and its benefits that came to them, Islam never asked anyone to change their names or culture, as the faith was distinct from culture.
Prophet Muhammad believed in freedom of faith, and revealed God’s words – that there is no compulsion in faith (Quran 2:256) and he lived by his words. His Uncle Abu Talib remained a Pagan till his death, Muhammad with all the power he had, did not compel his uncle to change his belief, it was an example set to the world that there is no compulsion in faith and the example was to reaffirm that value.
The idea of a Hindu name, Muslim name, Christian name, Buddhist name or a Jewish name is a myth but has become a part of our culture and it works for ALL of us. I would rather call it a cultural name; names that you are familiar with than a religious name. You read the stories of great men and women who went out of their way to save the world, and as a part of the admiration you name your kids with your favorite hero or heroine.
America is a genuine mosaic of God's creation, it is indeed God's own country, here people have no qualms in naming their children, and they are not hung up with names. Within the next two generations it will be difficult to identify a person's religion by his or her name. Welcome to America, the land of the free and the brave.
So my name is Mike Ghouse, Mike Mohamed Ghouse.
Islam suited me well, I did not want a religion, but needed one. Islam teaches about building cohesive societies, respecting the otherness of others, freedom of speech and faith, justice, mercy, humility and treating, feeling and believing all as equals. I chose to become a Muslim in the late 90’s. More about it in my journey into Islam below.
In December 2009, I gave a presentation on scriptural reading of Quran in Melbourne, Australia at the Parliaments of World’s religions. The room was packed and there were two full rows of clergy from Iran and Saudi Arabia. What inspired them to attend? They were curios to see what a “Christian” was going to teach about Quran (they assumed I was a Christian from my name). I am glad they came and appreciated learning about the deliberate mis-translations and misinterpretations of Quran and the solutions. Steve Blow of Dallas Morning News, writes, "In the middle Ages, European leaders commissioned a hostile Quran translation to foster warfare against Muslim invaders.Later, Muslim leaders produced another translation to inflame Muslims against Christians and Jews." I reached my pinnacle of understanding Islam, when I organized, conducted and successfully managed the www.QuraanConference.com Name Bias in Jerusalem
In August 2010, I was in Jerusalem with the Middle East Peace Initiative, and it was a delight to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque which fulfilled my desire to pray in all the three holy sanctuaries of Islam and I have prayed in the mosque of every Muslim denomination as well.
I was born and raised as a Muslim, but around the late sixties, witnessing the hatred and the riots in India among people of different faiths, I blamed the religions for it and had become an Atheist and remained one till the late 90's, but not a belligerent Atheist who hates God and religions, but a pluralist who respected all religions but did not choose one for himself. Indeed, I went to the Hindu Temple across my home in Yelahanka on Saturday Nights to chant Bhajans, on Fridays, I went to different Mosques (that I still do) and on Thursdays I went to Mahabodhi society. Learned about Sikhism through my customers at the Flour Mill and Christianity and Jainism through my neighbors. Dr. Abraham Kovoor was whom I followed, he is the father of modern Atheism.
My political affiliation
By the way, I am a Republican (Update - as of October 30, 2014, I am Republican No More - http://centerforamericanpolitics.blogspot.com/2014/10/republican-no-more-i-have-gone.html ) and am notembarrassedabout being one, even though none of the current Republican Party leaders are Republicans in its truest sense, some of its leaders are hate mongers and war mongers. The majority of Republicans are like the majority of Muslims, honest good people but have allowed the radicals to dictate what the party stands for; hate malice, falsities and division, it’s a shame on us Republicans. In Islam their numbers are dwindling in a hurry and hope it happens with my political party as well ( I am not a Republican anymore, let that be clear).
Center for Pluralism is a non-profit organization founded in 1996 (as Foundation for Pluralism). It is based on a simple principle; the more we know about each other, fewer the misunderstandings would be.
CFP is committed to vigorously promoting and advancing pluralism in the realm of religion, politics, social and cultural aspects of life. We have published over 3500 articles on promoting harmony and reconciliation, appeared on 300 national TV shows, addressed in 700 national Radio talk shows and produced hundreds of programs. We need your wisdom, wealth and work to continue this work.
CFP will continue to focus its energies on ensuring a safe and secure America for all, where no one has to worry about his race, faith, ethnicity or other God-given uniqueness and live her life without apprehensions.
Our programs are designed to prevent chaos and maintain coherence and stability with the ongoing changes. We need to prepare the next generation to cope with these changes and minimize potential conflicts with ease. No American needs to worry about losing his or her way of life. As Americans we uphold, protect, defend and celebrate the values enshrined in our Constitution.
The Center for Pluralism has established over 20 annual programs to bring Americans together on religious, social, political and cultural aspects of life. The more we know each other, the less conflicts we would have. Please review our programs and except the Religious workshops and Unity Day all other programs can be run as your sponsorship for $5,000/year, but you can contribute any sum that is in your budget. Please review them in this mini-Brochure at – http://centerforpluralism.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/4.-CPF-Programs-4-Pages.pdf
CFP will be an antidote to Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Racism, Homophobia, Hindu phobia, Xenophobia, Misogyny and other phobias. Through research and activism we are establishing a respectful space for Pluralism with the policy makers, interfaith groups, both Republicans and Democrats and of course the media and you!
The Center for Pluralism will become the energy to give a solid cohesive social structure to our nation. By the year 2025, there will not be an office, school, playground, college, restaurant, theater, train, bus or a work place where people of different faiths, races, ethnicities and national origins do not work, interact, play, live and marry together. This is bound to create conflicts in airports, public spaces, board rooms, and in bedrooms as well as places of worship, work places, politics, eateries, and schools.
We have a responsibility to shape the future of our society so our kids, grand kids and us can retire in peace and live without apprehensions.
Mike's Short Bio
Mike Mohamed Ghouse is committed to his life mission of building cohesive work places, communities and nations. He works for an America where every one of the 322 million Americans should feel secure without apprehension or fear of the other.
He is one of the 5 people in the world who is actively pursuing research, activism and teaching Pluralism. Just Google and find a tremendous amount of work on pluralism in religion, politics, society and culture. Mike defines Pluralism as an attitude of “respecting the otherness of other” and accepting the God-given uniqueness of each one of us.
He is a pluralist, thinker, writer, activist and a speaker on Pluralism, Interfaith, politics, Islam, human rights and foreign policy including India and Israel-Palestine. He is a news maker, interfaith wedding officiant and a community consultant and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.
Dr. Ghouse has appeared in over 300 national TV and 700 Radio shows including 125 on Fox News and 200 on Fox’s national syndicated radio. He has published over 3500 articles on the topics he speaks.
His Google profile has been visited by over 35 million individuals with thousands of followers on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, yahoo groups and personal lists.
He is the founder and CEO of the Center for Pluralism. The bottom line to his work is security- no one should feel insecure about his or her religion, race, ethnicity, or other God-given uniqueness. Each one of us should look forward to retiring in peace and living without apprehensions or fear of the other.