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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Interfaith Prayer Ceremony at Peace Chapel Dallas

Dallas, Texas – October 3, 2013 – Interfaith Peace Chapel, Dallas
The Program outline is listed below, here is the outline of my speech.
18 pictures at flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeghouse/sets/72157636170134374/

Salaam - May you be showered in peace, drenched in peace and soaked in peace. Tonight, we will think, talk and act peace together.

Thanks for being here, interfaith meetings are important.

The purpose of interfaith dialogue is to learn about each other, and to separate the myths from the realities.  To learn about each other as we believe and practice, and not what others say about us or vice-versa.

The bottom line is how we build a society that all of us can learn to respect the otherness of others, and no one has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of the other. Interfaith efforts are directed towards that goal. 

Prophet Muhammad conducted interfaith dialogue…
Let me caution, in case our bias jumps at us...

If Muslims followed Islam, Jews followed Judaism, Christians followed Jesus, Hindus- Krishna, Bahais- Bahaullah or Sikhs Guru Nanka. We will not have the problems we see today.  A handful of people don’t get their own religion right and shamefully we blame the whole group of people…

Sadly, most of my fellow Americans have a singular perception of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus and others, and those perceptions were built up by media or hearsay, we have a tendency to teach bad things about others.. How can we have a good relationship then?

 Even those who have been a part of the interfaith dialogue still are set in what is dished out to them for years.

Interfaith dialogue, removes those myths – hear me out, this is what Judaism is and not what you imagine, this is Islam, and not what you see on Fox…. INTERFAITH dialogue helps put together the real image of the group as opposed to what is out on television.  The input is coming from the respective religious representatives and not defined by someone else. 

Indeed, in Quran 49:13 God says, I have created ya’ll from a single couple, into many tribes, communities and nations…. and the best one among you is the one who knows and learns about the other.  God knows there will be conflicts with diversity, and then he tells us the best ones among us are those who learn about each other. Knowledge leads to understanding and understanding to acceptance of each other. If we learn about each other, the conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

That is the ultimate goal of interfaith – to respect the otherness of others, and that is the precise definition of Pluralism.  That is - you are who you are, and I am who I am. I will accept you the way you believe, dress, smile and I expect the same from you. In true interfaith meetings, there are no compromises, what is the need? After all it is a belief, and as long as it does not mess with my food, water, space and my loved ones, you are welcome to be who you are, as I will be who I am.

Karen Armstrong once said, if you feel biased against any scriptures – fight it, fight with yourselves unless that bias is knocked out.  If I have the bias, why shouldn’t you? I cannot ask you to be clean, unless I am.

Bias that we have

When Pastor Jones announced burning 2998 copies of Qur'an on Wednesday, September 11, 2013, one for each American life lost on September 11, 2001; I said to myself we have to bring a closure to the sacrifice of our men and women in the most honored way and not by burning the Qurans.

We also need to bring a closure to the damage 9/11 has done to the relationship between Muslims and America, though the majority on both sides did not blame each other, the few among both made it difficult by promoting fear, hatred and blame with recurring nagging activities.

Just like the actions of Pastor Terry Jones and his handful of supporters do not represent 318 Million Americans, the actions of the 19 and their respective cheer leaders do not represent 1.6 Billion Muslims either. We all owe it ourselves to understand this clearly, so none of us lives in anxiety, and continue to live in hate of each other. 

We all have a legitimate concern on how a handful of Muslims react elsewhere in the world to
criticism of Prophet Muhammad, Islam and Qur'an, and how Muslims are perceived by fellow humanity in general and Americans in particular.  Hence we deliberated on actions to bring about sustainable solutions; the answer was in moving the Tenth Annual Unity Day USA event to Mulberry, Florida. The Unity Day brings people of different faiths, races and ethnicities to rededicate our pledge to one nation and a commitment to her safety, security and Unity.

Thanks to the print and web media – every Major Newspaper in the world has carried the stories and at least two dozen original pieces have been written about the event. A whole lot of it is listed at

The most important endorsements came from Muslims sites - Shia, Sunni and other Muslims groups. Whether it is Saudi Gazette, or Ahle-Bayt (Shia) News in Iran and the Muslim Majority Nations have covered it all.


The following are some of the many of the responses we have learned and anticipate when someone criticizes Islam, Prophet Muhammad, or Quran;  
  1. Violence – burning embassies, cars and destruction of property….
  2. Calling Names, cursing or killing the one who said bad things about the three
  3.  Enflame the situation by adding fuel to the fire by talk of avenge or revenge
  4. Passing the buck – blame the other “illiterate Muslims”, fringe elements etc.
  5. Get Defensive
What the world has not seen is a genuine Muslim response!

Our goal was to offer an alternate behavior model as a standard, indeed we can call it a genuine Islamic response based on what the Prophet has said, and the verses from Quran. This behavior can also be called Christian, Jewish, Hindu or plain common sense responsible response.

Saving a life is like saving the whole humanity says the Quran, a book of guidance like all other holy books in building harmony in a given society. It is about building societies that care for other for the ultimate benefit of each member of the society. (
More about it at Huffington Post)

The Muslim Community has taken up the responsibility in past several years to donate blood, and last year, the target was to collect 11,000 pints on the 11thanniversary and collected 11,170 Pints.  The Muslims for Life blood drive campaign emphasizes the sanctity of life, a teaching inherent in all religious traditions.

The Muslim
Community USA has set a goal to collect 12,000 pints of blood, which will help save up to 36,000 lives. 

The model is not new at all, indeed, it was established by Jesus, Muhammad and all the spiritual Masters (peace be upon them)  including non-religious and secular traditions; that of mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill for the common good of the society; a cohesive society where no one has to live in apprehension or fear of the other.
Jesus called that Kingdom of heaven and Muhammad called it submission to a coherent system called Islam. A majority of people in all faiths believe in the beauty of their faith; however a few in each group don’t get that or abuse the faith to their advantage in making enemies out of those who differ.

Indeed, Prophet Muhammad taught that "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.” (Full Press release at World Muslim Congress).

The folks in the Town of Mulberry and Polk County, Florida were ready for a new model to work in dealing with the situation, and they did, and have set an example to the world. Should this happen elsewhere in the United States, the folks can look up to the Mulberry example of giving hope and strengthening what is good.

Indeed Mulberry Mayor Hatch said, "One man or a handful of men and women do not represent the values of half a million folks of Polk County". Mayor Fields of Lakeland shared that humanity has a history of abusing the holy books for individual gains and we cannot accept that. Sgt. Regina Moran, representing Polk County Sheriff's office called for mutual respect and acceptance of the other. Butch Rahman, a resident of Polk County emphasized, "Terry Jones begged every property owner in Polk County to allow him to burn the Quran on their property—and not one person accepted. No one is buying his idea and he is isolated on an island of hate. He does not represent us.” and added,”I am proud of Polk County's response in rejecting hate and promoting a positive message of American diversity."  
To sum it up about Islam, let me share the core values and the rituals that are the pathways to achieve those values.

Core Values
  • 1.       Mercy
  • 2.      Justness
  • 3.      Forgiveness
  • 4.      Accountability
  • 5.      Equality
  • 1.        Pledge - belief in God and his prophet.
  • 2.      Prayers
  • 3.      Fasting
  • 4.      Zakat (public taxes to take care of the needy)
  • 5.      Pilgrimage.

The Universal Prayer – Translation of Sura Fatiha
Arabic recitation: Sura Fatiha

Here is the program outline.

Rev. Janet Ellis - Opening

Kenny Kolter -  Gong Meditation

Judie Arkow - Jewish Faith/Interfaith Clergy

Rev. David Howard - Unity Christianity

Mike Ghouse - Muslim/Pluralism

Music  - “There is a Place”        Rev. David Howard and Rev. Janet Ellis
                                    Piano accompanist    Antoine Spencer

Stephen A. Fuqua  - Baha’i

David Scott -Spiritualism

Phrakru Vichak Suddhivaro - Buddhism

Rev. Wahhaba Phillips -  Sufi Order International North America

Music - Antoine Spencer

Closing – Len Ellis

Rev. Janet Ellis  -  Closing

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