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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

TEXAS FAITH: Is America a "Christian Nation" and what does that mean?

Do you agree with those religious leaders who say that America is a "Christian nation" or a "Judeo-Christian nation?" and what does that mean in practice? Our Texas Faith panel weighs in at Dallas Morning News. http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2011/08/texas-faith-is-america-a-chris.html

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas

I welcome the Judeo-Christian label for America as a first step in inclusiveness of our religious and non-religious traditions. The phrase Judeo-Christian was meant to reflect the commonality between the two public religions of the time.

Here's the Oxford English Dictionary on the term: The earliest use of the phrase "Judeo-Christian" came in 1899, and then comes WWII, with a 1939 reference in New English Weekly 27 July 237/2 to "The Judaeo-Christian scheme of morals" which fits in with Novick and Silk's comments that this was an attempt at universalizing Christian terms and shoehorning Jews in as a matter of inclusiveness. It wasn't until 1960 that "Judeo-Christianity" appeared. Today, the phrase is over emphasized by the religious right not to reflect inclusion, but to highlight exclusion of Islam, Hinduism, Atheism and the rights of GLBT community. The term is divisive and does not represent the values of America today; it is political and insincere at the outset.

"Judaism is Judaism because it rejects Christianity; and Christianity is Christianity because it rejects Judaism." Rabbi Eliezar Berkowitz, Chairman Jewish philosophy department at Hebrew Theological College, 1966.

"Judaism and Christianity are not parent and child; they are brothers, as were Cain and Abel." John Dominic Crossan, The Birth of Christianity, 1999.

"The term Judeo-Christian does not have a lengthy history." Peter Novick, Holocaust in American Life.

It is embarrassing to quote the founding fathers on Jews; here is Ben Franklin, "I fully agree with General Washington, that we must protect this young nation from an insidious influence and impenetration. That menace, gentlemen, is the Jews." We don't need to go that far, I am sure you heard the Nixon tapes with Rev. Billy Graham on the topic.

Glen Beck, John Hagee and other chest thumpers have ulterior motives to cash in on the name of Israel and perhaps converting the Jews. The Israelis, Palestinians and others need sincerity and not duplicity in finding security and hope for them respectively.
On the surface we get along, but under the radar there is deep distrust that we need to overcome to build a cohesive America, where no American has to live in apprehension of the other.

Time has come to be sincere and learn to accept and respect the God given uniqueness of each one of us. When we opt for just societies, all the pandering, sycophanting and war mongering will fade and solutions will emerge. Indeed, it will free us from shameless two-facedness. It will put us all on a level playing field and we will start trusting each other from the core of our hearts yielding true freedom.

We have come a long way on the civil plains and a lot more to go. The most appropriate and applicable term for America is "Pluralistic nation" which will convey the full essence of God's own country; America. America is perhaps the only nation on earth that inhabits all of God's creation; represented by every race, nationality, ethnicity, language, culture and religion. As Americans we see God as one, none and many and in every form; male, female, genderless, non-entity, being and a non-being, nameless and with innumerable names and I am proud to be an American.

Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day to the media and the public. He is a speaker thinker and a writer on the topics of pluralism, cohesive societies, Islam, interfaith, India and Peace. He is available to speak at your place of worship, work, school, college, seminars and conferences. . Mike's work is reflected in 4 website's and 27 Blogs indexed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/ and you can find this article at www.TheGhousediary.com


Eid Mubarak

We are not a monolithic lot, we are different and we must learn to accept and respect every tradition without denigration - Eid is a joyous moment and not the time to criticize others for celebrating the Eid on a different day. I hope the article Politics of Ramadan is enlightening

I am blessed to have written nearly 40 articles on Ramadan and have visited mosque of just about every denomination of Muslims including the Beit al Muqadas and Al-Aqsa Mosques last year. Much earlier I have prayed at both Madinah and Makkah. It was a pleasure to do the Iftaar with Muslims from Ahmadiyya, Bohra, Ismaili, Sufi, Shia, Sunni, WD Muhammad and Muslims of every race, ethnicity and many cultures.
Spirit of Ramadan: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/spirit-of-ramadan_b_939961.html

Politics of Ramadan:

Rituals of Ramadan: http://ramadanexclusive.blogspot.com/2010/09/traditions-of-ramadan.html

Insha Allah, next Ramadan, I will make a movie on our diversity and welcome ideas and facilitations from you. You can share your comment at the end of this article at: http://ramadanexclusive.blogspot.com/2011/08/eid-mubarak.html

Jazak Allah Khair

Mike Ghouse
Muslims Together
www.IslamTogetherFoundation.com www.MikeGhouse.net

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Spirit of Ramadan - Eid Mubarak

Rituals signify the mile stones of our daily life. Every significant moment of the day is a ritual. It is an unwritten way of measuring our progression; a memory pattern to bring discipline to our actions.
From the moment we are born to the last rites of our life and every moment in-between is laden with rituals, though some of us may deny it. Whether we go to the gym, eat our food; go to sleep, wear clothes, drive some place, in our intimate moments, or picking that phone up, we follow rituals.

Discipline is necessary to do things on time, managing personal relationships, driving to a destination or keeping within budget to achieve the goals; the result is worth the discipline to most people. When joyous, whether we are a theist or not, we have to express that sentiment, otherwise a sense of incompleteness lingers in our hearts.
The Spiritual masters have captured the human gravity for rituals and have molded it with the art and science of self-discipline in their respective religion. The noble purpose of each one of them was to bring a balance in our lives and a balance with things that surround us; life and environment.

The Spirit;

Every faith is composed of a set of unique rituals to bring discipline and peace to human life. Fasting is one of the five key rituals that Muslims around the world observe.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is generally observed with a ritual precision; it is an annual training or a refresher. It requires one to abstain from food, drink, intimacy, ill will, ill talk, ill actions or any temptations from dawn to dusk, every day for a month. One has to rise above his or her baser desires. Islam gifts this month to its followers to inculcate discipline to bring moderation in their daily lives. Twenty five hundred years ago, Buddha, the enlightened one taught that human suffering is caused by unrestrained desire to own and had recommended a middle path, and the same recommendation was made by Prophet Muhammad fourteen hundred years ago.

Although Ramadan is popularly known in the West for its culinary delicacies and fancy Iftaar (ceremonial breaking of fast at sun down), the spirit and intent of Ramadan lies in a human transformation in a month long inner spiritual journey of finding oneself in tune with spirituality.
God has no need for the hunger or thirst of someone who hurts others, violates their dignity or usurps their rights, said Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The fasting of the stomach must be matched by the fasting of the limbs. The eyes, ears, tongue, hands and feet all have their respective fasts to undergo. The tongue's temptations, for example - lies, backbiting, slander, vulgarity and senseless argumentation - must be challenged and curbed to maintain the integrity of the fast.

Consciousness of behavior and vigilance over action are the most profound dimensions of fasting: the fasting of the heart focuses on the attachment to the divine. That is when Ramadan really becomes a source of peace and solace, just as Christmas goes beyond the rituals to bring forth kindness, charity and caring.

True fasting is self-purification; and from this, a rich inner life that bring about values such as justice, generosity, patience, kindness, forgiveness, mercy and empathy - values that are indispensable for the success of the community.

Knowing about hunger is different from knowing hunger. Empathy is not an intellectual equation; it is a human experience. Our hardness of heart often springs from our distance from the human condition of others. The poor, sick, disenfranchised, oppressed - we rarely walk a mile in their shoes, not even a few steps. "Rest assured," cautioned one teacher, "if you do not taste what it feels like to be hungry, you will not care for those who are."

For fasting to be truly universal, its benefits must extend beyond the fraternal ties of Muslims and must extend to forging a common humanity with others. Fasting is meant to impart a sense of what it means to be truly human, and its universality is reflected by its observance in Bahai, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Sikh, Zoroastrian and other faiths.

Ramadan will come and go with such stealth that we cannot but be reminded of our mortality. What is it that we value and why? Habits, customs, even obsessive behavior like smoking can be curtailed with relative ease in the face of a higher calling.


Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day to the media and the public. He is a speaker thinker and a writer on the topics of pluralism, cohesive societies, Islam, interfaith, India and Peace. He is available to speak at your place of worship, work, school, college, seminars and conferences. . Mike's work is reflected in 4 website's and 27 Blogs indexed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/ and you can find this article at www.TheGhousediary.com

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi

Among Hindus there is beautiful tradition of invoking that aspect of God which removes barriers and paves the way for a smoother life. The icon that represents this aspect of God is known as Ganesh, Ganesha, or Vinayak depending on the region, most Hindus around the world invoke Ganesh before they start any thing in life from starting their day, to opening a new business or wearing new clothes or starting a social ceremony.

I see the essence in a ritual, rather than the ritual itself. The act of invoking the creator sets oneself on a positive path. One starts out with a good feeling that God is with him or her and will remove the barriers for him. That is the power of positive thinking that Napoleon Hill has talked about; it is psyching oneself up to do the right thing and succeed.

Every faith finds value in rituals, indeed the rituals are pathways to spiritual attainment. From the moment we are born to the last rites of our life and every moment in between is loaded with rituals whether we admit or not. Whether we go to the gym, eat our food; go to sleep, wake up, wear our clothes, drive some place or in our intimate moments; we follow rituals.

The great Hindu sage Sri Ramakrishna shares this, "There can be as many spiritual paths as there are spiritual aspirants, and as many Gods as there are devotees." One of the hallmarks of Hindu spirituality is the worship of this infinite diversity of the One Unknowable God in a multiplicity of forms. To this I am pleased to add that as beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, faith is in the heart of the believer.

Ganesh Chaturthi is a ten day festival commencing on August 23rd and ending on September 3rd Every evening people gather around the Icon of Ganesh made out of clay and celebrate it with devotion, entertainment and community gatherings.

I grew up in Yelahanka my mother town, a suburb of Bangalore. Every year the Ganesha Chaturthi was celebrated for nearly ten days. A huge tent was set up on the main street across my home, and big clay Icon of Ganesha was placed in the tent. For ten nights different music bands came and sang the most popular Kannada and Bollywood songs, or a learned Hindu scholar would share the wisdom of Hinduism known as Hari Katha. I remember a Hari Krishn Pahwal, the Qawwali singer from North India who would sing Qawwali in Urdu in praise of Ganesh at least one of the 9 nights. It was quite a treat for us kids.

On the tenth day, the Ganesh Icon is carried on a chariot with pomp and gaiety to the lake and immersed in the water to dissolve.

On the culinary side it was a delightful time, as kids we looked forward to it every year. We visited many homes in that month; particularly my father’s buddy Bellur Muniyappa’s home. They fixed the “obbattu” the pancake like item with sweet and sour soup called “saaru” and the “Kanola’s” the dumpling made out of Jaggery, coconut and flour. I fondly remember my Grandmother making delicious Obbattu, Saar and Kanola’s. Heck, I long for it.

Ganesh Chaturthi has its origins at the beginning of Sanatana Dharma, usually known as Hinduism. However, the festival took its present form in 1893 when Lokmanya Tilak, the Hindu Social reformer initiated it.

Tilak wanted to build bridges between different Hindu communities and saw the commonality of worshiping Ganesh among different sects. “Tilak recognized the wide appeal of the deity Ganesh as "the god for everybody", and popularized Ganesh Chaturthi as a national festival in order "to bridge the gap between Brahmins and 'non-Brahmins' and find a context in which to build a new grassroots unity between them", and generate nationalistic fervor among people in Maharashtra against the British colonial rule”.

Tilak encouraged installation of large public images of Ganesh in pavilions, and also established the practice of submerging in rivers, sea, or other pools of water all public images of the deity on the tenth day after Ganesh Chaturthi.

Under Tilak's encouragement, the festival facilitated community participation and involvement in the form of intellectual discourses, poetry recitals, performances of plays, musical concerts, and folk dances. It served as a meeting ground for people of all castes and communities in times when, in order to exercise control over the population, the British Rule discouraged social and political gatherings.

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi!

If you are in Dallas, please attend the UnityDay USA – details at http://www.unitydayusa.com/ on Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day to the media and the public. He is a speaker thinker and a writer on the topics of pluralism, cohesive societies, Islam, interfaith, India and Peace. He is available to speak at your place of worship, work, school, college, seminars and conferences. . Mike's work is reflected in 4 website's and 27 Blogs indexed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/ and you can find this article at www.TheGhousediary.com

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sharia Politics - My random thoughts

Sharia law like any law is mis-implemented from time to time; innocent people get on the electric chair or the lethal injection in our own US of A. In at least 3 out of 56 Muslim majority nations, wrong people get stoned to death for adultery or blasphemy. It is neither our laws nor Sharia that is wrong; it is the mis-application to suit the ones in power that is wrong.

Parents are not to abuse Children, yet, incest and beating of innocent children continues. The men who beat their wives violently are Muslim, Christian, Jews, Hindus… and every one, it is not the Christian or Islam thing – it is the precisely because they did not get their own religion to guide them, even if they wear a loud label of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism or any religion or tradition and even if they go the Church, Mosque, Synagogue, Temple… you see them in all groups.

Qur’aan is a binary book, everything is addressed in pairs - when it talks about male, it is followed by the word female, day follows night, and life follows death. Traditionally Quraanic interpretations have been done my men, like in all other religions. Thank God, women contributions are pouring in and bringing a balance to the meaning of the words in Qur’aan.

Sharia interpretations have been men-appeasing and justice busting in some, but not all the cases. A very small percent of Muslim women endure the non-sense of men's Sharia misapplication - while women across the world be it in America or Arabia, Chile or China, Native American or African are mistreated in jobs, harassment continues unabated, violence, rape... all of these are shameful acts that few men have stood up against. We need the majority to speak up.

Great example is the interpretation of the word Daraba, which suited the men “to discipline the woman if she does not remain faithful to you” to “separation” by Dr Leila Bakhtiar that most people are subscribing to now, which was covered very well in the www.Quraanconference.com . Michelle Bachman talks about obedience to husband, rather than partnership. More women in America are violently killed by their spouse than anywhere else in the world; does that make Christian faith bad? Heck no.

Men in power and some Qazi’s are usually rigid when it comes to punishing others. They do not see the essence of Sharia; Justice. If the Sharia laws are turned over to Regular attorneys and let there be arguments and discussions, it will serve justice. There is no stoning to death in Qur’aan... There is no triple Talaq in Qur’aan as it is practiced; the men have allowed it to happen in three to four nations out of 56 Muslim majority nations.

We all, Muslims or not, have a stake in creating just societies and we need to speak up and thank God, in democracies we can do that. Unfortunately the kings and dictators care less about religion and more about saving their tail...

As an example of shared stakes in the world, take a look at the comment in face book from a Jewish friend Paul Goldstein – “Since Sharia, to my understanding, is similar to Halacha in Judaism, it might be helpful to consider its application within secular democracies as is Halacha. To take the U.S. as an example, there exist Jewish religious courts within sizable Orthodox communities such as New York. These courts are purely voluntary for all concerned; rabbis and religious scholars are the "judges" who decide cases, and litigants can be represented by lawyers familiar with Jewish law. There is no way to enforce the religious court decisions through the regular civil courts; enforcement is only through respect of community mores, community pressure, and maintaining one's standing as an honorable member of the religious community.”
Sharia counseling in the US is indeed voluntary. The decisions are not legally binding, but morally binding. Those couples, who want to be religiously right, prefer religious guidance. It's almost like sitting with friends or going to marriage counselor. It's to maintain one's standing as an honorable member of the religious community.

If the Republican Right wingers can come out clean and say – no one has a bloody right to tell a woman or a man, what to wear, eat, worship, believe or think, and then we can look forward to a positive change. They are no different than the Bin Laden kind who believed in imposing his understanding of religion on others. Is the right wing Christians any different?
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Our first task is to communicate a comprehensive outline of knowledge to those who are attacking Sharia. The traditional Imam explanations give strength but are deficient in communicating with non-Muslims. Americans have to relate with each instance to understand it. God has blessed me and several other non-bearded, suit and jeans wearing Muslims in public, who can bridge that gap in communicating.

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We should expect every Muslim to know about his or her religion. The religion was completed and perfected while the prophet was alive. In his last speech he left the book for us, each Muslim to live by it. Prophet Muhammad did not assign any one, not one single person to interpret the religion for us. The Shia denomination of Muslims believes that Prophet had said to follow his progeny and we respect their belief, it works for them. We are accountable on the Day of Judgment and not even the Prophet will do favors. We had the time to be right and the only thing we have on that day is our deeds, the good things we have done to fellow beings and environment in preserving God’s creation.
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No Mufti, no Imam, no Khalifa is needed for Muslims. You are individually responsible for your actions. When we began life in the United States… each one learned the religion on his own like Prophet wanted us to. Talk to the people who have been here from the sixties. The clergy in every religion including Islam have made the religion dependent on them, it is their job security. Neither Jesus likes the clergy nor did Muhammad like it – if it becomes a profession. Clergy in every religion fall in the same proportions of good, ugly and greedy.
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Mother Teresa once said if you want to make peace, go talk with your enemies, you don’t make peace with friends and scholars. Hazrat Ali has also said something to that effect. A Chinese saying goes, if you want to eliminate your enemy, understand them and make friends, then you are free and they are free, if you fight head on, the battle continues. In light of these, I am pleased to carry the dialogue with my friends.
To be effective, we will have input from Imams, Scholars, Shari experts, non-Muslims, lay persons and others. We will encourage everyone to place his or her cards on the table so we can deal with the issue comprehensively.

I have been reaching out to ISNA, ICNA, CAIR and others, if they cannot do it, I am planning to pick the slack and just organize it. If you recall last year Qur’aan and the Prophet were attacked by Pastor Robert Jeffress, no Muslim Organization took it up. Thank God with the help of 10 Pastors, Rabbis, Pundits, Shamans, and elected Reps (Lon Burnam) who read the so called troubled verses from Qur’aan to the audience, while the 5 Muslims; Imam Zia Sheikh, Imam Shakoor, Dr. Basheer Ahmed, Ahmadi Muslim and myself either confirmed their understanding or corrected the misunderstanding. Today, those Pastors from Mormon, Baptist, Catholic, Unitarian, Presbyterian, Methodist…. will correct any misquotes from Qur’aan. All the details are at

We are all in this together and find solutions.

Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies. His work is indexed at www.MikeGhouse.net and his current articles at www.TheGhousediary.com

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Texas Faith: How do you interpret the Genesis Creation story?

TEXAS FAITH: How do you interpret the Genesis creation story?
An old Jewish folk tale makes the point. One day God said to Abraham, "If it weren't for me, you wouldn't be here," to which Abraham replied, "True, but if I weren't here there wouldn't be anyone to think about you." To conclude, we created God in our own image and let's give him wisdom as well.

Dallas Morning News shares 15 opinions on the topic including mine at http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2011/08/texas-faith-how-do-you-interpr.html
MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas

The simplistic understanding of the Genesis is that God produced the world in six days in a process that created the universe -- planets, water, earth, plants and life -- and wrapped it up with a final product: man in his own image so he can commune with them. Adam and Eve were set on autopilot to keep procreating themselves and we are here today, seven billion of us from that one single couple.

The conservatives among Abrahamic faiths believe that Adam was the outcome of an intelligent design, and was created in the same format as we are today. They believe that the idea of evolution is in conflict with creationism and goes against the very word of God.

Indeed, they have an unquestionable need to believe that what "they know" is precisely what God means; any other point of view is anathema and confusing to them.  The non-Abrahamic faith followers need not gloat; a new idea is usually an abomination to someone or the other including them.

The liberals on the other hand feel secure to explore unfamiliar territories and find new meaning in the theory of evolution. Both attitudes serve the basic motivations of the individuals: security in the cocoon and need to quench the thirst for knowledge. Together we grow into newer areas of knowledge and enrich life.

Our leaders have a personal right to believe in creation or evolution, or both. They are not mutually exclusive. However, they do not have the right to deprive the rights of citizens to their beliefs and shut one or the other. Most see creation as an understandable transition from evolution.

Is it possible that Adam was the first species in the process of evolution that was able to communicate coherently, take care of him and survive against the nature's oddities?
He was able to survive the fires, storms, blizzards, floods and furies of nature. Did God feel pleased with this new species that was fit enough to survive and become a permanent fixture of the universe unlike the others that faded into oblivion?

Did God call him "Adam" because he was the first one to stand out on his own?
God's word is all embracing and that is what he may have meant in the Bible, Torah and Qur'aan. I am sure the other scriptures carry similar wisdom. It is rather our shortcoming in understanding the spectrum of God's word by limiting the meanings to suit our security needs. Let's give some leeway to God's word, religion is about what we are conditioned to believe.

An old Jewish folk tale makes the point. One day God said to Abraham, "If it weren't for me, you wouldn't be here," to which Abraham replied, "True, but if I weren't here there wouldn't be anyone to think about you." To conclude, we created God in our own image and let's give him wisdom as well.

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker, writer and a frequent guest on Hannity show and nationally syndicated Radio shows including local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. Over 1000 articles have been published on Pluralism, politics, Islam, India, Israel, Palestine, justice and civil 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/ and www.TheGhousediary.com

Monday, August 22, 2011

Janmashtami Mubarak - Lord Krishna's birthday

Krishn Janmashtami Mubarak

Celebration of Janmashtami is honoring the man who gave us so much wisdom in Bhagvad Gita. The book is an encapsulation of Krishna’s advice to Arjuna when he goes through different phases of thoughts and actions. It is one of the best self improvment books to read. Today is Janmashtami, the celebration of Sri Krishna’s birthday, the Hare Krishna devotees prefer to call it appearance of Prabhu rather than birthday celebrations.

Perhaps it comes from the conversation in the Bhagvad Gita, ‘Whenever the balance of the universe is disturbed by external interference from any of its parts, then I reveal myself as the Power of eternal balancing. For the protection of those who are in harmony, and the rectification of everything disharmonious, I incarnate myself at every juncture of time.’ So, it is assumed that the form of God will return back on earth for the establishment of peace, religion and prosperity in society once again when required.

The other version of the same quote is. “Whenever Adharma (un-righteousness) takes root in the society, God will infuse himself and restores the dharma (righteousness) to the society. In other words the operative word is the self balancing mechanism.

Celebration of Janmashtami is honoring the man who gave us so much wisdom in Bhagvad Gita. The book is an encapsulation of Krishna’s advice to Arjuna when he goes through different phases of thoughts and actions. It is one of the best self analysis books to read.

Indeed, my life is greatly influenced and affected by one single verse from Bhagvad Gita “finding the truth is one’s own responsibility”. I owe my critical thinking to this verse and I owe my return to Islam to this verse, it is very dear to me and there is not a week that goes by without quoting this truth in one context or the other. As I am writing this, I recall the famous couplet from a song by Sahir Ludhanavi in Urdu/Hindi language;

Quraan no ho jis may o dharam tera nahin hai
Gita na ho jis may o haram tera nahin hai

Your religiosity and your righteousness in incomplete without Quraan
and most certainly your worship place is incomplete without Gita.

It is one of the most powerful interfaith couplets I have read and often think about it and sing that song. India has a long history of Pluralism and diversity. It is one of the oldest nations on the earth that has welcomed every one that was persecuted elsewhere; and those who found the freedom to be themselves such as Jews, Christians, Muslims, Zoroastrians and others, besides giving birth to Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism an Sikhism, it is indeed home to one of the top five Bahai shrines in the world.

If you are a good Hindu, then you are automatically a good Muslim, good Bahai or a good Christian, if you are a good Jew then you automatically are a good Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Wicca or a Zoroastrian or a follower of the native traditions. Essentially religion and the rituals lift you up to become boundless, universal and God like; where distinctions of color, religion, ethnicity and race fade. You feel a sense of relief and freedom. Bhagavad Gita says, the whole world is one family, just as every religious text calls out loud to be one universse and one world.

Perhaps this is what Krishna meant, “Surrender to me” and Jesus meant, “Follow me” and the Quraan asks to "submit to the will of God". Urging and goading us to become like God, to be free to be a part of the ocean and yet have out unique identity as a human, as a follower of one tradition or the other, live in one geographical zone or the other and born with one skin color or the other.

The other Sholoka Shri DD Maini shares with me frequently is - do your work, and don't look for the fruit. kaam kiye ja kiye ja... something very reflective of Buddha’s teachings.

When I was a baby, I was dressed up as Krishna and a matka (clay pot) with Makhan (butter) was placed in front me and apparently I did just like Sri Krishna did with the Makhan; ate it. My pictures were in many homes, I have to go find them... after 58 years!

I visited Brindavan, the birth place of Sri Krishna, it was very inspiring to think about the man who changed so many lives, and I was privileged to see that place where he was born. Sri Krishna is one my mentors and inspirations in life and I hope to learn a lot from reading about him.

Indeed, one of the best teachers in Bhagvad Gita in Dallas is Swami Nityananda Prabhu at the Hare Krishna Temple. He shares the Pluralistic vision of the Sri Krishna. He and I reviewed the whole Bhagvad Gita on my radio show in about two plus years every Thursday of the week, where we learned the wisdom of a religion, every beautiful religion, every day in the morning.

In Brindavan, I bought several tapes but still could not find the original song... . I was frustrated because I could not find the song by Rafi and Lata and instead had to be content with Sonu’s copies. After walking all over Brindavan, I found it.

Here it is on you tube my favorite Janmashtami Song

Murli Wale Murli Baja Suraiya in Dillagi

Kanha Kanha aan padi my tere paas

Radha kaisay na Jale

Tere Bharosay ai nand lala

Govinda Bolo Hari Gopala Bolo – my 2nd favorite

More Songs at the end.......................................................

God in Quraan has said that he has sent a messenger to every nation, every community and tribe to restore righteousness in that society. I am pleased to pay my respects to one of my mentors Sri Krishna today. I continue to learn and emulate a fraction of wisdom from Krishna, Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Nanak in particular and many in General including Bahaullah, Ali, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Aga Khan, Rev. Moon and Obama. No confusion, I am a Muslim and I do not worship any one except the invisible, formless creative cosmic energy called God by different names.

Please go get yourselves a copy of Bhagvad Gita by Chinmaya Mission or the Hare Krishna temple and a copy of the Quraan, translated by Mohammad Asad..and if you have the money to buy the Torah, Bible, Gurugranth Sahib, the Kitab al-Muqaddas and other holy books. it is a gift to yourselves to enrich with the spiritualiy. Read the books as God's guidance for us to live in harmony, honoring the uniqueness of each other. All the books are pluralistic, have the mind set to see it.

Janmasthami Mubarak!
Happy Janmashtami

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, religion, Islam and India and is a frequent guest on the media offering pluralistic solutions to the issues of the day. His work is expressed in 22 blogs and 3 websites listed at www.MikeGhouse.net

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Note: This article is a compilation from various sources including the Bhagvad Gita

Bhagavad Gita is a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna in the battle of Mahabharata and contains all that is knowable in whole cosmos and particularly as a human being. The knower of Bhagavad Gita becomes omniscient. One gains enlightenment and finally salvation Moksha in Hinduism. It is one of the best self help books.From the very first verse to the the 700th verse, Bhagavad Gita teaches one the true essence meaning of life. The knower of Bhagwad Gita becomes an enlightened being. Prophet Muhammad had suggested metaphorically, if you want to learn and improve on your life go farther.The content of the Gita is the conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna taking place on the battlefield before the start of the Kurukshetra war. Responding to Arjuna's confusion and moral dilemma about fighting his own cousins, Lord Krishna explains to Arjuna his duties as a warrior and prince and elaborates on different Yogic[5] and Vedantic philosophies, with examples and analogies. This has led to the Gita often being described as a concise guide to Hindu theology and also as a practical, self-contained guide to life. During the discourse, Lord Krishna reveals His identity as the Supreme Being Himself (Svayam Bhagavan), blessing Arjuna with an awe-inspiring vision of His divine universal form.

The direct audience to Lord Krishna’s discourse of the Bhagawata Gita included Arjuna (addressee), Sanjay (using Divya Drishti gifted by Rishi Veda Vyasa) and Lord Hanuman (perched atop Arjuna’s chariot) and Barbarika, son of Ghatotghaj who also witnessed the complete 18 days of action at Kurukhsetra.

Historians calculate that the birth of Lord Krishna goes back to the Dwapar Yug. It is in the year of Visvavasu around 3227 BC when Lord Krishna was born. He was born on a dark, stormy night on the day eight day of the second fortnight of the month of Shravana which now corresponds to the month of August-September in the Gregorian calendar. Born in the prison of Demon Kansa, from Kansa’s sister Devaki and Vasudeva, Krishna was declared to be the savior of mankind and the end of Kansa even before his birth. Krishna, right from the day of birth exhibited that he was a special child and there was extraordinary powers with him. Throughout his childhood and adolescence in Gokul, he did many things which made people believe that he was a form of God. Since then, the people of Nandgaon celebrated the birth of Krishna as a day of fortune.

Even thousands of years after his heavenly abode, people observe this day as a day of fortune and commemorate the birth of Lord Krishna by fasting and feasting. People believe Krishna to be the ultimate savior of the world. One who unlike other gods, can be regarded, as a lover, friend, divine guru or one’s own child. People mesmerized with Krishna’s persona and deeds can be seen singing and dancing in the name of Krishna to eternity on the day of Janmashtami. It is the deep faith and devotion of people towards him that the festival is still celebrated with a great honor, joy as well as elation as it was celebrated thousands of years back.

Krishna Janmashtami Rituals & Traditions

FastingThe most common and essential ritual followed on the day of Janmashtami is the fasting by devotees. Most of Lord Krsihna’s devotees fast for on this day and open the fast at midnight when it is assumed that Lord Krishna has been born. At the time of midnight also, the people who have observed fast whole day prefer to have only milk and milk products as they are considered auspicious as well pure. Some of the ardent devotees of Krishna observe the fast for the entire day even without consuming water- it is called ‘Nirjal Vrat’. There are other devotees who observe two day fast in the honor of Lord Krishna.

ChantingIt is said that chanting Lord Krishna’s name with entire devotion brings immense joy and pleasure in the life of the devotee. So, on the birthday of Lord Krishna, devotees indulge in continuous chanting of Krishna’s name for the entire day. They chant sholkas, mantras, richas from the Veda. They also read Bhagvad Geeta and sing bhajans in the name of Krishna. It is said that chanting 108 names of Lord Krishna brings auspiciousness in one’s life.

Devotional Songs & DancesBhajans are a vital custom of the Janmashtami celebrations. Devotees sing and dance with fervor in the name of Lord Krishna. In many temples of Mathura and Vridavana, you will find devotees mesmerized and overwhelmed with their love and devotion for Shri Krishna. In the midnight celebration, people gather at a place and sing several kinds of bhajans to highlight his feats and his divine characteristics.

Plays On Lord KrishnaVery much like the Ramleela, devotees of Lord Krishna organize plays on the life of Lord Krishna called Krishnaleela. In these plays organized by professional as well as amateur artists, several important deeds and legends associated with Lord Krishna are staged.

Offering SweetsIt is known to everybody that Lord Krishna was extremely fond of sweets and dairy products. So on the day of Krishnashtami, devotees of Lord Krishna prepare umpteen varieties of sweets and dairy products and offer them to the idols of Krishna. This ritual is called ‘bhog’. Later, these sweets are distributed amongst the devotees as ‘ Prasada’.

Swings At many places in the country, devotees tie swings on the trees and take rides on that. It is said that taking a swing ride on the occasion of Janmashtami is considered auspicious. This ritual is extremely popular in the rural parts of the country.


Radha Na Bole Na Bole Re - Azaad

Mere Shyam Tera Naam

radhike tune bansari

Darshan Do Ghanshyam Nath

madhuban mein radhika nache re

Man Tarpat Hari Darsan ko Aaj

Baat Nihare Ghanshyam

Kanha too ne peer na janany

Gokul ko choray gaye ghanshyam

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Day 19 of Ramadan 2011

Day 19 of Ramadan 2011 at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church

Terminology: At the bottom of this write up.

Church: Lovers Lane United Methodist Church, Dallas
Sahri (Pre-dawn meal at home): Cereal with Yogurt
Iftaar (refreshments): Straight Dinner
Iftaar (Dinner): Salad, Rice, Non-spicy stew like lamb, Dolma (Grape leaf rolls stuffed with minced meat and rice) and Baklava for dessert.
Culture: Interfaith Dinner- Christians and mainly Turkish Muslims, perhaps I was the only Subcontinentan there.

PURPOSE: To share and appreciate the diversity within Islam.

THE PLAN: Visit a mosque a day and be with every denomination including: Ahmadiyya, Bohra, Ismaili, Shia, Sufi, Sunni, Warith Deen Muhammad, Wahabbi and others. You are welcome to join me or experience it yourselves, we have to learn to respect the differences and appreciate the uniqueness of each tradition. God says the best among you is the one who knows each other for peaceful co-existence.

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If you think of sharing your own Ramadan experience, time is to start now.

The Dallas Islamic Center, an organization supported by Fateh Gulen, a Turkish Muslim reformer is doing a great job in the Islamic theme of “knowing each other” to create a better world. http://www.dallasislamiccenter.org/

A few pictures at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeghouse/sets/72157627477918142/show/

Hamidullah, Imam Yesil
and Mike Ghouse
Over the years they have done a fabulous job of reaching out to neighbors, conducting interfaith dialogue, dinners and classes on Quraan. I am yet to visit their center in Richardson and now I have the incentive to really be a tiny part of the good work they do. I discovered today that Imam Nihat Yesil and I have met some 4 or 5 years ago, fortunately both of us remembered my effort to connect him with Dr Kavakci, another Turkish Imam whom I brag about.

Now this is a different experience altogether for Muslims.

About 250 people attended the dinner event, mostly the guests were the congregation of the United Methodist Church and some 50 Turkish Muslims and few others including me, perhaps the only one from the subcontinent ethnicity.

Yasin moderated the event, he was amazing when he walked up on the stage and shared the three things Pastor Dr. Copeland had talked about in their meeting originally at the Dallas Islamic Center. (OMG, I had that last night, and I have lost it this morning). I will add back if it comes to the mind.

Hamidullah, a PhD student from Afghanistan opened the evening with Azaan. I wish I had recorded it, it was simply beautiful. It is an art in how you call the prayers in a melodious voice and I loved ever moment of it.

Ok here is a major difference in pronunciation. Much of the world calls the prayer call “Azaan” including Turkey, Iran, the Central Asian Muslims, the Subcontinentian Muslim and elsewhere in Philippines and Indonesia. Whereas the Arabic speaking people call it “Adaan”. The pronunciation of the word “Ramadan” in Arabic is “Ramzaan” in most of the world. All the speakers were toggling from one pronunciation to the other as most Americans respond to the word Ramadan rather than Ramzaan.

Pastor Copeland gave a beautiful sermon relating to the hospitality of Abraham, the fountain head for the three religions. It was that hospitality we are carrying forward, to share a meal with others. He mentioned that most of the congregants may have Google Ramadan before entering the hall and he shared the basics with the friends.

The traditional breaking of the fast followed by Prayers and dinner was modified to suit the audience, or perhaps that is the Turkish tradition. If you know about it please share and I will make an effort to learn about it. I was thrilled to find myself not knowing the tradition, and it made sense for me to know about the others. Indeed, I am driven by working and developing cohesive societies, and the emphasis in Quraan to know each other to create a better world excites me.

Imam Nihat Yesil, like Imam Dr. Kavakci, breaks the stereotyping of Muslims about their appearance. He did not have a beard nor wore a Muslim garb (Juan William, there is no such thing) or the cap. He wore a suit. Muslims are not a monolithic lot, each one is different with different traditions and practices, each costume is beautiful to the person who wears it and we cannot but appreciate the uniqueness. The year 2010 witnessed a dramatic change in Muslim presence in the media. Till them, a typical Muslim who spoke on national TV wore a beard and a cap as it had become a trade mark. 201o changed it all, Bill OReilly brought in Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, Harris Zafar and Sean Hannity pulled me in and you saw Raza Aslan on CNN and ABC, NBC pulled in Irshad Manji, Asra Nomani and whole new breed of Muslims were added to the Muslim spectrum which truly represented the diversity in Islam. We need more of our young men and women to pursue a career in Journalism and add the accentless category to the spectrum.

Imam Nihat Yesil shared Rumi’s story about humility, how he met a pastor in the market place and bowed to him for his knowledge and did not want to lose the humility. I am losing my mind ascribing the following story to either moderator Yasin or Imam Yesil. It’s about the responsibility to reach out to the neighbors. The neighbors were defined by 4o homes around you and one must reach out to them. The other versions are 7 neighbors around you, and then the circle expands to the town, region, and the whole wide world. He was sharing the origins of Adan to call for prayers to reach the neighborhood and the whole town… and added with a chuckle that if KERA radio relays the Adan, the entire listenership would become our neighbors.

I was thrilled when they showed the translation of the Adan on the big screen, something I had always wanted to do and have debated extensively on the content and the meaning of it. The non-Muslims who object to this, really would appreciate if they really know the meaning of it.

Enjoy this beautiful Adan, there are plenty on YouTube, I picked this one as it shows beautiful mosques around the world, it is a delight to watch. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUHDYlJHaOQ&feature=related

Here it is:

الله أكبر
Allahu Akbar = God is Greatest

أشهد أن لا اله إلا الله
Ash-hadu al-la ilaha illa llah = I bear witness that there is no God except the One God3
أشهد أن محمدا رسول الله
Ash-hadu anna Muħammadan rasulullah = I bear witness that Muhammad is God's Messenger
حي على الصلاة
Ħayya 'ala-salah = Come to salat (prayer, worship)
حي على الفلاح
Ħayya 'ala 'l-falaħ = Come to success
الله أكبر
Allāhu akbar = God is Greatest
لا إله إلا الله
La ilaha illallah = There is no god except Allah.

One of the many purposes for me to visit different Mosques and do my Iftaar is to open up myself and share the experience. We have to learn to accept the diversity, no one worships in a weird way, that language needs to be respectfully replaced with … each one of us has our own unique way and each should be respected. To paraphrase what Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would have advised “Respect your brother or sister as you respect yourselves”. That is the key to successful communities.

I pray that in this holy month of Ramadan we Muslim shed our biases and believe that God alone can judge what is in one’s heart; and let’s not burden ourselves with misunderstandings and myths about others. Let everyone live their life as they wish and let’s make an effort to live a regret free life in the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad.

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, writer and a thinker nurturing the pluralistic values of Islam. More at:

Coming up – Rituals of Ramadan and Spirit of Ramadan


Sahri - Pre-Dawn meal before early Morning Prayer (fajr).
Iftaar - Sunset Meal as a conclusion of the fast.

Sawm - fasting from sunrise to sunset - No food, no water, no nothing and no intake of any food or water. More critically it is a practice to abstain from ill-will, malice, anger, temptations and human desires. Don't hear, see, speak or act less than goodness.

Rituals - There are several variations in rituals and they vary from place to place. In Bangalore where I am from, the whole family gets up early around 4:00 AM and together cook extensive meals for Sahri /Suhoor, while others choose to cook earlier night and just warm it up and eat in the morning. The Iftaar is done elaborately at mosques, homes or other gatherings where friends from different faiths are invited to break bread and nurture goodwill.

Prayers - The ritual Muslim prayers involve several postures... I will update the details before the end of Ramadan.