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Monday, December 31, 2012

HAPPY 2013 – The best thing you can do for yourselves.

URL- http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2012/12/happy-2013-best-thing-you-can-do-for.html

The best thing you can do for yourselves is to spend an hour between today and tomorrow with a pen and a piece of paper or its equivalent to reflect on your life. The best place to go is your library or wherever you can find quietness.

Lay the foundation for your 2013. Your best investment for 2013 would be an hour invested in yourselves and your family. The best way to go about is, to have an attitude, whether you achieve or not, but you are going to have a blue print as a guidance, rather than a stick to beat yourselves up.

When you draw the outlines tonight,  at least you know where you are going,  because you wrote it down instead of “I know it-I know it- bullshit” – let’s bring some discipline in our lives.

Yasmeen and I will be doing this tonight and asking our family and friends, and the people we know to make that effort, we are asking you to do the same tonight or tomorrow.

Write 7 headlines and start filling bullets in to each item

1) Health: broad and narrow goals with possible contingencies

2) Family: Time for each other, family and friends – an  approximation of time you will spend per day, week or year. You will find pleasant surprises.

3) Income:  all the work, education, business, professional activities that add to your income

4) Volunteer: It would enrich your life, if you can give at least 1 hour a week, three hours a week would be ideal. You can double your joy if you serve others, that is volunteer at a school, hospital, city hall, shelter, goodwill, salvation army, soup kitchens, church, temple, synagogue or Mosque, and make sure you don’t belong to the group or faith you are serving. There should be nothing in return to be true service.

5) Spirituality – Time for reflection about life, God, religious and humanitarian services.

6) Self-improvement – Reading books, taking courses to make yourselves an all round person.

7) Questions – No matter what you are reading or hearing, including religious, business or political talk, unless you question and see another point of view, your life would be incomplete if you do not see another point of view.  

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The next step is to review last year’s high and low points within each one of the headings, and if you don't like to see the low points again, write down, and if you want a few changes for 2013, make notes and then ponder how you can get there. There is nothing more peaceful than knowing yourselves, make the commitment and just do it.

Thanks for the friendship, and thanks for sharing your thoughts, ideas, likes, comments in 2012. For some of us, thank God 2012 is over and for some, it was a great year.

I hope you find the following message meaningful. If you have the space, please feel free to share on your facebook, twitter, like and comment.- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/charting-a-successful-life-in-2013-with-a-firm-commitment_b_2372394.html?utm_hp_ref=email_share

Wish you and your loved ones, the very best of 2013.
Please review the work we do at– www.americaTogetherfoundation.com and www.FoundationforPluralism.com  and if you like what we are doing, please consider contributing $50, $100, $1000, $5000 or whatever your budget allows, we all can aspire to build a great society.  Please Donate: www.AmericatogetherFoundation.com/donate

We are committed to build a cohesive America, where no one has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of the other.

Mike Ghouse
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Here is a summary of 2012

·  48 articles have been published in Dallas Morning News

·  22 in Huffington post

·  375 articles published in a variety of places around the world, including Russia.

·  13 appearances on Sean Hannity show

·  11appearance on Local TV

·  16 on National Radio Networks

·  Spoke in 16 Churches and Colleges 

·  8th Annual Unity Day USA

·  7th Annual Reflections on Holocaust and Genocides

·  Spoke about Pluralism and Islam at 20 places of worship

·  A film is in the making and the book will be out.

·  State visitors from 20 nations to learn about Pluralism and Interfaith.

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Thanks to Sean Hannity and other TV and Radio hosts, including Huffington Post and Dallas Morning News for announcing and publishing our websites, it has generated a lot of traffic to our websites.

Every year, we get to host two to three groups of people visiting from the North African, Middle East, Central Asia, China and other parts of the world. I was blessed to coach Interfaith and pluralism to government ministers from over 20 nations in the last five years. The State Department has put us on the list of organizations to visit in Dallas. It’s all voluntary.

Thank you
Mike Ghouse

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace, Islam, Israel, India, interfaith, and cohesion at work and social settings. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at www.TheGhousediary.com. Mike has a strong presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News, fortnightly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site www.MikeGhouse.net indexes everything you want to know about him.

Friday, December 28, 2012

HAPPY 2013; Commitment is the key to a successful life

Whether you go into a relationship, marriage, worship, business, teaching, service, or any adventure, your success in 2013 will be determined by the faith you have, and your commitment to the venture. 

If you go in with an attitude of trying out, more than likely the following will happen. A few things will go wrong, or hurdles will come up, and in response you shake your head and say, "I knew it was not going to work out". What do you do then? Instead of making it work, you will be spending your energy back peddling, and finding "reasons" to back out. Indeed, it is time to ask, "If I fail myself, why should God and others give me a pass?" You have to have faith and commitment to succeed. 
On the other hand, if you are committed, when a problem surfaces, your attitude will be, "Well, I am Mario of the Game, these hurdles are a part of the game to get to the end point, I am supposed to pass all these hurdles, knock the monsters and overcome the difficulties to get to my point." As you get beat up on the path, but also beat the odds and cross the hurdles, you cheer, and say to yourselves, a few more to go... the energy to succeed builds up to pass through the rest of the hurdles to reach the end point and win. I have watched my kids play Mario and have learned quite a bit.
Full article will be published at Huffington post before Monday at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse
Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace, Islam, Israel, India, interfaith, and cohesion at work place and standing up for others as an activist. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at www.TheGhousediary.com. Mike has a presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News, fortnightly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site www.MikeGhouse.net indexes everything you want to know about him.

A tribute to Benazir Bhutto on the 5th death Anniversary

Mike's Speech at the 5th Anniversary commemoration by Pakistan People's party in Dallas, as an Indian. http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2012/12/a-tribute-to-benazir-bhutto-on-her-5th.html

As you commemorate the 5th anniversary of Benazir’s death, in effect, a blow to democracy, I offer my heartfelt condolences to Pakistan and her people.

Benazir fulfilled the aspirations of Muslims around the world. She became the first Muslim woman elected to lead a Muslim state; Pakistan. The year 1988 remains a historical event in Islamic history.

Ever since Prophet Muhammad declared that men and women are each other’s partners, each others garments, each others protectors, each others respect, it gave a lot of hopes to women. Indeed, he liberated women from the shackles of slavery and chattel hood.

He went on to say that she had the freedom to worship the creator as the man does, she can even disobey her husband when it comes to faith. Women’s liberation took root then, but it died down after his death.

Even though the Prophet said to treat your women right, it was not obeyed by many. For that matter how many people in their religion follow Jesus, Moses, Krishna or Buddha? He wanted the governance of people by their elected representative and not a monarch or a dictator. The first 30 years after his death remained democratic, elected Caliphs, though not through a ballot but was with majority consensus. But that vision was shot by Yazid, the brutal monarch who usurped the power and declared himself the king with absolute powers, just like President Morsi did in Egypt.

Turkey became the first Muslim Democratic nation in the world after a gap of nearly 13 centuries; the next Muslim democracy was Pakistan in 1947. Qaid-e-Azam Jinnah’s vision was ahead of his time in the contemporary world. Although he was envisioning a pluralistic democracy for Pakistan, he must have been influenced by Prophet Muhammad’s Madinah treaty, where the Jews, Christians and others lived their faith and had the freedom to speak, worship and assemble.

Benazir gave hopes to Muslim women by becoming the first Muslim woman leader in 13 centuries, and paved the way for those women who aspired to become the Aisha’s and Fatima’s to lead their communities.

She opened the door for Muslim women leaders in Bangladesh and Indonesia to become the 2nd and 3rd heads of the states. As a single Muslim woman she met with the Muslim heads of the states and they did not flip over that, she set the new standards and established the acceptance of woman leadership in Muslim states, no Muslim nation would have allowed that, Pakistan did, while we don't even have one in the United States yet.

Had she lived, she would have rubbed off that influence on the Muslim Monarchs around the world to go back to the beautiful civil 7th Century Arabia, where women were equal partners in life and not chattels. With her untimely death, that dream for Muslim women in Pakistan is shattered, but not gone. Some one will pick up the mantle and I hope these events highlight the courage of women.

Of course nothing comes without sacrifice. You may not agree with the politics of Benazir, but agree and acknowledge her sacrifices, including but not limited to enduring humility and disgusting conditions of living in the wretched jails - because she believed in Democracy for the people of Pakistan.

As an Indian and as a Muslim, it was my hope to see a democratic pluralistic Pakistan, with least conflicts between the two nations just like Canada and the United States. Politically the Indian Muslims differ with the Pakistani Muslims on the issue of Kashmir. The Indian Muslims do not want another division based on religion, but the Pakistani Muslims claim their right to Kashmir. We believe differently and we will leave it at that. When Democracy takes firm footing in Pakistan, most of the issues will heal away. In Democracy there are no personal gains in redrawing the state lines.

Benazir gave a lot of hope to everyone; women in particular, there was a hope that she would uplift the women back to the freedom that was prevalent during the times of the prophet, the man who was Rahmatul Aalameen (Mercy to mankind) to women and the minorities.

A nation is judged by how it treats her weak, voiceless, women, children and the minorities. Both our nations have to rise above. In India we need to bring closure to the Babri Masjid issue, the Sikh Genocide, the Gujarat Massacre, Discrimination against Dalits, the exodus of Kashmiri Pundits, Old wounds from Aurangzeb rule, Unfair Quota system, harassment of Christians and other minorities. They are not going to go away without a heart to heart dialogue.

Pakistan has severe problems in this area, the absence of rule of law causes fear among her people. The harassment of Hindus, abduction of Hindu women destruction of their places of worship, blatant violation of rights of Ahmadiyya, Shia and Christians go unabated and this will tear the country further apart. The first responsibility of any nation is to protect its unprotected. Right now, it appears no one in the governemt wants to do anything.

As an Indian American, I just want to assure you that a majority of Indians want to see a prosperous peaceful democracy in Pakistan, just like a majority of Pakistanis want goodness for India.

Patriotism is not dying for the country, or making an enemy out of neighbors, it is rather upliftment of the own and wishing well for the neighbors. A stable democratic Pakistan is good for the Pakistanis and good for Indians.

I hope that Benazir’s death will become symbolic in keeping the flame of democracy alive and hope she continues to inspire Muslim women around the world. Events like this help. The women who were barred from driving cars in Saudi need a Benazir, the Malalas need a Benazir so women can get their education and produce a better society.

I am here to pay my khiraj--e-akheedat (a reverent tribute) to Mohtararama Benazir Bhutto.

More pictures on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2611840231275&set=a.2611839911267.69778.1713098878&type=3&theater

Pakistan Paindabad.
Mike Ghouse committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. Mike is an Indian American Muslim. His information is at www.MikeGhouse.net

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Critique on Interfaith Christmas

What is religious pluralism?
The article Interfaith Christmas - Making God boundless  in Huffington Post generated a few good, bad and ugly comments as usual. There are several ways to respond to the comments, however a friend gave me a sound advice, "as a moderator of talk shows and discussions, you must shepherd them to the topic, some run, and some come around." 

A fellow Muslim resorted to personal attacks, “I think you are trying to promote your idea of a hybrid religion and are using "pluralism" as a vehicle to promote yourself...."     

 Another one writes, “God sent his Son so that all may have life. He loves and accepts us no matter what we have done or where we are in our lives. No other faith or religion has a loving Father who sent his only Son to die for the whole world.  Jesus is my savior and I accept no other idealism, religion or faith other than the word of The Living God."

 A third one says, "Go teach pluralism to Muslims, we Hindus are pluralists and don't like to learn it from a Muslim."

Years ago, I chose to be a peacemaker, and it’s a daily struggle.  It means when you face a conflict, you don't aggravate it further (i.e., pour fuel over the fire), instead, you mitigate it and focus on nurturing goodwill.
The model was created by Jesus, Muhammad (pbuh), Gandhi, MLK and several others. Turning the other cheek (Jesus) or praying for those who pelt stones (Muhammad) at them are two of the many models. Remember the intent was not yielding, fighting or digging in your heels,  but finding a sustainable solution, so each can focus on living the life instead of planning, scheming and avenging the other in their vulnerable moments.

Pluralism continues to be misunderstood as a hybrid or a mish mash of religions. Some of the Indians and Pakistanis are familiar with such an effort in the 16th century by the Mogul Emperor Akbar, who made an effort to create "Deen-e-Elahi" - a religion of God, it failed miserably, people did not have a sense of belonging or bonding to one without giving up their own.  Unfortunately, those few are conditioned to jump when the bell rings, and spontaneously conclude that Pluralism is a mish-mash of religions.

Pluralism is not a religion, it is not an ideology either, it is simply an attitude of respecting other religions and others way of life without the arrogance that mine is better, scientific, older, rational, proven, makes sense, ageless or otherwise.... Religion is not about feeling superior; it is indeed humility, which builds cohesive societies, whereas arrogance kills it all. 

Here are a few questions we need to ask ourselves, "Do I believe my religion is superior to the other? Does it amount to arrogance? Did I get my religion? 

On the other hand, the peace maker in you has raised your eyebrows when a few Christians, Hindus or Jews insist that Islam is a religion of oppression. You may have been surprised when a few Muslims charge that Christians and Hindus are blood thirsty, and some from each group shamelessly stereotype the Jews. Facts don't matter to some of our vociferous friends.

Indeed, Pluralism is respecting each other’s religion, the way they believe and not the way we insist. There is no need for anyone to give up his or her religion to please the other. Pluralism is you stick with yours and I stick with mine, but together we have to find common ground to co-exist with our differences.

For every Christian, Jew and a Hindu bigot,  proportionally there is one among Muslims too, may be two, but no more. The sane majority needs to help them, pray for them and shepherd them away from unsubstantiated material. 

The intellectualism of Robert Spencer and Narayan Kataria may amaze you, they have held symposiums about Islam without Muslims in it, and have issued unilateral statements. Similarly a few Muslims draw their own conclusions about Christianity or Hinduism without even asking the practitioners of the religions. Indeed, I asked them to include a main stream Muslim to be on their panel, and I even volunteered to be one, but their intent was not a rational discussion. 
The film Monster among us was shown to a Jewish audience about the danger of Anti-Semitism in Europe. It was a frightening movie to the Jews about Muslims in Europe, the producer was clear to me, this movie is strictly a Jewish perspective, and you should not come. And of course, I went, I was the only Non-Jew beside a Christian friend who went with me, there were six blatant falsities in the movie. People were shooting questions, finally a sane man from the back yelled, "Hey Allen, it’s about Moslems, have you shown this to any Moslem?” The producer reluctantly pointed out to me, after some finger pointing at Muslims, the entire group said in unison, "Give him the microphone".  That is another story at: http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/Articles/Jewish-Muslim-dialogue-a-necessity.asp

Obviously, any idea that paves the way for people to see the beauty of each faith threatens the frightened ones, as if their faith is going to vanish by acknowledging the goodness of other faiths, they are very insecure folks. Christianity is here to stay, so is Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and all other faiths.

Had God willed, all of us would be alike, but he chose each one of us to be unique, and Pluralism is respecting that uniqueness in each one of us.

A verse in Quran 49:13 presumes, that conflict exist between different people because they have not taken the time to know each other, and it guides us further to know each other, to learn about each other. When we take time to know each other, misunderstandings fade and solutions emerge, it happens even with our own family members, friends and co-workers.  And then God says the best ones among you are the ones who take the time to know each other. Indeed, those who know, come to respect the uniqueness Creator has endowed to each one of us and accept each other as they are, as long as you mind your own religion and not infringe upon others. "Blessed are the peacemakers", said Jesus.

The article Interfaith Christmas was written in a series about "knowing each other", I hope it will help us get along with all without requiring us to change for the other.

If you are keeping up with the world, Indonesia and some other Muslim nations were considering banning saying, “Merry Christmas” and failed. Malaysia wanted to monopolize and own Allah, and failed to prevent Sikhs and Christians calling him, Allah. Those attitudes are repugnant and the cause of conflicts and thank God they failed. But what we have failed to do was to sit and work with the ones who lost the battle,  instead of having them to live with the feeling of getting even whenever they get a chance.

Interfaith has been helpful in preventing many conflicts in the United States. Jews and Christians have stood up for Muslims and Muslims have stood up for them.  Yet a few Muslims, a few Christians and a few Jews don’t get it. 

Mike Huckabee said the massacre in Newtown has to do with the moral decay of the society, and then Pastor Gaddy (both Baptist preachers) corrected him in Huffington post. MLK worked hard to get equal rights for all, but the pastors of the same religion at that time called him names... but that did not stop MLK from moving forward, and he did what was the right thing to do. Civil rights act has sustained because MLK did not project it as a defeat to the ones who opposed it.

Well my friends, the purpose of writing the article is to express that Jesus or Muhammad are not the exclusive properties of Christians or Muslims, their message belongs to the whole humanity just as the message of all the spiritual masters;  to create a better world for all of us to live. We can take it the way it works for us, but we should not make their teachings a wedge between us, they did not intend.

You are welcome to differ and the whole world can differ, if you believe you can contribute towards a better society, then you must express it, and I did that in the article. I am not asking anyone to buy the idea, it is up to them.

Just remember no idea in the world has been subscribed to by 100% of the population, even our President was not elected by 100% - there is rarely a bill in the house that has passed with unanimity.

Let us absorb one more thing; God does not want 100% of the world to be Christians, Muslims, Unaffiliated, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Sikhs, Jain and others. Had he willed, he would have done it. He prefers the uniqueness of each one of us and wants us to figure out our own peace to live in harmony, and we have to work towards that goal.

Additional comments

Md Yunus writes,
I am glad to read this article on this Christmas day from a fellow Muslim who is celebrating Christmas as it realizes my dream that was articulated more than three years ago in a letter to Qantara.de editor dated Oct. 2009 that reads as below:

"Muslims regard their Prophet (Muhammad) with inordinate love and devotion, as reflects in their vociferous and even violent reactions to attempts to lampooning him in the media or literary works. but there is hardly any visibility of their devotion to Jesus Christ. Islam not only venerates Jesus Christ and his Mother, Mary, it also asks Muslims to make no distinction between any of the Prophets (2:177, 2:285, 4:152, 57:19). Historically Muslim scholarship has remained silent about these complementarities, and instead, focused on the differences between the two faiths.

But today, when increasing gap, hatred and mistrust between Islam and Christianity is leading to terrorism and “Just wars” with terrible consequences, its time that Muslim scholarship takes notice of the common boundaries, and encourages the Muslims to visibly showing devotion to Jesus Christ by celebrating the Christmas, and praying for peace together with their Christian brothers. 

Anna Hourihan writes, “Mike. I particularly like your interpretation of John 14:6: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." To have that Christ-consciousness and Christ's example of how to live is the thing, and not that the person Jesus is the only way to salvation. Many blessings to you and your family this Christmas!”

Marylou writes, "A very beautiful and touching article, Mike.  Thank you!  You are correct in your interp of Jesus' statement no one comes to the father but by way of me -- this is not to be taken literally.  As you stated, it means to follow his example.    Jesus never made himself equal with God.  He said specifically: The  father is greater than I am.   He also told us to pray directly to God and even gave us the exact prayer, "Our Father, who is in heaven ... "  

It is ok to have different understandings, that is Pluralism, but it should not create ill-will or hatred towards each other, that is not the intention of the teachings of any spiritual master, be it Jesus or Muhammad.  

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace, Islam, Israel, India, interfaith, and cohesion at work place and standing up for others as an activist. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at www.TheGhousediary.com. Mike has a presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News, fortnightly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. His personal site www.MikeGhouse.net indexes everything you want to know about him.