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Saturday, October 24, 2015

Beyond Tolerance, a call to Religious freedom and hopeful action.

Beyond Tolerance, a call to Religious freedom and hopeful action.

Washington, DC - October 22, 2015 -- 
 Evangelical Ministers, Imams and community leaders gathered up in Washington, DC to figure out how to co-exist. 

It was a powerful event loaded with unpleasant statistics but paved the way for taking the next step; action.  We the Muslims need to seriously focus on positive engagement.  Over 100 people attended the event – and per the independent research, the Evangelical pastors have a much lower opinion of Islam and Muslims than the general American public. A heart to heart conversation took place followed by a pledge to improve the situation. 

The survey provided the tools and gave us a starting point; engagement. I have taken pictures of the slides, but will get their power point and put together an action plan for consideration.    

The event was headed by Pastor Bob Roberts of Texas ( a great friend) and Imam Maged of Adams Center, it was held at the First Baptist Church in Glenarden outside the beltway on North East side of Washington, DC. 

I have absorbed these facts with a determination to improve the perceptions about us. 

The next day, on Friday, the group met at the National Cathedral, several friends of Muslims and Evangelicals along with people from the Department of State and other groups joined in. It was a pledge to work on freedom of religion followed by a press conference. Ambassadors Saperstein, Rasool, Rashad Ahmed, Arsalan Suleman, Prince Faisal Turki, Rick Love, Bob Roberts, Imam Zia Sheikh and several others attended the event.

The Evangelicals emphasized on an honest dialogue, indeed, our faith tells us to tell the truth even if it goes against us and we can build on one of the most important characteristics.

The following note was sent to Bob Roberts and Rick Love.

Dear Rick and Bob,

Congratulations! it was indeed a successful event, you have done your part, and now it is our duty to take the word with concrete actions to four corners of the world.

Bob, is one of my favorite evangelical pastors; he was recognized with the Pluralist Award in 2009 from  America Together Foundation. Bob truly represents the teachings of Jesus, just as Pope Francis does.

Rick's work is well known and it was a joy to connect with him. He and I were in Louisville about the incident there… they are good folks there. .

On September 16, 2015, a few miscreants painted hate symbols on the River Road mosque in Louisville. When the local community at large found out about this, nearly 1000 people from main stream and disparate ethnic communities came to the mosque to show their solidarity with Muslims, and they joined in the community cleanup and re-painting the mosque.  This act of support was not just out of a sense of justice, compassion or help for the underdog, but clearly out of enduring friendship, which is the most reliable relationship, not bound by time or situation.  We congratulate Dr. Babar Cheema and the Louisville Muslim leadership, which has nurtured a relationship of friendship and trust with the local community over many years.

Let's fight the bias within us against the Evangelicals. 

First thing first, we (Muslims) need to work on our own bias towards Evangelical pastors, our language ought to reflect that. On November 30, 2009,  a piece was written urging people not to be biased against Baptist/ Evangelicans. It was the sixth or seventh piece urging people not to stereotype people. Three more notes about Bob are included after this note.

Pastor Robert Jeffress (2009 - Dallas, TX) attacks Mormons, Muslims, Catholics, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus, he calls them all cults. Please note that I am not highlighting his affiliation with the Dallas Baptist Church, there is no way, the Church approves hate or ill-will towards other humans, it goes against the very teachings of Jesus Christ.

As a society we have faltered in blaming the group or the religion for the acts of individuals. The words of Pastor Jeffress generates fear, anxieties hate and ill-will, it is him and not the reflection of his Church, even if the congregation sheepishly claps and gives a standing ovation when the pastor calls out, “Islam is an evil evil religion and Quran is a book written by a false prophet” with full passion.

Please remove any bias you may have against Baptist Church because you’ll find bigotry in every denomination and every religion and no one can cast the first stone. In a short span of 7 years, in my own town Dallas, just one Baptist Pastor’s ignorance is overwhelmed by many Baptist pastors, just to name a few who reflect the inclusive teachings of Jesus with substantial backing are Late Pastor Roy Harrell of Thanksgiving Square, who led the Christian Coalition prayers representing several denominations at the Unity day USA program in 1985.

Pastor George Mason of the Wilshire Baptist Church who was the first one to agree to be on the panel demystifying the myths about Quran in the Quran conference and Pastor Bob Roberts who has led many expeditions in exploring common grounds among faiths, including a joint commemoration of 9/11 by Muslims and Baptist. By the way, both the gentlemen were recipients of the “Pluralist Award” in 2009 for their work in living with no bias towards others.

This event changed perceptions about Muslims in a major way. The full piece is at:

Dedicated to Bob Roberts  

Bob Roberts language is Quranic, when he talks, his language reflects the essence of Sura Kafiurn, one of the best chapters on conducting civil dialogue. The following understanding of Sura Kafirun was written on July 5, 2008, almost five years ago and now, 
on this day February 09, 2013, it is being dedicated to Pastor Bob Roberts for his bold take on respecting the otherness of others,  URL- The link http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/2008/07/sura-kafirun-un-believers.html 

Another one for Bob Roberts

Quran is one of the most misunderstood books on the earth, even by Muslims.  He sees it as a pluralistic document to build cohesive societies, where God is not the exclusive property of anyone but a universal energy that belongs to all, loves us all, and cares for our well being.  Dr. Ghouse is producing a short book addressing the myths and facts about Quran, and this book will be dedicated to Pastor Bob Roberts of Texas, the big name among Evangelical Pastors and Imam Zia Shaikh from Irving, Texas have understood the full meaning of pluralism, i.e., respecting the otherness of others.
Standing up for Christians

Here is a chapter from my upcoming book, "Standing up for others" - the link to Standing up for Christians is included here. 

Clicking on the pictures will give a larger image
Presenting independent research survey
Muslims and Evangelicals sharing their perceptions\
At National Cathedral
Formal signing of the pledge to religious freedom
Imam Maged and Rick Love begin signing the pledge
Ambassador for religious freedom, Rabbi David Saperstein
Rick Love, Mike Ghouse, Imam Zia Sheikh
Girl Scouts doing the flag ceremony and the pledge

I am so proud of humanity and the goodness that resides in every heart, the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign is blessing to American Muslims, thanks to ISNA for being a partner with them, and we at American Muslim Institution are friends with Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign.   

Here is a great speech by Catherine Osrborn, the director of the Campaign. 

"My name is Catherine Orsborn, and I direct the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign.

Shoulder to Shoulder was formed in 2010, when nearly 30 religious denominations and organizations came together to take a stand against the anti-Muslim bigotry that was infecting our public rhetoric here in the US.  We worked in partnership with the National Cathedral and a number of other groups and individuals to bring together this diverse collection of religious leaders today, to recommit ourselves to one another and to call on our public officials to stand up against bigotry and discrimination based on religious identity. 

We have considered together today the critical intersections of religious freedom globally- and to say that as Americans, we have a duty in our own context, in our own realm of influence, to protect and uphold the freedom and flourishing of religious communities, and particularly of religious minority communities, here at home.  It’s been a difficult year for many minority communities in the US. Hate rhetoric and prejudice has societal consequences, sometimes violent consequences. 

Our commitment to a pluralistic religious freedom here in the US requires tending.  A number of faith leaders and communities have come together to say that we reject the demonization of the other and we stand together in our quest to build our multi-religious society in a way that goes beyond tolerance. 

But we can’t do this alone- we need our public officials to stand up as well, showing us that they, too, value religious freedom for all.  We need public officials across this nation to refrain from bigoted rhetoric, singling out and denigrating any religious community that calls this country home.  Those participating in this initiative hold different views on many aspects of belief and politics, but the best version of America can recognize, respect, and value difference as part of what makes us the nation that we are.  

It’s an American problem when certain communities are made to feel as if they don’t have a full seat at the American table.  When one religious community is attacked, it’s on all of us to stand against it, not only because we value freedom and inclusion for our own communities, but because we are neighbors and fellow citizens who must care for one another and work together in order to make our communities and our world a better place.

Thank you for being here today, and to all who put time and energy into this initiative- I find much hope in the commitment reflected here today. "

What does it take to change the perceptions about Muslims? We have had success in most things we have done. I will have a solid program put together for our organization American Muslim Institution,  and upon approval, we would take the step forward.

If we can learn to respect the otherness of others and accept the God given uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

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Dr. Mike Ghouse is social scientist, thinker, writer and a speaker on Pluralism, Interfaith, Islam, politics, human rights, foreign policy and building cohesive societies. He offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day and more about him is in 63 links at www.MikeGhouse.net and his writings are at TheGhousediary.com

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