We were set out to achieve a few clearly defined goals:
To communicate to the Muslim World that our God-given right to freedom of speech is a value we treasure and hold it dear to us; ultimately it is the freedom that uplifts the whole humanity. Indeed, Islam is one of the greatest beneficiaries of this freedom.
To be instrumental in the safety of fellow Americans serving in the armed forces, and Americans traveling overseas in conflicts zones.
To build cohesive Societies where no human has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of the other, we wanted to mitigate conflicts and nurture good will and invariably offer pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.
The support from fellow Americans was encouraging in establishing this new paradigm. The folks from Mulberry Florida particularly Suzanne Carter and her “Not in Mulberry” team, Butch Rahman, Curtis Rahman, Mayor Hatch, Mayor Fields and Sheriff’s office were the key partners in the situation. I must express our gratitude to Suzie Schottelkotte of the Ledger Newspaper for fair reporting of the situation.
We also appreciate Joelle Fiss for the encouragement and support she has offered in this effort by joining us, and uplifting our work.
This is a new paradigm in bringing a change, a critical milestone for Muslims in the United States and around the world.
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 tocriticism 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. What better way to honor 2998 men, women and children than burning Quran.
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 atwww.WorldMuslimCongress.com.
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 responses we the Americans have learned and anticipate when someone criticizes Islam, Prophet Muhammad, or Quran;
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 MuslimCommunity USA has set a goal to collect 12,000 pints of blood, which will help save up to 36,000 lives.
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.”
In the words of Suzanne carter, “As a Christian, the bible teaches us to love our neighbors— it doesn’t say what our neighbor has to look like or believe in—it just says neighbor.” Lynn Broom of Not in Mulberry Organization adds, “You can’t fight hate with hate” and Curtis Rahman, a high schooler was clear ,” “Al-Qaida is dangerous, not Islam or Muslims”. Similar sentiments were expressed by ordinary folks (2 videos).
Amin was a title accorded to the Prophet by fellow residents of Mecca who were Jewish, Christians, Pagan and others. To be Amin is to be truthful, to be worthy of trust, to be just and to be a source of safety and security to others. The folks in Mulberry reciprocated with equal kindness.
For a public good to succeed, it has to be un-selfish, and no one has anything to gain from it but the community at large. Our volunteer team in Mulberry (listed on the site) followed the same model. None of us wanted anything out of it except the common good.
We hoped this would be a life changing event, most people fell in in love with the idea that all of us Americans will come together as Americans and nothing but Americans. While we have our sub-identity, we look to each other as Americans and rededicate ourselves to our pledge; one nation with liberty and justice for all.
Mulberry is a part of history in creating a model behavior in dealing with conflicts and building a cohesive America, where no American has to live in apprehension or fear of the other
I want to emphasize a note about service. My good friend said a prayer for me that I have earned a prime spot in paradise, but I was quick to say, I do not way any such place. – We should not be driven by wages for the service we render, if we get paid, and then it would not be service any more. We should rather do our share of work for creating a better world, as the Bhagvad Gita says, do your dharma and not be driven by the fruit.
Suzanne traveled with me to the site where Jones was going to burn Quran, we had a good conversation, and I appreciate the trust she placed in me. Butch asked me, a stranger to stay in his home with his family, and I am glad I did. I am sure Prophet Muhammad would be smiling at me, but at least I feel good for following in his footsteps – to be the Amin.
After all, the Qurans were not burned.
Pastor Jones and his fellow Pastor were arrested, and their truck and the trailer with kerosene doused Qurans were confiscated an hour before the scheduled burning at 5:00 PM on September 11, 2013. They were charged for carrying open arms, a 45 caliber Smith and Wesson, and not having the license tag for the trailer, a road hazard with Kerosene doused books on an open road. Both the men were released after paying a bail of $1250 each. Full story at the Mulberry Ledger:http://www.theledger.com/article/20130911/NEWS/130919800/0/search
The Pastor has said that he will repeat the event, and on our part, we will repeat our unity and prayers, and pray for the well being of the Pastor. May God forgive him and have him join us in creating a safer America for every American. I will continue to pursue to have a dialogue with the pastor and answer what exactly about Quran that bothers him. If it happens, it will be in a public forum.
To quote from Jeffrey Weiss’ article he wrote inReligion News Service, and copied by virtually every major News paper in America including the Washington Post, Huffington Post and others. It was a challenge to Pastor Jones.
Mirza A Beg, my moral support and silent partner in the press releases and possible reports. Dr. Basheer Ahmed, Dr. Nauman Anwar and Farooq Hemani have always supported the work we do; I don’t have to ask them, they volunteer to fund the work. Then this time around – Butch Rahman turned in $100 on the 1stday I met him towards the cost of the work, Suzanne Carter for joining in with her superb team of volunteers. Moazam Syed was the first one to donate – this is all encouragement. All their contributions are listed on the site for transparency and accountability purpose, and more importantly their support has produced direct results.
God willing, we will put a book together with the full story, of all the little and big things, good things, and bad things that have happened in the process. The book will include feedback from the involved and the ordinary.
The Christian Quran book burner went to jail and the World Muslim Congress that has held it Unity Day event for the past nine years has returned to Dallas. The book burner came to Mulberry in hate and the Muslims came to Mulberry in peace to counter the hate.
The book burner is going to find out he can’t break the law in Mulberry and get off without a stiff penalty. The World Muslim Congress from Dallas are gone but not forgotten, and they are welcome to return. They came in peace with a record of doing the Unity Day Celebration for the past eight years.
The group included local residents of differing faiths, and they showed respect and to love our neighbors with understanding to achieve worldwide balance. This reasoning is part of my Christian faith. I wish I had been there and I wish the Muslin Unity Day Celebration would have had more support from the churches.
We are not going to have world peace until we can come together without regard to race or religious beliefs. Being divisive and not willing to understand the other side is not the Christian way. It does not mean Christianity has to accept the Muslim or any other way. It means love your neighbor and do unto others as … you know the rest and what is right.
The Muslims summed it up best when they prayed for the fallen heroes who died on 9/11 from a “few bad apples in the Muslim faith.” I can understand that logic by adding we have a “lot of bad apples in the Christian faith,” and one of them brought hate to Mulberry.DON OVERSTREET
A DOZEN TAKE AWAYS:
I request you, the members at World Muslim Congress and the Foundation for Pluralism to add your succinct but pragmatic comment in 50 words or less for possible inclusion in the book. A sponsor for the book is welcome by individuals or an organization. The book would be a compilation of many articles, your comments and reports in the media.
I will be happy to give a talk on the subject of how to become a productive citizen of America and earn the respect as a fully participating and contributing member of the society at large.
The most important endorsements came from Muslims sites – Shia, Sunni and others. The key contributing articles are on the panel at World Muslim Congress and Unity Day USA.
THE PRESS RELEASE THAT TRIGGERRED AN AVALANCHE OF ARTICLES:
Planned Muslim Response to Qur’an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida
August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas
Mike Ghouse (214) 325-1916 – MikeGhouse@aol.com
Mirza A. Beg (205) 454-8797 -Mirza.firstname.lastname@example.org
We plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones’ planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms with dignity and grace.
As Muslims and Americans we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones’ freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.
Indeed, we are concerned about the violent reactions to Quran burning by the fringe elements among Muslims elsewhere in the world, and through the message of Quran, and the Prophet we hope to mitigate the violence and nurture goodwill. The safety of fellow Americans and fellow humans around the world is our goal.
Our response would include reclaiming the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was “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.”
God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.
We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration (www.UnitydayUSA.com) held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.
Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur’an last year.
We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.
We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.
We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.
Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.
Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.
We hope, our mercy based message will remind Muslims to follow the examples of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), a mercy to mankind to contribute towards a better world. We believe it may also bring a change in the attitudes of followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety.
We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.
What exactly will be do on that day? Please visitwww.UnitydayUSA.com
Mike Ghouse, President
World Muslim Congress
Mission of World Muslim Congress
To be a Muslim is to be a peace maker, one who constantly seeks to mitigate conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence of humanity. Just about every activity of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) consisted those two elements. God wants us to live in peace and harmony with his creation; Life and Matter.
- LIVE COVERAGE OF THE EVENT
- BEST FEED BACK – Terry Jones a Bad Apple in the Christian Faith Who Brought Hate to Mulberry – http://www.theledger.com/article/20130924/EDIT02/130929619
- A PROPER RESPONSE TO INFLAMMATORY ACT – SAUDI GAZETTE http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentid=20130821177617
- PAY NO ATTENTION TO MAN BEHIND QURAN BURNING
Jeff Weiss at Washington Post and Religion News Service http://www.religionnews.com/2013/09/09/commentary-pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-burning-qurans/#comment-353607
- FOR MUSLIMS IN AMERICA, A NOVEL PROTEST – TIMES OF INDIA
- UNITY DAY PROGRAM – www.UnitydayUSA.com
- A VIDEO MESSAGE TO PASTOR JONES AND MUSLIMS http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsQq-tbJ89k&feature=youtu.be
- MUSLIM RESPONSE TO QUR’AN BURNINGhttp://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2013/08/planned-muslim-response-to-quran_18.html
- MESSAGE TO URDU SPEAKING MUSLIMShttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xxa69A5Xn3o
- WHAT EXACTLY WILL MUSLIM DO ON THAT DAY?www.UnityDayUSA.com
- MUSLIMS ARE DETERMINED TO BRING ABOUT A CHANGEhttp://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2013/09/muslim-americans-are-determined-to-turn.html
- DONATE 12000 PINTS OF BLOOD ON 9/11 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/while-pastor-terry-jones-_b_3874056.html#es_share_ended
- MUSLIMS PROTESTS – MULBERRY LEDGER http://www.theledger.com/article/20130820/news/130829938
- TAMPA BAY FOX NEWShttp://www.myfoxtampabay.com/story/23233567/2013/08/22/pastor-wants-to-burn-3000-korans-in-mulberry
Fixing Sharia Laws
The right-wing Muslims will scream at me for questioning the divinity of Sharia, and the right-wing Christians, Jews, Hindus, and others will be calling me names, as this essay does not condemn Sharia. They simply cannot see another point of view.
Rather than the outright rejection of Sharia, which serves as a system of justice to the given populations in Muslim majority nations, we need to fix the laws; without it a large swatch of population becomes rudderless. Our own constitution has been amended several times, and that is what is needed to be done with Sharia.
However, the moderate majorities in all groups see the value in fixing the cancerous cells, rather than rejecting the whole system. Unless we fix things, injustice in the name of justice will continue.
The golden rule is central to all religions that say, “Treat others as you want to be treated.” There is not a religion on the earth that teaches one to treat the other any less. Most people get their religion right, and some don’t.
The conservative men tend to be insecure when dealing with women; no matter what faith they belong to, they behave the same. Their perceived safety hinges on keeping some one or the other under their thumb; usually women.
Sharia was a human effort to dispense justice to fellow beings in accordance with Quran and the Prophet’s examples; however, men are fallible beings and have failed to deliver justice. They have got it all wrong when it comes to women, apostates, blasphemers and the victims of rape. Sharia as practiced in a few of the Muslim nations does not reflect God’s wisdom or the practice of the prophet. It needs to be fixed badly.
Our conservative lot gets offended when Sharia is criticized as they (mistakenly) believe that Sharia is God’s law, delivered like Quran, and it is not. Criticizing Sharia is the right thing to do, after all how are we going to fix it?
Muslims need to feel secure that God is not going anywhere, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is not going anywhere nor Qur’an will disappear; they are eternal. God tells the prophet not to worry if people don’t listen to his message, because he is the one who gives guidance. God also says he will protect his system (religion), shouldn’t we trust in God? The conservatives, be it Christian, Muslim, Jews, Hindus or others, don’t really trust in God, and aggressively preempt him.
Just as Americans cannot fathom any other form of law other than the one we know, the Muslims in Muslim majority nations cannot imagine any other law either. Our laws are not perfect, and neither is theirs. We have amended ours many a time, and need to include marriage-equality amendment and more. The Muslims have not made amendments to Sharia in a long time. It is time to fix it and keep the laws to serve justice to the Muslim populations.
A majority of Muslim nations are not familiar with any other laws; they will resist pushing new codes on them, just as we would. Remember the Obama-care battle? We need to understand them and encourage amendments. There is nothing wrong with the intent of Sharia; it’s the corruption that needs fixing, when done, and Sharia would be as good as any other law aligning fully with the human-rights declaration.
Let’s deal with a few Sharia-related issues concerning rape victims, apostasy, blasphemy, and treatment of rape victims.
Asma Jahangir, the human rights activist of Pakistan, responded, “The council members were refusing to reach out for the truth in rape cases and had given such urgency and prominence to their recommendation as if acceptance of DNA testing was a great threat to Islam.”
Moazam Syed wrote in the World Muslim Congress forum, “So a rape victim needs to produce four pious Muslims, who must have watched the full act of rape?” A few conservative Muslims may not like this statement, but that pales to the misery of the rape victim, who endures the anguish for her entire life.
That ain’t justice, and that ain’t Islam. The conservatives are not only defensive, but carry an attitude; any suggestion of reason or application of logic threatens them, and they scream that their religion is threatened. I have heard these sentences from Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews, and all other right-wingers in different circumstances.
A documentary (Pakistan) is in the making where a 13-year-old girl returning from the school was gang raped, and the damned judge was embarrassed that she dared to bring the case to his court, and the men laughed and questioned, why was she not at home? Shamefully, this is also a part of the men’s attitude in America – she asked for it.
I am glad they had the sense at least to debate, in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Iran; the woman would have been brutally stoned to death — again, that is not Islam and purely the men culture of those nations.
Honor killing is not a thing to be slapped on to Muslims. In Punjab, Haryana, and other parts of the subcontinent, the Hindus and Sikhs also kill their victim girls to protect the honor of their family. I am sure if we Google it, we may find surprises elsewhere.
The first word in Islam is “Iqra” — meaning read, recite, and understand. That was the first word uttered to Prophet Muhammad by angel Gabriel. Iqra opens the door to everything in life. On another occasion, the prophet said, if you have to learn something new, don’t hesitate to go anywhere, including far- off lands like China.
The prophet did not say, “Your minds are being plucked out, you don’t need it any more to think, everything is given to you in Quran and my examples, just follow it.” Indeed the Prophet said, in his last sermon, that he was leaving this book to his followers to read, understand, and follow it.
Doesn’t learning imply reading, observing, understanding, and adopting the new information to the existing conditions for a better life and a better society?
Not all Muslims, but a few of the self-appointed guardians of religion, do not listen to God or the prophet. They have the arrogance to reject Iqra or go to China for learning. They have shut themselves out from learning and push others to do the same. Should we let them? Are they responsible for our actions?
These men eagerly approved and adopted the text-message divorces and even e-mail divorces because they cared about men and not the women who were thrown under the bus at the whim of the idiot men. This is not justice and this is not Islam.
Some of the conservative men don’t believe in equality of women, and simply don’t listen to the prophet. Yet from that very same mouth, they say, “Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is a mercy to mankind” — Do they fully understand what it means? Fourteen hundred years ago, the Prophet declared that women are free to own property, own their business, initiate marriage and divorce, and could disobey their husbands if they were coerced into doing things against their will. That is Islam.
A majority of Muslims believe in it; a few don’t but get the media attention. Do we talk about good husbands? We always focus on the bad ones who are violent whether they are American, Chinese, and Arab, Indian, Hispanic, or Russian men.
1200 years later, the western societies accorded that status to women, including the passage of women’s-suffrage act here in America just a hundred years ago, while a few conservative Muslim societies have gone back to the times before the prophet.
Prophet was clear, there is no compulsion in religion, and you cannot force any one to believe who does not want to believe. His own uncle chose not to believe in Islam; did the Prophet punish him? This is a divine intentional example from God for people to learn, that there is no compulsion in faith; let anyone believe what he or she is comfortable with. There is confusion among the average Muslims, and it behooves for Muslims to put this thing behind and move on. It is time to follow the prophet and universally declare that there is no punishment for apostasy.
Prophet Muhammad did not punish anyone for blasphemy. Instead he did the right thing; prayed for them. The self-appointed guardians of Sharia laws can tell great many stories of the prophet, yet they do the opposite.
The blasphemy laws go against the God-given freedom and it aids the crooks to abuse it. In Pakistan a damned crook framed a girl for desecrating Quran. A whole Christian town was destroyed before they discovered the truth; at least that is the saving grace
Sharia was a human effort in delivering justice to fellow beings in accordance with Quran and the Prophet’s examples; however, humans are fallible beings and are not delivering justice to women, apostates, blasphemers and rapists, and the raped. Sharia as practiced in a few of the Muslim nations does not reflect God’s wisdom nor does it correspond with prophet’s practice. It needs to be fixed badly before we sink with our sins of injustice to women. More about Sharia at www.sharialaws.com.
To be a Muslim is to be a peacemaker, one who mitigates conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence of humanity. God wants us to live in peace and harmony with his creation, life and matter.
Criticism of Islam, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and free speech
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………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. Mike Ghouse is a public speaker, thinker, writer and a commentator on Pluralism at work place, politics, religion, society, gender, race, culture, ethnicity, food and foreign policy. He is a staunch defender of human rights and his book standing up for others will be out soon, and a movie “Americans together” is in the making. He is a frequent guest commentator on Fox News and syndicated Talk Radio shows and a writer at major news papers including Dallas Morning News and Huffington Post. All about him is listed in 63 links atwww.MikeGhouse.net and his writings are at www.TheGhousediary.com and 10 other blogs. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.