Saudi Arabia, Interfaith and Pluralism

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The State Department has listed me as one of the stops for people visiting America to learn about our Religious landscape, interfaith trends, future of religion and pluralism.  Over the last six years, I have had conversations with over 100 visitors from about 30 some nations including China, central Asian, Middle East, Balkans, and North African religious leaders and scholars. 

It is exciting to meet with them; they are a match with our trends. This group is from Saudi Arabia, Imams, Scholars and heads of religious affairs. It is embarrassing that we Americans stereotype the Saudis; indeed they have their percent of fanatics as we have ours. 

The first interfaith meeting ever held for Saudis was here in Dallas in 2003; indeed,  it is a pleasure for me to see the progress since then. A spokesperson from the commerce ministry had asked me to hold an interfaith gathering of Jews, Christians and Muslims, I was not in favor of it, as I wanted to included Hindu, Buddhist, Bahai and other traditions. The man explained, let us begin with the ones we are familiar with, and then include others. Indeed, it was a good beginning.

Please remember nearly 4 Million Americans are incarcerated, they are indeed Americans, them and the 208 Million of us are judged by the same law books, yet, they broke the law and we, the 99% did not. And no one on the earth can call us criminals for that 1% among us, and that is what bloody stereotyping is; to irrationally judge a people based on the examples of a few. The story is no different for Saudis.

One of the toughest discussions we had was about conversions, they were taken back to hear me say, that I don’t ask anyone to become a Muslim, as I respect the other religions equally. I do not consider any faith to be less than adequate. The pluralism /interfaith workshops we conduct, is to bring people together to know each other, so we have least conflicts in the society.  There is no intent to convert any one, and no one will get away, claiming his or religion is superior to the others, and I will take the stand and many like me will speak up. Indeed it is a cardinal sin to have such intent in interfaith dialogue. The purpose of dialogue is to learn about each other and not bent on converting the other, or score keeping.

It took them time, but they were open to the idea. I said, if people like to become Muslims because they like my attitudes, even then I ask them to spend the time in learning their own faith than Islam, despite that about a dozen chose to become Muslims, that was their choice. They asked me a lot of questions about Islam, and as an Individual, I am required to learn about my faith, that was the call from the prophet in his last sermon. They appreciated the bluntness, and said a lot of people, say otherwise to appease them.

This is not the first time, the Imams from Egypt, Chad, Tunisia, Morocco, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, Uzbekistan, China…some 30 nations have concurred their belief in Prophet’s mission of respecting the otherness of others, and almost every one quoted Prophet’s last sermon and the Madinah treaty, first of its kind that endorsed pluralistic governance, the kind that India, UK and Indonesia follow, where the follower of every faith has an option to seek justice by his or her own religious cannons.

There is a lot of goodness out there; we just have to make an effort to invoke it. The purpose of religion is to bring humility to an individual, to know himself and get along with others with least conflicts, ultimately, each one of us is responsible for a cohesive society, where no one has to live in fear of the other.  url –

………… 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 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 indexes everything you want to know about him.

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