Dr. Mike Mohamed Ghouse
President, Center for Pluralism Washington, DC, USA
This paper aims to prepare an individual to function effectively in a constantly changing
multi-faith, multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-everything society with
minimum conflicts. Pluralism is a new subject with a focus on its effect on different
aspects of life in building cohesive societies where no one has to live in apprehension
or fear of the other.
Pluralism means respecting the otherness of others in religion, culture, politics, and
the workplace. You may see people of different faiths, races, cultures, and ethnicities
interacting, working, studying, intermingling, playing, and marrying each other.
A decade from now, you may not see the monopoly of a race or cultural groups in
the workplace, place of worship, school, bus, train, theater, library, or other public
These interactions between people not familiar with each other’s culture lend
themselves to misunderstandings and are bound to create conflicts.
As responsible members of society, we must prepare ourselves to prevent possible
challenges and lay a foundation for the effective functioning of institutions where
every human feels secure about his faith, race, ethnicity, culture, language, political or
sexual orientation, or any other uniqueness.
Exclusive communities will become a thing of the past. If you live amidst others, you
should also respect the otherness of others, as you expect them to do the same for
Keywords: pluralism; cohesive societies; cultural pluralism; political pluralism and
Shaping Cohesive Societies
Ten years from now1, you will not find a Metropolitan city where you don’t see people
of different faiths, races, cultures, and ethnicities interacting, working, studying,
intermingling, playing, and even marrying each other. These new interactions are
bound to create conflicts, pit one group of people against the other, and develop
long-lasting biases and stereotyping that would disturb harmony
As responsible citizens, we must prepare ourselves to prevent such conflicts so that
each member of the society can live securely with their faith, culture, gender, race,
sexual, political orientation, or ethnicity. New societal norms are emerging, and we
have to deal with them.
We have witnessed human progress in almost every dimension of life, from economics
to medicine, automation to information technology, and set the world on the course
of self-rule, which is the people’s government by the people for the people. Now we
must apply our ingenuity to building cohesive societies2.
Cohesive Societies are designed for each one of the members to feel secure about their
uniqueness. One’s peace of mind and tranquility hinges on the stability of the political,
social, and economic environment surrounding him. Similarly, his safety relates to the
security of the people around him. It behooves us to build societies where everyone
feels secure about themselves; it guarantees a shield and tension-free life.
The world we see can be broadly classified into two categories; matter and life.
The matter is programmed to be in balance, indeed, every planet in the solar system
is precisely programmed to stay on its course, and the planet earth is designed to
tilt periodically at certain angles to give different seasons and sustain life. Imagine if
any one of these planets veers off even half a degree, a disaster could come in the
proportions of the big bang.
The Quran about this cohesiveness;
55:5 ٱلشَّمْسُ وَٱلْقَمَرُ بِحُسْبَانٍۢ
[At His behest] the sun and the moon run their appointed courses.
55:6 وَٱلنَّجْمُ وَٱلشَّجَرُ يَسْجُدَانِ
[before Him] prostrate themselves the stars and the trees. Prostrate here means obedience
and doing what they are programmed to do.
55:7 وَٱلسَّمَآءَ رَفَعَهَا وَوَضَعَ ٱلْمِيزَانَ
And the skies has He raised high, and has devised a measure. Measure here means all things
are functioning in their designated place as they are programmed to do.
55:8 أَلَّا تَطْغَوْا۟ فِى ٱلْمِيزَانِ
so that you [too, O men,] might never transgress the measure [of what is right] – meaning
everything is set to be in balance, so should human interactions be.
The human body also works cohesively. All the organs of the body work with each
other for a human to function normally. Much of the universe is programmed to run
in harmony. Harmony is the natural state of things. All things find their balance for
Life is not programmed to be cohesive and in balance, unlike the matter. Our
interactions with each other can bring peace or create chaos in relationships between
family members, communities, society at large, and even the nations. Human effort is
When life forms came into being, particularly the human form, the first thing that
got uploaded into the DNA was free will. Unlike the matter, cohesiveness was not
programmed into human life, they were given the free will to create their own
God says in the Quran chapter 49, verse 134, that he has created us into many tribes,
communities, nations, and by extension, faiths, ideas, shapes, and colors and that all
of us can trace back our origins to a single couple referred to as Adam and Eve. Given
that diversity, we are bound to have conflicts and compete for resources. So, HE adds
that the best ones among you are those who will take the time to know one another.
HE knows that knowledge leads to understanding and understanding to acceptance
and appreciation of different points of view for people to learn to live in harmony.
The source of disharmony in society is free will.
God told Adam not to eat the fruit, but if he were to eat, he would have no place in
paradise anymore. Adam chose to eat; the story goes that he was booted out of the
heavenly abode to the world of conflicts, where he had to hunt for food, fight with the
animals, live in tension, and even go to the bathroom. The angels perhaps argued with
God that it was not fair; God could have stopped him from eating the fruit. Then God
probably said, look, my angels, I am the God, and if I don’t honor my word, then who
will? I gave a choice to Adam, didn’t I? And he chose.
God: “O Adam, dwell thou and thy wife in this garden, and eat freely thereof, both
of you, whatever you wish; but do not approach this one tree, lest you become
wrongdoers.” “According to some of the earliest commentators, Garden is an earthlyabode alluded to namely an environment of perfect ease, happiness, and innocence.”
And “This tree is alluded to elsewhere in the Quran as “the tree of life eternal,” and
in the Bible (Genesis 2:9) as “the tree of life” and “the tree of knowledge of good and
evil. (Quran 2:35)
Choices we make
Indeed, we plan our lives about our incomes, families, homes, retirement, and the
future of our kids and grandchildren. We also prepare our businesses to deal with the
economic vagaries to sustain and grow. We have a choice to reluctantly accept what
comes our way or choose to shape the future we want.
How do we create cohesive societies?
When we face difficulties, we resort to blaming someone or the other, take our
frustrations on each other, and aggravate the situation further instead of finding
solutions. “Turn the other check,” said Jesus; among different interpretations, it is not
to add fuel to the fire. If the other person curses and you do the same, the conflicts
multiply. If the other person hits you, and you hit back, he comes after in ending the
war. Jesus says solutions come from turning the other cheek and choosing the words
to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill.
Let’s take the American example, applicable to all nations and societies.
When the economy goes south, we have witnessed a hostile attitude
from our fellow Americans who have been here for more than five
generations towards new Americans who have lived for a generation or two.
It is not a phobia but a natural fear of losing one’s way of life and resources. The
racial conflicts and the supremacist feeling among a few are the products of the
non-acceptance of the other. Then some of us are inflicted with Anti-Semitism,
Homophobia, Misogyny, Islamophobia, Hinduphobia, Xenophobia, and other phobias.
How long will we let these diseases consume us and continue to give us tensions? We
need to extricate ourselves and be free people again to live in peace.
Most of us have heard things about others from our friends, news, social media, or
our knowledge of others, and we instantly form opinions about others. As responsible
individuals, we must strive to strip stereotyping and build pathways to ensure our
society’s smooth functioning, whether in the workplace or in our neighborhoods.
We have no shame in poisoning our kids and destroying their lives. Through our
actions, our kids imbibe our prejudices towards others, particularly against women,
Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Blacks, Whites, Conservatives, Atheists, liberals and
people from ‘other’ ethnicities. It must be painful for our children when they grow
up and have to work with very people, they have learned to be lesser human than them, and they will have difficulty trusting them. It is a loss for everyone and hence work place cohesion is critical. Otherwise, the organization loses productivity when employees don’t work cohesively with others5. Secondly, they bring those tensions home. They cannot give 100% of themselves to work or their families and live a fuller
life. It has to change.
We must break away from our biases toward fellow humans to live a more vibrant and
We need to reassure each other, particularly the disconnected ones, that we are
committed to safeguarding the American way of life. No American needs to worry
about losing his way of life. Together as Americans, we uphold, protect, defend, and
celebrate the values enshrined in our Constitution, a guarantor of the way of life for
each one of us.
Knowledge leads to understanding and understanding to acceptance of each other. If
we can learn to respect the otherness of others and accept the God-given uniqueness
of each of us, then conflicts fade, and solutions emerge. Creating model programs,
a strategy applied by the Center for Pluralism, facilitates people to open up to each
other. The interfaith, inter-racial, and intercultural weddings are a superb example of
creating one America. Indeed, such weddings are very patriotic to build one nation
under the blue sky. I admire all such couples telling the world, through their actions,
look, we are two different people with different upbringings, faiths, and races; if we
can accept each other and live in harmony, so can you.
In annual flagship programs like Unity Day6, Holocaust & Genocides7, Thanksgiving8 and Festivals of Faith, Essence of Religions, and other programs, we have found fellow Americans walk out of the event with lesser bias towards the other. The more we learn about each other face to face, the fewer the conflicts would be.
We urge the caring social and political leadership of every nation to organize a Unity
Day program. Invite and bring in people from different faiths, ethnicities, races,
cultures, and other uniqueness to come together and rededicate their pledge to be
one nation again and again.
Nothing will change unless someone takes the initiative and commits to bringing
the corrective course. To quote Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing thatever has.”9
Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”10
In trying to pursue the building cohesive societies, building a cohesive America, an
America where each one of us feels secure about ethnicity, faith, culture, race, political
and sexual orientation and other uniqueness, becomes a focal point, which’ success
may enlarge and reinforce the efforts of all social development catalyst on a global
If the vision for nations is built up under these pillars and reflects these ideas, following
up innovative strategies and tools, not simply on a replica principle, might bust the
myths between Jews-Christians, Christians-Muslims, Muslims-Jews, Hindus-Muslims,
and others. In one case, faith works; in others it may be the different ethnicities or
cultures that need busting the myths so people can see each other as fellow humans
just like them and nothing less, which is a strong base for social cohesion.
We have already witnessed how old citizens feel about new citizens, immigrants, or
new members of any society. It is not a phobia, but a natural feeling of losing one’s
way of life, control, and world.
Every religion, government, and society has one unstated goal; to create communities
where every member of the society feels secure about their faith, race, ethnicity,
culture, political or sexual orientation, or any other uniqueness. But the primary
responsibility to create such societies falls on each of us. Indeed, every element in
nature is programmed to seek balance except humans, who must work on creating
harmony to live in peace.
We need to reassure each other that we are committed to safeguarding the way of life
of every member group of society. No one needs to worry about losing their way of life.
Together as Americans, Bosnians, Russians, Chinese, Indians, and others can uphold,
protect, defend, and celebrate the values enshrined in our respective constitution, a
guarantor of our political and social structures that each one of us wants.
- Harvard University – https://pluralism.org/news/opinion-secularism-essentialcohesive-society-religious-symbols-promote-individualism
- Holocaust and Genocides – http://holocaustandgenocides.com/
- Macioti, M. I., & Musaraj, A. (2017). Albania and the teaching of religion in
schools. Academicus International Scientific Journal, (15), 14-27.
4.Margaret M., Planetary Citizen of the Year Award, 1978
- Mead, M. (2019). An Anthropologist Looks at America. In American Social
Character (pp. 15-32). Routledge.
- Michigan State University – https://workplace.msu.edu/boosting-workplacecohesion/
- Musaraj, A. (2013). Intercultural and Interreligious Communication in the
Balkan. Academicus International Scientific Journal, (7), 36-43.
- Pehar, A. (2021). The significance and influence of religions and confessions on
the formation of nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Academicus International
Scientific Journal, (24), 109-123.
- Thanksgiving Celebrations – http://thanksgivingcelebrations.blogspot.com/
- The collected works Mahatma Ghandi Volume Thirteen : (Mar 12, 1913 – Dec
- The Quran – https://www.islamicity.org/quransearch/?q=chapter:49
- The Quran – https://www.islamicity.org/quransearch/?q=chapter:55
- Unity Day USA – www.UnitydayUSA.com