Texas Mawlid Celebrations – Inter and Intrafaith event

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(This is the initial write up. Insha Allah I will update it through the week to be more complete, would also share the links to pictures and videos)
URL – http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2013/02/texas-mawlid-celebrations-inter-and.html

Dallas, Texas – Saturday, February 9, 2013

It was one of the most successful events celebrating Prophet Muhammad’s birthday in Dallas/ Fort Worth Metroplex, it was not only an intra-faith event, but an interfaith gathering as well. Muslims from Shia, Sunni, Ismaili, Bohra and WD Muhammad denominations participated, while different members from the family of our faiths including Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs and Wicca traditions joined in. The organizers plan on making it more inclusive in the coming years.

My heart-felt congratulations to the organizers of this event, some of the names I can remember are Asif Effendi, Suleman Hemani, Dr. Manzoor Mian, Almas Muscatwala, Sami Qureshi and others (will complete the list later). Great job, mission accomplished! The intra-faith and interfaith objective accomplished. 

At reception: Tatiana, Esposito, Ghouse, Roberts and Suleman

Dr. John Esposito

John Esposito delivered the key note address on Prophet Muhammad and Social justice, it was an incredible speech, it was home to me, and indeed,  it was about Pluralism and creating cohesive societies. He addressed social justice emphasized in Qura‘an, and from the acts and talks of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), about taking care of widows, orphans, the oppressed, the voiceless and the slaves. The prophet had said, the least you can do is to speak up.

Dr. Esposito explored the concept of Zakat and how it serves social justice in providing patient care, education and food for the needy,  and pulling up the one’s in the ditches. A society functions well when all are on a level playing field.

It was a thrill to hear him talk about the idea of Ummah; the community. Prophet meant inclusive of all people in Medina, be it a Jew, Christian or the other, they were his Ummah, the fellow citizens.

He talked about the respect established in Qur’an for the Jews, Christians and others (I am glad he used the word other to mean all others, as opposed to limiting the embrace). One of the most pluralistic phrases used was “Ahle-Kitaab” meaning the people of the book to refer to the communities existent at that time. He expanded on the specific words in Qur’an assuring Jews, Christians and others that they will have the rewards for the good they do to the fellow beings. God says, one need not worry no matter what faith they follow

Dr. Esposito further emphasized the Golden rule, think for your brother what you want for yourselves, a great stabilizer of the society.

Muslims need to get out and be a part of the society to feel that sense of belonging. 
It was a hard hitting speech on the need to know each other, which is the mission statement of World Muslim Congress as well.  I really wish Muslims take a sabbatical and question and learn Islam from a critical point of view to appreciate the goodness relgion can bring to humanity instead of fighting who is and who is not a Muslim.

This is not a Muslim issue, it‘s a humanity issue, every community and faith goes through the stage one time or the other. He shared his time of life when Catholics did not sit down and carried a conversations with the Protestants, and the questions they had to endure when they had to meet the Presbyterians in the basement of a Methodist Church.  Dr. Esposito, being a Catholic, poked fun at Rev. Roberts who is a Baptist, and who got even with him when his turn came. The difficulties Christians face about acknowleding each other within is similar to the Muslims denominations.

During the reception, Dr. Esposito and I had a conversation about Pluralism. Dr. Esposito wanted to know what prompted me to study, write and speak on pluralism. I gave him a short version; like all the great men, he got me talking, where as I wanted to ask him the questions and learn his motivations, I am glad he held it out about him, but shared it during his speech.

John, next time you cannot make it to a program like this, please let me know, God willing, I will deliver the same speech, word for word, that’s what I have been writing for the last twenty years, pluralism and pluralism in Islam, justice and building cohesive societies. I am going to hold off reading your book, lest you accuse me that I lifted the material from your work. LOL! We have that many similarities!

Thanks for agreeing to write the foreword to my upcoming book, the book about Pluralism in America with a focus on Muslim participation in building a cohesive America. What an honor it is, to have the world’s renowned scholar write the foreword for my book. I am thrilled with this understanding. Also I want to thank Bob Roberts for doing the same. The book will be presented to you for review in Mid-March.

Dr. Maulana Irtiza Naqvi

Maulana Irtiza Naqvi delivered his key note in the 2nd part of the program, which was in Urdu language. It was a joy to hear him speak on the role of fear and its contribution towards injustice in the society. He started out saying, when are strangers, fear grips us in every aspect of the life. Because we don’t know about the other person or group, we stereotype about them, develop myths and phobias and propagate falsities about others. Prophet Muhammad was there to remove those fears through the idea of knowing each other (Quran 49:13).

The Maulana explained the meaning of Momin, and that was brilliant! A Momin is someone one who protects, God is a Momin, and he quotes a verse from Qur’an… ‘Quddusul, mominul, muheminual…” from among God’s names. God gives protection and if we become like him, with no regard to religion or race, then we can become a Momin, where others can trust us, and when there is trust in the society, all things will go well, and justice becomes its outcome.

As a speaker and a writer on Pluralism, Islam and Justice, this is a fodder to me. I was excited when he related the story of Hazrat Bilal from a social justice point of view. Prophet said, no longer a slave is a slave, and he put Bilal on the highest pedestal by asking Bilal to be the prayer caller (Muezzin), so others can believe in equality, that we are equal regardless of our status or color of the skin, and that we have equal opportunity.  Indeed, President Obama fulfilled that dream of the prophet for every man to be equal; and that no one is superior to the other. To the fools out there, no, Obama is not a Muslim, neither was Gandhi, MLK, Mandela or Lincoln who all fought for social justice and worked for equal rights of all humanity.   

Maulana Naqvi talked about the idea of Aalameen. Indeed, there is so much good happening simultaneously out there. I hope to hear him talk about the need for us to be Mukhlooqul Aalameen (universal beings) as a corollary and extrapolation to Rabbul (Creator) Aalameen, and Rahmatul (mercy) Aalameen.  It was so exciting, that I gave him my business card, on the back of which reads “we have to build a cohesive America, where no American has to live in anxieties, discomfort or fear of the other” and “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 and finally to be a Muslim is to be a peacemaker, one who seeks to mitigate conflicts and nurtures goodwill for the peaceful existence of humanity” And I was glad to see him read it as well.


An Article dedicated to Pastor Bob Roberts

Pastor Bob Roberts and I had a small conversation about the difficulties mavericks endure in bringing people and doing the right thing. He is a dare devil Evangelical to have taken the initiatives as bold as love, to build strong relationship with the Muslim community. Indeed, he prefaces his talk with clarity (paraphrased), “I am an evangelical, and I believe Jesus is the son of God and you believe him to be the prophet, that’s the way it is. No need to sweat about it, and no need even attempt to convince the other of otherwise.” Indeed, the Muslim Imams will match his statements in a few years.

This, one single item is the root cause of conflicts between Muslims and Christians, it started out in 957 AD when the Syrian Pastor was outraged with Muslim assertion that Jesus was not a son of God and he turned around and called the Qur’an, a false book written by a false prophet. 1053 years later, the phrase was uttered again by Pastor Robert Jeffress in Dallas, you can check the details of a full conference at www.QuraanConference.com . My appeal to each one, every time is to avoid the sin of stereotyping any people, any group. There are ten great Baptist Ministers in Dallas for every one who is malicious towards the other, same ratio holds good for Muslims, Hindus, Jews or any group.

Here is my as bold as love statement, that has survived a full blown questioning, “My faith is dear to me, as yours is to you; I don’t worship what you worship, neither you worship what I worship, and I will never claim my faith is superior to yours, as that amounts to arrogance. The God I thank daily, tells me the person he likes least is the arrogant one. Religion is about humility that builds bridges and removes fear and anxieties, where as arrogance creates conflict right off the bat and destroys the trust and creates chaos, there is no room for dialogue when you claim exclusive access to God. Remember, God has not signed a deal to offer me favors, behind your back or vice-versa, that is not the God you and I believe”. I would like at least a few to match me.

 I am pleased to dedicate this write up of Sura Kafirun to you, as you exemplify this chapter of Quraan.

Dedicated to Pastor Bob Roberts; http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/2008/07/sura-kafirun-un-believers.html

…. …..

Asif Effendi, Suleman Hemani, Dr. Mazoor Mian, Sami Qureshi, Dr. Zafar Anjum and others (will add the names)  spoke, the conversation between Bob Roberts and John Esposito was humorous and I liked it very much. Thanks to Asif Effendi for acknowledging the guests, including me representing the Foundation for Pluralism.

The devotional songs about Prophet Muhammad were sung by the Ismailia youth group, and Dr. Noor Muhammad Jarral and Dr. Jamil Rathore and others. They are like Christmas Carrols, but are called Naats and Nasheeds. It was mesmerizing to the hear them sing.

I was pleased to hear the youth express so well about the take-aways from the speeches in the video interviews with them. A few guests also shared their impressions including Mohsin Shaheed representing the WD Muhammad denomination and Suleman Hemani, one of the organizers of the event. Hemani packed a lot of summary in a few minutes about the event. He was speaking super fast just as I explained unity day in 49 seconds. It is rare for many to see a faster version of us.

God willing, I will be writing a full report on this, and will list the names of the individual with correct spellings, the above quick notes are right after the program.

Meanwhile, here is a question for Muslims, particularly for those among us, if we really believe in Qur’an, God and the Prophet?  Are we willing to live the pluralistic life Prophet Muhammad lived and advocated through Qur’an? Are we willing to match our talk with our acts? It is a serious question to reflect on to be honest with ourselves. How many of us arrogantly believe that our faith is superior to others? Didn’t prophet deliver the verse that treats no prophet above the other? The Mawlid celebrations will become more meaningful, if we reflect on the Prophet’s teachings of inclusiveness, respecting the otherness of others, and mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill, and let his examples be part of our lives, whether we are Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews or the other. As Muslim we also need to learn and emulate similar work done by other spiritual masters.  

… …..

Prophet Muhammad and I ; do I connect with him?

I don’t wear like him, eat like him or live like him. But when it comes to respecting fellow beings, nurturing goodwill, mitigating conflicts, forgiving others, and building cohesive societies, I relate with him.

First thing first, he took the larger view of the society and became a model of what it takes to be an exemplary citizen. The first requirement of any civil society is to trust each other in living their daily life safely and without fear of the other. He earned the trust of the society for being truthful, honest in his dealings, trustworthy and just. The Jews, Christians, pagans and others called him Amin, the trust worthy. That was indeed the first foundational Sunnah (prophet’s example).

Huffington post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/how-i-connect-with-prophet-muhammad_b_2547782.html

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Criticism of Islam, Prophet and free speech

Islam is not going anywhere; prophet is not going anywhere, and by opening ourselves up to criticism, we will learn a lot more about our faith than we would ever know. We need to move away from intolerance to acceptance of a different point of view without having to agree with it. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) lived through it and Muslims can learn from his examples. Continued: http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2012/11/criticism-of-islam-prophet-muhammad.html

 Muhammad the Peacemaker, how does he fit in the role of a peacemaker?

15 of his life examples that go towards building a cohesive society, where no human has to live in anxiety, discomfort and fear of the other by respecting the otherness of others and respecting the God given uniqueness of each one of, when we do that, conflicts fade and solution emerge.

Conducting a Civil Dialogue

The following Chapter (Sura) from Qur’an addresses the believers (in other systems) in the most dignified way, putting every one on par without putting anyone down. It is an exceptional example of civil conduct for one to follow. No where in this chapter it claims the faith of Muslims to be superior and other’s to be inferior. This chapter is about consciously nurturing civility in societies. It is not about overlooking the differences and focusing on commonalities, it is simply about accepting the otherness of other. You are who you are and I am who I am and let’s figure out how we can co-exist with the least tensions. http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/2008/07/sura-kafirun-un-believers.html

Intrafaith Panel on Islam | Sunni -Shia- Ahmadiyya – WD Muhammad

This is the first of its kind, if not the first intra-faith dialouge in Texas within the fold of Islam. The Sunni, Shia, Warith Deen Muhammad and Ahmadiyya Imams will discuss the issues.  It is not going to be easy, but God willing, we will do our best to tread on the path laid out by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), to be respectful of the otherness of others without having to agree. The program will be videotaped and will set a new benchmark for the future conferences. Please register with the listed registrar and attend. Media will be invited as well.

Rice University: http://events.rice.edu/index.cfm?EventRecord=19615

Obama’s ideal pluralistic inaugural benediction

Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/president-obamas-ideal-inaugural-benediction_b_2481579.html#es_share_ended

The link includes Pluralism prayers and greeting in City of Carrollton and Chicago

Standing up for Others

We have to be an integral part of the society which means, we need to participate in everything that affects us all Americans, and not just Muslim issues. Most of us do not want to deal with GLBT and other issues and shamefully some of us are disgustingly selfish, we do not stand up for others, other than Muslims. Let’s take a few steps, look at the last item and write the email, just copy and email. If we run from conflicts, we keep running. Instead, we have to actively participate in shaping our society. www.StandingupforOthers.com

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 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.

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