By Saeed Qureshi
The Urdu-Hindi Mushaira on Pluralism was an exhilarating assemblage and rather a fresh and fragrant breeze in an atmosphere rife with literary and ideological suffocation and prejudices. Held on June 29 instant in Richardson, under the auspices of “Foundation for Pluralism” founded by Syed Mike Ghouse, the event could be termed as a meaningful leap towards promotion of interfaith harmony and building of cohesive and tolerant communities.
Mike Ghouse who has been espousing the lofty cause of pluralism and togetherness based on religious harmony and cohabitation has done a great job by holding this much needed seminar cum poetic symposium. The fusion of ideology and the luster and of the poetry went very well, although these are metaphorically heterogeneous. These are heterogeneous because religion primarily is a rigid ideological subject, while poetry is the expression of sentiments that can be secular and mundane as well.
For me it was the first occasion to participate in such a lively and intellectually rich event. It was indeed premised on a genuine urge for fostering harmony and understanding among various faiths so as to live together under one God like hundred flowers blooming in the divine garden.
Understandably it is impossible for the believers of various religions to sink their doctrinal differences and deep seated ideological discords and craft one religion to follow jointly. It has never been possible, nor would it be achievable in the future.
The Catholics and Protestants in the Christendom and Shias and Sunnis in Islam hold onto their citadels of faith unflinchingly As such merging all the religions under one code or doctrinal domain would be simply unthinkable. It can be a utopian fantasy and is patently far from reality.
But what Jinab Mike Ghouse is enunciating by hoisting the banner of pluralism and interfaith harmony is possible. Such a splendid mission can take roots from DFW and spread elsewhere in the United States and even beyond.
I can believe and perhaps have an insight about the success of this mission spearheaded by Mike Ghous as far as Jewish and Christian communities are concerned. Even otherwise we witness here in America Sunni faithful praying in the same mosques with Shias. We also watch the same spectacle of Wahabi followers going to the same mosque along with their ideologically opponent sects namely Naqshabandi, Chishtia or Qadria. Even if they pray in separate mosques they do not criticize each other as we can see in countries like Pakistan.
In Pakistan and in the Middle Eastern Islamic countries Sunnis and Shias have been slaughtering each other since the inception of Islam. while in Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, Egypt Qatar, Iran, Saudi Arabia, to name a few Islamic countries, the tussle is patently for power, nevertheless it boils down to the simmering sectarian discords. It is primarily Sunnis or Shias in power, irrespective of their demographic number who sack, brutalize and kill their sectarian opponents.
In the medieval ages there have been constant wars between the major religions each taking its turn to decimate and uproot the rival religious populations. The Muslims and Christians have been taking turns for this faith based barbaric and savage massacres of human beings all in the name of God: the creator of the universe. In regards to the ideological antagonism between Jews and Christians, the history preserves horrific and spine chilling accounts.
The pagan Roman emperors threw the early Christians before the hungry predators as punishment for holding a different faith. One example of the extreme intolerance and Persecution demonstrated by the orthodox Catholic believers was in the city of Beziers, France where 20,000 followers of the Albigenses reformation Christian movement were massacred. The history of the Christendom is replete with such harrowing incidents of obliterating the heretics by the order of the Catholic Pope.
The establishment of inquisitions or the religious tribunals set up by the Catholic clergy in 13th century to suppress the heresy or religious freedom is drenched in blood and was an extreme form of religious persecution.
But those were the medieval and not culturally advanced times. The state and church were controlled by one source and had not separated as we find in the present times. It was the epoch-making and trail blazing Reformation Movement that turned the tables on the intolerant and cruel Catholicism. The Protestant movments made a huge difference in diluting the rigid hold of the medieval Catholic Church over the societies.
The advent of Reformation, Industrial Revolution and the American Constitution brought about colossal change in the societies. For the first time the American constitution gave the freedom of religion and freedom of expression to all the people irrespective of their religious or racial inclinations.
The current phase in human history is a transitional period. During these times the old taboos, moribund values and obsolete rituals and traditions are trying to survive against the irresistible blossoming of the progressive culture and the avalanche of modern dynamics and currents. The fast developing technologies are instrumental in a big way in dismantling the barriers between various nations and races erected because of faith and other prejudices.
Mike Ghouse’s momentous mission of promoting Pluralism and common goodwill through his “foundation of Pluralism” is a monumental effort in enlightening the people and in shedding their narrow sectarianism and mutual faith based aversions. It is hoped that the “Foundation of Pluralism” and similar progressive movments would continue to motivate the biased and the myopic segments around world to become useful partners in building tolerant societies and crafting a common destiny for the humanity.
The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat
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