Sunday, February 24, 2013

First Muslim Intra-faith Dialouge at Boniuk Center

Thursday, February 21, 2013. 

This was the first of its kind Intra-faith Dialogue between Ahmadiyya, Sunni, Shia and WD Muhammad Groups of Muslims.  This dialogue is not an effort to reconcile the differences, or finding convergence, it was merely to begin a process of sharing where we agree or disagree, and honestly acknowledging our differences without judgment. The panel made every effort not to appease any one, but to state their own position politely in a genuine dialogue without ever considering the other opinion to be anything less. It was not an effort to convert the other, but rather our struggle (jihad) to understand each other genuinely. Precedence to this effect was set up by the man himself; Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), some of which I shared last night.  

Ghouse. Dr. Shaikh, Al-Qazwini, Pardee, Ali, Haneef, Motley
I am pleased to express my gratitude to Dr. Milton and Laurie Boniuk, Chairperson, Executive Director Michael Pardee and coordinator BJ Smith of the Boniuk Center. Dr. David Leebron, President of Rice University, and Sabrina Motley, Director of Asia Society. 

Thank you for sponsoring the first of its kind dialogue among Muslims themselves, the outcome and the tone of the dialogue was very encouraging. I also thank Dr. Basheer and Dr. Saleha Khumwalla for hosting the intra-cultural dinner.

Dr. Boniuk, your center, Rice University and Asia Center have unleashed an initiative that will grow and give hopes for a better world, a world where a fellow Muslim or a human need not be  uncomfortable, apprehensive or afraid of the other. Indeed, it is small step for Muslims, but a giant leap for mankind. Your enthusiasm for Intra-faith Dialogue among Muslims is one the most critical efforts in centuries, and we appreciate it.

This program would not have been successful without Michael Pardee’s dedication; he relentlessly pursued this until the job was done executed perfectly. It was not an easy thing to bring diverse people together, congratulations Mike.

Of course, the success hinged on our guests who attended the event to a packed house, they participated with silence, applause and questions, and hopefully have walked away with a hope that there is a reason to believe that the efforts like this will bear fruit.  I cannot thank enough to our Panelists, Imam Azhar Haneef, Imam Wazir Ali, Imam Moustafa al-Qazwini and Imam Dr. Zia Shaikh for responding to some of the toughest questions with grace, precision, fullness and within the given time.

The only thing I wish different was time allotted for the program; I wish it was two hours. But, on the other hand, I am happy that due to time limitation, a good foundation is laid and a good tone is set up for Dialogue-II as a progression, and setting up a model for similar conversations elsewhere.

The Department of State has listed me as a stop to dialogue with visiting Scholars, Imams, Ministries and Religious men and women from North Africa, Middle East, Central Asia and China. Our interactive conversation on Pluralism and interfaith is usually set for 4 hours and over the last ten years, I must have exchanged or taught Pluralism to over 100 such men and women, and indeed the Saudi Interfaith Dialogue was seeded here in Dallas. I must report to you, that the programs have been as exciting as our program on the 21st, they are as much tuned into Pluralism as we are here, but yet, their message has not reached their masses, no media has given coverage to such great things. Where is the gap? And what are we missing? There is a disconnect somewhere and we need to work on it in Asia, particularly in Pakistan, Iraq, Bangladesh and India.

This dialogue by no means was an effort to reconcile the differences, or finding convergence, it was merely to share where we agree and honestly acknowledge our differences without judgment. The panel has made every effort not to appease any one, but to state their own position politely in a genuine dialogue without ever considering the other opinion to be anything less. It was not an effort to convert the other, but rather our inner struggle (jihad) to understand each other genuinely. Precedence to that effect was set up by the man himself; Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), some of which I shared last night. 

Indeed, we lived up to what a real dialogue ought to be per Rabbi Gordis, “Dialogue only has meaning if it respects the autonomy of the other; absent that respect we have monologue.”

Your input for Dialouge-II in the comment section below would be appreciated, we are all in this together. If you write a fine short statement, we will include it in one of the articles in the coming months.


Sabrina Motley, Director of the Asia Society and Michael Pardee, Executive Director of the Boniuk Center shared the visions of their respective organizations.

The Boniuk Center for Religious Tolerance at Rice “is dedicated to nurturing tolerance among people of all and no faiths, especially youth, and to studying the conditions in which tolerance and intolerance flourish.  Their mission is to understand the conditions that make peaceful coexistence possible and to promote these conditions locally, nationally and throughout the world.”

Asia Society has a similar mission, “Asia Society is the leading educational organization dedicated to promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among peoples, leaders and institutions of Asia and the United States in a global context. Across the fields of arts, business, culture, education, and policy, the Society provides insight, generates ideas, and promotes collaboration to address present challenges and create a shared future.”

Together, the Boniuk Center and the Asia Society have facilitated meaningful inter-faith and intra-faith dialogue series to promote understanding from within the diverse family of faiths and with other faiths. Indeed, they have had meaningful dialogue within the Christian and Jewish traditions, and now they are extending the opportunity to the Islamic tradition. 

Please note, it was not easy to put this program together, as Michael Pardee mentioned earlier. 25 Imams were invited, and only four decided to address the issue and not pass the buck on to the next generation. Indeed, these are the denominations that have most of the conflicts, particularly between Sunni, Shia and Ahmadiyya. Although WD Muhammad tradition is Sunni, their presence is critical, as WD Muhammad is the first one in America to start the interfaith Dialogue and rightfully called America's Imam. They do not have the conflicts with any group as others have,  and their embrace is larger than others and we look up to them for guidance.  
Mike Ghouse, the moderator begins the program with greetings in a few religious traditions. May we be drenched and soaked in peace, and together, let’s hope to produce peaceful outcomes.

Greetings of Salaam, Shalom, Peace, Satsriakal, Namaste, Alla-abho, Hamazor Hama ashobed, Buddha Namo and wishes in every possible way known to mankind.(The meaning of greetings at

Tonight’s program is Unique and first of its kind, there have been efforts, but not a serious conversation like the one we are holding tonight. We have about an hour of dialogue followed by Q & A. We will do our best to cover a few topics that will subtly serve as a foundation for this process of mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill.

We realize this is a pilot project, the first of its kind dialogue in the United States. We, the panelists and the moderator take the responsibility seriously to lay the best possible foundation for future dialogue, and Boniuk Center becomes the guiding light. Again thanks for Mike Pardee

My role as a moderator of the event is to set the tone of the dialogue and shape the outcome of the conversation.  The outcome will stand on respecting the otherness of the other and accepting the uniqueness of each tradition without judgment. The most important aspect of this process is to have the panelists respond to the questions asked precisely, fully and within two minutes.

We will address the issues with grace, and the civility that Prophet Muhammad had advocated.

Sura Fatiha Recitation by Hafiz-e-Qur’an Mr. Khamanwalla.

Islam is a universal faith that has embraced every race, ethnicity, language and culture. Indeed, the Quran opens with gratitude to the lord of the universe and ends addressing the whole humanity as well.

Yet, at this precise juncture in history, the Ahmadiyya Muslims are persecuted in Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh, and the Shia Muslims are harassed and killed in Pakistan daily, and oppressed in Bahrain, Iraq and other places. The Sunnis are facing severe challenges in Syria as well.  These developments are getting worse by the day and there is a need for a way out. I hope our dialogue will be a small step in that direction, a gift from the Asia Society.

Dialogue; indeed, this is a dialogue. I am pleased to Quote Rabbi Gordis, one of my mentors in the art of dialogue, he was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, in 1964

“Dialogue only has meaning if it respects the autonomy of the other; absent that respect we have monologue. True conversation may uncover areas of convergence but is most important in helping to understand areas of divergence. The question for participants is: Is that divergence threatening or problematical or it can be a source of enlightenment and enrichment by broadening the perspectives and insights on the experience of being human that one gains from one’s own religious tradition.”

Dialogue requires active listening, and responding to the issue with the intention of mitigating conflict, we must continuously avoid going into different directions, if we need clarity to our positions.

Sura Kafirun in Qur’an is my guidance to conduct civil dialogue. In this Chapter (Sura) the Qur’an addresses the believers (in other systems) in the most dignified way, putting everyone on par without putting anyone down. It is an exceptional example of civil conduct for one to follow. Nowhere in this chapter has it claimed 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.

Prophet Muhammad’s example served the foundation for Pluralism; he taught how to respect the otherness of others without having to agree with the other.

Briefly the peace treaty between the Quraish of Mecca and the Muslims of Medina was ready for signature, the terms were all agreed upon. However, the representative of Quraish Mr. Suhayl Ibn Amr looks at the signature line and objects to the name of the other signatory written as Muhammad, the Prophet of God. He blunts, you are not the prophet of God…… you can imagine the scenario of Prophet’s associates feeling angered for such a blasphemous statement, but the Prophet did something amazing. He asked Hazrat Ali to redo the name as Muhammad son of Abdullah, Ali refused, and most would too, so the prophet erased the part “prophet of God” and had inscribed “son of Abdullah” the deal was signed. (A few Muslims who believe in blasphemy laws need to study this phenomenon)

The point is Prophet respected the otherness of the other, without compromising on the principles, he knew Suhayl ibn Amr did not believe him to be the prophet of God, but believed him to be truthful and trustworthy man, and knew him as Son of Abdullah. The key lesson is to learn to respect the otherness of the other in prophetic tradition. Prophet’s work was mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill.

(Not included in the talk but worth a serious dialogue  among Christians and Muslims about  the persona of Jesus, a source of original conflict between the two groups that began in AD 957 by a Syrian Pastor who declared, “Quran is a false book written by a false prophet” because Jesus is described as a prophet in Quran, and not the God incarnate as written in the Bible – this statement must have been repeated a million times and we held a full blown conference on the topic – The second issue that is the source of conflict between the Jews and Christians was the false, but a propagated notion that Jews were Christ Killers)  

The first interfaith dialogue in the US was established by America’s imam Warith Deen Muhammad, although Ahmadiyya Muslims have taken steps in the direction sine establishing their mission in1929.

This dialogue by no means was an effort to reconcile the differences, or finding convergence, it was merely to begin a process of sharing where we agree, and honestly acknowledging our differences without judgment. The panel has made every effort not to appease any one, but to state their own position politely in a genuine dialogue without ever considering the other opinion to be anything less. It was not an effort to convert the other, but rather our struggle (jihad) to understand each other genuinely. Precedence to this effect was set up by the man himself; Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), some of which I shared last night.
Our esteemed Imams will now establish how to deal with the issue and what makes one a Muslim and who sets the theological boundaries and its impact on generational differences? Is there a need for reform and what should be the focus in building cohesive Societies within and without?

By nature religions are conservative, and hold on to the values passed on for generations. By all means feel free to be yourselves! No need to appease or no need to denigrate the other.

 Please take a minute or less to sum up about your tradition,
Please recite the verse 2:148 and explain what is good work, and what does “God has the power to will anything” mean?

 (Asad) for, every community faces a direction of its own, of which He is the focal point. [123] Vie, therefore, with one another in doing good works. Wherever you may be, God will gather you all unto Himself: for, verily, God has the power to will anything.
What is good work?
What is the key issue that you hear about each one or anyone that makes you think they are less of a Muslim or no Muslim
Panelists can respond if the differences are worth mentioning.

Please explain verse 2:62, once again what does it mean to lead a righteous life?

[2:62] surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who (1) believes in GOD, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.
What makes one a Muslim and who sets the theological boundaries?

Has living in America affected the outlook and separation of culture and religion? What does the next generation think about these differences?

Dr. Boniuk’s objective was to explore what Muslim organizations are out there that can bring these groups on a common platform. What does it take to heal and to come together and what does it take to create peaceful societies?
Asia Society is working on this objective and what can we do about Asia, where nearly 2/3rds of Muslim live, and nearly 75% of them live under the light of democracy. What are the solutions to what is happening in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Indonesia… about the intra-faith conflict, what needs to be done there?  The Ahmadiyya and Shias are persecuted, harassed and being killed, what does it take to stop it?  

What are you willing to do? What can you do? What each one of the Muslim can do, what are the simple step. (Due to time constraints I did not mention what we are doing – for the last three years during Ramadan, a few of us are visiting Mosque a day to break the fast (Iftaar) without skipping any denomination, and are make an effort to visit different mosques for Friday (Juma) sermons).

For the responses, we will wait for the video and the transcripts, meanwhile, if you the reader have viable answers, please share in the comments section below.

This dialogue is a small step for the Muslim kind, but a giant leap for humanity. I hope it will encourage more dialogue and full day conferences with a single goal; mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill, the theme in every action of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
… The organizers, the Imams, much of the audience I talked with, and I have walked out with the satisfaction of producing a worthwhile dialogue for us to ponder and take the necessary steps to advance conflict mitigation and goodwill nurturence.

r-l: Dr. David Leebron, Laurie Boniuk and Dr. Milton Boniuk
Dr. Zia Shaikh, Moustafa Al-Qazwini, Azhar Haneef, Wazir Ali
Mike Ghouse in the background

Referenced links:

  1. This report - Muslim intrafaith Dialouge
  2. Houston Chronicle about Intra-faith Dialogue
  3. Rice Center's Report of the event 
  4. Quran on how to conduct civil dialogue
  5. Rabbi Gordis on Conducting a dialogue

  6. Saudis, Interfaith and Pluralism

  7. Warith Deen Muhammad appreciation week in Dallas
  8. Criticism of Prophet, God and Quraan
  9. Pluralism Greetings in Chicago 

  10. Mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill.
  11. Standing up for Jews
  12. Ramadan Daily - visiting a Mosque a day for Iftaar
  13. Full blown conference on Qur’an by Non-Muslim Clergy 
  14. Pluralism Speaker
  15. Muslim Speaker

  16. My Curriculum Vitae

....... Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace, IslamIsraelIndiainterfaith, and cohesion at work place. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at He believes in Standing up for others and has done that throughout his life as an activist. Mike has a 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 all his work through many links.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine Day's message


Love has no bounds. Indeed, its a relationship of caring between husband and wife, mother and son, father and daughter, mother daughter, brother sister, brothers, sisters, friends, uncles, aunties, Granpa and Gramma, friends, and any one you care about. Valentine's day has moved from an exclusive rendezvous between two lovers to an universal meaningful expression of caring between any two people, and as a futurist, I see this morphing into a universal affection day within a decade.
Throughout the history of language, words have taken on new and expanded meanings; Valentine's Day is no exception, and eventually, it will become an all inclusive romantic day. 

Please feel free to say happy valentine's day to your sister, mother, brother, daughter, dad, uncle or a friend. It is a much bigger word now than it started out to be. Take them out for dinner and send them flowers to let them know that you care if you are the only one for them at this point in life.

While we Americans express it by presenting red roses to our loved ones, the Filipinos will break another record; the number of people kissing at the same time, Brazil will have another major festival on her beaches celebrating love. You are welcome to share other such expressions.

On the other side of the world, a few frustrated ones will go to the other extreme. A handful of Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshi Hindus and Muslims will go on bashing and harassing the people who want to spend their time in peace. They ransack shops that sell the cards, and have a record of beating up couples in restaurants. If I were a peacemaker, pundit or an Imam, I would actively seek these men to respect the otherness of others, and ask them to join for tea and laddus (dessert) at the
 Temples, Mosques or other places of worship and have them fall in love with God,  and sing songs praising the lord, instead of bullying others on the street. We need to pave the way for people to respect the "otherness" of others.

Sadly, some of you are going to feel lonely, if you miss the love in your life; you have an opportunity to fulfill it. There is plenty in you that you can give by feeding the homeless, visiting lonely patients in the hospitals or nursing homes, disadvantaged women and children, our veterans... share whatever little you have with them including the time and just listening to them. When a homeless person asks, give whatever you can, that is the most affectionate thing to do, you will enrich yourselves far greater by sharing.

The best thing you can do for yourselves it to take an hour away from every one, and reflect on your life without blaming any one and figure out how to change it. Your love does not have to be expressed in the romantic sense, channel it out with family members, or a good old friend, or just by yourselves by caring for them, and doing things un-asked, and without any expectations of reciprocation.

There is nothing more peaceful than knowing yourselves, consider appreciating what ever you have, and accepting the way you are without wishing to be something and someone else. You don't need to compare with any one on the earth, there is none like you, you are one in 7 billion; you have your own unique thumb print, eye print, dna, taste bud, colors, foods, smells, sights... by God, you are your own model! When you accept that you are unique with your problems and joy, you will find peace and love.
When you love yourselves, i.e., you do not wish you had things others have but be content with what you have, you do not wish to look like someone else and be happy that you can at least breathe, you do not wish to wear like someone else, you do not want to talk like some one else, and do not want to live like some one else, then you have accepted your uniqueness that God gave you (ok, the genetic, if you don't believe in God), when you do that, you are in love with yourselves.

Don't forget, if your love makes you humble, you become the honey and attract good friendships, on the other hand if you become arrogant that others are inferior to you, you stink, and repel like hell and no one would want to be friends with you.
Make the commitment and just do it, if you like it recommend it to your friends.

If you are not single and have a spouse, listen to these songs and see if they express you.

I dedicate these three songs to Yasmeen, my dear wife.

Kenny Roger's, you decorated my life: I particularly like the line which says, there is no rhyme or reason that is what love is all about.

Ronnie Milsap's, what a difference you made in my life,

Muhammad Rafi's ai Husn Zara Jaag in Urdu/ Hindi,

and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's, aap say mil kay in Urdu/Hindi

My expressions would be incomplete without honoring the poet of love, Mirza Ghalib, one of the greatest romantic poets of all times who composed his poetry in Urdu/Hindi and Farsi.

Ishk per zor nahin, hai a o aatish ghalib
Ke lagaye na lege, bujhaye no bujhe.

Affection is that flame O Ghalib,
you cannot lit or extinguish it deliberately,  it just happens.

There is a beautiful Hindi/ Urdu song for the people who are platonic friends, it is one of my top ten favorites!

I have seen the twinkle in those eyes,
let love remain love, and not give a name to it,
leave it alone and don't label a relationship to it,

Happy Valentine's Day.

....... Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace, Islam, Israel, India, interfaith, and cohesion at work place. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at He believes in Standing up for others and has done that throughout his life as an activist. Mike has a 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 all his work through many links.  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Indian American's commitment to Pluralism.

Tracing the roots of my quest for Pluralism.

I am an Indian American, and take immense pride in the pluralistic ethos of India.  Indeed, I have made a commitment to nurturing those values, and share them with fellow Americans in my talks, articles and media appearances.   Let me be clear; everything is not hunky dory,  India has deep scars and wounds that need healing, these wounds** if not treated, will continue to be a drain on nation's spiritual health. At times, the frustrations can reach the tipping point leading into riots, massacres and Genocides, in the process hurting every one.

Collectively, as Indian Americans, we contribute to the richness of America in the fields of medicine, science, engineering, biology, politics, religion, information technology and smart corporate management. However, the time has come for us to give fullness to our participation by contributing in social sciences.

As a social scientist, my contribution would be sharing my motherland's pluralistic heritage with my homeland as a gift to America.  By the way, India was one of the first three nations on the earth to recognize American independence in 1776, it was Tippu Sultan, the head of the state of Mysore (Karnataka) then along with Morocco and France.

Two decades of research work on Pluralism

In the last twenty years, through Asian News Magazine (1993-2001), Asian News Radio (1996-2001), Desi TV (1996), Yahoogroups (2003 -now), and various blogs like Mike Ghouse for India, Sulekha (1999 - now) and several (30) sites for each topic, I have shared our pluralistic heritage.

The Asian News Magazine featured the essence of every religion, and the multi-cultural aspect of India and its inclusiveness, the Asian News Radio featured weekly hour dedicated to presenting the essence of religious festivals so we can learn about each other. We also produced more than 500 hours of talk show radio on religion, every beautiful religion, Pundits, Pastors, Imams, Rabbis, Shamans and Religious clergy from each faith joined me daily to share the wisdom of his or her religion, indeed, Atheism and pluralism had its own slot.

There is not a public forum where I have not been inclusive. A few years ago, one of the business radio stations (AM 1360) in Dallas was doing a show about ‘giving’ during Christmas season. They invited a Rabbi and a Pastor and wanted me to fill in for Islam, and I did with a condition that I am allowed to acknowledge and mention charity in every faith including Hinduism, Baha'i, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism and other traditions.

For two years we conducted two sets of workshops called Understanding Religion, all the beautiful religions (Atheism was part of the learning). We had a Rabbi, Pastor, Pundit, Imam, Shaman and respective religious ministers joined  in presenting a three hour workshop - on each faith. Funds permitting, I hope to recommence the workshops, and create a replicable model. The idea was to demystify the myths about each faith. Two of the most misunderstood faiths are Hinduism and Islam, and we cannot let people rot in mis-information, we have to do our share of the work in creating a bettter world. Of course, finding the truth is our own individual responsibility.

Each one of us is capable of standing up for others, when we do that; all of us would be safe. We cannot demand peace, when we are not peaceful within, we cannot ask others to be hateful, when we are full of it.

Media Presence

As President of the Foundation for Pluralism, I contribute an article a week to the Texas Faith column at Dallas Morning News for over two years, and just about every piece weaves through several religions. The articles appear regularly at Huffington Post, and occasionally at Washington post. Heck, when I wrote a tribute about my late wife, father and mother, I found them reflecting the values of most religions, if not all.

The TV, Radio, Print, Web and Social Media has been good to me, giving me a strong national and local presence including Sean Hannity’s Show on Fox News (over 50 appearances), and many nationally syndicated Radio shows.

Over 1500 articles on the topic of Pluralism, Interfaith, Politics, India, Israel, Middle East, Islam, Human rights and conflict mitigation have been published. Major news papers in the United States and across the world, including Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, European and other Asian Nations have carried them. I have not checked if Timbuktu news papers have carried them as well.

The international forums including the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia; the Middle East Peace Initiative in Jerusalem; and the International Leadership Conference in Hawaii, Chicago and Washington have also provided me the platform to speak about Pluralism.

It is a blessing to have served as a commissioner for the City of Carrollton and president of many a organizations including Home Owners Association, North Texas Cricket Association, and a board member of several non-profits such as the Dallas Peace Center.

No matter where I go, my identity is Indian.

Indian democracy

We are the original Pluralistic Democracy in the world, and can serve as a model to nations where they are experiencing co-emergence of multiple religious people in work place, schools, dining, playground and different aspects of living. They all can look up to India about moving forward despite the difficulties, India's diverse population has successfully co-existed for centuries in relative harmony. Thanks to the founding fathers for embracing that tradition and opting for a Secular democracy upon Indepedence in 1947. Where else on the earth, can you have personal conflicts resolved through your own religious guidance? Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Jains and others have their personal laws to square with the personal and family issues as an option. America can benefit from such practices.

Unresolved Issues

I am glad; we are a pluralistic democracy rather than an autocratic, monarchic or dictatorial system where critical issues take time to resolve through consensus, rather than imposition.  Because of the nature of our governance, we have piled up unresolved conflicts that will take time to heal. Among them are; Sikh Massacre, Babri Masjid-Ram JanamBhoomi, Kashmiri Pundits, Gujarat Massacre, misogyny,  and discrimination against the minorities. There are other issues, but my focus is social issues.

We should not dump these issues onto the next generation, we are conquering the space, we can conquer our prejudices too, that is the greater Jihad (inner struggle) Lord Krishna and Prophet Muhammad had called for. The nation is moving forward despite the issues, and we need to take the initiative and bring closure to them in our life time. They will not go away by burying our heads in the sand.
Standing up for others

Standing up for others is the right thing to do, every human goes through a period of invincibility to vulnerability, if we don't stand up for those who are vulnerable, then who will stand up for us when we are vulnerable?

The idea of alms, charity, taking care of the elderly, weak, sick and the children is a common theme in every religious tradition. It is indeed the insurance for every one's well being. I cannot be at peace when others around me aren't, and hence it behooves me to take care of the ones who need assistance. 

It’s been my life time honor to stand up for everyone from Atheists to Zoroastrians and every one in between ( ). 

Inclusive attitudes are cultivated

Our sense of responsibility is akin to wearing the seat belt. If you live in America, and don't wear the seat belt in the car while you drive, not only you feel guilty, but certainly uncomfortable. It was not the case before the seat belt was made mandatory for the driver and the front seat passenger. It is indeed a consciously learned behavior. I feel the same sense of discomfort, when I get to the podium and not mention or include different religions in the speech. My only fear is excluding others in the public square even by mistake.  To allay that fear; I have learned to start my speeches with Pluralism greetings and prayers that are inclusive of every one including my Atheist friends (Pluralism Speaker).

Thanks to my father, mother, and grandfather who lived their lives as an example inculcating Islamic pluralism in my brothers and the sister, like millions of Muslim parents whom you may have not met.  In my talks, I share small examples and incidents where small things do matter. We learned the Islamic version of Vasudaiva Kutumbukum; the whole world is one family.  
Indeed, Pluralism flows in my veins, and that is respecting the otherness of others and accepting the God-given uniqueness of each one of the 7 billion of us.

Boldly changing the course of history

My father was a Mayor of the town of Yelahanka in the fifties, and we always had construction work at our apartments or remodeling at our historic house, originally owned by the founder of Bangalore, Hon. Kempe Gowda in the 16th century. My father was a maverick, and dared challenging the abusive but prevalent norms of the society, he had the Dalits (shameful word: Untouchables) work at our place, my mother would make them tea or give them food in the plates and cups we used, it was a big no-no in the society at that time, you ‘kept them' away from your house, just as it was for the Blacks in America then. I am proud of my father, and my mother for supporting him in breaking the uncouth norms. He was constantly called on to quit, and at times threatened, but the dare devil held on to his ground firmly and the town loved him dearly and gradually followed his example.

I saw humiliation in the eyes of men, women and children, who came to collect water from the public tap on each corner of the street, the upper caste person would wash the tap three times before he or she collected the water. It was difficult for me, and I played out my share of the drama and mumbling in protest. Despite the significant progress made, we have a long way to go in the housing discrimination, indeed, even in America we have ways to go, but we are all going forward.

As I am writing this, I grudgingly acknowledge that I have learned nothing new; my father did everything that I am doing now, Gee, a drop of tear rolls down my cheek in reverence to Mahatma Gandhi for becoming a catalyst in uplifting the down trodden and restoring their God-given dignity to them. I just have to pray for the Mahatma for saving the Indian souls by getting rid of guilt from ours minds, by having us open our hearts and minds toward the fellow beings, just as MLK did in America. 

Early influences of Pluralism

Early on in my life, even though I had chosen to be an atheist, and I stayed the course for the next thirty years, but never looked down on any faith like a few of my fanatic Atheist friends do. I have had the opportunity to know and learn about different faiths and sub-cultures. I went to Mahabodhi (Buddhist) Society on Thursdays, Mosque (Muslim) on Fridays, and Bhajan Mandir (Hindu) on Saturday nights. The Interaction with my Jain neighbors and friends, and my mother’s Zoroastrian friend was productive.

The Saturday afternoon discourse between the Shia Scholar and my Sunni maternal Grandfather and my father laid the foundation of civil dialogue for me. Then, I enjoyed the interaction with Sikhs, Adivasis, Tribals, Khandaris and Banjarans at our mill where we grounded their grain in to flour. The Sikhs were in the Air force and the Tribals were breaking the nearby hills into crushed stone manually, I felt connected with all of them, and did not feel a barrier between me and them.

In the first few years of my childhood I spent Christmas evenings with our neighbors, and I was also dressed up as Krishna with the Makhan (butter) when I was a baby. In my college days, I had serious dialogue with my English Teacher Ramachandran, a Saibaba devotee and my weaver friend Mohamed Fakhru, an Islamic scholar in his own right.

The only religious group I did not interact in India was the Jewish community, but learned about Eishman, the killer of six million Jews, the book was in Urdu language, and my mother prevented me from reading, as she was concerned about her child’s well being, but it created a sense of incompleteness in me for not reading the forbidden book. The completeness to my life came when I organized the first Holocaust commemoration event in 2006 in Dallas. It was the first such event in history, by non-Jewish people. It is our moral duty to understand the atrocities we humans have inflicted upon each other and educate others to say no to such tragic events from even seeding.

I have spent a lot of time reading, I was always in the library and I enjoy going to the Libaray to this day. Some of my early influencers were Mahatma Gandhi, Jiddu Krishnamurthy, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Swami Vivekananda, Allama Iqbal, Buddha, Abraham Kavoor, Dale Carnegie and a German Scholar who wrote about comparative religions.

It is a blessing to have seen Mahatma Gandhi twice in my dreams in the early 70’s with Bangalore University’s Vice Chancellor Narsimaiah, and the next time in early part of 2000. In both instances, all he said was, son you have work to do and patted on my back, and that has been my inspiration all along to commit to pluralism. It was Gandhi for me.

Gender Pluralism

We grew up with Gender equality, the four brothers and the sister were equals in every aspect of life. My father never treated my mother any less, he always consulted her and regretted when he did not. I would have been a farmer or a politician in India, had my mother not insisted, and my father listened to her, here I am today. The images we grew up with were of gender equality, treating men and women the same. The four of us brothers and our sister have all agreed to share the proceeds of the sale of the property of our parents equally. We never questioned it and never thought there could be difference in inheritance laws.

In the early sixties, we had our first woman mayor in my town Yelahanka, and nearly twenty years later when I visited San Francisco, celebrations were on for electing the first woman mayor in America; Diane Feinstein! I said wow! 
Communal riots

My father is my hero and opened the doors of wisdom to us. Pluralism indeed runs in my family. He taught us one of the biggest lessons of my life in social cohesiveness and dealing with extremism that I continue to reflect in my talks, acts and write ups.

During the communal riots in Jabalpur (India) in the early sixties, both Muslims and Hindus were killed in the mayhem, as it happens every time. I wish every father in India, America and elsewhere teaches this lesson to his kids. He was crystal clear on his take; He told us the "individuals" are responsible for the bloodshed and not the religions. If we get the guy who started the conflict and punish him for disturbing peace, rather than calling it a religious issue for the communities to jump in and aggravate it further, we would have saved many lives. He would emphasize that you cannot blame the intangible religion and expect justice, we must blame the individuals who caused it and punish them accordingly for disturbing the peace and thus bring a resolution to the conflict by serving justice. He said you cannot annihilate, kill, hang or beat the religion, then why bark at it?

What is pluralism?

Simply put, it is respecting the otherness of the other and accepting the uniqueness of each one of us. In cultural terms, it is recognizing your culture as a beautiful expression of life to you, as my own is to me. When it comes to food, it is appreciating the Rice you enjoy over the Naan I delight, or vice-versa. For Americans, it is medium rare stake versus the well done. In religious terms, it is learning to honor the way your worship or bow to the creator in gratitude, is as divine as my own.

Our future is Pluralism.

By the end of 2020, there will not be a major work place America or India and other places, where you will not find people of different faiths, cultures, ethnicities, races, nationalities and social backgrounds working, eating, playing, marrying, and doing things together.

We need to prepare ourselves for those eventualities to prevent possible conflicts and lay a good foundation for nurturing goodwill and effective functioning of the societies.  Exclusive communities will become a thing of the past. (Foundation for Pluralism, Pluralism Center)

Being a Muslim, I am deeply committed to nurturing the pluralistic values embedded in Islam (World Muslim congress). The role of a Muslim is to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill, most people get that, a few don’t, just as with any other religious group.

Pluralism is our future, and as a futurist, based on the trends, I foresee, that two generations from now, we would be comfortable in saying, my religion, culture or life style is one of the many choices, and further down the road, a significant number will proclaim that my way of life is not superior or inferior to any.

They will consider ‘claiming superiority’ would be sheer arrogance and religion (a major part of life to many) is believed to imbue humility that builds societies, communities and nations in creating that elusive kingdom of heaven where all of us can live  without apprehension or fear of the other.

We are one nation

We are one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. We are represented by every race, nationality, ethnicity, language, culture and religion. We see God as one, none and many and in every form; male, female, genderless and non-existent, being and non-being, nameless and with innumerable names. Indeed, we must preserve the pluralistic heritage of America.

About India
We are Adivasis, Atheists, Baha’is, Bos, Buddhists, Christians, Dalits, Hindus, Jains, Jewish, Muslim, Sikhs, Tribals, Zoroastrians and every possible grouping. We are Brown, Black, White, Yellow and green with envy and phir bhi dil hai Hindustani (My heart is Indian).

Our Motherland is represented by every race, nationality, ethnicity, language, culture and religion. We see God as one, none and many; and in every form; male, female, genderless and non-existent, being and non-being, nameless and with innumerable names.

We are proud of our heritage - a multi-faith, multi-cultural, multi-regional and multi-linguistic society, where we have come to accept and respect every which way people have lived their lives. For over 5000 years, India has been a beacon of pluralism - it has embraced Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Baha'i and Zoroastrianism to include in the array of the indigenous religions; Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. 

What we need to do

We may want to consciously start thinking and acting as one people, one people within a nation and a community and one people globally. It's like home when we are conflict free.  I do hope each one of us purges any bias towards the other, there is joy in being free from ill-will. Try to be free from it this day forward… free from anything that prevents you from being a part of the parts or the whole. 

Our combined philosophies believe in one world ; Hinduism describes the world as Vasudaiva Kutumbukum, the whole world is one family, the idea of Ek Onkar(one) in Sikhism, you are all created from the same couple as Quraan puts it and Jesus embraced every one regardless of who any one is... similar philosophies are grounded in all our religions. 

The book and the Movie

Insha Allah, my book, The American Pluralist will be released shortly, it is a chronicle of how things work in bringing the communities together, it is dedicated to India’s pluralistic heritage; India’s gift to America.  

The movie is about building a cohesive America, where no American has to live with anxiety, apprehension, discomfort or fear of the other. One must be free to live his or her life to the fullest in pursuit of happiness.

I believe the civility of a nation is determined by how it treats its weak, economically backward, the men and women in ditches, the voiceless, its women and the minorities.

A few links referred to in the writing are:

  1. The Ghouse diary .
  2. My profile -
  3. Mike Ghouse for India -
  4. My Real name -
  5. Pluralism Speaker -
  6. Muslim Speaker -
  7. Curriculum Vitae -
  8. Linked in profile -
  9. Foundation for Pluralism -
  10. World Muslim Congress -
  11. Quraan Conference -
  12. America together Foundation -
  13. Standing up for others -
  14. Reflections Annual Holocaust and Genocides -
  15. Unity Day USA - 
  16. 30 Blogs -
  17. Video- Trailer Americans Together -
  18. Video- My story, Part I -
  19. Video- My story, Part II -
  20. Video - My latest talk at Gurdwara -
  21. Video-  July4th Tippu Sultan -
  22. Video - Quraan Translation/Bhagvad Gita -
  23. Video - Immigration Rally -
  24. Video- Pluralism Prayers -
  25. Video- Pluralism greetings, Chicago -
  26. Video - There are over 200 links on the YouTube.

** There are many such issues, that no one has dared to bring a resolution, for example; the atrocities committed by some of the kings from the Mughal era have deeply wounded the psyche of our Population, Hindus among us are hurt and are subconsciously enslaved to the idea of getting even with Muslims, who have nothing to do with what those kings did, and Muslims on the other hand have not washed their hands completely off the Moghuls, as if they were our relatives. The Sikh Genocide of 1984, the Gujarat Genocide of Muslims, the abusive treatment of Dalits (the misclassified lower rung of the society), and the unchecked reservations system has boomeranged discriminating the well qualified because they are not classified in the lower rung. These will not go away, the simmer inside and act out in denying simple opportunties of life to another Indian. Shame on all of us, that we have not let a fellow Indian feel secure in the pursuit of his or her happiness.We should not let economic problems

Jai Hind

Mike Ghouse
In Summary;

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 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.