Thursday, October 3, 2013

Purpose of Interfaith Dialogue

The purpose of interfaith dialogue is to learn about each other, and to separate the myths from the realities.  To learn about each other as we believe and practice, and not what others say about us or vice-versa.

The bottom line is how do we build a society that all of us can learn to respect the otherness of others, and no one has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of the other. Interfaith efforts are directed towards that goal. 

Prophet Muhammad is the first man to have conducted an interfaith dialogue.  Zarathustra, Moses, Krishna, and even Jesus did not have that opportunity. Prophet Muhammad was dealing with Judaism, Christianity, Pagans and other monotheistic traditions prevalent at that time. It was followed by the Muslims in Spain, and King Akbar in India.

Now we have many groups engaged in interfaith dialogue - there are about three or four of us who teach pluralism ; Aga Khan, Eboo Patel, myself and a few other Muslims. We have zero prejudice towards any faith, and we build Islam while building other faiths as well. Our Islam grows bigger as others faiths also shine.. our Islam does not hinge on diminishing or giving lesser value to other faiths.

Sadly, most of the fellow Americans have a singular perception of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus…. and others, and those perceptions were built up by media.  Even those who have been a part of the interfaith dialogue still are set in what is dished out to them for years.

Interfaith dialogue, removes those myths – hear me out, this is what Judaism is and not what you imagine, this is Islam, and not what you see on Fox…. INTERFAITH dialogue helps put together the real image of the group as opposed to what is out on television.  The input is coming from the respective religious representatives and not defined by someone else. 

How do we do that?
Indeed, in Quran 49:13 God says, I have created you into many tribes, communities…. And the best one among you is the one who knows each other.  God knows there will be conflicts with diversity, and then he tells us the best ones among us are those who learn about each other. Knowledge leads to understanding and understanding to acceptance of each other.

That is the ultimate goal of interfaith – to respect the otherness of others as Pluralism is defined by us.  That is you are who you are, and I am who I am. I will accept you the way you believe, dress, smile and I expect the same from you. In true interfaith meetings, there are no compromises, what is the need? After all it is a belief, and as long as it does not mess with my food, water, space and my loved ones, you are welcome to be who you are, as I will be who I am.

Of course, we will always have a few Muslim spies, Jewish spies, Hindus spies… and a few Muslims, Baha’i and Christians come to convert others, it’s a sport to them to see how many they can hunt.  They are a danger to building cohesive societies where no one has to live in apprehension of the other.

I am part of many groups and including my own – the rule is no one will even hint about conversion, or claim superiority of their faith over others. They can extol their faith, but never put down the other.

I have written quite extensively on the topic… Let me share the negative side of it which are few and far between:
Mike Ghouse
(214) 325-1916 text/talk
Foundation for Pluralism
Studies in Religious Pluralism and societal pluralism
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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.

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