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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Right to Blaspheme Essential to Islam, But No Duty to Blaspheme

It is a good piece by Dr. Shanavas  on freedom of speech as well as blasphemy.

Indeed, Freedom of expression is the God-given right of every human, and is the foundation of civil societies. Indeed, it is the freedom of speech that has allowed Islam to grow in Europe and America. We should honor and respect that freedom with all our heart, mind and spirit. We cannot betray the very ideals that gave us the freedom to be who we are, and we cannot allow anyone to violate others freedom.

Criticism of Islam, Cartoons of the prophet or cursing at the Quran will not make them disappear. Islam is not going anywhere and neither the prophet. They are here for good and nothing will happen to them, and they are not weaklings that seek the protection from ordinary humans. They are beyond all that. Indeed, the acts of these terrorists, who falsely claim to defend the name of the prophet, actually make God and the Prophet Look bad to the affected individuals.

These men need to know, that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was criticized, attempts were made to kill him, and he was even harassed including getting pelted with rocks that hurt him. What did he do in return? Retaliate? Hurt them? None of it, instead he prayed for their well being. If you are a follower of the Prophet, you need to be a mercy to fellow humans and not a terrorist.



Criticism can fade away or rain on us depending on how Muslims respond to it.  Lack of conviction in one's faith breeds intolerance towards criticism, whereas firmness in faith can lead us to learn from criticism, explore the infinite wisdom and realize the strength of our faith (Imaan); a worthy feeling to have, instead of living in doubt and shooing criticism away.

Mike Ghouse
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Right to Blaspheme Essential to Islam, But No Duty to Blaspheme
By T.O. Shanavas, New Age Islam
January 24, 2015

My prayers are with the people of France and with the victims of Muslim terrorists all over the world. If caricature of a prophet can disturb the respect and love of him in his followers, that prophet does not deserve my reverence.

Unlike the terrorists’ prophet, my Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the Qur'an stand tall on the side of free press by asking Muslims to ignore the insults and extend kindness and decency to mockers and in worse cases to withdraw from the source of mockery.

According to Qur’an, the right to blaspheme is essential to the Islamic order, but there is no duty to blaspheme or react violently to blasphemy.

“And verily messengers before you were mocked but in the end, the mockers were overwhelmed by the very thing they ridiculed.” [Qur’an 21:41.]

“Indulge [people] with forgiveness, [accepting] what issues spontaneously from people's manners [of behavior], and do not scrutinize them, and enjoin kindness, decency, and turn away from the ignorant, and do not counter their stupidity with the like.” [Qur’an 7:199]

“You shall most certainly be tried in your possessions and in your persons; and indeed you shall hear many hurtful things from those to whom revelation was granted before your time, as well as from those who have come to ascribe divinity to other beings beside God. But if you remain patient in adversity and conscious of Him - this, behold, is something to set one's heart upon.” [Qur’an 3:186]

“When you see those who engage in discourse about Our signs, the Qur'an, in mockery, turn away from them, and do not sit with them, until they discourse on some other topic…”[Qur’an 6:68]

"And obey not (the behests) of the Unbelievers and the Hypocrites, and ignore their insults, but put thy Trust in Allah. For enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs." (Qur’an 33:48)

None of the verses mentions the abridgement of free speech for non-Muslims even if it is painful, insulting, and indecent. In fact, free speech is abridged for Muslims because they are expected to ignore any mockery and make a polite exit from the scene in Verse 6:68. So, all Muslims must promote and defend free press. An honorable response from Muslims to insult or other matters is clearly defined in the following verses:

“And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel evil deed by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.” [Qur’an 41:34]

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-ideology/to-shanavas,-new-age-islam/right-to-blaspheme-essential-to-islam,-but-no-duty-to-blaspheme/d/101194

Friday, January 23, 2015

Hacking Islamophobia, the non-violent way

Old way:
1. Complain, hold rallies and demonstrate 
2. Write, speak and challenge
3. Attack the other

There is a better way- i.e., To know the other
Phobias are baseless fear of others

Q. Why do others fear Muslims?
A. Because they don't know us.

Quran 49:13 and several verses say the best ones among you are the ones who learn about each other. Knowledge leads to understanding and understanding to acceptance of the otherness of the other, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

How will they get to know us if we sit at home and talk and talk?

Join us on Sunday 3-6 PM at Unity of Dallas 6525 Forest Lane, Dallas, TX 75234 details www.HolocaustandGenocides.com

Thank you

Join us

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Finally! A Muslim apologises for everything

No Muslim should apologize, unless he or she is the murderer or the Killer.  On April 18, 2013, I wrote in Huffington post, "If the Boston terrorist turns out to be a Muslim, haul him off. His religion has nothing to do with his criminal act. No Muslim needs to apologize for the acts of a bad guy either; it would be as if every one of the 8,336,697 New Yorkers would be apologizing to the woman from Seattle for the murders and rapes by fellow New Yorkers. " Full story at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/what-if-boston-terrorist-is-muslim_b_3108305.html  

I am glad in the last few months, more and more Muslims are writing about it, God willing, I will write one more article about it. The following article is a satire on "apology" and makes so much sense. He has hit really hard on diversity and uniformity, that is one gripe I have about Republicans - conformity and I quit being one to remain free and independent. 


Mike Ghouse
World Muslim Congress
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Nothing could make all the victims of terrorist attacks all over the world happier than watching every single Muslim in the world say sorry.

Shehzad Ghias Shaikh
http://scroll.in/article/701150/Finally!--A-Muslim-apologises-for-everything 


After the tragic Charlie Hebdo shootings there has been a call by some people to make all Muslims all over the world apologise for the incident. I completely agree with the sentiment. It is the only way to root out terrorism for once and for all.

Nothing could make all the victims of terrorist attacks all over the world happier than watching every single Muslim in the world say “sorry”. To really drive the point home, we can even send them greeting cards with our heartfelt apologies.

I am sure the world would reciprocate in kind. We can start an apology trend. Once every single Muslim in the world apologises for Charlie Hebdo then we can move on to making every single Christian in the world apologise for Hitler. Hitler’s moustache is for the Christians what an unkempt beard is for the Muslims. I have no idea why mass murderers are so keen on making fashion statements too.

The British can fly all Brits to all their previous colonies and make them all apologise to every single member of those countries. It might be much harder for the Americans to do the same considering the amount of things they have to apologise for. They can make a world tour out of it: Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Vietnam, Palestine, Cuba, Mexico, Spain, England. At this stage it is easier to just name the countries America does not need to apologise for.

“Sorry” should be the first word we should teach all future Muslim kids. We should roam around wearing shirts which say “sorry”, better yet maybe even permanently tattoo “sorry” on our foreheads.

I personally feel responsible for every single person of my faith who does anything. While I am at it, I want to say sorry to every person who got his slippers stolen at the masjid but if and only if you can confirm that the person who stole your slipper was a Muslim. He must have been shouting “Allah o Akbar” while stealing them for you to be sure.

I now fully comprehend why our justice system has such a huge bottleneck of cases. If every single Muslim is responsible for every single thing done by any Muslim, I do not blame the judges for all the delays. The entire Muslim population of the world has to be included as defendants in every case.

I hope Pakistan’s military courts are much more effective. I hope they can follow the efficient model of North Korea, who use the “three generations of punishment” rule. It is the only way to ensure the collective responsibility for one’s actions. Clearly if a person commits a crime, then people who brought that person into the world must be guilty too. And any person a criminal brings to the world is obviously a criminal too.

Pakistan believes in having family businesses: an engineer’s son is an engineer, a politician’s son is a politician ergo a terrorist’s son must be a terrorist. Why should the unborn not suffer just because they do not exist yet?

Every single Muslim that is yet to be born should be brought up being taught to apologise for everything. Why just limit it to Charlie Hebdo? Muslims should apologise for all the ills caused by Muslims to the world.

To make life easier for all parents, I am drafting a generic apology that they can make their kids memorise.
“My name is (Insert Islamically acceptable name here) and I was born into a Muslim family so that makes me guilty of all the things Muslims have ever done. Before you put me in Guantanamo Bay, I just want to say I am deeply sorry.

I would like to apologise for inventing astronomy. The guilt of Al-Sufi naming all the visible stars in 10th century and Abu-Mahmud Khojandi calculating the tilt of the Earth’s axis in 994 AD is something that I still carry with me. It was because if their crimes against humanity that these terrorists are able to accurately calculate the dates for their attacks.

I would like to apologise for Ibn al-Haytham’s contribution to optical science. Had he not discovered all human beings actually see, how would these terrorists be able to see who they were killing? Clearly these Muslim terrorist organisations have been active since the 10th century. Had Al-Haytham not figured out that light travels in straight lines, we would not have the cameras of today that terrorists use to promote their organizations. Al-Haytham was basically the first member of ISIS.

I would like to apologise for Al-Jazari’s water-raising machines, his use of cranks to push water up helped agriculture and in turn fed all these terrorists: While I am on the subject, sorry about creating hospitals too. They are just a needless obstacle in the way of killing terrorists. I have no idea what 10th century Muslim civilisations were thinking providing free 24-hour universal health care to people. At least I am happy they were self-conscious of this insanity and also created the first hospitals for the mentally ill in the world.

The use of the Al Jazari’s ideas lead to the creation of the bicycle giving the world the horrible form of terrorism called the Tour de France. If watching grown men cycling across a country wearing yellow jerseys is not torture, I do not know what is.

I would like to apologise for the invention of windmills, guitars, the hookah and coffee.

I would like to apologise for the role of Muhammad Ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi in the development of algebra and algorithms. If he was alive, I am sure he would be selected for a random spot check in an airport relying on his work for their daily calculations.

I would like to apologise for Al-Jahiz’s theory of the “struggle for existence”. I am sorry for even mentioning it. I realise it is completely contrary to the Science and Islam binary narrative perpetuated freely by networks such as Fox News. How dare I mention that the theory of natural selection actually has roots in a 9th century book of animals called Kitab al-Hayawan.

I would like to apologise for the University of Al Karaouine, recognised as the world’s oldest university that granted degrees to individuals, way back in 859. I am sure they were just handing out degrees in terrorism anyway.

Sorry about the Caliph Harun al-Rashid founding the House of Wisdom in the 9th century. It was his ill intentions that led to the west being exposed to the works of the Greek philosophers. If it wasn’t for him kids in the west would not be terrorised by the works of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle throughout their school lives. I feel their pain.

Sorry for all the art also. And the architecture. All the mosques were meant to be terrorist headquarters anyway so I am glad you took all the inspiration from them and took the techniques out of the religious context. I am not even interested in anything that happened before the Renaissance in Europe. If you tell me it happened out of nowhere then I have no need to trace the traditions back anyway. It is not like things happen in a historical context relying on all the traditions gone by.

I sound like a crazy person even attempting to compare Andy Warhol’s techniques to the repetition of patterns and pictures prevalent in mosques and Islamic architecture so I am going to shut up about it. We all know Muslims hate art anyway.

Trying to read calligraphy is also terrorism, so sorry about that too.

Lastly, I would also like to apologise for the Arabs discovering how to distil water and create alcohol out of fermented fruits. All the Muslims should definitely apologise for all the drunk driving accidents caused around the world

I could go on but I think you realise how sorry I am about everything. I hope you would be able to accept me as one of your own in a way that would make you feel that you are celebrating diversity but in reality you are promoting uniformity. Thank you for letting me retain my token identity while robbing me of my historical traditions. I hope all the future Muslim generations never get to learn about those traditions so that they find it much easier than me to simply associate all things Islam with merely terrorism. It would make it easier to apologise for them.

Apologetically yours,

(English name I have taken up to make you like me more.)
This article first appeared on Shehzad Ghias Shaikh's website and has been used with the permission of the author.
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

British Muslims on a Pluralism tour in America


When a group of people from overseas visits the United States to understand religious landscape of America, I am blessed to receive them and conduct half a day workshop to familiarize them, and address their concerns and issues.

I see three groups of people in a given year and generally they are Muslims from Albania to Zaire and every one in between. I have met with the Muftis of China and Russia to religious ministers from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Chad.... and the like.  


Today, I met the British Muslim youth and for the first time in a decade, the conversation was without translators! It was funny, in the beginning I was speaking with a slow Rick Perry speed as though a translator was going to translate, then I realized my conditioning! It was funny, they probably thought I had speech impediment. 

Shan Bhagat and Rizwan Ali - Thank you for the facility.


My expertise is studies in religious, social, political and cultural pluralism and have been researching, watching and shaping the trends and writing and speaking for the last 22 years.  There are over 800 articles written up on Pluralism - 200 of them are published in Dallas Morning News, and over 100 at Huffington post and other places. There are another 1700 articles, and about 900 are on Islam, the rest are motivational, inspirational, sports, movies, festivals, India, Pakistan, Israel, Palestine and human rights including standing up for others, add to this 520 hours of Radio talk on "Understanding Religion, each beautiful religion" and 26 workshops to learn the wisdom of every tradition including Atheism.
 
Our conversation ranged from dealing with social and political issues during peace times as well as conflicting times starting with the film clip about building a cohesive America. Dealing with the right wing Americans, and civic engagement to bring positive outcomes.

It was a joy to have the conversation with this group, they were thoughtful, critical and above all inclusive! Most of them were open to the idea of reaching out to people of other faiths to build cohesive societies, it was an extended topic. They said, I was speaking to the choir and I liked that very much and gives me hopes that we are doing things to make our lives better.

The British Muslims have similar issues as we do; dealing with right wingers.  The non-sense falsities spread by Gov. Bobby Jindal and Fox News this week about "no go zones" for non-Muslims in UK, France and Europe is a myth.

When I was talking about Prophet Muhammad's examples of being Amin, and the post-story thoughts about Najran Christians and Hudaibiyah treaty - I thought there might be some resistance, but it was a joy, and they clarified it that it was not a radical thought.

I loved this group for being so interactive and open to newer expressions in Islam. I hope to be available to them in the future. They can turn British society around to be more inclusive through their initiatives we discussed today.

When I get the time, I will write the details of this productive constructive conversation.

We have to accept that every society is composed of right wing, left wing, intolerant, ultra liberal and moderates. We have to chart a course with the give situation.
Here is the outline:

PROPHET MUHAMMAD & COHESIVE SOCIETIES
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was the ultimate peace maker, indeed he was called Rahmatul Aalameen, that is mercy to the whole humanity. He believed in building a cohesive society, where no human had to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of the other.

Towards this goal, the first Sunnah or the tradition he established was the Amin Model, a peace building citizen.  Indeed, to be a Muslim is to be a peacemaker who mitigates conflicts and nurtures goodwill.
 
INITIATIVES DURING PEACE TIMES
  

1. Unity Day USA—www.UnityDayUSA.com 

2. Thanksgiving Celebrations—www.ThanksgivingCelebrations.org

3. Holocaust and Genocides—www.HolocuastandGenocides.com 


6. Standing up for others, if you don’t stand up for others, why should any one stand up for you?  Www.Standingupforothers.com 

7. Intra-faith Conference—Shia, Sunni, Ahmadiyya and others
http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2013/02/muslims-talk-with-muslims-at-boniuk.html


9. Ramadan Intra faith and Interfaith Iftaars
http://ramadanexclusive.blogspot.com/

10. Sharia Conference— www.ShariaLaws.com

11. Quran Conference - www.QuraanConference.com 

11. Interfaith Dialogue events.

12. Youth participation
   

IDEAL RESPONSES TO CONFLICTS

2. Quran Cursing Pastor Robert Jeffress—www.QuraanConference.com 

3. Investigating Muslims:  Congressman Peter King
http://peterkinghearings.blogspot.com/






8. Conflicts and issue for discussion

…………………………………………………………….
Mike Ghouse is a public speaker, thinker, writer and a commentator on Pluralism at work place, politics, religion, society, gender, race, culture, ethnicity, food and foreign policy. He is commentator on Fox News and syndicated Talk Radio shows and a writer at major news papers including Dallas Morning News and Huffington Post.  All about him is listed in several links at www.MikeGhouse.net and his writings are at www.TheGhousediary.com and 10 other blogs. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Muslim solutions to Charlie Hebdo

Published at http://thearabdailynews.com/2015/01/11/muslim-solutions-terrorism-paris/
Jan 11, 2015

Outrage, condemnation, candle light vigils and revenge talk is all good, but the need is practical solutions beyond condemnations. Obviously the burden squarely falls on Muslims; we have to grudgingly admit that almost all acts of terror are committed by men claiming to be Muslims in the pretext of defending Islam, Quran and the Prophet. It is our duty to build a better world for all of us to live in peace, and that is all God wants, here is the first step.


By Mike Ghouse

A bunch of terrorists rampaged into an office in Paris and killed 12 persons including four journalists; Charlie Hebdo magazine’s editor and cartoonists, Stéphane Charbonnier, Cabu, Georges Wolinski and Bernard Verlhac. Similarly a bunch of terrorists walked in to a school in Peshawar and massacred 131 innocent children and 17 adults.
What follows is outrage and condemnation of these acts of terror along with candle light vigils and revenge talks. What is grossly missing is solution beyond condemnations.

Obviously the burden squarely falls on Muslims; we have to grudgingly admit that almost all of the acts of terror are committed by men claiming to be Muslims in the pretext of defending Islam, Quran and the Prophet.

If you believe Charlie Hebdo should not have published the cartoons of the prophet, you have a point, and that is how civilized people behave; respectful of other’s sensibilities. However, that does not give a license to the terrorists to kill another human being, in a civil society that we all cohabit, they have a right to disagree and protest it in a civilized manner to bring about respecting the otherness of others, but no one has a right to kill other.
It is the duty of governments to keep law and order and faithfully guard the safety of every citizen. Hate is one of the many sources of disrupting the peace in a society and it is our responsibility to track down the source of such hate and work on mitigating it. We have an obligation to maintain a balance in the society. Those who violate the rights of others deserve all the punishment prescribed in a civil society in a humane manner.
Freedom of expression is the God-given right of every human, and is the foundation of civil societies. Indeed, it is the freedom of speech that has allowed Islam to grow in Europe and America. We should honor and respect that freedom with all our heart, mind and spirit. We cannot betray the very ideals that gave us the freedom to be who we are, and we cannot allow anyone to violate others freedom.
In behalf of World Muslim Congress, I condemn these acts of terrorism and urge the French police to spare no resources to get them, including those who knew about the plan, but did not report to the police, that is outright treason. These guys are dangerous to society at large and Muslims in particular.
What is our responsibility as Muslims?
Islam stands for freedom of expression, there is no compulsion in the matters of faith, and you simply cannot force anyone to believe against his or her will. God insists the plurality of religion many times in Quran – he says, weather you are a Jew, Christian or other, you need not worry, I will take care of you, as long as you take care of my creation; your fellow beings and environment. I gave you a well-balanced world for you to live enjoy and manage, and if you subscribe to that, I will call you a subscriber, follower, surrenderer and submitter to my will in preserving the well balanced peaceful world. Don’t mess with me and my creation, and you are a tiny insignificant speck in the scheme of things, and I am the most powerful, say God is great (Allahu Akbar). Indeed, Allahu Akbar is a call for humility and not killing.
Where did we go wrong?
Many things, but let’s start with Blasphemy Laws. Yes, these laws go against what God want – freedom of expression! The laws also blunt God’s warning – that he does not like the oppressors. Ironically the word “Blasphemy Isn’t Even Mentioned In The Quran” as Fareed Zakaria has pointed out in his article with the same title.
Shamefully, there are books out there, (not the Quran), which proclaim “Gustakh-e-Rasool” – (one who pokes fun at the prophet) deserves to be killed “Wajib Qatal.” A Muslim in India has offered bounty to those who kill blasphemers, and embarrassingly not all, but a significant number of Muslims in Pakistan, Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia have been brain washed to believe in it. They put these secondary books on par with Quran. Indeed, these men over a period of time have unknowingly made some of the Muslim scholars equal to God, a grave sin in Islam.
These men ignore God’s guidance to keep the cohesiveness of the society – including “suicides” “Killing another human” “no compulsion” and “God alone is the master of the day of judgment”.
Criticism of Islam and Cartoons of Prophet
Criticism of Islam, Cartoons of the prophet or cursing at the Quran will not make them disappear. Islam is not going anywhere and neither the prophet. They are here for good and nothing will happen to them, and they are not weaklings that seek the protection from ordinary humans. They are beyond all that. Indeed, the acts of these terrorists, who falsely claim to defend the name of the prophet, actually make God and the Prophet Look bad to the affected individuals. .
These men need to know, that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was criticized, attempts were made to kill him, and he was even harassed including getting pelted with rocks that hurt him. What did he do in return? Retaliate? Hurt them? None of it, instead he prayed for their well being. If you are a follower of the Prophet, you need to be a mercy to fellow humans and not a terrorist.
How do we restore Islam to its pristine place?
And how do Muslims become builders of cohesive societies where no human has to live in fear of the other?
We have to start back with “no compulsion” – if we force, oppress or kill these believers, the battle will never end. It has to begin with cooperation, conferences and education – with long term results on mind, and not quick turnarounds. If things are to be sustained it has to come through free will. Please note that I have not placed the blame on any one; I don’t intend to, that is escaping from the responsibility. We have done the wrong and we have to fix it.
Where do we start?
I would start with a Quran conference the likes of which is at www.QuraanConference.com – We have to develop a theme with specific goals – such as starting with “Understanding Blasphemy” and inviting people with two opposite views. That would be the first step.
God willing, I intend to write a series of articles and hope to organize conferences to make an effort to restore Islam to its pristine purpose; peace and harmony among people and what surrounds them.
It is our duty to build a better world for all of us to live in peace.
To reprint or reproduce the article, please feel free to do so, but kindly credit the publisher and the author. The next article will be about Fixing Sharia Laws.
(Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a Muslim pluralist.)


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Speaking power to satirical truth- Charlie Hebdo and India

Good piece to think. 
Mike Ghouse

A joke or laughter from a position of superiority over other people is unworthy of moral support, although it may obtain legal protection


A joke or laughter from a position of superiority over other people considered inferior is unworthy of moral support, although it may obtain legal protection. The philosopher Jason Stanley pointed out that there is a difference in France between mocking the Pope and mocking Prophet Muhammad. “The Pope is the representative of the dominant traditional religion of the majority of French citizens. Prophet Muhammad is the revered figure of an oppressed minority. To mock the Pope is to thumb one’s nose at a genuine authority, an authority of majority. To mock Prophet Muhammad is to add insult to abuse.” This argument by Mr. Stanley is an instance of humour where the power relation is already precarious — embedded in a culture of white, Western supremacy. So the cartoon may not be speaking resistance to power, but may itself be embodied in power, ridiculing the powerless.



To be clear, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Prime Minister Narendra Modi may show their support to France, but the Indian legal framework would most likely never tolerate such cartoons. Be it the Hicklin test in Ranjit Udeshi (1964) or the Community Standards test in Aveek Sarkar (2014), there is little doubt that the images would be held obscene under Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code by the Supreme Court (“…a book, pamphlet, paper, writing, drawing, painting, representation, figure or any other object, shall be deemed to be obscene if it is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect…”). The threat of public disorder is etched deep in our judicial psyche, and the probability that Charlie Hebdo-styled art would receive protections under Article 19 of the Constitution (freedom of expression) is almost close to impossible. Does that mean India is less of a liberal democracy by doing this? The debate is fast becoming a “liberal democracy” versus “religious extremism” rupture, but it is not clear whether liberty has such a clear moral victory over these offended subjects of humour.

Courtesy Hindu 

Speaking power to satirical truth

UNITED IN GRIEF: “There is absolutely no justification for the brutal attacks on ‘Charlie Hebdo’, and solidarity with the publication is unconditional.” Over 40 world leaders marched with thousands at the Republique Square in Paris in a unity march to honour the 17 victims of terrorism set off by the massacre of 12 journalists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. File photo

A joke or laughter from a position of superiority over other people is unworthy of moral support, although it may obtain legal protection
Charlie Hebdo was brutally attacked for its dark sketches of humour; for apparently talking ‘satire to power.’ French President Francois Hollande called the attacks an assault on “the expression of freedom,” and liberal democracies globally have shown their support to protectthis freedom. Cartoonists in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo sketched the incongruity of a pencil and a gun. But what explains this incongruity? What is it about satirical humour that can invite such anger or can justify its protection, even through so-called “legitimate” state violence? 
Novelist Salman Rushdie, a victim/perpetrator of such violence, calls this “art of satire” a “force of liberty against tyranny.” Spanish painter Francisco Goya was at odds with Fernando VII for the cartoons that he sketched, and it was Honore Daumier’s caricatures of King Louise-Philippe and the French legislature that landed him in prison. Before I continue, here are two disclaimers: first, interrogating the value of humour or satire does not in any way imply justifying the attack and the killings, for these are separate categories. Second, several of the anti-Islamic cartoons of Charlie Hebdo are not really ‘satires’ in the strict sense, for they seem to lack the complexity and the nuances implicit in the genre.

A shared world

Understanding a joke presupposes a common social world; a shared intersubjective community. There need not be an agreement about the worth of the joke itself, but it presupposes the fact that a sense of humour requires a shared lifeworld and not an individualistic, solipsistic and atomised world. Humour is, therefore, highly local; it throws light on our situation, it tells us something about who we are, it brings back to consciousness the hidden and it familiarises the unspoken. Umberto Eco wrote an illuminating essay on something as trivial as eating peas with a fork in airline food — transforming the real and everyday into something surreal and unfamiliar. R.K. Laxman’s political cartoons, ‘The Common Man,’ used domestic, everyday images of a middle-class family to challenge mainstream politics. Although he mounts a successful challenge to politics, his portrayals of domesticity unknowingly reveal gendered relations within Indian homes, for instance, between the husband and wife. In a similar analogy, as the Marxist commentator Richard Seymour suggests, Charlie Hebdo may be mocking the extremists, but that mocking itself reveals a certain racist undertone.

The mechanism of humour, caricatures and satires is to distance us from the local and the familiar and transform it to the unfamiliar. This “distancing” helps us to better see the absurdity in our social conditions. English philosopher Simon Critchley uses religious metaphors to suggest that laughter has a “messianic” and a “redemptive power” because it can reveal a situation and also indicate how it might have changed. But the flip side of jokes and satires being highly context-specific and localised is that humour can often also be parochial, ridiculing outsiders and foreigners. Watching “Monty Python” now, three decades since it was made, I realise the parochial stereotyping that the film indulges in. 

Is humour and this “art of satire” — in itself and inherently — worthy of protection as several are claiming it to be? Not necessarily. A joke or laughter from a position of superiority over other people considered inferior is unworthy of moral support, although it may obtain legal protection. The philosopher Jason Stanley pointed out that there is a difference in France between mocking the Pope and mocking Prophet Muhammad. “The Pope is the representative of the dominant traditional religion of the majority of French citizens. Prophet Muhammad is the revered figure of an oppressed minority. To mock the Pope is to thumb one’s nose at a genuine authority, an authority of majority. To mock Prophet Muhammad is to add insult to abuse.” This argument by Mr. Stanley is an instance of humour where the power relation is already precarious — embedded in a culture of white, Western supremacy. So the cartoon may not be speaking resistance to power, but may itself be embodied in power, ridiculing the powerless.

To be clear, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Prime Minister Narendra Modi may show their support to France, but the Indian legal framework would most likely never tolerate such cartoons. Be it the Hicklin test in Ranjit Udeshi (1964) or the Community Standards test in Aveek Sarkar (2014), there is little doubt that the images would be held obscene under Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code by the Supreme Court (“…a book, pamphlet, paper, writing, drawing, painting, representation, figure or any other object, shall be deemed to be obscene if it is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect…”). 

The threat of public disorder is etched deep in our judicial psyche, and the probability that Charlie Hebdo-styled art would receive protections under Article 19 of the Constitution (freedom of expression) is almost close to impossible. Does that mean India is less of a liberal democracy by doing this? The debate is fast becoming a “liberal democracy” versus “religious extremism” rupture, but it is not clear whether liberty has such a clear moral victory over these offended subjects of humour.


There is absolutely no justification for the brutal attacks on Charlie Hebdo, and solidarity with the publication is unconditional. The attempt here is to merely nuance the debates on the second aspect of this issue: the rhetoric of liberal, democratic free speech.


The notion of “power” is being ignored in our thinking about free speech in liberal democracies. Liberalism may encourage liberty and autonomy in speech and expression, but we are not abstract individuals freely expressing our thoughts in an ideal society. We are thrown into a shared and coexistent world where power relations obscure the suspicious neatness of liberalism.

rajgopal.saikumar@thehindu.co.in

UNITED IN GRIEF: “There is absolutely no justification for the brutal attacks on ‘Charlie Hebdo’, and solidarity with the publication is unconditional.” Over 40 world leaders marched with thousands at the Republique Square in Paris in a unity march to honour the 17 victims of terrorism set off by the massacre of 12 journalists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. File photo
AP

Sunday, January 11, 2015

What is Pluralism

WHAT IS PLURALISM? 
Pluralism is an attitude of respecting the otherness of others
 

We have crystallized the definition of pluralism to, “respecting the otherness of the others and accepting the uniqueness of each one of us”. Pluralism is nothing but an attitude of live and let live, and it is applicable in every aspect of life including culture, society, religion, politics, gender, food, ethnicity, race and other uniqueness’s.

Our Objective is to prepare an individual to function effectively in a multi-faith, multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-sexually oriented society with least conflicts. 

In cultural terms, Pluralism is recognizing your culture as a beautiful expression of life to you, as my own culture is to me. When it comes to food, it is recognizing that you will almost always enjoy what your taste buds are trained to enjoy, you might enjoy a well done steak while, I may relish the medium rare I delight, or vice-versa.  Religiously, it is learning to honor the way you worship or bow to the creator in gratitude, your faith is divine to you as my faith is divine to me.  As beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, faith is in the heart of the believer.


By the end of 2020, there will not be a major city in America, and perhaps in the world, 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.  If you live amidst others, you must also respect the otherness of others, as you expect them to do the same for you.
You are who you are, and I am who I am. As long as we don't mess with each others space, sustenance and nurturance, and mind our own business, we all will do well.  If we can learn to respect the otherness of other and accept the God-given uniqueness of each one of the seven billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

Pluralism is not a set of rules, it is simply the attitude of live and let live religiously, politically, culturally and socially.  We are committed to building cohesive societies, where no human has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of a fellow being.
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 my personal choice, 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 bridges between cohabitants of the given space, communities and nations in creating that elusive kingdom of heaven where all live their lives without apprehension or fear of the other.

Ideal society is where, no individual has to live in apprehension or fear of the other, live his or her own life and let others live theirs. If we can learn to accept the otherness of others, and respect the God given uniqueness of each one of the 7 billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

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Mike Ghouse has done extensive work on pluralism and interfaith for nearly two decades and is considered an expert in monitoring the interfaith movements.  He has written over 150 articles on Pluralism at Dallas Morning News, nearly 100 pieces at Huffington Post, and together over 1000 pieces published in different media outlets. 

Mike has conducted 26 Workshops from Atheism to Zoroastrianism, and 520 hours of Radio talk show on every faith and tradition and nearly 100 Shows on Fox News with Sean Hannity. Organized and presented 35 major public events over a course of 20 years.

Mike Ghouse is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. Mike 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 and regularly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. The blog www.TheGhousediary.com is updated daily. Talk/Text (214) 325-1916

His interfaith, Islam, motivational speaker profiles and CV are all linked atwww.MikeGhouse.net