Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pluralism and Volunteerism


I am pleased to share the following article on Pluralism from Jakarta, Indonesia. To be religious is to be a pluralist, one who consistently works on mitigating conflicts and nurturing good will. If we can learn to accept and respect the God given uniqueness of each one of the 7 billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

Mike Ghouse

Pluralism is not a solution; think altruism, volunteerism

Anand Krishna, Jakarta

"Pluralism is a ground fact here, so we have to accept it," says a politician whose party has a set of religious dogmas and doctrines as its guiding principles.

"Pluralism is against our beliefs," says a clergyman who represents the very same religious beliefs, dogmas and doctrines.

The politician may sound more tolerant and moderate than the clergyman, but actually both are saying the same thing. The politician does not appreciate pluralism, he only accepts it -- in his words he "respects" it -- because it is a fact here. This country is a pluralist country. This nation is pluralist, so he has to accept it.

Tolerance is never effortless. Tolerance can never be genuine and sincere. We cannot tolerate someone or something without a reason, whatever the reason is. A politician must tolerate, accept or honor pluralism because he has something to gain from it. He does not do so without any reason. He has his political agenda to take care of. He does so to ensure a larger constituency, more votes and of course more power.

A clergyman rejects pluralism outright because of the very same reasons in different terms. His constituency and votes are the "number" of people adhering to his interpretation of religious dogmas and doctrines. His power is the "blind faith" of such people in him. He cannot risk the possibility of losing them by accepting pluralism. He must stick to the principle, "However good others are, I am the best".

Both acceptance and rejection of pluralism actually mean one and the same thing. Neither is better than the other. As such, pluralism itself loses its value, importance and usefulness. Pluralism is not beneficial. In fact, it is harmful. For the very word "plural" is against the word "singular" -- therefore the conflict between the two cannot be avoided.

It is high time that we stop looking for comfort and solution in pluralism. We have been fighting each other because of pluralism. Let us find comfort and solution in something else, in something with a higher value than pluralism. Let us go beyond both, the singular and the plural.

Singular represents the number one and plural represents the number two or more. Now, numbers are mathematics. And mathematics is part of our left brain hemisphere. This is the part of our brain which is concerned with logic, which calculates profits and losses. Both the politician and the clergy are left brain people. They are logicians. They are concerned with their profits and losses. Hence, both have failed in delivering something of a higher value to this country.

Both the politician and the clergyman may stand on the roadside with sacks of rice or money to distribute to the less privileged ones, but don't you get deluded by them. They are not being charitable. The politician does so to win the election. The clergyman does the same to ensure a plot in heaven. Both have their personal interests in view.

What we need today, as recently pointed out by United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki Moon, is the spirit of volunteerism and altruism. We need people who can work without any personal motive and interest. We need people who can serve the society without thinking of their personal gain.

We need people who do not think in terms of singularism (I have just coined the word) and pluralism -- but in terms of what we Indonesians call kebhinekaan and keberagaman. It is very difficult to explain the two near synonyms in English. Both imply a "conscious, genuine and sincere appreciation, and not mere tolerance, toward the differences".

The founding fathers of the United States very well understood this. John Leland, a Baptist evangelist who worked with Jefferson and Madison to secure religious freedom in Virginia, said: "Let every man speak freely without fear, maintain the principle that he believes, worship according to his own faith, either one God, three Gods, no God, or twenty Gods; and let government protect him in doing so."

The first principle of our nation's ideology Pancasila speaks of ketuhanan or religiousness as the highest value. It does not define the word further, for one's belief is a personal matter, and cannot be defined by another. Our founding fathers were really genius.

Back to the United States, the agnostic Robert Ingersoll said in 1876 the nation was a place where religion had to make its own way; there would be no preferential treatment: "Every church has exactly the same rights, and no more; every religion has the same rights, and no more."

Once, we believed in the very same principles -- and we became a great nation. With all the domestic problems, our Sukarno was a name to reckon with. It was with a deep sense of pride that we would introduce ourselves overseas as a citizen of Sukarno's Indonesia. Alas, that sense of pride is now gone.

Let us think, and think hard what made Sukarno great. It was his openness, his genuine appreciation toward the differences, his firm belief in kebhinekaan and keberagaman. Politically and economically, he may be judged incorrect by many. But humanly he was 100 percent correct. Today, we still remember him for his humanity. History shall forget his mistakes in all other fields, but shall always remember his right attitude toward differences.

Indonesia is not divided between the Muslims and non-Muslims; Indonesia is not divided between the so-called believers and non-believers or infidels; Indonesia is not divided between the converts and non-converts. Indonesia, as Sukarno rightly said, "belonged" equally and alike to one and all. All for one, and one for all.

This broad view, this concept and philosophy of life, is currently being challenged by our own people -- by those who were educated overseas where such a concept is taboo. These people are everywhere, including but not limited to our Cabinet, our legislative body, our political parties and the streets. Some of them claim to be militant but nonviolent, others endorse violence. They conceal their relationship with each other, but actually they have the same vision, mission, agenda and political ambition.

Many of the issues surrounding pluralism, such as the Ahmadiyah and pornography issues, are "created" to deflect the attention of the general public from the real issues of increasing poverty, hunger, dwindling economy and the sale of our assets to large foreign corporations.

Let us unite to face the actual issues. Let us put an end to the conflict between the singular and the plural, let us go back to our own kebhinekaan and with that spirit save this nation from further degradation.

The writer is a spiritual activist. His websites are aumkar.org, californiabali.org, anandkrishna.org.

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Voice of Moderate Muslims

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Moderate Islam Speaker

Moderate Islam Speaker
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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797



We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration (www.UnitydayUSA.com) held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.

URL- http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2013/08/planned-muslim-response-to-quran_18.html

Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.