Thursday, November 13, 2008

Saudis' dubious interfaith agenda

The Saudis' dubious interfaith agenda at the UN

The article follows my comments:

While the facts presented in the article below are correct, we have to keep this as a record and encourage the Saudi’s to continue to tread on the path of Pluralism they are embarking on. If we fail to stoke the good, even if it is pretended at this moment, we would be discouraging any such initiatives, and become the blockade for progress. Saudi’s have taken a few good initiatives and hopefully, it would shame them to look at themselves and cause a gradual change.

If the Saudi’s are pursuing their own agenda, they need to clean their house first, they need to reign in on their fringe elemental clerics who shot their reckless fatwa’s on the microphones declaring Shia’s as non-Muslims, they need to orient their religious police that if a Hindu was worshipping Ganesha in the privacy of his own room, he should be left alone, the religious police need harass women who do not wear Hijab. Let the women have the choice to wear or not wear. Qur’aan never said to force any one to do things against their will, let alone compel them.

We may need to think the validity and sustainability of enacting new laws, similar to the effect in the US and Europe along the lines of Criticism of Holocaust, which will land you in Jail. Should the Criminal Laws include provisions where one cannot spread hate, which will consume the society into violence, examples would include denigration of the names of the spiritual masters in other faiths, using religious Icons on foot wear etc. No more derogatory comments about Pagans, Animist and Wicca.

Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker and a Writer on Pluralism, interfaith, terrorism, peace, interfaith, Islam and Multiculturism and India. He is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing interfaith, political and civic issues. His comments, news analysis and columns can be found on the Websites and Blogs listed at his personal website Mike is a Dallasite for nearly three decades and Carrollton is his home town. He can be reached at


The Saudis' dubious interfaith agenda at the UN
The country's lack of religious freedom betrays its lofty rhetoric. The real aim of its 'dialogue' is to promote a global blasphemy law.
By Donald H. Argue and Leonard A. Leo from the November 13, 2008 edition

Washington - World leaders gathering at the United Nations this week for a special session of the General Assembly to advance interfaith dialogue should have no illusions that their efforts will miraculously promote mutual respect between religious communities or end abuses of religious freedom.

Saudi King Abdullah, who initiated this week's special session, is quietly enlisting the leaders' support for a global law to punish blasphemy – a campaign championed by the 56-member Organization of Islamic Conference that puts the rights of religions ahead of individual liberties.

If the campaign succeeds, states that presume to speak in the name of religion will be able to crush religious freedom not only in their own country, but abroad.
The UN session is designed to endorse a meeting of religious leaders in Spain last summer that was the brainchild of King Abdullah and organized by the Muslim World League. That meeting resulted in a final statement counseling promotion of "respect for religions, their places of worship, and their symbols ... therefore preventing the derision of what people consider sacred."

The lofty-sounding principle is, in fact, a cleverly coded way of granting religious leaders the right to criminalize speech and activities that they deem to insult religion. Instead of promoting harmony, however, this effort will exacerbate divisions and intensify religious repression.

Such prohibitions have already been used in some countries to restrict discussion of individuals' freedom vis-à-vis the state, to prevent criticism of political figures or parties, to curb dissent from prevailing views and beliefs, and even to incite and to justify violence.
They undermine the standards codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the keystone of the United Nations, by granting greater rights to religions than to individuals, including those who choose to hold no faith – or who would seek to convert.

Another stark irony hangs over the UN special session this week. Saudi Arabia is one of the world's worst abusers of religious freedom, a fact recognized by the Bush administration when it named it a "country of particular concern" under the International Religious Freedom Act in 2004. The king couldn't hold such a conference at home, where conservative clerics no doubt would purge the guest list of Jews from Israel, Baha'is, and Ahmadis.

The Saudi government permits the public practice of only one interpretation of Islam. This forces the 2-to-3 million Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and other expatriate workers there to leave their convictions at the border, since non-Muslim places of worship are prohibited, non-Muslim religious materials risk confiscation, and even private worship is affected by the strictures.

It also violates the rights of the large communities of Muslims who adhere to Islamic traditions other than the one deemed orthodox by Saudi clerics. In the past two years, dozens of Shiites have been detained for up to 30 days for holding small religious gatherings at home. One Ismaili, Hadi Al-Mutaif, is serving a life sentence after being condemned for apostasy in 1994 for a remark he made as a teenager that was deemed blasphemous. The alleged crime of apostasy, in fact, can be punished by death.

The government's policies are enforced by the Commission to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice, a roving religious police force, armed with whips, that regularly oversteps its authority and is unchecked by the judiciary.

Women seeking to exercise basic freedoms of speech, movement, association, and equality before the law have experienced particularly severe abuse.

In a particularly egregious recent case, a woman was gang-raped as punishment by seven men who found her alone in a car with a man who was not her relative. She escaped the sentence of 200 lashes and six months in prison only because of a pardon by King Abdullah, yet he also said he believed the sentence was appropriate.

Holding a session on advancing interfaith dialogue abroad is a pale substitute for hosting it in the kingdom, where the message of respect for freedom of religion and belief is most needed.

Against the background of Saudi repression and the kingdom's role in exporting extremism, including through school textbooks preaching hatred of "unbelievers," the UN and every world leader attending the special session should be demanding an end to severe violations of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia.

Dialogue is no substitute for compliance with universal human rights standards.
The monarch would make a far greater contribution by exponentially increasing his efforts to promote religious freedom at home, where religious intolerance reigns. A welcome first step would be to release Hadi Al-Mutaif and all other religious prisoners who remain behind bars in Saudi Arabia.

• Donald H. Argue and Leonard A. Leo are members of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

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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 ( 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.


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.