Tuesday, March 10, 2009

India's 'Slumdog' Role Model

Eboo Patel, the author of the article is just 33 and an adviser to President Obama on inter-faith issues.

Zafar Iqbal

India's 'Slumdog' Role Model

The first thing Allah Rakha (A R) Rahman did when he arrived back on Indian soil after picking up two Oscars in Hollywood was to offer prayers at a Sufi shrine. Rahman, who won two Oscars for the music he created for "Slumdog Millionaire", accepted Islam in the late 1980s, after experiencing a dream sequence calling him into the faith. He has been on Haj multiple times and is regular in his five daily prayers. That he makes dance music for Indian beauties and seeks guidance at the mausoleums of Muslim saints only affirms his place in the mainstream of Indian Islam.

India has long been at the center of Muslim pluralism, a movement with three core elements:

1) A spiritual ethic defined by the Islamic concept of Tawheed, the idea that God is all-pervasive;
2) A social ethic that views those of other creeds as partners in the journey to serve God and humanity;

3) A cultural ethic that seeks to absorb the multiple identities of faith, nation, ethnicity and language, understanding this multiplicity as mutually enriching rather than mutually exclusive.

Artists like AR Rahman are not the only exemplars of Muslim pluralism in India. Many of India's most important historical figures embodied this ethic as well. The 16th Century Mughal Emperor Akbar once wrote, "Divine mercy attaches itself to every form of creed ... The eternal God is bounteous to all souls and conditions of men."

The famous freedom fighter and compatriot of Gandhi, Maulana Azad, said: "I am a Mussalman and proud of the fact. The spirit of Islam guides and helps me forward. I am proud of being an Indian. I am part of that indivisible unity that is the Indian nationality. I am indispensable to this noble edifice and without me this splendid structure of India is incomplete. I am an essential element that has gone to build India."

On my recent trip to India, I found Muslim pluralism alive and well in both the civic and intellectual life in India. In Delhi, Dr. Syed Zafar Mahmood opened a meeting of the Interfaith Coalition for Peace by pointing out that the Qur'an says that God has sent messengers to every nation, and certainly would not have ignored a great nation like India. "Therefore I conclude that Lord Krishna and Lord Buddha are part of the many messengers that God sent to humanity, and I worship and respect them along with the Prophet Muhammad." His organization has been organizing interfaith peace camps with religiously diverse young people and interfaith women's journeys across India.

In Mumbai, the tireless Dr. Zeenat Shaukat Ali's WISDOM Foundation, has been bringing together the religious leadership of that city to sponsor everything from interfaith sports programs to interfaith arts projects. These diverse religious leaders played an important role in keeping Mumbai peaceful after the attacks of 11/26.

Such projects exemplify Indian Islam, the scholar Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer told me. There are two reasons for this. First, though Islam might have entered India through the sword of the warrior, it spread through the love songs of the Sufi. Islamic orthodoxy has never had a wide following in India. As proof, he pointed out that Indians of all faiths make pilgrimages to the shrines of Sufi saints, but there is not one popular monument to an orthodox Muslim scholar in the country.

Second, because Islam has always been a minority faith in India, it has long learned to accommodate itself, to get along with the majority, to strike alliances with those from different communities. Far from this flexibility compromising the faith, Indian Muslims consider it characteristic of their tradition.

The Indian Muslim writer MJ Akbar agrees. Over early evening snacks at a hotel in Delhi, he told me that the great idea of India is that different communities are meant to live together, and that such coexistence is actually the key to success and creativity. The Hindu puritans and the Muslim puritans share a common belief not only in a narrow orthodoxy but also in a desire to dominate others -- from women to people of other faiths. But these movements have consistently met with failure, both in economics and at the ballot box. There are Muslim countries, Akbar told me, that are attempting to build themselves up on Islamic Puritanism and oil. Indian Muslims are building themselves on creativity and coexistence. "They may have a temporary checkbook, but we will have a sustainable economy."

And, as the success of A R Rahman illustrates, a culture that can be embraced by the world.

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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.