Thursday, July 1, 2010

A good story on co-existence from Punjab, India

 A good story on religious co-existence from Punjab, India


In the past I have posted articles about Muslims managing and maintaining Hindu temples in Bengal or the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and Sikh Gurudwara near Baghdad. Hindus are managing and keeping up with Mosques including maintaining the first Mosque in India in Kerala built around 725 AD, good stories abound about people every where. Pakistan has set aside funds to restore the temples there; Malaysia punished the guys who desecrated a Hindu Temple. Good things are happening 99:1 Ratio; we just don't hear them all. How many people know about the good things you have done today?   


Dr. Harbans Lal, a Sikh Scholar shared the story of Sikhism, and the beauty and birth of the Sikh tradition germinating from interfaith practice. He told me that the land for the Golden Temple (Sikh's holiest shrines) was granted by a Muslim King, and the foundation stone was laid by a Muslim.... and then most of the Guru Granth Saheb was written by people from every possible faith that existed in India some five centuries ago. That reminds me of my own father who contributed towards building the Hanuman Temple in my Town and funded other temples on the occasion of festivals.


In the following article, Joga Singh shares this, "it was just a gesture towards restoring the collective heritage of our village" and I wish every Earthling cares about every religious sanctity, particularly of others with the same sentiments. Joga Singh, you are my hero.


Our media focuses on bad things giving the impression that only bad things happen, indeed they do, but statistically insignificant. Watch the Six o Clock news for the full 22 minutes, you see murder, mayhem, arson, fire, rape... that is indeed the fact of the life but only a tiny-weeny speck of the whole truth.  In Dallas Metroplex, we are nearly 4 million people, sadly less than 1/100th of 1% of people (400) are a witness and some are a victim to this tragedy.  Where as the 99.99% of the Dallasite may not even notice it - All of us go to work and get back home, go to schools and back to the nest.


When will our Media report Good/Bad news in the same proportion; 99:1?


Mike Ghouse is a speaker, writer and a conflict mitigater and a goodwill nurturer offering pluralistic solutions on issues of the day and is a frequent guest on the media.  His  work is reflected at three websites & twenty two Blogs listed at



Across rural Punjab, Sikhs and Hindus are helping restore mosques destroyed during Partition
Punjab: mosque
Shades Of The Old Punjab
Across rural Punjab, Sikhs and Hindus are helping restore mosques destroyed during Partition

Brothers In Arms

  • Around 200 mosques across Punjab have been repaired, rebuilt or built from scratch with the help of Sikhs and Hindus in the last 10 years
  • Many destroyed during Partition riots are now being restored by village communities
  • In some cases, the Jamaat-e-Islami is involved, but most are unorganised village-level efforts
  • It's a reassertion, after decades, of Punjab's unique religious and cultural synthesis


The Ghuman family of Sarwarpur, near Ludhiana, cannot understand what the fuss is about. Ever since Sajjan Singh Ghuman, an NRI Sikh living in England, rebuilt a mosque in his native village that was damaged during Partition, the shrine, as well as his family back home, have attracted the curiosity of  outsiders. "We never imagined we would be on a Punjabi TV channel just because my elder brother rebuilt this small mosque for the poor Muslim families of our village. For him, it was just a gesture towards restoring the collective heritage of our village," says Sajjan's brother, Joga Singh, who manages the family's lands in Sarwarpur. Sure. But what Joga and his family, or even  the TV channel, do not know is that the sentiment that inspired his brother's act is being manifested in scores of villages across Punjab, with Sikhs and Hindus joining hands to either rebuild old and damaged mosques or build new ones. Odd? Perhaps. But Punjab, as admirers of its unique religious synthesis say, has always defied stereotypes to do its own thing.

That spirit comes through clearly in the actions of a group of school and college boys from 600-year-old Ajitwal village near Moga. During Partition, when Muslims fled Ajitwal, just as they fled in waves from other parts of Punjab, an ancient village mosque was vandalised. As years passed, someone encroached on its grounds and the place became a village dumping ground. A neem tree on its compound became a hang-out for the village youth. One day, a bunch of boys decided to clear the muck. Within days, the entire village—now made up of Hindus and Sikhs—joined them. Says 20-year-old Laddi: "We were never short of money or material. Anyone who passed this way would contribute in cash or kind. Someone brought five bags of cement, another donated bricks and so on...." This, when there were no permanent Muslim families left in the village. But, once repaired, the mosque began to be used. A few Muslim migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, labourers and petty tradespeople, began praying here. A maulvi from a neighbouring village now comes to conduct Friday namaaz. To the delight of 80-year-old Nachattar Kaur, who was born and brought up here, the sound of the azaan (call to prayer) is being heard again, after decades. "We have always believed in this shrine," she says. "It is a house of God. God bless these boys for restoring the oldest relic of our village."

Muezzin's call: Worshippers at the Dhuri mosque

In Malerkotla, the headquarters of the state unit of Jamaat-e-Islami (Hind), publisher and Jamaat member Ramzan Sayeed, who has also translated the Quran into Punjabi, observes, "It is only in Punjab that Sikhs and Hindus are helping to build masjids with tractors, labour and money." That this should happen at a time when Islamists are being reviled and resisted across the world makes it remarkable; and that it should be happening in a land where the soil is soaked with the blood of Partition, and stories of murder, rape and looting have been passed down the generations, renders it especially significant.

In the months after Partition, some 50,000 mosques across present-day Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh were destroyed, burnt or converted into temples and gurudwaras—homes, even. Today, Muslims comprise just 1.5 per cent of Punjab's population, mostly migrant labour from UP and Bihar and some Gujjar families from Jammu and Kashmir who have settled here, in addition to small pockets of Muslims, such as those belonging to Malerkotla, who did not go to Pakistan in 1947.

Not mere mortar and bricks Students of Ajitwal village, near Moga, rebuilt the ancient masjid

However, in the last decade or so, the Jamaat has managed, with extraordinary village-level support, including money and materials, to free and revive about 120 mosques. Scores of others, like the one at Ajitwal, have been revived or rebuilt purely by villagers themselves. Jamaat president Arshad Ali told Outlook, "We consciously involve Sikhs and Hindus whenever we help build a new mosque or repair an old one; and every time, the community's response is overwhelming." He reels off the names of scores of villages where this has happened. One of them, Diwa Gandwan in Fatehgarh Sahib, has only 17 Muslim families, most of them poor labourers. Mohammed Jameel, a farm labourer who lives in the village, told Outlook, "We never imagined we could have a masjid of our own, but we do now. It would not have been possible without the help of the Sikh landlords here, who filled up the low-lying area by bringing us earth in their tractor trollies." The first brick of the mosque was laid by a Sikh priest from Fatehgarh Sahib, who also donated money.

Arshad Ali contrasts this attitude with the one that prevailed when he began working for the Jamaat in Punjab some 30 years ago: "We used to face opposition whenever we tried to assert ourselves. But all that has changed now. Our effort to construct masjids is helping foster religious brotherhood in Punjab." Hassan Mohammed, the imam of the Jama Masjid at Mandi Gobindgarh, recalls that last year, when he tried to mobilise Muslims of Jhampur village to rebuild their village mosque, they were afraid of even the suggestion. He then approached the sarpanch, a Jat Sikh, who immediately got a few boys to clear the overgrown area. Other villagers chipped in with contributions in cash and kind and, soon, what was once a crumbling ruin became a vibrant place of worship. Such stories abound in rural Punjab today.

There are no clear-cut answers for why this is happening. It helps, clearly, that Muslims are only a tiny, largely poor, community here, no threat to anyone, and that sympathy for the underdog is a distinctive Punjabi—especially Jat Sikh—trait. But that's only a partial explanation, as is the other obvious one—that this is a manifestation of collective guilt over the atrocities committed by Sikhs and Hindus against Muslims during Partition.

Guilt could be a factor, acknowledges Sikh historian and writer Prof Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon, "There is no doubt," he says, "that the atrocities of Partition are a blot on the history of the Sikhs. We, as a martial race, are not supposed to attack the weak and unarmed, but it happened, and ever since then, there has been remorse." He recalls how a few years before his death, Gurcharan Singh Tohra, long-time president of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), confessed that he too had killed a Muslim during the Partition riots and felt haunted by his act. Possibly to atone for the act, Tohra constructed a mosque in his native village and laid its first brick with his own hands.

On the other hand, much of the present effort to revive mosques is coming from a generation that does not have the blood of Partition on its hands; one that has witnessed and endured, rather, the violent Sikh separatism during the '80s. That's why Pramod Kumar, director of the Chandigarh-based Institute of Development and Communications, feels this is "the collective reassertion of Punjab's unique cultural synthesis" and "an attempt to build a secular Punjabi identity, as opposed to a communal identity or religious one".

But predictably, radical Sikh scholar, Prof Gurtej Singh, takes a different line: "This is an instinctive manifestation of the Sikh's disillusionment with a Hindu-dominated Indian state that has done all it can to obliterate Sikh identity. During Partition, we were made to believe that Muslims were our enemies and we massacred them in large numbers. We have now realised that not Muslims, but Hindu-dominated parties like the BJP are the real threat to our identity." Pointing out that Sikhs and Muslims have gradually come to value each other, he relates an anecdote about Shia Muslims recently discovering how Sikhs protected one of their shrines in Samana in Punjab, and how they are returning the gesture by helping Sikhs build gurudwaras in the Gulf. He also lauds Pakistan for enacting a Sikh Marriage Act which he helped draft, whereas India is yet to do so. "These things," he says, "accumulate in the popular psyche, and manifest themselves in various ways".

Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims at the mosque site

But try telling 67-year-old Kesar Singh or 24-year-old Kamal Vohra that this is only a story of Sikh-Muslim bhaichara. Kesar, a Jat Sikh farmer from Ratia, some 15 km from Dhuri, a Hindu-dominated town in Sangrur district, and Kamal, a Hindu whose family migrated from Sialkot in Pakistan, have slogged shoulder to shoulder for days to rebuild Dhuri's lone mosque. Kesar admits to a special bond with the mosque, which he visits every week, along with 20 other Sikhs of Ratia, for Friday namaaz. "The old imam has been my friend for the last 50 years and I enjoy his liberal interpretation of the Quran," says he. But when the old mosque was demolished to make a bigger structure, it wasn't just Sikhs but the entire Hindu mohalla that helped dig the foundations. Hindus and Sikhs from nearby villages, too, contributed with hefty donations. As always, Punjab never fails to surprise.


  1. I am surprised to read this comon bhaichara of Sikhs and Hindus. It is quite surprising. I agree with Prof Gurtej Singh That real enemy of our society is BJP. The partition of 1947 was because of them. The sow the seed of hatred and nothing else. Even today the are doing the same thing. Once,when world trade tower incident ocured in sep,2000. a sikh man petrol pump owner was killed there in USA, it was an incident of mistaken identity, later on American Authority apoligised for it. But in Delhi a protest was there ,tken out by BJP leaders. Many Sikh students from various schools gathered there at Teen Murti to show their anger against America that ocured after the World Trade Tower attack. Most of the sikhs were chased and beaten by American people,due to mistaken identity. Because Skhs were wearing White Turban and untied beard. Madan lal khurana was also invited by local sikh organisition. I was anoyed to hear from madan lal khurana that "Sikh kaum hinduon ki raksha ke lieya bani hai". This means that Sikhs are paid body gards of this BJP Kaum. They can do what ever they like to say and never repent for what-ever they have said. No one opposes them. This communal force is misusing the brave Sikh community for their selfish motive. Sikhs are the brave marshl kaom.They help the needful people. The Whole World knows this and respects the brave Sikh community. They are never bonded chowkidars or body gaurd of communal forces. My parents also migrated from Western Punjab (Montgomery district. Renalakhurd 4 chak.They love it very much.

  2. It's Brilliant post and also image. I liked it.



Email to:

Voice of Moderate Muslims

Voice of Moderate Muslims
Voice of Moderate Muslims

Moderate Islam Speaker

Moderate Islam Speaker
Moderate Islam Speaker

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.