Monday, January 4, 2010

The struggle for the soul of Islam

This is the decade of Pluralism, you will see Rabbis, Pastors, Pundits, Imams, Shamans and clergy speaking in terms of generalities, their language would include fair conversation about other faiths.- Mike Ghouse

The struggle for the soul of Islam

The story of the year is the great religious story of our time: the struggle of religions, particularly Islam, to choose an inclusive, tolerant attitude toward those outside the faith (and toward dissenters or those deemed heretics within). The alternative is an intolerance that will destroy us.

The Swiss minaret controversy (where a referendum prohibited the construction of new minarets designed for Mosques) was a useful flashpoint. Here is critic Carlin Romano: "The day that Turkey apologizes and pays reparations for the Armenian genocide, that Saudi Arabia permits the building of churches and synagogues, that the Arab world thinks the homeland principles it applies to the Arabs of Palestine also apply to the Armenians of Turkey--on that day, I will find time to commiserate with the generally kind and hard-working Muslims of Switzerland."

Romano's point is the imbalance in assumptions of tolerance. Europe was dragged, often kicking and screaming, into the pluralism that holds uneasy sway in the West. Yet Christianity did most of its struggling at the 'right' time - in Europe the battle for tolerance was fought in an age before weapons could kill millions at a stroke. Intolerance is ugly enough with a lance or longbow in hand. The fanatic's finger on a nuclear button is catastrophe.

There are encouraging signs of growing moderation. After the Bali bombings Indonesia, the largest Muslim state, has grown more moderate, according to most observers. The recognition of extremism's frightening cost is growing. More prominent moderate voices are heard in the news. Still, the intolerance that edges into savagery is the great civilizational struggle of our day. There is no hiding from it or flinching from its consequences. It will not do to point out the undoubted truth that Christianity has its dangerous fundamentalists (Timothy McVeigh and his ilk) as does Judaism (some of the xenophobic extremists who are Baruch Goldstein's spiritual heirs) and Hinduism and indeed almost every faith on the planet. These individuals or groups are not the predominant population, nor those with power. In numbers, in sway, in the virulence and danger of the ideology, religiously motivated rejectionism and terror is today overwhelmingly a Muslim problem.

None of the other issues: the paranoiac piffle about President Obama's being Muslim, the Pope's strange insensitivity to the legacy of the Holocaust, the role of religion in health care, not even the President's Cairo speech (which is a manifestation of the larger issue of addressing extremism) are more significant than this continuing life and death drama.

Not even the overriding human rights issue of our time - the eradication of the sexual slave trade of women - ultimately takes precedence. In the liberation of women from subjugation however, there are the seeds of a greater liberality of thought and practice. Terrorism is not entirely separable from training in oppressively patriarchal systems. When religion abets suppression it betrays its own ideals and the image of God that is our most precious gift and legacy.

The west has a great deal of work to do in reckoning with its own long history in the Muslim world. We have to take care with our rhetoric and assumptions. Yet clearly and inarguably, how Islam copes with its own extremism is the story of 2009, and will most likely prove the religious story of the age.

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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.