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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Qur’aan Conference, an American event


Qur’aan Conference, an American event

From times immemorial Religion has been “abused” and “misused” to someone gain, usually for controlling others. Are we going to let that happen? As Americans, we can pull ourselves together and not fall for the temptations to divide ourselves. No American has to live in fear of the other, nor live in anxieties or discomfort.

All our faiths reinforce the creed of "One Nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.” Details at http://www.quraanconference.com/

Mike Ghouse is a speaker on Pluralism and Islam offering pluralistic solutions to the media and public on issues of the day. His blogs and sites are listed at www.MikeGhouse.net

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Obama Will Triumph — So Will America

Obama Will Triumph — So Will America
By Frank Schaeffer

Before he’d served even one year President Obama lost the support of the easily distracted left and engendered the white hot rage of the hate-filled right. But some of us, from all walks of life and ideological backgrounds -- including this white, straight, 57-year-old, former religious right wing agitator, now progressive writer and (given my background as the son of a famous evangelical leader) this unlikely Obama supporter -- are sticking with our President. Why?-- because he is succeeding.

We faithful Obama supporters still trust our initial impression of him as a great, good and uniquely qualified man to lead us.

Obama’s steady supporters will be proved right. Obama’s critics will be remembered as easily panicked and prematurely discouraged at best and shriveled hate mongers at worst.

The Context of the Obama Presidency

Not since the days of the rise of fascism in Europe, the Second World War and the Depression has any president faced more adversity. Not since the Civil War has any president led a more bitterly divided country. Not since the introduction of racial integration has any president faced a more consistently short-sighted and willfully ignorant opposition – from both the right and left.

As the President’s poll numbers have fallen so has his support from some on the left that were hailing him as a Messiah not long ago; all those lefty websites and commentators that were falling all over themselves on behalf of our first black president during the 2008 election.

The left’s lack of faith has become a self-fulfilling “prophecy”-- snipe at the President and then watch the poll numbers fall and then pretend you didn’t have anything to do with it!

Here is what Obama faced when he took office-- none of which was his fault:

# An ideologically divided country to the point that America was really two countries

# Two wars; one that was mishandled from the start, the other that was unnecessary and immoral

# The worst economic crisis since the depression

# America’s standing in the world at the lowest point in history

# A country that had been misled into accepting the use of torture of prisoners of war

# A health care system in free fall

# An educational system in free fall

# A global environmental crisis of history-altering proportions (about which the Bush administration and the Republicans had done nothing)

# An impasse between culture warriors from the right and left

# A huge financial deficit inherited from the terminally irresponsible Bush administration…

And those were only some of the problems sitting on the President’s desk!

“Help” from the Right?

What did the Republicans and the religious right, libertarians and half-baked conspiracy theorists -- that is what the Republicans were reduced to by the time Obama took office -- do to “help” our new president (and our country) succeed? They claimed that he wasn’t a real American, didn’t have an American birth certificate, wasn’t born here, was secretly a Muslim, was white-hating "racist", was secretly a communist, was actually the Anti-Christ, (!) and was a reincarnation of Hitler and wanted “death panels” to kill the elderly!

They not-so-subtly called for his assassination through the not-so-subtle use of vile signs held at their rallies and even a bumper sticker quoting Psalm 109:8. They organized “tea parties” to sound off against imagined insults and all government in general and gathered to howl at the moon. They were led by insurance industry lobbyists and deranged (but well financed) “commentators” from Glenn Beck to Rush Limbaugh.

The utterly discredited Roman Catholic bishops teamed up with the utterly discredited evangelical leaders to denounce a president who was trying to actually do something about the poor, the environment, to diminish the number of abortions through compassionate programs to help women and to care for the sick! And in Congress the Republican leadership only knew one word: “No!”

In other words the reactionary white, rube, uneducated, crazy American far right,combined with the educated but obtuse neoconservative war mongers, religious right shills for big business, libertarian Fed Reserve-hating gold bug, gun-loving crazies, child-molesting acquiescent “bishops”, frontier loons and evangelical gay-hating flakes found one thing to briefly unite them: their desire to stop an uppity black man from succeeding at all costs!

“Help” from the Left?

What did the left do to help their newly elected president? Some of them excoriated the President because they disagreed with the bad choices he was being forced to make regarding a war in Afghanistan that he’d inherited from the worst president in modern history!

Others stood up and bravely proclaimed that the President’s economic policies had “failed” before the President even instituted them! Others said that since all gay rights battles had not been fully won within virtually minuets of the President taking office, they’d been “betrayed”! (Never mind that Obama’s vocal support to the gay community is stronger than any other president’s has been. Never that mind he signed a new hate crimes law!)

Those that had stood in transfixed legions weeping with beatific emotion on election night turned into an angry mob saying how "disappointed" they were that they’d not all immediately been translated to heaven the moment Obama stepped into the White House! Where was the “change”? Contrary to their expectations they were still mere mortals!

And the legion of young new supporters was too busy texting to pay attention for longer than a nanosecond… “Governing”?! What the hell does that world, uh, like mean?”

The President’s critics left and right all had one thing in common: impatience laced with little-to-no sense of history (let alone reality) thrown in for good measure. Then of course there were the white, snide know-it-all commentators/talking heads who just couldn’t imagine that maybe, just maybe they weren’t as smart as they thought they were and certainly not as smart as their president. He hadn’t consulted them, had he? So he must be wrong!

The Obama critics' ideological ideas defined their idea of reality rather than reality defining their ideas—say, about what is possible in one year in office after the hand that the President had been dealt by fate, or to be exact by the American idiot nation that voted Bush into office… twice!

Meanwhile back in the reality-based community – in just 12 short months -- President Obama:

#Continued the draw down the misbegotten war in Iraq
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

#Thoughtfully and decisively picked the best of several bad choices regarding the war in Afghanistan
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

#Gave a major precedent-setting speech supporting gay rights
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

#Restored America’s image around the globe
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

#Banned torture of American prisoners
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

#Stopped the free fall of the American economy
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

#Put the USA squarely back in the bilateral international community
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

#Put the USA squarely into the middle of the international effort to halt global warming
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

#Stood up for educational reform
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

#Won a Nobel peace prize
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

#Moved the trial of terrorists back into the American judicial system of checks and balances
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

#Did what had to be done to start the slow, torturous and almost impossible process of health care reform that 7 presidents had failed to even begin
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

#Responded to hatred from the right and left with measured good humor and patience
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

#Stopped the free fall of job losses
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

#Showed immense personal courage in the face of an armed and dangerous far right opposition that included the sort of disgusting people that show up at public meetings carrying loaded weapons and carrying Timothy McVeigh-inspired signs about the “blood of tyrants” needing to “water the tree of liberty”…
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

#Showed that he could not only make the tough military choices but explain and defend them brilliantly
(But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)


Other than those "disappointing" accomplishments -- IN ONE YEAR -- President Obama “failed”! Other than that he didn’t “live up to expectations”!

Who actually has failed...

...are the Americans that can’t see the beginning of a miracle of national rebirth right under their jaded noses. Who failed are the smart ass ideologues of the left and right who began rooting for this President to fail so that they could be proved right in their dire and morbid predictions. Who failed are the movers and shakers behind our obscenely dumb news cycles that have turned “news” into just more stupid entertainment for an entertainment-besotted infantile country.

Here’s the good news: President Obama is succeeding without the help of his lefty “supporters” or hate-filled Republican detractors!

The Future Looks Good

After Obama has served two full terms, (and he will), after his wisdom in moving deliberately and cautiously with great subtlety on all fronts -- with a canny and calculating eye to the possible succeeds, (it will), after the economy is booming and new industries are burgeoning, (they will be), after the doomsayers are all proved not just wrong but silly: let the record show that not all Americans were panicked into thinking the sky was falling.

Just because we didn’t get everything we wanted in the first short and fraught year Obama was in office not all of us gave up. Some of us stayed the course. And we will be proved right.

Merry Christmas (or Happy Holidays, depending on your point of view) to everyone!

PS. if you agree that Obama is shaping up to be a great president please pass this on and hang in there!

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of “Patience With God – Faith For People Who Don’t Like Religion (Or Atheism).”

http://frank-schaeffer.blogspot.com/2009/12/obama-will-triumph-so-will-america.html

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Muslims for Freedom of Speech

A DEFENSE OF FREE SPEECH BY AMERICAN AND CANADIAN MUSLIMS

We, the undersigned, unconditionally condemn any intimidation or threats of violence directed against any individual or group exercising the rights of freedom of religion and speech; even when that speech may be perceived as hurtful or reprehensible.

We are concerned and saddened by the recent wave of vitriolic anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic sentiment that is being expressed across our nation.

We are even more concerned and saddened by threats that have been made against individual writers, cartoonists, and others by a minority of Muslims. We see these as a greater offense against Islam than any cartoon, Qur’an burning, or other speech could ever be deemed.

We affirm the right of free speech for Molly Norris, Matt Stone, Trey Parker, and all others including ourselves.

As Muslims, we must set an example of justice, patience, tolerance, respect, and forgiveness.

The Qur’an enjoins Muslims to:
* bear witness to Islam through our good example (2:143);
* restrain anger and pardon people (3:133-134 and 24:22);
* remain patient in adversity (3186);
* stand firmly for justice (4:135);
* not let the hatred of others swerve us from justice (5:8);
* respect the sanctity of life (5:32);
* turn away from those who mock Islam (6:68 and 28:55);
* hold to forgiveness, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant (7:199);
* restrain ourselves from rash responses (16:125-128);
* pass by worthless talk with dignity (25:72); and
* repel evil with what is better (41:34).

Islam calls for vigorous condemnation of both hateful speech and hateful acts, but always within the boundaries of the law. It is of the utmost importance that we react, not out of reflexive emotion, but with dignity and intelligence, in accordance with both our religious precepts and the laws of our country.

We uphold the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both protect freedom of religion and speech, because both protections are fundamental to defending minorities from the whims of the majority.

We therefore call on all Muslims in the United States, Canada and abroad to refrain from violence. We should see the challenges we face today as an opportunity to sideline the voices of hate—not reward them with further attention—by engaging our communities in constructive dialogue about the true principles of Islam, and the true principles of democracy, both of which stress the importance of freedom of religion and tolerance.


SIGNATORIES:

Prof. Hassan Abbas, Quaid-i-Azam Chair, South Asia Institute, Columbia University
Anisa Abd el Fattah, Founder and Chairwoman, National Association of Muslim American Women (NAMAW)
Khaled M Abdel-Hamid, MD, PhD, writer
Ammar Abdulhamid, Executive Director, Tharwa Foundation
Imam Johari Abdul Malik, Director of Outreach, Dar-Al-Hijrah Islamic Center
Mehnaz M. Afridi, PhD, Adjunct Professor (Judaism, Islam & Genocide Studies) Antioch University
Asma Afsaruddin, PhD, Professor of Islamic Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington
Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, PhD, Director, Minaret of Freedom Foundation
Ahrar Ahmad, PhD, Professor of Political Science, Black Hills State University
Prof. Akbar S. Ahmed, PhD, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University
Osman Ahmed,PhD, President Islamic Society of Essex County, Newark, NJ
Prof. Parvez Ahmed, PhD, Fulbright Scholar & Assoc. Prof. Univ. of North Florida
Barbara Al-Bayati, Co-Founder, Orphan Whispers
Aman Ali, writer, stand-up-comedian
Javed Ali, founder and publisher, Illume magazine
Wajahat Ali, playwright, journalist, and producer of “Domestic Crusaders”
Sumbul Ali-Karamali, JD, LLM (Islamic Law), author of “The Muslim Next Door”
Shaykh al-Hajj Dawud Ahmad al-Amriki, Director, Muslim America
Salam al-Marayati, Pres., Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC)
Shahed Amanullah, Editor-in-Chief, Altmuslim
Patricia Anton, Board member, Muslim Peace Fellowship
M. Saud Anwar, Co-Chair, American Muslim Peace Initiative
Abdul Cader Asmal MD, PhD, Past President, Islamic Council of Mew England
Aref Assaf, PhD, President, American Arab Forum
Hussam Ayloush, Exec. Director, CAIR Greater Los Angeles Area
Hazami Barmada, Pres, American Muslim Interactive Network (AMIN)
Bahar Bastani, M.D., Professor of Medicine, S.L.U., Secy. General Shia Islamic Education Center, VP of IMANA-St. Louis
Victor Ghalib Begg, Senior Advisor, Chairman Emeritus, Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan
Jannah bint Hannah, activist, al-Fatiha Foundation
Farah Brelvi, Board of Directors, ACLU-NC
Arsalan Bukhari, Executive Director, CAIR-WA
M. Ali Chaudry, PhD, President, Center for Understanding Islam (CUII)
Kamran Cheikh, Activist, Committee member, Muslims for Peace, Justice & Progress (MPJP), researcher for Deen Research Center (DRC)
Noor-Malika Chishti, Vice Chair, So. CA Committee for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, Representative, the Sufi Order International, Member, World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Relations
Robert D. Crane, JD, author of numerous books
Prof Golam Dastagir, PhD, Visiting Research Scholar, New College, University of Toronto, Canada
Almoonir Dewji, blogger - “That We May Know Each Other”
Mustafa Stefan Dill, blogger;/PR/social media analyst for Muslim issues; musician
Ramsey El-Moslimany, member, Board of Directors, Islamic School of Seattle
Lamia El-Sadek, political and human rights activitist
Mohamed Elsanousi, Director of Communications and Community Outreach for the Islamic Society of N America (ISNA)
Mona Eltahawy, journalist
Aziz Enhaili, Political analyst, columnist for Tolerance.ca
Yusuf Estes, Chaplain ret., author of many books, public speaker
Prof. Mohammad Fadel, PhD
Fatemeh Fakhraie, Editor-in-Chief, Muslimah Media Watch
Mike Ghouse, President, World Muslim Congress
Iftekhar Hai, President, UMA Interfaith Alliance
Rabia Terri Harris, Founder and Coordinator, Muslim Peace Fellowship
Hesham Hassaballa, M.D., author, journalist, blogger - “God, faith, and a pen”
Amir Hussain, PhD, Professor of Theological Studies, Loyola Marymount University
Iftekhar Hussain, Chair, Board of Directors, CAIR-PA
Arsalan Iftikhar, author, human rights lawyer, blogger - “The Muslim Guy”
Jeffrey Imm, Director, Responsible for Equality And Liberty (R.E.A.L.)
Ghazala Irshad, journalist, blogger - “The Floating Lotus”
Nakia Jackson, writer
M. Zuhdi Jasser, MD, President, American Islamic Forum for Democracy
Safi Kaskas, President & CEO Strategic Edge
Mohja Kahf, PhD, Assoc. Professor of Comparative Literature, Univ. of Arkansas, author “The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf”
Prof. Muqtedar Khan, PhD, author of several books, Blogger - “Globalog”
Farah Kinani, Journalist, blogger - “Global Voices”
Shaikh Ahmad Kutty, Resident Senior Scholar, Islamic Institute of Toronto
Faisal Kutty, Visiting Asst. Prof. of law, Valparaiso University School of Law and Adjunct Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School (Toronto)
M. Junaid Levesque-Alam, writer, blogger - “Crossing the Crescent”
David Liepert, M.D., blogger and author of “Muslim, Christian AND Jew”
Radwan A. Masmoudi, PhD, President, Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID)
Melissa Matos, President, Al-Ghazali Legal Society, Saint Louis University
Shelina Merani, community activist, artist, blogger “Muslim Presence”
Yahya Merchant, Interfaith Worker, Outreach contact for Islamic Center of Conejo Valley CA
Melody Moezzi, JD, MPH, writer and attorney
Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore, author of many books of poetry
Ebrahim Moosa, Assoc. Professor of Islamic Studies, Dept. of Religion, Duke University
Lt. Col. Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad, U.S. Army Chaplain
Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, President Sound Vision
Arman Musaji, artist
Sheila Musaji, Editor, The American Muslim (TAM)
Muneeb Nasir, President, Olive Tree Foundation, Editor IQRA Canada
Q. Amin Nathari, National Representative, Islam in America Movement (IAM)
Ahmed Naumaan, PhD, Director, Karsaz Inc.
Imam Abdul Hai Patel, Dir. Interfaith Relations, Canadian Council of Imams, Muslim Chaplain University of Toronto & York Regional Police
Aziz H. Poonawalla, PhD, scientist and blogger - “City of Brass” on Beliefnet
M.Waheed-uz-Zaman Rana, Imam, Prof. Emeritus, Dept. of Surgery, Saint Louis University
Hasan Zillur Rahim, PhD, journalist
Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid, The Circle Group
Prof. Hussein Rashid, PhD, blogger - “Religion Dispatches”
Shafi Refai, President, United Muslims of America
Irfan Rydhan, Co-Founder of Muslim Unity Foundation
Muhamed Sacirbey, lawyer, diplomat, writer
Louay Safi, PhD, Common Word Fellow, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Christian Muslim Understanding, Georgetown University
Ghulam Abbas Sajan, Director Islamic Ahlul Bayt Assembly of Canada
Robert Salaam, blogger - “The American Muslim”
Raquel Evita Saraswati, activist, writer, blogger
Sarah Sayeed, President of One Blue
Sophia Rose Shafi, MA, MTS, doctoral candidate (Islamic Studies), writer
T.O. Shanavas. MD, Vice President, Islamic Research Foundation, author
S. Abdallah Schleifer, Distinguished Prof., Dept. of Journalism & Mass Com, American University Cairo
Ricka Shorish, M.S., R.N., volunteer/consultant, Avicenna Community Health Center
Jihad Shoshara, community organizer and activist, Chicago
Jafar Siddiqui, blogger - “Penjihad”
Prof. Laury Silvers, PhD
Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons, PhD, Sr. Lecturer, Islamic Studies & African American Religion, University of Florida
Prof. Ibrahim B. Syed, PhD, President of Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc., author
Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, Nat’l Director, Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances, Islamic Society of N America (ISNA)
J.Tayeb, MD, President, CAIR-MI, ISNA founders committee member, Vice chair, HUDA free Clinic, Detroit
Pamela Taylor, Co-founder Muslims for Progressive Values, Panelist for On Faith
Tayyibah Taylor, Editor, Azizah Magazine
Dr. Hashim El-Tinay, President, International Peace Quest Institute (IPQI)
Mahdi Toourage, PhD, Assistant Prof., U of Western Ontaio
Tarik Trad, writer, humorist, photographer, artist and activist
Asma T. Uddin, Attorney, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and Editor, Altmuslimah
Wahida Valiante, President, Canadian Islamic Congress and Chair of Islamic History Month Canada
Jason van Boom, Host of “Islam and Authors”, writer
Amina Wadud, PhD, consultant on Islam and gender, visiting scholar Starr King School for the Ministry
Danya Wellmon, Co-Founder Women Transcending Boundaries interfaith group
Svend White, blogger - “Akram’s Razor”, activist, writer
G. Willow Wilson, author of “Butterfly Mosque” and “Air” graphic novel series
Ani Zonneveld, President, Muslims for Progressive Values

http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/a_defense_of_free_speech_by_american_and_canadian_muslims/0018241

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In defense of Islam, pursuing a civil dialogue

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/localnews/columnists/sblow/stories/DN-blow_19met.ART.West.Edition1.356a575.html

12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, September 19, 2010

Over and over you hear it said: If Muslims oppose terrorism, why don't they stand up and say it?

If that has been you, Mike Ghouse ought to be your hero.

It is hard to imagine that anyone has worked harder than the Carrollton resident to demonstrate the peaceful and moderate side of Islam.

And that effort includes personally visiting Dallas' First Baptist Church last Sunday just to put a friendly face on the "evil, evil religion" that the Rev. Robert Jeffress denounced a few weeks before.

"It was wonderful," Ghouse said of the visit. "We were so warmly received."

He hopes a quick chat with Jeffress will be the start of deeper discussion about Islam and the importance of respect between religions.

"I want to have a dialogue with him, not to say he is wrong but to share another point of view," Ghouse said.

The 57-year-old Muslim was born in India and has lived in the United States for 30 years. He owns a small property management firm. But most of his day is devoted to building bridges between people of different faiths.

"It is my passion," he said in his distinctive raspy voice.

He has been a guest a dozen times on Sean Hannity's TV and radio talk shows. "I don't like the way Sean cuts me off, but I have to honor him for giving the American public a semblance of another point of view."

Ghouse said he can understand fear and criticism of Islam because he went through a time of similar feelings. As a teen, he was troubled by passages of the Quran. He called himself an atheist for a while.

But he said deeper study led him to realize the Quran had been purposely mistranslated down through history.

In the Middle Ages, European leaders commissioned a hostile Quran translation to foster warfare against Muslim invaders.

Later, Muslim leaders produced another translation to inflame Muslims against Christians and Jews.

"It was all for politics," he said.

Ghouse said he hopes to present Jeffress with a modern, faithful translation and challenge him to find evil verses.

"If he can, I will convert. I will join his church," Ghouse said. "If he can't, I will call on him to retract his statements and become a peacemaker."

Ghouse acknowledges that deep problems persist within Islam. "Three steps forward, two steps back," he said with a sigh.

And he agrees that mainstream Muslims have not done enough to counter violent images of their faith.

"That is very true," he said. "But part of it is that many Muslims have given up hope that we will ever be heard."

He said repeated denunciations of terrorism seem to fall on deaf ears.

And some efforts have backfired – like the proposed Islamic information center in New York. He said it should be hailed for furthering the moderate Muslim cause.

Instead, it has deepened hostility toward Muslims.

I have been astounded by the amount of anti-Islam propaganda that circulates via e-mail. Tons of it has come my way in the last few weeks.

One theme is that people like Mike Ghouse can't be trusted, that Islam encourages deception.

But Ghouse says actions speak louder than words. And he points to elections in Muslim nations.

More than half of Muslims live in countries with some degree of democracy. And time and time again, Islamist parties are overwhelmingly rejected in favor of secular, mainstream parties.

"The religious parties don't get more than 3 percent of the vote," Ghouse said.

Polls show deep mistrust of Muslims. "But the most important question in those surveys is: 'Do you know anything about Islam?' " Ghouse said. "Most people say no."

What keeps him going is faith in Americans, he said.

"The majority of Americans, if they know the truth, they will change their minds."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Texas Faith September 14, 2010

Iam pleased to share my article at Texas Faith, a publication of Dallas Morning News.
http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2010/09/texas-faith-the-media-and-reli.html

Texas Faith: What religion stories should the media focus on?
William McKenzie/ Editorial Columnist

I'm pleased to announce the participation of two new panelists: Dr. James Denison and interfaith proponent and blogger Mike Ghouse. They will join our team as we move into our third year. Over the next few weeks, we will add a few more panelists, but today I want to welcome Jim and Mike.

Jim long served as pastor at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas. He now is president of the Center for Informed Faith and is a distinguished adjunct professor of religion at Dallas Baptist University. He also is a theologian in residence for Texas Baptists.

Mike presides over the Foundation for Pluralism, is active in the World Muslim Congress and blogs regularly at various sites. He also has been a city commissioner in Carrollton, Texas and serves on the board of the Dallas Peace Center.

You can read more about them on our website later this week. Meanwhile, I know Wayne Slater, Sam Hodges and I look forward to their participation.

Now, onto this week's question:

There has plenty of criticism of the media for the amount of attention paid to Terry Jones, the pastor of the 50-member Florida church who had been planning a Quran-burning until he was talked out of it. Colin Powell typified the questioning of the media when he wondered on ABC's "The View" last week how a guy like Pastor Jones could end up commanding so much attention from the press.

That's a fair question, so let's turn the tables this week, which comes a few days after the anniversary of 9/11. Here's the question for discussion;

If you were a media baron, an editor or a television or radio producer, what religiously-based stories would you focus on?

Read on for numerous responses, many of which conclude that
"sensationalism sells."

KATIE SHERROD,Writer, film producer and progressive Episcopalian activist, Fort Worth

One of the definitions of news is information that is unexpected, unusual and seemingly out of character. Hence, the cliche about "man bites dog" making news when a dog biting a man would not. Because most religions claim to be about love, it makes news when a religious leader starts preaching hate.

The key word here is "leader." One could argue that a pastor of dubious background with a flock of 50 hardly merits that description.

The New York Times has published a thoughtful look at the development of this story. It discusses the role the story of the Islamic Center near Ground Zero, coupled with the 9/11 anniversary and reactions of Muslims overseas, played in decisions about covering the Gainesville pastor. It also details the lengths the more responsible news outlets went to avoid giving the pastor undue attention, and thus, undue influence.

A key sentence in the article is a remark by Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times. He said "that the newspaper had 'no policy against publishing things that might offend someone -- lots of people are offended by lots of things -- but we try to refrain from giving widespread offense unless there is some offsetting journalistic purpose. A picture of a burning book contributes nothing substantial to a story about book-burning, so the offense seems entirely gratuitous. The freedom to publish includes the freedom not to publish.'" [Emphasis added]

Having been an editor who made decisions about which stories to cover, I find the question an interesting one. I can remember when the question would have been "Why cover religion at all?"

For the most part, newsrooms did not cover religion in any meaningful way. For decades, George Cornell of the Associated Press was just about the ONLY "religion reporter."

Then in 1986, the San Jose Mercury News pioneered a religion section called "Religion & Ethics." In 1992, ABC News anchor Peter Jennings hired Peggy Wehmeyer away from WFAA-TV, making her the only full-time network religion correspondent.

About that same time, the Dallas News began a whole "Religion" section. Religion coverage was defined as including ethics, morality and "spirituality." The News' section was called "Religion," with "spirituality and values" in smaller type above the section name. Since then, religion coverage has been an integral part of routine news coverage for all general news outlets.

But religion stories are no different from sports stories or political stories. Decisions about which religion stories to cover should be made on the same basis as all other stories:

-- Is it of wide interest? Is there conflict, novelty, or a prominent person involved?
-- Is it based on solid sources?
-- Is it timely?
-- Is it relevant to your community, city, state?
-- Is it put in context?
-- Does it offer anything new -- a new angle to a discussion, a new interpretation? Does it change the status quo in any significant way? Is it "a first", "a last", "an only", or an extraordinary event?
-- Do your readers need or want to know the information?

Religion is like art and politics -- it touches people "where they live" and thus can elicit strong reactions. That makes it even more imperative that the same standards be applied to it as to all other news stories.

DEAL HUDSON, President, Morley Publishing Group and Director, InsideCatholic.com

Colin Powell's comment on "The View" that the threat of Pastor Kevin Jones to burn the Koran should not have attracted so much media attention is not the opinion of a journalist but of a member the D.C. elite who thinks the media should avoid stories he finds personally distasteful.

Journalists cover stories that are new, unique, and culturally significant, whether or not the reporter, or the editor, agrees or disagrees with their point of view. Terry Jones, wacky or not, is one of those stories. There's been entirely too much of an elite attitude displayed in the media, where visibility is being given to what comports with the political viewpoint of the reporter and/or publication, rather than a concentration on what is newsworthy.

JAMES DENISON, President, Center for an Informed Faith, Dallas

During World War II, as our government worried about enemy spies in our midst, Americans were cautioned that "loose lips sink ships." The admonition nearly came true last week, as Gen. Petraeus warned that our troops would be endangered if Terry Jones persisted in his plan to burn the Qur'an.

But what if there had been no media coverage of this threat?

Sensationalism sells. Religiously-based stories possess a heightened ability to enflame passions and encourage extremism. What guidelines might help ensure responsible coverage of such stories in these conflicted times?

First, does the story serve the common good? Americans need to know that Yemen is a new front in our battle against al-Qaeda; do we need to know that the pastor of a 50-member congregation wants to burn the Qur'an? Absent such publicity, would his plan have threatened our troops?

Second, does it encourage understanding or misunderstanding of the faith tradition in question? Coverage of Terry Jones' threats did little to contrast his actions with biblical teaching such as John's exhortation, "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God" (1 John 4:7, NIV). Paul did not burn the idols he found in Athens--he used them as a bridge to the Christian message (Acts 17:22-23). Media coverage should have disclosed the aberrant nature of Jones' theology and behavior.

The Bible teaches us to "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15 NLT), considering the consequences of our words before we utter them. We cannot unring a bell.
Marshall McLuhan claimed that "all media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values."

RIC DEXTER, Men's Division Chapter Leader, Nichiren Buddhist Soka Gakkai lay organization

Not that long ago the Dallas Morning News had a religion section. I remember reading in it stories of people who practiced different faiths, and people who practiced their faiths differently. There I found articles covering news relating to difficulties facing different churches or their leaders. I read discussions about abuses in some of them, and about the social and spiritual triumphs of others. When I read the question this week I thought, "There is a place to start."

This forum was born out of that now sadly discontinued section. Many media outlets currently seem to feel that the only "religion" stories worth reporting are those that highlight controversy, those that sensationalize, and those that will sell more paper or airtime. One must ask, is this really a reflection of the values we hold most dear in our society?

I would rather publish stories about the strength people find in their belief system, and about how people have put the wisdom of these teachings into practice in their daily lives. I would publish articles which would inform beliefs, and demonstrate that "If Christ, Abraham, Mohammad and the Buddha were to sit at the same table, they would find much more upon which they agreed than upon which they disagree."

I would also publish the dissenting voices, so the readers could be informed about those areas where there is disagreement. We are not, after all, "just different paths to the same end." An awareness of our different world views would allow us to appreciate that we need not all agree in order to live harmoniously in this world we share.
I would focus on the elements in our lives that create true value.

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas

"The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell the country for his daily bread."

Ever since John Swinton, of the New York Times uttered those words in the last century, discussions among media barons have continued about the nature of their business.

Every aspect of a society continues to seek its own equilibrium; the once abusive capitalism is on the course of self-correction and blissfully moving towards responsible investments.

From a journalism point of view, unconscionably, we have accepted the inclusion of sensationalists and propagandists as journalists. They are generating ratings and revenues for the media barons. I believe this aspect of destructive propaganda journalism will also start correcting itself toward responsible journalism, which can restore the social cohesion of our society. This week's topic for the Texas Faith panel is an indication of such a movement.

The media in Dallas has acted responsibly this week, when Pastor Jeffress made incendiary remarks about Islam, whether one agrees or not. Steve Blow of the Dallas Morning News took on the responsibility to seek another opinion from some one like Pastor Bob Roberts. Blow offered an equally powerful, but peace making perspective, which the public has welcomed.

Whether it is Pastor Jones, Jeffress, Phelps or Robertson, the media has failed to nail down the exact words or phrases that cause them to make such divisive declarations, and the unfinished business is frustrating the public. The real issue is not the amount of coverage but the quality of coverage.

As a media baron, I would consider leading the torch of responsible journalism by addressing the moderate majority. It is untapped, but the biggest niche in the marketplace. Moderates are crying out loud for the media to be fair, just and responsible. On the other hand, they need to reward the change and move away from the idea of "No news is good news" and instead, read and watch the good news and not discount it as "no news."

CYNTHIA RIGBY, W.C. Brown Professor of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Here's my explicit answer to the question: how about putting some legs under the story of a small church Minnesota pastor (Gordon Stewart) who had a Muslim read from the Qu'ran in worship this past Sunday?

I know about this because I am currently in Minneapolis, teaching and preaching at the Presbytery of the Twin Cities. From what I can gather, Stewart's vision and approach have contributed a great deal to the healing of anxieties and the restoration of hope.

Here's what else I want to say about the issue raised in the set up to the question:
No disrespect to Colin Powell, but it seems to me to be too easy to blame the press for our (the public's) obsession with certain media stories. While it is true that the press teases out public interest by bringing stories to our attention, the relationship between the amount of coverage and the amount of public interest winds up being more of a chicken-and-egg kind of phenomenon.

It seems to me, along these lines, that the press gave the Qu'ran-burning story a lot of attention because people kept wanting to hear more. Part of the reason many Americans followed the story so closely, I think, is because of all the hard-to-manage opinions and emotions surrounding the debate about the near-to-Ground-Zero cultural center.

Maybe the demand for heavy coverage of this story served some kind of psychological function for us, culturally speaking: perhaps we felt afraid and/or angry enough, near the anniversary of 9/11, to find some twisted gratification in imagining something most of us would (hopefully) never do: burn Qu'rans. And maybe - just maybe - witnessing the hateful actions of Terry Jones led us on some level to say to ourselves: "I do not want to be like that." I wonder if the heavy coverage might actually have done some good by offering a "negative example" - perhaps it has highlighted just how ugly prejudice can be in ways that will goad us to repentance and transformation.

So: I think the media should report precisely on stories such as the threatened Qu'ran burning, and also on the "positive" stories I see them reporting on all the time.

Consider the range of stories on the Dallas Morning News religion blog alone, over the past two weeks: Stanley Hauerwas' memoir, Brian Wilson and Dallas' "Day of Praise," Women in Christian Media in New York; the impact of religious faith on community outreach; what it means, spiritually-speaking, to grow old.

And maybe Pastor Gordon Stewart and the witness of his congregation can be added to the list.

M. BASHEER AHMED, Chairman, Muslim Community Center for Human Services, Dallas

Media only pay attention to sensational stories to sell the product. Decent, non-sensational stories seldom get attention of media or they are printed in small letters on the back pages.

To develop a civilized society, I would give equal importance to religious stories that promote tolerance, peace and harmony in the community.

There are two ways to broadcast a message. For example, I heard on the radio that " 49% of people oppose mosque on Ground Zero." Couldn't that same news be reported: "50% of people support mosque on Ground Zero?"

If only Pastor Terry Jones, the firebrand behind the "International Burn a Koran Day," had been going to Graceland. A small detour could have led him to the doorstep of fellow Pastor Steve Stone.

When Stone read in the newspaper that a new Memphis Islamic Center was coming to town, he scrambled to make a sign and took to the street. It read "Heartsong Church welcomes Memphis Islamic Center to the neighborhood."

This sign hasn't received much attention since it went up a year and a half ago.

GEOFFREY DENNIS, Rabbi, Congregation Kol Ami in Flower Mound; faculty member, University of North Texas Jewish Studies Program

So I'm a "media baron?"

I understand the news is mostly about the negative and the novel. The sensational sells, and sometimes it deserves the attention it gets.

One sensational religion story I would like to give more constant media attention is the persistence of brutal judicial punishments meted out by religious courts, such as stonings and amputations.

I would also like to focus on more in-depth investigative stories examining the role that modern religious law has played (for good or ill) in other of the controversial criminal stories we are aware of, such as the priest abuse scandal, wife abuse, and honor killings. These issues are international in their reach and affect thousands. There is something to be reported on about what religious laws sanction, condemn, and shield in every religious tradition. It is also clear that some people of faith feel their loyalty is divided between state law and their tradition's religious law. We need to better understand this issue and how it may influence law and policy in the future.

Another story I'd like to give attention is the proliferation of interfaith programs, institutes, and think tanks, which are growing across the United States and in Europe. Pollsters tell us the reach and influence of religion is diminishing, yet we seem to see more issues of religion appear in political and policy stories. I'd like to better understand why.

I would produce more stories highlighting persecutions inspired by religious beliefs, like the Christian inspired law in Uganda that would make homosexuality a capital offense. In Iran, seven Baha'is have been sentenced to long terms of imprisonment based on their minority faith. This is only the latest in a long history of such persecution of the Baha'is, but most people are oblivious to this history.

There is also the fact that Christian minorities are under siege in several countries. Whether driven by the state or by cultural intolerance, the public needs to be made more aware of these persecutions.

LARRY BETHUNE, Senior Pastor, University Baptist Church, Austin

Blaming the messenger is an old strategy for dealing with news we don't like. In a democracy that depends on the free flow of information, I am hesitant to limit journalists on what stories they should and shouldn't cover. Any and all religious stories are worthy of coverage by the press. Freedom of the press goes hand in hand with religious freedom.

On the other hand, journalists should be called to ethical standards not only in the way they report the news, but in the news they choose to report (or not report). While the extreme bias of Fox News has made the phrase "fair and balanced" an ironic punch line, fair and balanced reporting of religious news should keep the source in perspective and report alternative views.

While much of the initial coverage of the Florida Qur'an burning threat included the small size of the pastor Jones' church and the opposing Christian voices, this balance was mostly lost as 9/11 drew near. I am glad Pastor Jones changed his mind, but I fear the damage was already done in the international reporting of the threat.

To answer the broader question, a more thorough reporting of the positive stories emanating from religious communities of all kinds would set a better context for the negative stories. The kind of stories the public loves on television programs like "Extreme Makeover" happens frequently in religious communities who care for their own people or reach out to strangers in need. Perhaps the recent negative religion stories in Florida and New York would be heard differently if the nations - and the world - heard more stories about the kindness and care offered by Christian and Muslim communities to people beyond their own communities or religious adherents.

Good news is still news and needs to be reported as the context for showing when bad news is extreme and contrary to the main stream.

DANIEL KANTER, Senior minister, First Unitarian Church of Dallas

My hope for the media is that it succeeds despite its tendency to report religiously-based stories on hatred, conflict, and violence. If the media can wean itself from that type of reporting, I would hope it could stimulate interest in motivating people to pay attention to good works done in the name of religion, dialogue, and those acts which bind us together as one human family.

American society needs help in breaking down many barriers that paint religion as the problem. It needs help with stories on how the religious vs. the non-religious work together, on seeing faith as more than belief in a God protected by the few, and on embracing a wide spectrum of spiritual responses to the human condition.

American society could use some help in seeing our commonalities through the lens of faith rather than continued stoking of the fire of difference. In the name of all the foundations of our religions, we have a guiding human purpose to engender love and service in all we do, and we need help realizing this.

DARRELL BOCK, Research Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

The media needs to focus on a whole variety of religious stories. Collaborative stories of groups working together and how religious groups fill gaps in our social net are especially valuable. A lot of religious coverage is negative or about the negative things religion does (and those should continue to be covered because the accountability to society is also important).

Stories that help mutual understanding about the different faiths also are something media can do (Here dealing with the way stereotypes may misrepresent can be important). How religion influences decision-making on certain issues is also another angle on things.

So there is much that can be done here. It's important that people covering these topics have some background for it. Getting good background help for these stories also is important.

AMY MARTIN, Executive Director, Earth Rhythms; writer/editor, Moonlady Media

"Ka thunk... ka thunk... ka thunk." It's the now familiar sound of Walter Cronkite spinning in his grave.

Yet this particular case did have a positive side effect by inspiring much good dialogue on religious tolerance. While extremists like Terry Jones were loud, over and over again in quiet conversation I heard people say that extremists of any kind of group - religion, politics, the ladies sewing circle - do not represent its majority.

Even more than a morality tale against the damage that careless generalizations can create, the whole affair set off ripples overseas. If the Muslim world was watching a religious wacko threatening to burn their holy book, they also saw many more Americans vigorously protesting against such an act.

People are fascinated by fascinating things. With his outsized mustache and crazy mannerisms, Jones was a natural for the camera. But characters abound in our society. They capture some aspect of a topical story, while being far less inflammatory.

News should be human, covering all of the human experience, not just transitory conflicts but the issues that are threaded deeply through our lives, like the nature of religion and the meaning of existence, the tangle of human behavior and emotions, the quiet panic of raising children and the joy of life's quiet pleasures. "Human interest stories," my old buddies in the newspaper business would sneer.

Yet human interest doesn't have to mean sappy or non newsworthy. The shows "This American Life," "Speaking of Faith" and "The Story" from public radio programming providers - programs that cover topical news as well as the conditions that underlie it - show how edgy, deep and fascinating human interest can be. These are the type of shows I'd like to see and hear more.

JOE CLIFFORD, Pastor, Head of Staff, First Presbyterian Church of Dallas

Generations ago Walter Cronkite ended the broadcast evening news, "And that's the way it is." And for many Americans, it was. Cronkite spoke in monotone, showing little emotion. Backdrops for the news were bland--black and white for most who watched the evening news. Television offered four stations: ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS. That's the way it was.

Today we recognize that's the way it may have been for some, but certainly not for all. Today we question who has the right to say the way it is? One news outlet boasts, "We report, you decide." But what they choose to report determines the boundaries of decisions to be made.

With the evolution of cable news networks, we now can choose a presentation of the news that fits our opinions. Today, dozens of national news outlets compete not only with each other, but with thousands on the world wide web. Advertising revenue drives media news, so they claw for market share. Competition for the viewer/reader is intense, contributing to the sensationalism of the news. The wackier the world, the more we want to watch. To see the dichotomy, watch Jim Lehrer on PBS compared to Wolf Blitzer or Shepherd Smith.

Cultural anxiety is good for business, so stories that prey upon our anxieties are found and reported. The result is that the extremes define the world we see on the news.

Opinions about Islam are a perfect example of this extremism. "One in four Americans believe Islam is a religion of hatred and violence," is the lead story. Why isn't the story, "75% of Americans hold no bias against Islam?" Who would watch that news or buy that paper?

It doesn't matter that the vast majority of Americans are tolerant of all religions, we find a guy in Florida threatening to burn Qurans, and now America is Islamophobic. That sells in the Arab world and at home.

Media barons would never report on mainstream religious stories because hungry people being fed, homeless people being housed, hurting people being helped, and the holiness of every day moments doesn't sell advertising. The Dallas Morning News used to have a fantastic religion section, but in the name of cutting costs, they eliminated it.

Thank God for PBS, and shows like, "Speaking of Faith." That's a great example of religious reporting. But no one will ever make enough money off that to become a media baron.

GEORGE MASON, Senior Pastor, Wilshire Baptist Church, Dallas

Everywhere I go I hear people ask, "Where are the moderate Muslim voices that work to prove that Islam really is a religion of peace and opposed to terrorism?" They live among us quietly and faithfully. Some do reach out and speak out, but they do not have the cultural cache to garner attention.

Media types might go in search for them in the wake of some horrendous event to get a reaction, but they are not featured otherwise. The same can be said for Christians and Jews and those of other religions who go about their work promoting peace and justice in our communities. They aren't flashy, but what they do makes more of a difference than we realize.

A pastor friend once said that if you want to imagine hell, just take every religious and charitable organization out of your community. Then you'll see what hell looks like. He overstated it, as preachers are wont to do; but while the presence of these do not make for heaven on earth, they do have a way of keeping all hell from breaking loose.

The problem the media has is that it needs to be heard in order to sell advertising. The shocking and sensational sells. If newspapers and television stations didn't have to worry about revenue and could only focus on the common good, they could do a better job of searching out what the public should know and giving it to them, rather than asking first what the public will pay attention to. It's a vicious - not a virtuous - cycle that sadly feeds upon itself and produces the likes of the Reverend Terry Jones.

WILLIAM LAWRENCE, Dean and Professor of American Church History, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University

The problems nowadays with "religiously-based" stories are the same as most of the problems with "health-care" stories or "economy" stories or "peace in the Middle East stories." That is, namely, that they tend to be interested only in the spectacular events (such as threatening to set fire to copies of the Qur'an) or that the reporting about them tends too quickly to default into stories that focus on the political implications.

Perhaps, specifically in the latter case, they tend to become reportage on how this issue will impact either the effectiveness of the Tea Party, or the job security of the Republican National Committee chair, or the likely results of November's elections.

We need somebody in the news media -- an owner of a news conglomerate, a producer of radio newscasts, an executive with one of the television networks, an editor of an online journal, a print mogul -- to discover how to report on a religious story that is simply and clearly a report on religious institutions, activities, or practices that avoids boring the audience without resorting to the lurid or the sensationally superficial.

With regard to Muslims in America, for example, instead of reporting on the prejudices that some percentage of Americans hold toward adherents of Islam, we could benefit from reporting on the presence of Muslins in the United States. The reports could deliver useful information on ways that religious practices impact the workplace and ways that the workplace impacts religious practice.

For instance, how are productivity and efficiency affected by a business calendar that is driven by Jewish and Christian preferences, whereby Saturday and Sunday constitute a weekend? What business opportunities are emerging to serve the interests of the Muslim community? Is there a sufficient critical mass of Muslims to affect inventories at Barnes and Noble or Borders?

There is also an enormous amount of room for religiously-based stories on the role of religion in an age when religious institutions are playing increasingly smaller roles in society. How many social welfare agencies (nursing homes, children's service centers, health care facilities) began within religious organizations but have shifted from their spiritual foundations?

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, Minister, ISKCON Kalachandji's Hare Krishna Temple Dallas

So much effort is put into producing the media's products. How much money does it take to run a newspaper press, a news station, and a radio show? However, at 10 a.m. when the paper has been read, what is its value? It is simply fit for the bottom of the bird cage.
Who records the TV news station to see it for a second time?

Therefore the Vedic truth compares the literatures that do not touch on eternal topics, such as God, to a garbage dump. (*SB 1.5.10) Whereas factual spiritual literature brings about a change of heart (*SB 1.5.11)

"According toNîti-úâstra(civic laws) one should not speak an unpalatable truth to cause distress to others. Distress comes upon us in its own way by the laws of nature, so one should not aggravate it by propaganda." -Srimad Bhagavatam 1.13.13 PURPORT

Everyone naturally suffers from the threefold miseries: ones produced of the body & mind, ones from other living entities, and ones from the environment itself. Spiritual literature affords a means to extricate ones consciousness out of such suffering to experiencing reality at a transcendentally pleasurable level.

As a hungry bird in acage is not pleased by the polishing of the cage so similarly the hungry heart is not satisfied with literature devoid of God. (*SB 1.5.12)

Therefore I would focus on those news events, such as Radhanath Swami's new book The Journey Home, that bring about a change of heart and a relief from the sufferings of this material world.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rev. Robert Jeffress challenged

I have taken a bold challenge that no has done before, thank God for giving me the faith and confidence to do so.

Richard Ray of Fox4 News interviewed me today about Pastor Jeffress and the Quraan at 11:00 AM this morning, however due to time constraints, or other reasons they have edited out the critical points about killing the infidel and Quraan Translations. I will recreate that interview and post it on the web in a few days, right here.

The challenge is simple; I will present the right translations of the Qur'aan to Rev. Robert Jeffress in his congregation and challenge him to find 3 evil things about Quraan, if he does, I will go work for his ministry, if he does not, I ask of him to retract the thoughtless cavalier statements he made about Islam and Quraan, and take up the challenge of becoming a peace maker.

Thanks to the Imam Zia Shaikh, other Imams and friends for their encouragement to challenge the myths and ask the mis-informed to be informed. Thanks to the Islam bashers for telling me what is it that bothers them, they have time and again given me a list of about 60 verses, and I have made serious effort to address them most directly at: http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/ I have dealt with some of the Islamophobes who have made their business by maligning others including Islam, in this case. Look at their websites, they shamelessly ask for money, people should seriously debate if their money is going to bring peace or chaos.

America needs peacemakers who can boldly clarify the un-truths and myths about each other for the sake of peace. We owe peace and security to each one of the 301 Million Americans, our efforts ought to be directed so every one us can live without fear, without harassment and without prejudices. My question to Pastors Jeffress, Jones, Phelps, Robertsons and their likes is this; Didn't Jesus pray and worked to create the kingdom of heaven on the earth, so all of us can live freely?

Some 2000 years ago, Jesus delivered the sermon "Blessed are the peace makers" on Mt. Beatitude, I was there and felt the power of that statement. I walked where Jesus walked on via Dela Rosa; I was baptized in the river Jordan where Jesus was baptized. Symbolically, I accepted Jesus’ message to become a peace maker by drenching myself in the holy water.

The role of people of religions is to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill. I ask Rev. Robert Jefferess, Rev. Pat Robertson, Rev. Fred Phelps and Rev. Terry Jones to walk the journey of peace with me.

HERE IS THE TV CLIP & ITS TRANSCRIPT

Sunday Morning - http://www.myfoxdfw.com/dpp/news/christians-and-muslims-meet

Monday Morning - http://www.myfoxdfw.com/dpp/news/091310-pastor,-muslims-meet-to-discuss-quran

Pastor, Muslims Meet to Discuss Quran
Published : Monday, 13 Sep 2010, 4:52 PM CDT

Richard Ray
FOX 4 News
Adapted for Web by Tracy DeLatte, myFOXdfw.com

DALLAS - First Baptist Church of Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress said he has no regrets about calling Islam an evil religion. But on Sunday he gave a warm welcome to a group of Muslims visiting his church.

It was an unusual meeting of the minds. A pair of Muslim leaders showed up unexpectedly wanting to talk to the pastor, not sure what kind of reception they’d get.

“We have some very special guests here this morning. Leaders, members of the Islamic faith in Dallas and I want you to join me in giving them the warmest First Baptist welcome you can,” Jeffress said to his congregation.

Muslim Mike Ghouse was part of that small delegation and afterward met with Jeffress to discuss the Quran.

“He asked us to stand up and there was a good welcome. It was beautiful. I really liked that,” Ghouse.

He is convinced that Jeffress and most Americans have only read mistranslations of the Quran, where ugly language about Christians and Jews has been incorrectly inserted.

“What he said about the Quran and Islam I agree with him. He has read the wrong translation. To find the truth, to be peacemakers, we have to find the truth for the sake of a secure America. His statements are divisive and offense,” Ghouse said.

A study last month by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that over the past five years the percentage of Americans with a positive view of Islam has dropped dramatically from 41 to 30 percent.

Jeffress said he enjoyed his meeting with Ghouse and the others, but still believes he has read an accurate translation. He expresses no regret for what he’s said about the religion.

“I have to regrets at all. I think some of my statements have been mischaracterized simply because the whole statement wasn’t given. I don’t believe most Muslims are terrorists. I don’t think most Muslims oppress women. But there is something within the religion of Islam itself that I believe incites violence,” he said.

Jeffress said he thinks he can disagree in a loving and kind way.

“I think we need to quit walking on egg shells. I think we do need to tell the truth. We tell it in love. But we still tell the truth,” he said.

Ghouse and the others involved in the meeting said they’d like to meet with Jeffress again in the future to have a deeper discussion.
# # #

I will continue with the points later.

Mike Ghouse is a speaker on Islam and Pluralism offering pluralistic solutions to the media and the public on the issues of the day, his work is expressed in 22 blogs and 3 websites listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/

Monday, September 6, 2010

A challenge to Pastor Jeffress of Dallas

http://mikeghouseforamerica.blogspot.com/2010/09/challenge-to-pastor-jeffress-of-dallas.html

This is my commentary on Steve Blow's article in response to Pastor Robert Jeffress' mis-understanding of Islam in Dallas Morning News, today, September 6, 2010.

Finding the truth is one’s own responsibility as it releases one’s hatred and fear and brings salvation. In our solitude and one the day of reckoning, neither our Pastors, Imams, Rabbi, Pundits, Shamans or clergy will be with us, we have to bear the anguish of hate or fear alone within our hearts.

Like a few Americans, Dr. Jeffress has fallen to what is dished out to him without independent verification and bases his ranting on a false premise. There are two translations of Quraan that are false, wrong and hateful towards Jews and Christians; one was deliberately mistranslated for political reasons by the Monastery of Abbey in 1142 and the other one was mistranslated by a Muslim in 1922 for the same reasons in the opposite direction. However, the Arabic version of Quraan is intact and we have 18 translations that are nearly pluralistic.

At the Parliament of worlds Religions in Melbourne, during my presentation, a Christian Bishop from Jerusalem read the Arabic version of Quraan loud out and did the right translation to the shock of roomful of individuals who were mis-fed with wrong translations thus far.

For the sake of peace, I would ask the Pastor to hold a conference in his own church on his turf, and I will moderate the discussion “finding the truth about Islam, Quraan and Muhammad” and bring Scholars of Islam including Dr. Hunt, Dr. Esposito, Jewish and Muslim Scholars. Let’s put this thing to an end and have his congregation live in peace and let Muslims live in peace; together as Americans we need the truth and need to live without hate and malice.

I have a big Unity day event on Sunday, September 12, 2010 at the Unity Church on Forest Lane, any Sunday after that with at least 90 days notice to prepare will do. We owe the American public peace and the truth.

Added in response to comments:

WHAT REPRESENTS A RELIGION?

The female genital Mutilation, child brides, violation of women’s rights, cruel stoning to death for adultery, Burqa, clapping on the deaths of 9/11 etc do not represent any religion, let alone the values of Islam.

What the Serbian Christians did to Bosnian Muslims, what Hitler did to Jews, what the Missionaries did to the Native Americans does not represent Christianity either. Neither clapping nor the standing ovation Pastor Jefress got for injecting hate in the hearts of congregation represents Christianity either. Does it?

Religion was designed to help men from being destructive, most people get that, a few don't. Religion is about removing hate, teaching forgiveness and creating a kingdom of heaven on the earth for the benefit of whole humanity.

If you have choice to listen to Paster Jeffress about Islam, Pastor Phelps about Judaism Vs. going directly to Quraan or Torah, what would be more authentic? Remember, like our constitution is wrongly interpreted to suit the political needs of the politicians, the scriptures are also mistranslated.

No scripture teaches hate. Period

REAL QUESTION

Would you rather believe what Pastor Jeffress says about Islam, or what Quraan says about Islam? Would you believe what Jews or Muslims say about Jesus or what Bible says about Jesus?

There are at least 18 decent translations of Quraan against the two bigoted ones Pastor Jeffress may have read and bases his judgment upon. One of them was paid to mistranslate by the monastery of Abbey in 1142 to suit the needs of the European kings to halt the invading Kings, and the other one was by a Muslim in 1922 that did the hateful mistranslations to possibly egg on Muslims after they lost the Ottoman Empire. Both are political and hate filled translations and most of the European and American Non-Muslim scholars of Islam have their foundation in these wrong translations.

For the sake of a peaceful world, we need to separate the falsity from the truth even if does not suit our political agenda for this moment.

Mike Ghouse
http://www.unitydayusa.com/

Videos of pastor Jeffress:

1. http://www.youtube.com/firstbaptistdallas#p/u/1/wfb9p3qSRqA
2. http://www.youtube.com/firstbaptistdallas#p/u/0/R4dHHbO7Slw

BOTTOM LINE

I watched the 2nd video of Dr. Jeffress, and at the very end he states his bottom line - Muslims to convert to his version of Christianity.

Dale Carnegie once said, if you want honey, don't kick the beehive. If the pastor is bent on continuing with his luxurious life style, call it a business and invite Muslims with love and not kick them and ask them to join him - Heloooo Pastor!

A few Muslims mirror him; they tell the christians that they are wrong to believe Jesus as a son of the God, and then invite them to consider Islam... Heloooo missionizers!

We must be aware of the bottom line of Individuals. Neither speak for whole Christianity or whole Islam.

Mike Ghouse
http://www.unitydayusa.com/

Dallas pastor's broad-brush criticism of Islam goes way too far
11:26 AM CDT on Sunday, September 5, 2010
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/localnews/columnists/sblow/stories/090510dnmetblow.19e1646.html
It's hard to know where to start in expressing dismay with the Rev. Robert Jeffress – for being uninformed, un-Christian or un-American.

The pastor of Dallas' First Baptist Church managed to squeeze all three into a recent rant against Islam.

The video clip is available on the church website as if it's something to be proud of.
Also Online
Video: Watch as Dr. Robert Jeffress condemns Islam.

On Aug. 22, First Baptist's Sunday evening service featured the annual "Ask The Pastor" event. One of the written questions that Jeffress took that night asked about comparisons between Muslim jihad and the Christian Crusades.

Jeffress acknowledged terrible misdeeds by Christians, although he said many have been "overblown."
He went on to say that Christian atrocities were always contrary to the teaching of the New Testament. "But Muslims, when they commit violence, they are acting in accordance with what the Quran teaches," he said.

He was just getting started.
He went on to talk about Islam's oppression of women and how it is "a violent religion."
"And here is the deep, dark, dirty secret of Islam: It is a religion that promotes pedophilia – sex with children. This so-called prophet Muhammad raped a 9-year-old girl – had sex with her," he said.

"Around the world today, you have Muslim men having sex with 4-year-old girls, taking them as their brides, because they believe the prophet Muhammad did."

Finally, his finger jabbing the air, he proclaimed: "I believe, as Christians and conservatives, it's time to take off the gloves and stand up and tell the truth about this evil, evil religion."
Where to begin with such broad-brushed nonsense?

Let's start with uninformed – particularly the outrageous accusation that Islam promotes pedophilia and Muslim men around the world engage in it.

What do experts say?
"No, I haven't seen that or heard of it," said Dr. Ryan Hall, a Florida psychiatrist and national authority on pedophilia. "If this were widespread, it definitely would have come to the attention of the medical and legal communities."

Dr. Robert A. Hunt is a professor of theology at Southern Methodist University and a scholar on Islam. Is he aware of any evidence to support Jeffress' statements on pedophilia? "None whatsoever," he said.

While Muhammad did marry a 9-year-old as one of his wives, Hunt said it is unfair to apply modern Western standards across cultures and centuries.

Islamic tradition holds that the girl was chosen by God. She became an important religious figure in Islam as a trusted source of sayings from Muhammad.

I asked Jeffress for the evidence to back up his accusation of condoned, widespread pedophilia and he could only say that he had "read references" to it in a few places.

Well, besides being uninformed, his harsh, condemning comments also seemed un-Christian. And Hunt agreed.

"I can think of three relevant commandments that were violated, starting with, 'Thou shall not bear false witness,' " he said.

"Then I would add, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' And 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' I don't see how anybody could regard those as statements of love for a Muslim neighbor," Hunt said of Jeffress' comments.

And that brings us to the un-American nature of the comments.

In time of war, one of the first duties of those safely back home is to not do or say anything that puts our warriors in greater danger.

We have men and women fighting and dying in Afghanistan right now, and one of their greatest challenges is proving to the people there that they are friends of Islam – that they oppose only violent, radical jihadists who corrupt the religion.

Hunt explained it this way: "There is a very, very small minority of Muslims – radical Islamists or jihadists, they're called – and they draw their power from the assumption that Islam is at war with the West and that the West is at war with Islam.

"Anything that appears to make that more credible to Muslims will increase support for the jihadists."

Do you think it helps for a prominent pastor back home to disrespect Muhammad as "this so-called prophet," to refer to him and his followers as pedophiles and to proclaim all of Islam an "evil, evil religion"?

And how far do you suppose that video clip has already spread across the Muslim world?
Jeffress told me he can't worry about his words being used to bolster the terrorist cause. "The truth can always be perverted, but that shouldn't keep you from speaking the truth," he said.
Hunt had a very different perspective. "Lying is never helpful, and he was lying," he said.
About what?

"Everything," he said.
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My comments that I am posting on Dallas News

QURAANIs any one sincere about understanding Quraan or any religious book? Do we have to hate some one and Islam is convenient?

Would you accept the definition of Christianity or Judaism by a buddhist monk or a Muslim clergy?

The Europen kings in 12th century were threatened by the invading kings, and they figured that by maligning and painting the religion of invaders as evil - they can incite enough hatred in their subjects to fight for them.

There are 20 translations of Quraan in the market or more... two are deliberately mistranslated; one by Christians and the other by Muslims - both right wingers and selling hate was their business and have duped so many of us..

All it takes one is to read at least 5 translations hoping the ugly two are part of the five. I am planning on a conference for Sunday, December 12 to understand the truth, myths nad facts of Quraan... bring in pastor Jeffress... it will be open to the public.

Mike Ghouse
http://www.unitydayusa.com/