Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Carter Peace initiatives

Article follows my comments;

Why can't the US listen to its wiser statesmen? Why do we have to stand against the world and make enemies instead of friends?

The Bush and Olmert adminstrations continue with their thoughtless dirty games. They want to talk about peace, but not with the party who the peace is going to affect? That is downright chicanery.

The acts of both these administrations are not reflective of majority of their population. The few extremists are shoving it down the throats of the people.

I wrote a similar note way back in November, prior to the Annapolis conference. http://peace-palestine-israel.blogspot.com/2007/11/peace-in-israel-palestine.html
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Jimmy Carter Was Right to Meet with Hamas

By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Posted on April 21, 2008, Printed on April 22, 2008
Former President Jimmy Carter, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for what the prize committee described as his "untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts," is touring the Middle East, as a private citizen, in a bid to revive interest in a moribund peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. He's doing so at a time when their decades-long conflict is growing in intensity and distrust on both sides is running high.

As a result, Carter is once again under fire from conservatives. Last week, Republican Rep. Sue Myrick (NC) went so far as to call for the former president's passport to be revoked on Fox News.

Carter's crime was to sit-down with leaders of Hamas last week to explore the possibility of waging peace in the Middle East. For many Israel-hawks, it wasn't a first offense; Carter is guilty of viewing the Palestinians as human beings and for condemning human rights abuses on both sides of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. "Any side that kills innocent people is guilty of terrorism," he told an audience at Cairo's American University after his sit-down with members of Hamas.

Carter rejects the short-sighted idea that negotiating with one's enemies legitimizes or rewards them for their actions. According to the same logic, when a police department sends a hostage negotiator to talk down a gun-toting lunatic who's barricaded himself in a house somewhere, that department would be guilty of "legitimizing" armed lunatics. It's a ludicrous idea on its face, but one that's essentially embraced by much of the American foreign policy establishment when it comes to the international arena.

It's an ideological construct that defies both common sense and the "best practices" that have been developed in the field of conflict resolution -- best practices that were borne of hard experience. What Carter seems to understand, and his detractors appear unable to grasp, is that there is absolutely no chance of establishing and implementing a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians without offering Hamas a seat at the negotiating table.

One of the most obvious lessons from the international community's efforts at conflict resolution is that getting signatures on a peace deal is only half the battle (if that much). Implementing peace treaties is much more difficult, and recent history is littered with wreckage of agreements that didn't hold.

One of the ways to almost guarantee that a peace agreement will be impossible to implement is to negotiate it without bringing all of the combatants to the table. Israel and Fatah (the faction of Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the Palestinian Authority) can negotiate a deal, but if Hamas isn't invested in it, then they'll have no incentive to comply with its terms.

One doesn't need to have warm feelings towards Hamas to recognize this reality. The idea that one can choose one's negotiating partner, as opposed to negotiating with all of the parties to a conflict, is a fantasy. The fact that Hamas won a decisive victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections and is the legitimate voice of a majority of the Palestinian people reduces the notion to a bit of right-wing idealism that's thoroughly divorced from historic experience.

Carter, whose recent book Palestine: Peace not Apartheidbrokered a lasting peace deal between Israel and an Arab state. His work at Camp David in the 1970s not only led to a sustainable peace deal between Israel and Egypt, it set a precedent that was followed by other Arab states and eventually an offer by all of the Arab states for full recognition of Israeli sovereignty in exchange for Israel's return to its pre-1967 borders. In other words, not only has Carter contributed to the region's stability, he's also done more to improve Israel's security than all of his neoconservative naysayers combined. ruffled many right-wing feathers, remains the only American president to have actually

A common refrain among American and Israeli hawks is that Hamas must recognize Israel's legitimacy before they can get a seat at the table. While that sounds reasonable on its face, in reality it's asking Hamas to accept a key Israeli demand before negotiations begin. Meanwhile, Israel continues to build new settlements in the Occupied Territories, and continues its brutal siege of the Gaza strip. In other words, the position held by much of the Washington establishment is that Palestinians must make concessions before negotiations begin, but Israel is free to continue creating "facts on the ground," even when it's in violation of international law. It's a pipedream to believe such a position can lead to anything more than extended bloodshed.

Of course, what separates Carter from his detractors may be that he has a genuine desire for establishing peace in the Middle East, while many "pro-Israel" hawks favor (an impossible) military solution to the conflict, with Israel crushing the Palestinians into oblivion.

If that is their position, they should be upfront about it and admit that they oppose a negotiated settlement to the conflict rather than lashing out blindly at anyone who is serious about making peace.

Joshua Holland is an AlterNet staff writer.

© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/82936/

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Praying Passenger Removed

Praying passenger removed from S.F.-bound flight at JFK

NEW YORK - A passenger who left his seat to pray in the back of a plane before it took off, ignoring flight attendants' orders to return, was removed by an airport security guard, a witness and the airline said.

The religious man, who wore a full beard, stood near the lavatories and began saying his prayers while the United Airlines jet was being boarded at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Wednesday night, fellow passenger Ori Brafman said.

When flight attendants urged the man, who was carrying a religious book, to take his seat, he ignored them, Brafman said. Two friends, who were seated, tried to tell the attendants that the man couldn't stop until his prayers were over in about 2 minutes, he said.

"He doesn't respond to them, but his friends explain that once you start praying you can't stop," said Brafman, who was seated three rows away.


American Muslims & the Pope

Five articles on the subject:

I can understand the reluctance of Muslims to meet His holiness Pope Benedict. It is based on three mis-spokes within the last year. His words were not mitigators but provocateur of conflicts and Muslims were not clear about his intentions, they did not want to invite themselves unless they were invited.

To be a Muslim is to be a peacemaker, one who constantly seeks to mitigate conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence. God wants us to live in peace and harmony with his creation; life and mater. Indeed, that is the purpose of religion, any religion.

Mother Teresa once said, “If you want to make peace, you go talk with your enemies, you don’t make peace with your friends”. God bless her soul for such wisdom.

I am glad CAIR is attending the event, if I had the invite, I would have been there too. We are all human and I would expect his Holiness will choose his words to nurture goodwill. For peace, we have to put things behind us. As a Muslim, I believe the best in people.

Continued at: http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2008/04/muslims-and-pope.html

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Illusions of an Islamic State

Illusions of an Islamic State
A book by Tarek Fatah.

If you are content with the status quo of your knowledge, this book is not for you, but if you’d like to be challenged, check this out.

Continue: http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2008/04/book-illusions-of-islamic-state.html

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Book on Hinduism for Kids

Information follows my comments;

I welcome this book; it is much needed in the context of our society, a multi-faith, multi-racial and multi-cultural society.

In the next few decades there will not be a City in the United States and perhaps in the world, where you do not meet a person from a faith y0u may have never heard of. It behooves us to learn about others and their culture, faith and life styles. So all of us can co-exist as peacefully as we can.

At the Foundation for Pluralism, it is our effort to keep the public informed, at least with some information about other faiths. We achieve this through workshops, radio programs, events, lectures, seminars, news letters and our website. http://www.foundationforpluralism.com/ .

There is a sea change in the last two decades, the Presidential candidate Bush could not pronounce the name of India’s Prime Minister some seven years ago, and today we have a great relationship between the two nations.

We do not go to school on Elephants any more and we now speak Hindi (not Hindu), instead of seeing the images of beggars we see the high-tech call centers. Americans and Indians are much more in tune with each other today than a decade ago and I hope this continues to flourish.

There is an organization here is in Dallas that focuses on orienting the Americans who are heading to America, and I have been one of the orientors and it is fun sharing about your own motherland.

This book helps restore the dignity in our kids, they don’t have to be embarrassed any more, they have access to a book that validates what they believe and can share it with others. It is like a back up for them that gives them a sense of relief.

Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker, Writer and a Moderator. He is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing Pluralism, politics, Islam, Religion, Terrorism, India and civic issues. He is the founder of the World Muslim Congress, a group committed to building bridges and nurturing a world of co-existence. He also heads the foundation for pluralism, an organization committed to studying religious pluralism and pluralistic governance. His personal website is http://www.mikeghouse.net/ and his writings are on the above websites as well as several of the ancillary Blogs listed on the sites.


"Restructuring The Faith!"
'Hinduism book seeks to dispel myths'


As many Hindu parents in America and Canada know too well, you just cannot be prepared for all the questions your child has to face in the school. Questions like:
• Why do Hindus worship the cow?
• Are Hindu Gods always married to many women?
• Why do Hindus worship idols?

And then there are endless questions about what Americans call the dot. Not to forget questions about the Hindu pantheon of gods.

The parents' answers and explanations are often not satisfactory to the children -- or, for that matter, to the parents themselves. Often the parents ask someone in the community, who has commanding knowledge of Hinduism, for answers or seek the help of a Hindu scholar, or in libraries.

Now, parents and children can turn to What is the 'myth' of Hinduism? -- a landmark book with over 400 large pages and nearly 1,000 illustrations that designed answers the above questions, and many more, with brevity and clarity.

One of the book's important achievements is in creating context that explains otherwise inexplicable Hindu practices.

For instance, it connects social practices like 'untouchability' to segregation practiced in America a few decades ago, and to the fact that there are millions in America including African Americans and Hispanics who face continual discrimination in residential areas, schools, at workplaces and in places of worship.

These are the true 'untouchables,' the book writes.
After telling the readers that it is illegal in India to discriminate against, abuse or insult anyone on the basis of caste, the book looks at modern America, adding that there is a class system in the United States that is very bad.

'US cities are more racially segregated than before the 1950s Civil Rights Movement because of white flight to the suburbs,' the book notes. 'Black Americans receive harsher sentences than white Americans for the same crime.' It goes on to write a few lines on the plight of Native Americans too.

'This kind of response -- we can call it the you're one, too defense -- ? doesn't mean Hindus should not work much harder to end caste discrimination,' the book warns. But it reminds others that 'no country in the world is yet free from racial discrimination.' And no religion on eath that sanction 'untouchability' as part of faith

Among the many subjects the book addresses is the theme of holy cows. 'Hindus don't worship cows,' the book, compiled from articles and information in Hinduism Today magazine, notes. 'We respect, honour and adore the cow. By honouring this gentle animal, who gives more than she takes, we honour all creatures.'

The chapter on the cow also touches upon vegetarianism. While it explains the rationale behind a vegetarian diet, it also notes that while many Hindus are NOT vegetarians, 'most respect the still widely held code of abstaining from eating beef.'

Are Hindus forbidden to eat meat, is another question immigrant Indians often face. The book does not point out that in most regions of India the majority of Hindus eat meat and fish, and it does not reveal that Bengali Brahmins eat fish religiously, and that Swami Vivekananda continued eating fish even after he had become a monk or even that the Buddhist spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is a non-vegetarian. Budhists are not HINDUS!

However, the book notes: 'Hindus teach vegetarianism as a way to live with a minimum hurt to other beings. But in today's world not all Hindus are vegetarians. Of course, there are good Hindus who eat meat, and there are not-so-good Hindus who are vegetarians.'

The book offers a wealth of information on various aspects of Hinduism, from the devotional to cultural to epicurean. Published by the Himalayan Academy in Kauai, Hawaii, the book is based on hundreds of articles published in the magazine over the past 25 years.

The academy, which also produces the erudite and popular Hinduism Today magazine, is part of the Hindu monastery founded by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, popularly known as Gurudeva, more than five decades ago. Though the Kauai monastery is a Saivite institution, the book deals with various Hindu traditions and offers the kind of insights not often found in other books of its kind.

In one of the important chapters in the book, Comparing the Four Major Denominations, Saivisim, Shaktism. Vaishnavism, and Smartism, the authors assert there are more similarities, including the importance of temple worship and the concept of liberation of the soul from rebirth, than differences between the four denominations.

But the book also explains some of the key differences between them. Saivite Hindus do not believe in earthly incarnations of the Supreme Being; the Divine Mother incarnate in this world is the belief of Shatki followers. Vaishnavism believes that Vishnu has ten or more incarnations. And the Smarta followers believe all deities assume earthly incarnations.

The subject of idol worship is a big issue in America, where many fundamentalist Christians rebuke Hindus calling them idol worshippers. In school text books and in social science classes, Hindu children are often faced with opprobrium on such lines.

'Hindus do not worship stone or metal 'idol' as God,' the editors of What is Hinduism? note in the chapter titled Ten Questions People Ask About Hinduism. 'We worship God through the image. We invoke the presence of God from the higher, unseen worlds, into the images so that we can commune with Him and receive His blessings.'

One of the plus points for the book is its humour. 'Hindus are not idle worshippers,' the book continues. 'I have never seen a Hindu worship in a lazy or idle way.'

As for the question about 'graven images,' the book says all religions 'have their symbols of holiness through which the sacred flows into the mundane': The Christian cross or statues of Mary, the holy Kaaba in Mecca, the Sikh Adi Granth enshrined in the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

'The Hindu can see God in stone and water, fire, air and ether, and inside his own soul,' the book says. 'Indeed, there are Hindu temples which have in the sanctum sanctorum no image at all but a yantra, a symbolic or mystic diagram. However, the sight of the image enhances the devotee's worship.'

And then there are the questions about sex, marriage and the Gods. There is a Hinduism of the Puranas which is filled with stories about gods and goddesses, the book says. But there is also a Hinduism of higher philosophies in which gods are neither male or female. 'In fact, attaining to that godly level of being is one of the mystical goals of yoga,' the book asserts. 'Hindus know that the Gods do not marry, that they are complete within themselves.'

The editors of What is Hinduism? say that some people in other faiths criticise the Hindu religion as a sort of comic book religion. 'We should not be part of perpetuating that image by passing on such misconceptions as the marriage of the Gods,' the editors note.

Some modern swamis urge devotees not to pay attention to Puranic stories about the Gods, saying that they have no relationship with the world today, the book argues. These swamis do not want children to read those stories because children may not be able to understand them in proper context. 'Instead, they (the swamis) encourage followers to deepen themselves with the higher philosophies of the Vedic Upanishads and the realisation of the Hindu seers.'
One of the highlights of the book is the reproduction of Swami Vivekananda's Song of the Sanyasin, which is spread across two pages, along with the picture of Vivekananda and the image of Thousand Island Park, New York, where the visiting monk composed the song.

'There is but One:
the Free, the Knower, Self.
Without a name, without a form or stain.
In Him is maya, dreaming all this dream..
The Witness, He appears as nature, soul.
Know thou art That, sannyasin bold! Say
'Om Tat Sat, Om.'

The irony of intolerance

The irony of intolerance; Two articles By Tim Wildmon, AFA president & Mike Ghouse, Foundation for Pluralism


I am pleased to see clear statements coming out of a self proclaimed Christian fundamentalist. It is a good thing, and hope more and more God's men and women express their sentiments as truthfully as they can. You can dialogue with those who tell their version of the truth like it is, rather than propaganda.

We must rejoice that we have figured out the truth and it works for “us”. I do not see a problem when one claims and gets excited about the path s/he has chosen gives him all the joys of life. The problem erupts when one’s truth is made to negate other’s truth. At this time one has certainly crossed the line of spirituality and has entered the realm of politics.

Unless we develop the capacity to acknowledge that other’s path is as sincere to them as our own is to us.

This is where germs of the conflicts can take root. The belief that my way is the only way, the right way, imbues arrogance in one’s self and causes one to believe that other’s way is inferior, incomplete, deficit and not really the right way. It would make me to look at the other in a condescending way “man you are behind, you need to come up” as if my belief is on par and every one else’s’ is under par, thus not as valuable as my own.

As Rabbi Gordis says, at this critical point, your dialogue would be infused with missionizing efforts, and gets reduced to a monologue. There is no more communicating going on except the repulsion and internal conflicts “how do I get this guy to see the truth” and the other’s frustration “this guy does not get it”.

This is also a point where Muslims need to seriously push the refresh button on the verse “no compulsion in matters of faith” to be larger than it sounds. Qur’aan offers its wisdom “you cannot tell or compel other to believe what you believe unless they see your point of view”. The Jain faith encourages several ways of looking at the issue and Hinduism wraps up “Vasudeva Kutumbakam” meaning the whole world is one family, when you believe that differences work out as diverse views rather than conflicting ideas.

Conflicts can be classified into real and imaginary. The real ones are; i) When some one’s space is invaded, ii) when some one affects your loved ones and iii) your sustenance, your food is challenged. All else is imaginary outsides these three real conflicts.

If the Religious heads can make an attempt to understand and communicate at least to their own congregations that “my belief will earn the grace of God” as others belief will earn it for them.

My appeal to all religious leaders is to see arrogance in their claim that our way is the only way. Even the idea that my faith does not claim monopoly like others is a statement of arrogance. Spirituality is about humility, accepting the parity of life.

Christians and Muslims in particular can push the refresh button and ponder on the following two statements, and lift the limits ascribed to these sentences.

1. I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
2. Islam is the final and complete faith. This is the way.

Do these statements negate other faiths? Are these statements for the believers without any comparative reference to other belief systems?

I think not.

When Jesus says follow me, Krishna says surrender to me or Allah says submit to my will, they are not asking to tread the physical path, surrender the physical being, or give up oneself physically.

They are in turn asking us to act like God, who loves his creation. The Sun he has created will shine on the dirtiest puddle as well as the crystal clear mountain indiscriminately, and when we do that, give the warm love and energy to the others indiscriminately, it falls all the barriers and the idea of oneness consolidates itself and a state of conflictlessness evolves; resulting in a blissful state of existence.

Jesus' words are profound, they are limitless and not confined to the shallowness of the words, and they are inclusive and all embracing. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." Islam is certainly the final and complete faith, and the truth and the life, to the follower. One cannot go wrong if he or she follows any religious path.

After all, religion's purpose, viewed from Mr. Spock's point of view, which is not conditioned with any faith, is to bring balance to one own life, and balance with others and what surrounds him or her.

Respecting other paths as legitimate and divine does not mean infidelity to one's own, it simply means raising ourselves closer to God, the state of nothingness and everythingness. The higher we go, the broader our horizons would be.

Are we ready to push our refresh button and see the essence in all teachings?

Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker, Writer and a Moderator. He is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing Pluralism, politics, Islam, Religion, Terrorism, India and civic issues. He is the founder of the World Muslim Congress, a group committed to building bridges and nurturing a world of co-existence. He also heads the foundation for pluralism, an organization committed to studying religious pluralism and pluralistic governance. His personal website is http://www.mikeghouse.net/ and his writings are on the above websites as well as several of the ancillary Blogs listed on the sites.


The irony of intolerance
By Tim Wildmon, AFA president -
AFA Journal, April 2008

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
I am a Christian fundamentalist, meaning, for one thing, that I believe in the declaration by Jesus Christ in John 14:6. I believe His claim to be absolute truth.

Compared to other belief systems, this is an exclusionary statement. It divides people. Either you subscribe to it, or you don’t. There is no in between. No gray area. The Scriptures contain many other similar quotes from Jesus. For example, in John 3:3 He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And in Luke 13:3, He says, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Christian fundamentalists like me take these words literally. Jesus wasn’t talking metaphorically. He wasn’t talking in parables, as He often did when teaching. In these declarations, He meant what He said and said what He meant.

In recent years there has been a plethora of books proclaiming the “dangers” of Christian fundamentalism. Some have reached the best-seller list, e.g. American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century by Kevin Phillips; Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg; American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America by Chris Hedges; and The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege by Damon Linker.

Christopher Hitchens, arguably today’s leading spokesman for atheism, has a new book titled God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. To give these folks their due, they are intelligent thinkers. They and many others like them represent the intellectual power of the secular left and they have significant influence in the world of academia, the mainstream national media, and the arts and entertainment industry. The common theme in these books and among the secular left is that people like Tim Wildmon are a clear and present danger to other Americans who do not agree with my fundamentalist Christian beliefs. Three pejorative words are often used to describe us: The Religious Right. In the secular leftist view, people like me have a political agenda to take over the country and subject non-believers – through the power of government – to our particular religious dogma. Often these people will say that we represent the Christian version of the Taliban. Obviously, the idea of a group of people gaining control of government and using it to force others to obey their particular religious beliefs scares many Americans. It would scare me, if I thought it were a real possibility. Now there may be people in this country who would like to do this, but trust me, none of the Christian fundamentalists I know have any desire to force their religious creeds on other Americans who choose to believe differently.
The secular leftist thinkers become intellectually dishonest when they mislead people into accepting the lie that just because fundamentalist Christians are active and engaged in championing Biblical morality in the political process, that activity somehow equates to theocracy.

Consider abortion, perhaps the most divisive social issues of our time. Christian fundamentalists believe that human life begins at conception and should be protected by government. So we work through the legal and the political systems to elect representatives who share this view. This is how the American process works. All we do is participate the same way other groups do. We have no desire to send an atheist to prison because he doesn’t confess John 14:6.If you argue that religious people should be excluded from public debate because their beliefs motivate their political activity, then you would have say the American civil rights movement was illegitimate. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Christian minister, led the movement to pursuade government to impose a particular belief on America that all men are equal in the eyes of God. It was a movement that found it’s deepest conviction in Christianity.


Pope Benedict Visits America

Article follows my notes;

I am pleased that the Pope understands the dominant pluralistic traditions of America and am pleased that he is visiting members of different faith traditions.

Given his position as guardian of the Christian Catholic denomination, and given his conflict producing speeches recently, I hope he would not have a condescending attitude toward the other faiths and his dialogue would be based on giving full value to the other beliefs as he would give to his own belief set.

If we can learn to accept and respect every which way humans express their gratitude to the creator then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

As beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, faith is in the heart of the believer.

Mike Ghouse

What the pope will see in America
James A. Donahue Monday, April 14, 2008


When Pope Benedict XVI sets foot on American soil today, he will find a Catholic Church and a Catholic community that very much reflects the country of which it is a part. His visit presents an opportunity for greater understanding - because one of the long-standing challenges in the relationship between the Vatican and the American church has been to understand the issues of American Roman Catholics as distinctive, and as an outgrowth of American culture.

The unifying power of the Catholic Church, represented primarily through the primacy of the papacy, has resided in its ability to speak in a common voice across nations and cultures. And though this goal of "universal" commonality has been significantly strained in the contemporary world, the American Roman Catholic community reflects a people who seek to identify across cultural divisions. There are many issues that may capture the pope's attention next week, but several stand out as the most significant.

Pope Benedict will see that American Catholic identity and beliefs are not monolithic. Rather, within a core set of beliefs, Catholic identities cut across race, class, gender and ethnicity. In California alone, Latino Catholics in Los Angeles are different from Catholics in suburban San Francisco, and also different from Catholics in rural Northern California.

The pope will see that religious pluralism is the primary context for Roman Catholicism in America. A recent Pew Foundation survey of American religious affiliation suggested that while most Americans ascribe to some religious belief, the forms that belief takes are significantly diverse and the patterns of practice and engagement are fluid. So American Catholicism finds itself in continuous conversation with other religious forms and beliefs, and the American Catholic experience is no longer either sectarian or mainstream, but a mixture of both.

The pontiff is well aware that the reality of religious pluralism in America presents the opportunity for interreligious dialogue to flourish. He signaled this as a priority in his first public Mass and has since indicated that dialogue among Christians, Muslims and Jews is important for the future of Catholic theological thinking. Indeed, his inclusion of visits to a New York synagogue and to a Washington meeting with Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and leaders of other faiths suggests the continuing importance of interreligious dialogue to the pontiff. While the dialogue could address conflict resolution and the search for harmony, the pontiff has indicated that the central point of dialogue is the search for truth of the Catholic tradition in relationship to the truths of other religious traditions.

The pope will find that American culture does not represent a hotbed of secular relativism, which he has articulated as a persistent enemy of the truths of the Catholic faith. He will see an American people, a church and Catholic communities in a country that is hungry for religious and spiritual meaning. The challenge for the American Catholic Church is determining in what ways it can meet these spiritual and religious longings. The church's attempts to modernize and appeal to the local customs of American culture while being faithful to tradition will be closely scrutinized by observers inside and outside the church.

Perhaps most significant for the pope to observe is that the American Catholic Church shares the impulse of American society for the dynamics of democratization in institutional and organizational life - which presents enormous challenges to the existing structural authority and organizational dynamics of the church. Pope Benedict will see that Americans desire and demand participation in the political processes, transparency in decision-making processes and accountability from their leadership. He might see the hierarchical, male-dominated decision-making of the Catholic tradition, the lack of structural accountability of leaders as manifested in the recent sexual abuse scandals, and the emerging interface of religion and politics as significant issues for the Roman Catholic Church in America to address. What remains to be seen is not whether, but how, the church can or should adapt to these demands.

Also available for Pope Benedict to observe in America is that engaging youth - the next generation of American Catholics - will be a significant challenge. While the pope will address youth and leaders in Catholic higher education during his visit, the question is, will younger Catholics see the practice, worship or ethical behaviors of American Catholic life as relevant or as hopelessly "out of touch" with their own lives? The role of women in the American church, who have been theologically and pastorally excluded from leadership positions, will also be up front and center for Pope Benedict to consider, especially as many Americans have already voted in primaries for a candidate, who, if elected, will be the country's first female president. The church will be pressed to justify its exclusion of women from leadership positions, and it seems unlikely that the historical positions of the Roman Catholic Church on these matters will be satisfying to many in American society.

Pope Benedict visits America at a time of enormous ferment in the American church. He has shown careful and thoughtful attention to many of these issues. With firsthand evidence, he may see the challenges and the possibilities for renewed conversations between the Vatican and the American Catholic Church. The dialogue that could ensue could offer American Catholics - still the single largest religious denomination in the United States - the opportunities they seek for relevant participation in the church, and for religious and spiritual connection across diverse American Catholic identities. It could also offer Americans in general the chance for deeper understanding and tolerance of each other's religious beliefs and traditions.

James A. Donahue, a Catholic theologian with a specialty in theological ethics, is president and professor of Ethics at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Ten Commandments monument

Ten Commandments monument

I am in agreement with the following statement, "This country was founded as a Christian nation,” Fitschen said, “[and] there is religious pluralism, but we don’t need to lie about the past.” yes we don’t need to lie or hide our past, whatever it was, and it ought to bring humility to us.

One of the ways I see out of the battle of religions is to Grandfather the old monuments and not install any new ones.

We are not the same society that we were two hundred years ago. Women vote now, they are not treated as a chattel any more; the African Americans have rights they did not have before. We are progressing from 18th Century civility to current day civility; we are a lot more law abiding citizens than we were two hundred years ago.

There is a lot more we need to catch up with.

We are not a homogenous society any more, thank God for that, our society in America reflects God’s creation; every one has a space and we need to honor that. We are a pluralistic society as God has expressed in his creation of the nature and the cosmos. As Americans, we are diverse in culture, faith, ethnicity, race and language. This is the ideal America, a beacon to the world to look up to.

Excluding religious symbols in public places is the right thing to do, they have been perceived as symbols of exclusivism. As as a religious people, we need to fall the barriers between us and every one else from the public square, let every one feel included.

Religion is a private relationship with one’s God . Let that remain in private domain. Our civility should honor and respect every one's way of life, whether some one asks for it or not.

Mike Ghouse

Ten Commandments monument upheld by US Circuit Court

A federal appeals court has upheld the constitutionality of a Ten Commandments display in Everett, Washington.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the display does not have a solely religious purpose.
The six-foot granite monument, inscribed with the Ten Commandments, sits near the Old City Hall in Everett and was donated to the city by the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Eagles in 1959. No one complained about it for over 30 years. Then in 2003, an Everett resident filed a lawsuit with the free legal assistance of Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AUSCS).

Steven W. Fitschen, president of the National Legal Foundation, said such cases show the true agenda of liberal groups like the AUSCS and others. “This country was founded as a Christian nation,” Fitschen said, “[and] there is religious pluralism, but we don’t need to lie about the past.”Americans, he insisted, should not have to abandon their religious heritage in order to appease someone’s political agenda.
www.onenewsnow.com, 3/28/2008;

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com, 3/28/2008

God's Sake - Khuda Ke Liye

God's Sake - Khuda Ke Liye

1. My Rebuttal to Myths of Modern Islam comments
2. Film opens Indian eyes to life in Pakistan
3. The myth of moderate Islam by Tavleen Singh

[( Rebuttal to Myths of Modern Islam )]

In Sunday's Indian Express, Tavleen Singh wrote the review for Khuda Ke Liye and has made a few wrong judgment calls. I am pleased to do a rebuttal.

My reaction would have been similar to Tavleen Singh’s, when the Pakistani hero tells his girl friend that “we built Taj Mahal”. We who, would have been my reaction too. The prejudices she has observed are well expressed. As Indians we are sensitive to what the Pakistanis say and I am sure the vice versa is true. The movie has to play it up too to arouse the sentiments of the audience. Then I am surprised at her conclusion “the film was that in seeking to show Islam in a good light, it accidentally exposes the prejudices that make moderate Muslims the ideological partners of Jihadis”. Since when did we start drawing conclusions based on a movie?

Tavleen Singh states that Moderation is in short supply among Muslims? In fact that is the only thing in abundance with Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs or any one for that matter. Most are moderate people and they go on about their daily responsibilities of earning a living and taking care of their families. They do not wear their religion on their sleeves; one may know some one is Muslim or a Hindu, but they don’t wear a neon sign.

In Dallas, we are about 80,000 Indians and our Association’s membership is about 1+% - We are about 75,000 Hindus, but you will not find 2% of the Hindus on any given Sunday at the temple, same goes with the Muslims or Christians. You are always looking for the volunteers and you find the same faces over and over again in every place. A majority of the people do not want to be tied up with the politics, religion or even civic affairs. They mind their own lives. About 9/10th of a percent of people are worriers like you and I, worried about what the 1/10th extremists will do. The 99% cares less.

The majority of any group is moderate, they are plenty in numbers and you never see them in any broils or Hangamas. For a good movie, you see a lot more of Desis than you would see them at the place of worship; religious movies are seen by far fewer people, when Khuda Ke Liye was shown at Fun Asia, the turn out was very low, even the Pakistanis did not come to see Khuda Ke Liye, they went to Om Shanti instead. The number gets bigger if it is a Bollywood entertainment extravaganza.

Look at the Election results of Pakistan, whom did the people vote? Not the religious parties. Out of 336 Seats in the assembly only 6 went to the religious parties and 330 to the secular ones. 2.2% v 97.8%.

Tavleen Singh needs to study more before she draws the conclusions.

She fails to mention the 10 minutes of critical dialogue where Naseeruddin Shah challenges the traditionalists, some thing that compares to the Brahmins washing the water faucet several times after a non-Brahmin has collected water from the public tap. Neither was religious, but practiced regardless. As a Journalist one has to tell the story that people can relate, it is just not what others do that is weird; we do it too in our own unique way.

She is iffy “If 'moderate' Muslims believe that the West is the real enemy of Islam” She can keep that to herself, because she does not understand who the moderates are. Like the movies, she must be running into only those people who are not moderates and they are just a few. Look at your own group, any group, Caucasian, African Americans, Latinos, Chinese, Hindus or Muslims – go for a sample of 100, you will find only one or two bullies in such a small sample.

The world is run by extremists and bullies while the moderates silently endure. It is time to get the moderates activated and assertive for the good of humankind. It is also time for the Tavleen Singhs of the world to think before they have their runs on the key boards.

Mike Ghouse is a Speaker, Thinker, Writer and a Moderator. He is a frequent guest on talk radio and local television network discussing Pluralism, politics, Islam, Religion, Terrorism, India and civic issues. His comments, news analysis, opinions and columns can be found on the Websites and Blogs listed at his personal website http://www.mikeghouse.net/. He can be reached at mailto:MikeGhouse@gmail.comor (214) 325-1916

iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii [( Film opens Indian eyes to life in Pakistan )] iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii

Landmark film opens Indian eyes to life in Pakistan
By Amelia Gentleman
Published: April 11, 2008

NEW DELHI: Of all the flattering headlines that greeted the release last week of the first Pakistani film to be shown in India in four decades, one stuck in the mind of the director Shoaib Mansoor.

"We didn't know that Pakistan had such good houses," the headline went, Mansoor recalled in an interview in Delhi.

It was a striking reminder of how little people in India know about the way their immediate neighbors across the border live.

For the past 43 years no Pakistan-made film had been distributed commercially to cinemas in India until Mansoor's "Khuda Kay Liye" ("In the Name of God") premiered here April 4 - a fact that has contributed to widespread ignorance in India about modern Pakistan.
This week, Indian filmgoers were offered a rare glimpse of life on the other side, the architecture, the unfamiliar landscape, the homes and the lifestyles. The film provided an unusual opportunity for audiences here to peer into the lives of middle-class Muslims in Pakistan, a country geographically close, but set apart by such entrenched political hostility that very few Indians have ever visited it.

The release of Mansoor's film (which broke all box-office records when it came out in Pakistan last year) was hailed here as a significant moment in the slow-motion Indo-Pakistan peace process.

An official ban was imposed by the Pakistan government on the distribution and broadcast of Indian movies, after the war between the two countries in 1965 (one of three wars fought between the two nations since the region was split by Partition in 1947). No formal reciprocal order was made by India, but initial political hostility to the idea of showing Pakistani films was superseded in later years by commercial considerations. In the second half of the 20th century, the Pakistani film industry (Lollywood) slipped into severe decline and produced nothing meriting distribution in India, (which is well-served by its own film industry).

Despite the ban, pirated, illegal copies of all the Bollywood hits have always been hugely popular in Pakistan. And in 2006, amid improving political ties, the Pakistan government gradually began to relax its approach, allowing a limited number of Indian films to be screened in cinemas legally.

The effect has been a cultural two-way mirror dividing the two countries, with Pakistan able to observe India (or a glitzier Bollywood version of India), but with Indians unable to see beyond its frontiers.

"Indian films never stopped coming to Pakistan, on DVDs," Mansoor said. "So every Pakistani is absolutely clear about the way of life in India, about how everything works in India. But there is nothing coming in the other direction, with the result that India has very clear misconceptions about Pakistan."

His film was edited in Delhi, where he was, he said, "shocked by the ignorance" of Indian colleagues in the cutting room. "They had very surprising ideas about Pakistan. They asked 'Do you have taxis there?' 'Can women drive?' 'Are women allowed to go to university?' They thought Pakistan consisted entirely of fanatics and mullahs.

"The opening of films between India and Pakistan will really help people know each other. These films will help these misconceptions to go away. People here will start seeing Pakistan as it really is."

Aside from their incidental curiosity at the unexpected beauty of Pakistani houses, filmgoers and reviewers have also been struck by the insight offered by the film into the difficulties of being a liberal Muslim in Pakistan after 9/11.

The film, which won the Silver Pyramid Award at the Cairo International Festival in 2007, shows two brothers, both talented musicians, living in Lahore, growing apart as they embrace different readings of Islam. One is brainwashed by the local mullah, abandons his Sufi rock group and his rich, liberal parents in their beautifully decorated home, and heads off to join the Taliban. The other leaves Pakistan to study music in Chicago, where he falls in love with America and marries an American before being arrested and subjected to Abu Ghraib-style torture by officials who are suspicious of his Muslim background, erroneously convinced that he played a role in the planning of the 9/11 attacks.

"That is the tragedy that a Muslim faces in these days," Mansoor said. "We are beaten up by fundamentalists, with the label that we are too Western, and when we go out of the country, we are labeled as fundamentalists just because we have Pakistani names."
The acting is patchy, but beneath the numerous plotlines, Mansoor successfully rams home his point: "All Muslims are not terrorists."

"People need to understand that Pakistanis are not all rabid fundamentalists."
He has been pleased by the response in India. "People clapped here at the same places people clapped in Pakistan. That's a good sign."

The Indian film critic Subhash K Jha, said it was a film everyone in India should see "to understand the isolation, to understand what it feels like to be deemed a terrorist, to be frisked extra hard, the pain and the humiliation."

"I don't think that is easy to understand as a Hindu." But he warned that the film would not have obvious appeal to most Indian viewers. "Sadly, not too many people will be interested to see a film that reveals life as a Muslim, so its impact will be rather restrained. It is not a pot-boiler, it doesn't have the audience-pulling big stars, it doesn't have any item numbers."

The Bollywood scriptwriter Javed Akhtar described it as a "very bold and honest film."
"Ignorance breeds suspicion and suspicion breeds hate, it creates huge villains," he said. "There is a lot to be heard and seen by Indian and by U.S. audiences here too."

The Indian certification board recommended a couple of cuts before approving the film for release (removing a reference to Muslims being killed in Indian-controlled Kashmir), but Shailendra Singh, managing director of Percept Pictures, the firm responsible for distributing the film, said the process of bringing the film to India had been surprisingly easy, and the initial box office response encouraging. He said he thought the film, which cost $1.5 million to make, would recoup $2.5 million over the next three months in India.

"We felt like we were being part of history," he said.

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The myth of moderate Islam by Tavleen Singh in Indian Express.

Tavleen Singh Posted online: Sunday, April 13, 2008 at 2316 hrs IST This is not a column that discusses cinema, but this week I make an exception because of a film I have just seen, which inadvertently exposes the myth of 'moderate' Islam. I went to see Khuda Kay Liye not just because it is the first Pakistani film to be released in Indian cinemas since anyone can remember, but because I gathered from reviews that it was a reflection of moderate Islam. This is a commodity in short supply in the subcontinent as well as across the Islamic world, where supposedly moderate Islamic countries like Indonesia and Malaysia have transformed in recent times into places where women have exchanged mini-skirts and western influence for the hijab and a return to medieval Arabia.

Khuda Kay Liye is the story of a modern Pakistani family that is destroyed when one musician son ends up in the clutches of a bad mullah and the other ends up in an American prison cell, where he is tortured till he loses his mind. The Islamist son, under the influence of the evil maulana, coerces his London-bred cousin into a marriage she does not want and forces her to live in a primitive Afghan village so she cannot escape. He rapes her because the maulana instructs him to and gives up his musical career because the maulana tells him that the Prophet of Islam did not like music. And he becomes an involuntary mujahid after 9/11, fighting on the side of the Taliban government. This is a simple story of a young man misled in the name of Islam.

The other musician son's story is more revealing of the flaws of what we like to call 'moderate' Islam. He goes to study music in a college in Chicago, falls in love with a white girl, and generally has a good time living the American dream until 9/11 happens. Then he is arrested, locked up in a secret prison in the United States and kept naked in a filthy cell until he goes mad. The message of the film, in its essence, is that Islam is a great religion that has been misunderstood and that the United States is a bad, bad country and all talk of freedom and democracy is nonsense.

Alas, this is not how we infidels see things. What interested me most about the film was that in seeking to show Islam in a good light, it accidentally exposes the prejudices that make moderate Muslims the ideological partners of jihadis. In painting America as the villain of our times, the prejudices against the West that get exposed are no different from what Mohammad Siddique, one of London's tube bombers, said in the suicide video he made before blowing himself up. In the video, that surfaced during the trial now on in London, he describes himself as a soldier in the war against the West: 'I'm doing what I am for Islam, not, you know, for materialistic or worldly benefits.'

In Khuda Kay Liye, the prejudices against India come through as well. The hero, when he lands in Chicago, finds that his future wife does not know that Pakistan is a country. When he tries to explain where it is geographically, he mentions Iran, Afghanistan and China before coming to India.

It happens that India is the only country she knows and Taj Mahal the only Indian monument she has heard of. 'We built it,' says our hero, 'we ruled India for a thousand years and Spain for 800.' As an Indian, my question is: who is we? Those who left for Pakistan or the 180 million Muslims who still live in India? If we pursue this 'we' nonsense, we must urge the Indian Government to bring back Harappa and Mohenjo-daro and Taxila. And that is only the short list.
Let us not pretend that Muslims in India do not face hostility and prejudice. They do. But some of it comes from this idea that Muslims have of themselves as being superior because they 'ruled India' for a thousand years. The problem becomes more complex if you remember that Hindu fanatics also see Muslims as foreigners and use it to fuel their hatred.

If 'moderate' Muslims believe that the West is the real enemy of Islam and that the free societies of modern times compare poorly with the greatness of Muslim rule in earlier times, then there is little difference between them and the jihadis. As we infidels see it, the problem is that Islam refuses to accept that in the 21st century there is no room for religion—any religion—in the public square. Other religions have accepted this and retreated to a more private space. Islam has not. ***

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Church and the State

State supported religions have been around from the very beginning.

1. Sassanians made Zoroastrianism the state religion of Persia
2. Ashoka made Buddhism the state religion of India
3. Rome made Christianity the state religion of Rome
4. The Caliphs made Islam the state religion of Arabia
5. David and Solomon made Judaism the state religion of Judea
6. Incas, Hopis, Mayans and the Zulus had state traditions.
7. Ram Raj and Krishnan Raj was the state religion of India
8. The Sikhism was a state religion once

I don’t believe that the Bahai’s and Jains have had an opportunity to have a state religion. I am open to getting corrected.

Except the religious heads of the time, the only thing most of the Kings of yesteryears knew was attack the next kingdom and annex their land, loot their wealth and bring in women as their concubines. Alexander spent nearly all of his adult life of some 15 years conquering, pillaging and ravaging the nations he ran over. He never got to sit down and read a poetry or romance with a lady or play with a baby. There were several kings like him, who were simply destructive plunderers and just could not sit down and relax. Do we have them today?

Which head of the state has not killed those who differed from him? Every one of them is guilty. It was not the religion though; it was the insecurity in that individuals that drove him to do desperate acts of violence and destruction.

Those were the days when societies were mono-culturistic and-mono religious, today the story is different. In the next fifty years there will not be a city where you will not find people of different races, religions, cultures and languages. Our system of Governance has to change too. Justice has to be served to every one to maintain the equilibrium in the society, or else, those whom justice was not served will be waiting to get even, the business of revenge continues.

The purpose of religion was to inculcate the values of justice in us and teach us to be fair. Treat others the way you would want to be treated.

Unfortunately religion has become a tool, used for fulfilling personal ambition of individuals. The grand ideas of quad; Islamist, Hindutva, Neocons and the Zionist are fictions presented as clear and present danger. It is to frighten the masses and make bucks in donations for massacring the evil other.

Islam bashing is a full time profitable business. As long as there are nincompoops out there, the smarties will keep cashing in. There is a host of them out there; some of them are listed at http://hatesermons.blogspot.com

There is not substantiation for their claims that Muslims are here to dominate and make Sharia the law of the land. They want to install the Caliphs and force the world to be Muslim. That is baloney, but it pays them well and they know how to frighten the crap out of constipated people.

There are enough Muslims to oppose the idea even before it germinates. In the United States there are plenty of us, myself and millions of Muslims who prefer nothing but a pluralistic Democracy.

As far as Muslims are concerned, let me shoot it straight, we do not want any religious
governance, let alone Islamic. Islam is a religion like other religions that helps one achieve peace for the individual and what surrounds him or her. To be religious is to be a peacemaker, one who
constantly seeks to mitigate conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence. God wants us to live in peace and harmony with his creation; life and mater. Indeed, that is the purpose of
religion, any religion.

No Muslims in particular wants any Islamic Government, they know it will be an Ayatollah, Taliban, Wahhabi or some other brand of Islam, who want to be under tyrants?

Democracy is the right form of governance and people should continuously have the choice to elect who governs for them. It keeps the politicians some what honest. As Muslims, we do not like to see any religious governance, be it in Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Mike Ghouse

Protesting Pope's Visit

April 12, 2008

To: Forum for Protection of Religious Pluralism

Dear Valerie Tarico
Forum for Protection of Religious Pluralism
Phone: 847-462-4692
E-mail: protectreligions@gmail.com

Greetings (click)

We support the work you are doing, however, please bear in mind that your web site gives the impression that it is anti-Christian. Pluralism is an inclusive concept and not an exclusive program.

Religion teaches one to live a peaceful life and shows the ways to stay away from being ugly, most people get it and a few don't. It is the individual that does the wrong, not the religion.

It is a shame what is happening with the Cauvery layout in Bangalore, we need to go after the individuals as individuals without affixing a religious label to them. Our objectives in bringing justice to humanity will be well served if we go after the criminals. We can punish individuals and bring justice and stop or mitigate the crimes, but we cannot punish religion, religion is not the criminal nor is it a tangible thing to punish.

I would like you to include Muslim and Christian symbols in your website banner to be truly pluralistic. No Muslim and No Christian want bad things to happen to any, a few do, and every religion has their share of ugly people. It is not the religion it is the individual. Every war and every crime originates from an individual in the disguise of the religion, although the society has shamelessly allowed them to be use the religious label. It is time to strip it.

On your website you have insinuated that $10 donation to Ahmed could go to Terrorists, I hope you would re-consider that statement, those words do not mitigate conflicts. Let your organization defend every religion and every one's right, as opposed to creating one group v the other. Let's all focus on individual criminals and treat them as such.

If we had gone after Bin Laden the criminal, and not Bin Laden the Muslim, we would have gotten him cornered and no one would have given him the protection if we had singled him out as a criminal. We would have saved the world from destruction of millions of lives, kept the men from becoming widowers and women from becoming widows, children would have had a chance to life, neither half a million women would have gone on the street and our own men and women would not have been sacrificed for the whims of the few. Not only the world is suffering for our administration’s irresponsible actions, we as Americans are suffering too in terms of guilt we are going to by carrying for not doing anything about the genocide of the Iraqi people, our economy and the oil prices. Who is going to pay for the trillion plus dollar deficit?

A public dialogue with the Pope would be ideal than a protest, however, if the protestation brings awareness and helps stepping up for a dialogue, then we have taken one more step in the right direction. We do not want any one to dig in their heels.

Please do not alienate good people regardless of the faith, tradition and culture they espouse.

If you can address these issue, you can add the following two organizations as support

1) World Muslim Congress and 2) Foundation for Pluralism

Mike Ghouse, President
Foundation for Pluralism
Dallas, Texas

Our Mission is to encourage individuals to develop an open mind and an open heart toward their follow beings. If we can learn to accept and respect the God given uniqueness of each one of the 7 billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge. We believe that knowledge leads to understanding and understanding to acceptance and appreciation of a different point of view.

2665 Villa Creek Dr, Suite 206, Dallas, TX 75234 (214) 325-1916
Workshops Seminars Education News Letters


NEW YORK, March 14 /PRNewswire/ -- The following was
released by Forum for the Protection of Religious Pluralism:

On April 18th, Pope Benedict XVI will address the United Nations General Assembly as part of his first visit to the United States as leader of the Catholic Church. In response to this event, the Forum for the Protection of Religious Pluralism (FPRP) (http://protectreligions.org) is organizing a peaceful march, which will proceed at 10 a.m. on Friday, April 18 from the United Nations building to the Gandhi statue in Union Square Park. Another demonstration and parade will be held outside Yankee Stadium during the Papal address there from 1-4 p.m., on Sunday, April 20. FPRP is holding these events to voice another view of religion, international politics, and civil rights.

*(LOGO 72dpi:

FPRP is devoted to raising public awareness of religions that have been victimized by aggressive proselytization campaigns that are grounded in religious exclusivism, which is there is only one way to God and all other ways are wrong and even evil that needs to be destroyed. Catholic, Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians looking to increase their numbers at any cost have had tremendous success in recruiting new converts by closely linking social services with deceptive and exploitative proselytizing. For example, schools have been built by evangelicals in other countries to provide an education to the poor, but the schools have also sought to persuade the children that their parents' spiritual beliefs are wrong and that Christianity is the only true religion. During natural calamities (tsunamis, earthquakes etc), services to the distressed are attached to proselytization campaigns. Weaker sections of the societies are targeted creating hatred, disharmony and tearing apart communities that lived together for thousands of years. These campaigns are funded through a combination of donations from churchgoers and government support, are still being conducted around the world with little interference. Such acts of intolerance violate the religious freedoms of many ancient traditions, and the FPRP is holding its events to bring attention to the injustices faced by them.

According to the events' organizers, religious exclusivism is at the root of religious injustice and sectarian violence around the world. This includes 9/11, Rwanda and other genocides, stolen generations of native cultures, suppression of women, gays as well as many lesser known violations committed in the name of God. In Bangalore suburb, new Christian converts from slum areas who were told by missionaries that their old neighbors worship demons put crosses at every street corner of the community of non-Christians and replaced their street names with Christian saints names. Residents live in fear as hostilities mount.

"We represent faiths, including several Christian denominations, that do not support proselytization and view the practice of it as a complete contradiction of their beliefs," says Jonas Trinkunas from the World Congress of Ethnic Religions (WCER), one of the organizations that is sponsoring the event. "When the members of the U.N. say that they support religious freedom and then give privileged treatment to the leader of a religion that regularly endorses deceptive proselytization campaigns at the expense of others, we feel that we are being penalized for remaining true to our faiths. If religious freedom is going to be shared by everyone, this unequal treatment must stop."

While this event is designed to focus on the rights of minority ethnic religions, other groups are encouraged to participate regardless of their religious or non-religious backgrounds. Hindu Collective Initiative of North America representing many Hindu temples and organizations is supporting the event. Religious groups such as Buddhists, Druids, Greek, Hindus, Romuva, Slavics, Wiccan, and other ethnic religions from Europe, Africa and various parts of the Americas have already confirmed their attendance at the demonstration, and the organizers are hoping that more groups will participate.

"We are not against any religion," says Satyanarayana Dosapati, one of the organizers of the event. "But the religious freedoms of cultures are being abused in many countries and their ancient traditions are being lost at an alarming rate. Mahatma Gandhi called proselytizations conducted by missionaries as the deadliest poison that ever sapped the fountain of truth. We can no longer afford to live in a world in which some religions spend billions of dollars each year to spread intolerance and injustice under the guise of humanitarian aid while ancient traditions disappear as the result. If religious pluralism is to have a future, we must act now."

FPRP plans to submit a petition signed by members of all religious groups to UN Secretary General calling for more active role by UN in protecting all the World religions and cultures.

detailed information is at

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tibet - Uri Avnery

Uri Avenery is one of the writers I admire. He writes sense, he is not born to please some one to compromise the truth. I am pleased to be alive to read stalwarts like him - Mike Ghouse


Not You! You!!

"Hey! Take your hands off me! Not you! You!!!" - the voice of a young woman in the darkened cinema, an old joke.

"Hey! Take your hands off Tibet!" the international chorus is crying out, "But not from Chechnya! Not from the Basque homeland! And certainly not from Palestine!" And that is not a joke.

LIKE EVERYBODY else, I support the right of the Tibetan people to independence, or at least autonomy. Like everybody else, I condemn the actions of the Chinese government there. But unlike everybody else, I am not ready to join in the demonstrations.

Why? Because I have an uneasy feeling that somebody is washing my brain, that what is going on is an exercise in hypocrisy.

I don't mind a bit of manipulation. After all, it is not by accident that the riots started in Tibet on the eve of the Olympic Games in Beijing. That's alright. A people fighting for their freedom have the right to use any opportunity that presents itself to further their struggle.

I support the Tibetans in spite of it being obvious that the Americans are exploiting the struggle for their own purposes. Clearly, the CIA has planned and organized the riots, and the American media are leading the world-wide campaign. It is a part of the hidden struggle between the US, the reigning super-power, and China, the rising super-power - a new version of the "Great Game" that was played in central Asia in the 19th century by the British Empire and Russia. Tibet is a token in this game.

I am even ready to ignore the fact that the gentle Tibetans have carried out a murderous pogrom against innocent Chinese, killing women and men and burning homes and shops. Such detestable excesses do happen during a liberation struggle.

No, what is really bugging me is the hypocrisy of the world media. They storm and thunder about Tibet. In thousands of editorials and talk-shows they heap curses and invective on the evil China. It seems as if the Tibetans are the only people on earth whose right to independence is being denied by brutal force, that if only Beijing would take its dirty hands off the saffron-robed monks, everything would be alright in this, the best of all possible worlds.

THERE IS no doubt that the Tibetan people are entitled to rule their own country, to nurture their unique culture, to promote their religious institutions and to prevent foreign settlers from submerging them.

But are not the Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria entitled to the same? The inhabitants of Western Sahara, whose territory is occupied by Morocco? The Basques in Spain? The Corsicans off the coast of France? And the list is long.

Why do the world's media adopt one independence struggle, but often cynically ignore another independence struggle? What makes the blood of one Tibetan redder than the blood of a thousand Africans in East Congo?

Again and again I try to find a satisfactory answer to this enigma. In vain.

Immanuel Kant demanded of us: "Act as if the principle by which you act were about to be turned into a universal law of nature." (Being a German philosopher, he expressed it in much more convoluted language.) Does the attitude towards the Tibetan problem conform to this rule? Does it reflect our attitude towards the struggle for independence of all other oppressed peoples?

Not at all.

WHAT, THEN, causes the international media to discriminate between the various liberation struggles that are going on throughout the world?

Here are some of the relevant considerations:

Do the people seeking independence have an especially exotic culture?
Are they an attractive people, i.e. "sexy" in the view of the media?
Is the struggle headed by a charismatic personality who is liked by the media?
It the oppressing government disliked by the media?

Does the oppressing government belong to the pro-American camp? This is an important factor, since the United States dominates a large part of the international media, and its news agencies and TV networks largely define the agenda and the terminology of the news coverage.

Are economic interests involved in the conflict?
Does the oppressed people have gifted spokespersons, who are able to attract attention and manipulate the media?
FROM THESE points of view, there is nobody like the Tibetans. They enjoy ideal conditions.

Fringed by the Himalayas, they are located in one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth. For centuries, just to get there was an adventure. Their unique religion arouses curiosity and sympathy. Its non-violence is very attractive and elastic enough to cover even the ugliest atrocities, like the recent pogrom. The exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, is a romantic figure, a media rock-star. The Chinese regime is hated by many - by capitalists because it is a Communist dictatorship, by Communists because it has become capitalist. It promotes a crass and ugly materialism, the very opposite of the spiritual Buddhist monks, who spend their time in prayer and meditation.

When China builds a railway to the Tibetan capital over a thousand inhospitable kilometers, the West does not admire the engineering feat, but sees (quite rightly) an iron monster that brings hundreds of thousands of Han-Chinese settlers to the occupied territory.

And of course, China is a rising power, whose economic success threatens America's hegemony in the world. A large part of the ailing American economy already belongs directly or indirectly to China. The huge American Empire is sinking hopelessly into debt, and China may soon be the biggest lender. American manufacturing industry is moving to China, taking millions of jobs with it.

Compared to these factors, what have the Basques, for example, to offer? Like the Tibetans, they inhabit a contiguous territory, most of it in Spain, some of it in France. They, too, are an ancient people with their own language and culture. But these are not exotic and do not attract special notice. No prayer wheels. No robed monks.

The Basques do not have a romantic leader, like Nelson Mandela or the Dalai Lama. The Spanish state, which arose from the ruins of Franco's detested dictatorship, enjoys great popularity around the world. Spain belongs to the European Union, which is more or less in the American camp, sometimes more, sometimes less.

The armed struggle of the Basque underground is abhorred by many and is considered "terrorism", especially after Spain has accorded the Basques a far-reaching autonomy. In these circumstances, the Basques have no chance at all of gaining world support for independence.

The Chechnyans should have been in a better position. They, too, are a separate people, who have for a long time been oppressed by the Czars of the Russian Empire, including Stalin and Putin. But alas, they are Muslims - and in the Western world, Islamophobia now occupies the place that had for centuries been reserved for anti-Semitism. Islam has turned into a synonym for terrorism, it is seen as a religion of blood and murder. Soon it will be revealed that Muslims slaughter Christian children and use their blood for baking Pitta. (In reality it is, of course, the religion of dozens of vastly different peoples, from Indonesia to Morocco and from Kosova to Zanzibar.

The US does not fear Moscow as it fears Beijing. Unlike China, Russia does not look like a country that could dominate the 21st century. The West has no interest in renewing the Cold War, as it has in renewing the Crusades against Islam. The poor Chechnyans, who have no charismatic leader or outstanding spokespersons, have been banished from the headlines. For all the world cares, Putin can hit them as much as he wants, kill thousands and obliterate whole towns.

That does not prevent Putin from supporting the demands of Abkhazia and South Ossetia for separation from Georgia, a country which infuriates Russia.

IF IMMANUEL KANT knew what's going on in Kosova, he would be scratching his head.

The province demanded its independence from Serbia, and I, for one, supported that with all my heart. This is a separate people, with a different culture (Albanian) and its own religion (Islam). After the popular Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic, tried to drive them out of their country, the world rose and provided moral and material support for their struggle for independence.

The Albanian Kosovars make up 90% of the citizens of the new state, which has a population of two million. The other 10% are Serbs, who want no part of the new Kosova. They want the areas they live in to be annexed to Serbia. According to Kant's maxim, are they entitled to this?

I would propose a pragmatic moral principle: Every population that inhabits a defined territory and has a clear national character is entitled to independence. A state that wants to keep such a population must see to it that they feel comfortable, that they receive their full rights, enjoy equality and have an autonomy that satisfies their aspirations. In short: that they have no reason to desire separation.

That applies to the French in Canada, the Scots in Britain, the Kurds in Turkey and elsewhere, the various ethnic groups in Africa, the indigenous peoples in Latin America, the Tamils in Sri Lanka and many others. Each has a right to choose between full equality, autonomy and independence.

THIS LEADS us, of course, to the Palestinian issue.

In the competition for the sympathy of the world media, the Palestinians are unlucky. According to all the objective standards, they have a right to full independence, exactly like the Tibetans. They inhabit a defined territory, they are a specific nation, a clear border exists between them and Israel. One must really have a crooked mind to deny these facts.

But the Palestinians are suffering from several cruel strokes of fate: The people that oppress them claim for themselves the crown of ultimate victimhood. The whole world sympathizes with the Israelis because the Jews were the victims of the most horrific crime of the Western world. That creates a strange situation: the oppressor is more popular than the victim. Anyone who supports the Palestinians is automatically suspected of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

Also, the great majority of the Palestinians are Muslims (nobody pays attention to the Palestinian Christians). Since Islam arouses fear and abhorrence in the West, the Palestinian struggle has automatically become a part of that shapeless, sinister threat, "international terrorism". And since the murders of Yasser Arafat and Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the Palestinians have no particularly impressive leader - neither in Fatah nor in Hamas.

The world media are shedding tears for the Tibetan people, whose land is taken from them by Chinese settlers. Who cares about the Palestinians, whose land is taken from them by our settlers?

In the world-wide tumult about Tibet, the Israeli spokespersons compare themselves - strange as it sounds - to the poor Tibetans, not to the evil Chinese. Many think this quite logical.

If Kant were dug up tomorrow and asked about the Palestinians, he would probably answer: "Give them what you think should be given to everybody, and don't wake me up again to ask silly questions."

Posted by Profile of Mike Ghouse at 4:26 PM 0 comments

Moyers: Ridenhour Prize

The Ridenhour Courage Prize - Bill Moyers

Democracy is alive today because of our Heroes like Bill Moyers, Ted Koppel, Tim Russert, Judy Woodruff, Jim Lehrer, Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore and several others, who fear no one from telling the truth. Nothing holds them from telling the truth.

If it were not for them, fascism would have taken hold in our nation, a few would have controlled us scaring us with the imaginary enemy and lying to us about the impending disater. They would have gone a step up from the unpatriot law and passed the law that, if any one were to question our President, he or she would been a security risk and a cause to be rounded up. No wonder the useless Congressman and Senators kept yessing to our president and passed the war bills and bills to destroy other nations and people. Thank God, there were just few congressman, and senators, a handful of them who had the vision to oppose short term destructive gains our of administration.

Again God takes care of the silent majority, we had the opportunity to get rid of many rascals in November 2006 elections, let's clean our house and senate with a few more sycophants in 2008.

I salute the American heroes for holding our government accountable to tell the truth, to them America was important, our system was important and their loyalty was to the truth and democracy and not the tyrants. What we need is truth and not the propaganda.

Mike Ghouse

The 5th Annual Ridenhour Prizes, sponsored by The Nation Institute and the Fertel Foundation, were awarded at a luncheon ceremony on April 3, 2008 at the Press Club in Washington, D.C.. The 2008 Ridenhour Prizes were given to veteran journalist Bill Moyers (Courage Prize), author James D. Scurlock (Book Prize) and former Navy JAG officer Matthew Diaz (Prize for Truth-Telling). Named for the Vietnam era whistleblower Ron Ridenhour who exposed the truth of the My Lai massacre, the Ridenhour Prizes recognize those who have spoken out on behalf of the public interest, promoted social justice or illuminated a more just vision of society. For more complete information about The Ridenhour Prizes, as well as past and current winners, please visit www.ridenhour.org.

The following is Bill Moyers' acceptance speech for this year's Courage Prize

The following is Bill Moyers' acceptance speech for this year's Courage Prize
BILL MOYERS: Thank you very much, Sissy Farenthold, for those very generous words, spoken like one Texan to another - extravagantly. Thank you for the spirit of kinship. I could swear that I sensed our good Molly Ivins standing there beside you.

I am as surprised to be here as I am grateful. I never thought of myself as courageous, and still don't. Ron Ridenhour was courageous. To get the story out, he had to defy the whole might and power of the United States government, including its war machine. I was then publisher of Newsday, having left the White House some two years earlier. Our editor Bill McIlwain played the My Lai story big, as he should, much to the chagrin of the owner who couldn't believe Americans were capable of such atrocities. Our readers couldn't believe it either. Some of them picketed outside my office for days, their signs accusing the paper of being anti-American for publishing repugnant news about our troops. Some things never change.

A few years later, I gave the commencement at a nearby university, and when I finished the speech, a woman who had just been graduated came up to me and said, "Mr. Moyers, you've been in both government and journalism; that makes everything you say twice as hard to believe." She was on to something.

After my government experience, it took me a while to get my footing back in journalism. I had to learn all over again that what is important for the journalist is not how close you are to power, but how close you are to reality. Over the last 40 years, I would find that reality in assignment after assignment, from covering famine in Africa and war in Central America to inner-city families trapped in urban ghettos and middle-class families struggling to survive in an era of downsizing across the heartland. I also had to learn one of journalism's basic lessons. The job of trying to tell the truth about people whose job it is to hide the truth is almost as complicated and difficult as trying to hide it in the first place. We journalists are of course obliged to cover the news, but our deeper mission is to uncover the news that powerful people would prefer to keep hidden.

Unless you are willing to fight and re-fight the same battles until you go blue in the face, drive the people you work with nuts going over every last detail to make certain you've got it right, and then take all of the slings and arrows directed at you by the powers that be - corporate and political and sometimes journalistic - there is no use even trying. You have to love it and I do. I.F. Stone once said, after years of catching the government's lies and contradictions, "I have so much fun, I ought to be arrested." Journalism 101.

So it wasn't courage I counted on; it was exhilaration and good luck. When the road forked, I somehow stumbled into the right path, thanks to mentors like Eric Sevareid, Fred Friendly, Walter Cronkite and scores of producers, researchers and editors who lifted me to see further than one can see unless one is standing on the shoulders of others.

The quintessential lesson of my life came from another Texan named John Henry Faulk. He was a graduate, as am I, of the University of Texas. He served in the Merchant Marines, the American Red Cross and the U.S. Army during World War II, and came home to become a celebrated raconteur and popular national radio host whose career was shattered when right-wingers inspired by Joseph McCarthy smeared him as a communist. He lost his sponsors and was fired. But he fought back with a lawsuit that lasted five years and cost him every penny he owned. Financial help from Edward R. Murrow and a few others helped him to hang on. In the end, John Henry Faulk won, and his courage helped to end the Hollywood era of blacklisting. You should read his book, Fear on Trial, and see the movie starring George C. Scott. John Henry's courage was contagious.

Before his death I produced a documentary about him, and during our interview he told me the story of how he and his friend, Boots Cooper, were playing in the chicken house there in central Texas when they were about 12 years old. They spotted a chicken snake in the top tier of the nest, so close it looked like a boa constrictor. As John Henry told it, "All of our frontier courage drained out of our heels. Actually, it trickled down our overall legs. And Boots and I made a new door through the hen house." His momma came out to see what all of the fuss was about, and she said to Boots and John Henry, "Don't you know chicken snakes are harmless? They can't hurt you." Rubbing his forehead and his behind at the same time, Boots said, "Yes, Mrs. Faulk, I know, but they can scare you so bad you'll hurt yourself."

John Henry Faulk never forgot that lesson. I'm always ashamed when I do. Temptation to co-option is the original sin of journalism, and we're always finding fig leaves to cover it: economics, ideology, awe of authority, secrecy, the claims of empire. In the buildup to the invasion of Iraq we were reminded of what the late great reporter A.J. Liebling meant when he said the press is "the weak slat under the bed of democracy." The slat broke after the invasion and some strange bedfellows fell to the floor: establishment journalists, neo-con polemicists, beltway pundits, right-wing warmongers flying the skull and bones of the "balanced and fair brigade," administration flacks whose classified leaks were manufactured lies - all romping on the same mattress in the foreplay to disaster.

Five years, thousands of casualties, and hundreds of billion dollars later, most of the media co-conspirators caught in flagrante delicto are still prominent, still celebrated, and still holding forth with no more contrition than a weathercaster who made a wrong prediction as to the next day's temperature. The biblical injunction, "Go and sin no more," is the one we most frequently forget in the press. Collectively, we don't seem to learn that all it takes to transform an ordinary politician and a braying ass into the modern incarnation of Zeus and the oracle of Delphi is an oath on the Bible, a flag in the lapel, and the invocation of national security.

There are, fortunately, always exceptions to whatever our latest dismal collective performance yields. America produces some world-class journalism, including coverage of the Iraq War by men and women as brave as Ernie Powell. But I still wish we had a professional Hippocratic Oath of our own that might stir us in the night when we stray from our mission. And yes, I believe journalism has a mission.

Walter Lippman was prescient on this long before most of you were born. Lippman, who became the ultimate Washington insider - someone to whom I regularly leaked - acknowledged that while the press may be a weak reed to lean on, it is the indispensable support for freedom. He wrote, "The present crisis of Western democracy is a crisis of journalism. Everywhere men and women are conscious that somehow they must deal with questions more intricate than any that church or school had prepared them to understand. Increasingly, they know that they cannot understand them if the facts are not quickly and steadily available. All the sharpest critics of democracy have alleged is true if there is no steady supply of trustworthy and relevant news. Incompetence and aimlessness, corruption and disloyalty, panic and ultimate disaster must come to any people denied an assured access to the facts."

So for all the blunders for which we are culpable; for all the disillusionment that has set in among journalists with every fresh report of job cuts and disappearing news space; for all the barons and buccaneers turning the press into a karaoke of power; for all the desecration visited on broadcast journalism by the corporate networks; for all the nonsense to which so many aspiring young journalists are consigned; and for all the fears about the eroding quality of the craft, I still answer emphatically when young people ask me, "Should I go into journalism today?"

Sometimes it is difficult to urge them on, especially when serious questions are being asked about how loyal our society is to the reality as well as to the idea of an independent and free press. But I almost always answer, "Yes, if you have a fire in your belly, you can still make a difference."

I remind them of how often investigative reporting has played a crucial role in making the crooked straight. I remind them how news bureaus abroad are a form of national security that can tell us what our government won't. I remind them that as America grows more diverse, it's essential to have reporters, editors, producers and writers who reflect these new rising voices and concerns. And I remind them that facts can still drive the argument and tug us in the direction of greater equality and a more democratic society. Journalism still matters.

But I also tell them there is something more important than journalism, and that is the truth. They aren't necessarily one and the same because the truth is often obscured in the news. In his new novel The Appeal, John Grisham tells us more about corporate, political and legal jihads than most newspapers or network news ever will; more about Wall Street shenanigans than all the cable business channels combined; more about Manchurian candidates than you will ever hear on the Sunday morning talk shows.

For that matter, you will learn more about who wins and who loses in the real business of politics, which is governance, from the public interest truth-tellers of Washington than you will from an established press tethered to official sources. The Government Accountability Project, POGO, the Sunlight Foundation, Citizens Against Government Waste, Taxpayers for Common Sense, the Center for Responsible Politics, the National Security Archive, CREW, the Center for Public Integrity, just to name a few - and from whistleblowers of all sorts who never went to journalism school, never flashed a press pass, and never attended a gridiron dinner.

Ron Ridenhour was not a journalist when he came upon the truth of My Lai. He was in the Army. He later became a pioneering investigative reporter and - this is the irony - had trouble making a living in a calling where truth-telling can be a liability to the bottom line. Matthew Diaz and James Scurlock, whom you honored today, are truth-tellers without a license, reminding us that the most important credential of all is a conscience that cannot be purchased or silenced.
So I tell inquisitive and inquiring young people: "Journalism still makes a difference, but the truth matters more. And if you can't get to the truth through journalism, there are other ways to go."

To The Nation Institute and the Fertel Foundation, to the Ridenhour judges and to all of you, thank you again for this moment and, above all, for the courage of your own convictions.