A New paradigm for the Muslim World
S U M M A R Y
When Pastor Jones announced burning 2998 copies of Qur'an on Wednesday, September 11, 2013; one for each American life lost on September 11, 2001, we decided to bring a closure to the sacrifice of our men and women in the most honored way and not by burning the Qurans.
We were set out to achieve a few clearly defined goals:
To communicate to the Muslim World that our God-given right to freedom of speech is a value we treasure and hold it dear to us; ultimately it is the freedom that uplifts the whole humanity. Indeed, Islam is one of the greatest beneficiaries of this freedom.
To offer an alternate Muslim behavior model to become the standard for future conflicts, indeed we can call it a genuine Islamic response based on Quran and the examples of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
To be instrumental in the safety of fellow Americans serving in the armed forces, and Americans traveling overseas in conflicts zones.
To undo the wrong responses acted out by a few Muslims in the past, and shrink the propaganda in proportion to the tiny percent of people, a non-representative sample. We have learned and have come to anticipate what Muslims will do when someone criticizes Islam, Prophet Muhammad, or threatens to burn the Quran.
To build cohesive Societies where no human has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of the other, we wanted to mitigate conflicts and nurture good will and invariably offer pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.
The support from fellow Americans was encouraging in establishing this new paradigm. The folks from Mulberry Florida particularly Suzanne Carter and her “Not in Mulberry” team, Butch Rahman, Curtis Rahman, Mayor Hatch, Mayor Fields and Sheriff’s office were the key partners in the situation. I must express our gratitude to Suzie Schottelkotte of the Ledger Newspaper for fair reporting of the situation.
We also appreciate Joelle Fiss for the encouragement and support she has offered in this effort by joining us, and uplifting our work.
The Muslim support from around the world was indeed encouraging. Just about every Muslim Newspaper has published our press release and many have endorsed this to be the right thing to do.
This is a new paradigm in bringing a change, a critical milestone for Muslims in the United States and around the world.
The Mulberry event seeded the change about how Muslims are perceived, and how they would react to future Quran burning, criticism of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Islam.
We have decided to make a film about it.
Links are provided to nearly 30 original articles about the event, however, it was published in over 300 Newspapers around the world.
When Pastor Jones announced burning 2998 copies of Qur'an on Wednesday, September 11, 2013, one for each American life lost on September 11, 2001, I said to myself we have to bring a closure to the sacrifice of our men and women in the most honored way and not by burning the Qurans.
We also need to bring a closure to the damage 9/11 has done to the relationship between Muslims and America, though the majority on both sides did not blame each other, the few among both made it difficult by promoting fear, hatred and blame with recurring nagging activities.
Just like the actions of Pastor Terry Jones and his handful of supporters do not represent 318 Million Americans, the actions of the 19 and their respective cheer leaders do not represent 1.6 Billion Muslims either. We all owe it ourselves to understand this clearly, so none of us lives in anxiety, and continue to live in hate of each other.
We all have a legitimate concern on how a handful of Muslims react elsewhere in the world to criticism of Prophet Muhammad, Islam and Qur'an, and how Muslims are perceived by fellow humanity in general and Americans in particular. Hence we deliberated on actions to bring about sustainable solutions; the answer was in moving the Tenth Annual Unity Day USA event to Mulberry, Florida. The Unity Day brings people of different faiths, races and ethnicities to rededicate our pledge to one nation and a commitment to her safety, security and Unity. What better way to honor 2998 men, women and children than burning Quran.
Thanks to the print and web media – every Major Newspaper in the world has carried the stories and at least two dozen original pieces have been written about the event. A whole lot of it is listed atwww.WorldMuslimCongress.com.
The most important endorsements came from Muslims sites - Shia, Sunni and other Muslims groups. Whether it is Saudi Gazette, or Ahle-Bayt (Shia) News in Iran and the Muslim Majority Nations have covered it all.
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM MUSLIMS?
The following are some of the many responses we the Americans have learned and anticipate when someone criticizes Islam, Prophet Muhammad, or Quran;
1. Violence – burning embassies, cars and destruction of property….
2. Calling Names, cursing or killing the one who said bad things about the three
3. Enflame the situation by adding fuel to the fire by talk of avenge or revenge
4. Passing the buck – blame the other “illiterate Muslims”, fringe elements etc.
5. Get Defensive
What the world has not seen is a genuine Muslim response!
Our goal was to offer an alternate behavior model as a standard, indeed we can call it a genuine Islamic response based on what the Prophet has said, and the verses from Quran. This behavior can also be called Christian, Jewish, Hindu or plain common sense responsible response.
Saving a life is like saving the whole humanity says the Quran, a book of guidance like all other holy books in building harmony in a given society. It is about building societies that care for other for the ultimate benefit of each member of the society. (more about it at Huffington Post)
The Muslim Community has taken up the responsibility in past several years to donate blood, and last year, the target was to collect 11,000 pints on the 11thanniversary and collected 11,170 Pints. The Muslims for Life blood drive campaign emphasizes the sanctity of life, a teaching inherent in all religious traditions. The MuslimCommunity USA has set a goal to collect 12,000 pints of blood, which will help save up to 36,000 lives.
The model is not new at all, indeed, it was established by Jesus, Muhammad and all the spiritual Masters (peace be upon them) including non-religious and secular traditions; that of mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill for the common good of the society; a cohesive society where no one has to live in apprehension or fear of the other.
Jesus called that Kingdom of heaven and Muhammad called it submission to a coherent system called Islam. A majority of people in all faiths believe in the beauty of their faith; however a few in each group don’t get that or abuse the faith to their advantage in making enemies out of those who differ.
Indeed, Prophet Muhammad taught that "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.” (Full Press release at World Muslim Congress).
The folks in the Town of Mulberry and Polk County, Florida were ready for a new model to work in dealing with the situation, and they did, and have set an example to the world. Should this happen elsewhere in the United States, the folks can look up to the Mulberry example of giving hope and strengthening what is good.
Indeed Mulberry Mayor Hatch said, "One man or a handful of men and women do not represent the values of half a million folks of Polk County". Mayor Fields of Lakeland shared that humanity has a history of abusing the holy books for individual gains and we cannot accept that. Sgt. Regina Moran, representing Polk County Sheriff's office called for mutual respect and acceptance of the other. Butch Rahman, a resident of Polk County emphasized, "Terry Jones begged every property owner in Polk County to allow him to burn the Quran on their property—and not one person accepted. No one is buying his idea and he is isolated on an island of hate. He does not represent us.” and added, "I am proud of Polk County's response in rejecting hate and promoting a positive message of American diversity."
In the words of Suzanne carter, “As a Christian, the bible teaches us to love our neighbors— it doesn’t say what our neighbor has to look like or believe in—it just says neighbor.” Lynn Broom of Not in Mulberry Organization adds, "You can't fight hate with hate" and Curtis Rahman, a high schooler was clear ," "Al-Qaida is dangerous, not Islam or Muslims". Similar sentiments were expressed by ordinary folks (2 videos).
Imagine the reservation and apprehension when a Muslim steps into their town – I am sure they expected one of the five behaviors from this Muslim, but thanks to the Model of the Prophet – "Amin” that I followed to the best of my ability. The folks reciprocated.
Amin was a title accorded to the Prophet by fellow residents of Mecca who were Jewish, Christians, Pagan and others. To be Amin is to be truthful, to be worthy of trust, to be just and to be a source of safety and security to others. The folks in Mulberry reciprocated with equal kindness.
For a public good to succeed, it has to be un-selfish, and no one has anything to gain from it but the community at large. Our volunteer team in Mulberry (listed on the site) followed the same model. None of us wanted anything out of it except the common good.
We hoped this would be a life changing event, most people fell in in love with the idea that all of us Americans will come together as Americans and nothing but Americans. While we have our sub-identity, we look to each other as Americans and rededicate ourselves to our pledge; one nation with liberty and justice for all.
Mulberry is a part of history in creating a model behavior in dealing with conflicts and building a cohesive America, where no American has to live in apprehension or fear of the other
I want to emphasize a note about service. My good friend said a prayer for me that I have earned a prime spot in paradise, but I was quick to say, I do not way any such place. – We should not be driven by wages for the service we render, if we get paid, and then it would not be service any more. We should rather do our share of work for creating a better world, as the Bhagvad Gita says, do your dharma and not be driven by the fruit.
Thanks to my key partners in the event - Butch Rahman, Suzanne Carter, Lynn Broom, Linda Jezard and others including the Mayors, police, Fire chiefs, Sheriff’s office and the media friends for placing their trust in me and believing that we will do the right thing – and not leave a mess behind for them to deal with later.
Suzanne traveled with me to the site where Jones was going to burn Quran, we had a good conversation, and I appreciate the trust she placed in me. Butch asked me, a stranger to stay in his home with his family, and I am glad I did. I am sure Prophet Muhammad would be smiling at me, but at least I feel good for following in his footsteps – to be the Amin.
After all, the Qurans were not burned.
Pastor Jones and his fellow Pastor were arrested, and their truck and the trailer with kerosene doused Qurans were confiscated an hour before the scheduled burning at 5:00 PM on September 11, 2013. They were charged for carrying open arms, a 45 caliber Smith and Wesson, and not having the license tag for the trailer, a road hazard with Kerosene doused books on an open road. Both the men were released after paying a bail of $1250 each. Full story at the Mulberry Ledger: http://www.theledger.com/article/20130911/NEWS/130919800/0/search
The Pastor has said that he will repeat the event, and on our part, we will repeat our unity and prayers, and pray for the well being of the Pastor. May God forgive him and have him join us in creating a safer America for every American. I will continue to pursue to have a dialogue with the pastor and answer what exactly about Quran that bothers him. If it happens, it will be in a public forum.
To quote from Jeffrey Weiss' article he wrote in Religion News Service, and copied by virtually every major News paper in America including the Washington Post, Huffington Post and others. It was a challenge to Pastor Jones.
“If you find five faults in Quran in a public discussion, I will abandon my faith and join your ministry. … On the other hand, if you cannot find faults, I am going to be easy on you, I will not ask you to become a Muslim, but ask you join me to do the work of Christ and Muhammad in building a cohesive America, where no American has to live in fear of the other. Jesus called that the Kingdom of Heaven.
“You and I owe it to America to demystify the myths and allay mutual fears. I am putting myself out for the common good of America and I hope you take up the challenge and join me in contributing to the greatness of America.”
Now, the pastor is as likely to agree to this debate as he is to ride a unicorn. So why even bother?
“You are right. He will not take it,” Ghouse said. “But that also gives fellow Americans the hope that it is not the Quran, it is the bad practices of a few Muslims that taints the religion.”
I am grateful to all the sponsors and those who have pledged and may donate, but particularly the support from the magnificent seven for this event.
Mirza A Beg, my moral support and silent partner in the press releases and possible reports. Dr. Basheer Ahmed, Dr. Nauman Anwar and Farooq Hemani have always supported the work we do; I don’t have to ask them, they volunteer to fund the work. Then this time around – Butch Rahman turned in $100 on the 1st day I met him towards the cost of the work, Suzanne Carter for joining in with her superb team of volunteers. Moazam Syed was the first one to donate – this is all encouragement. All their contributions are listed on the site for transparency and accountability purpose, and more importantly their support has produced direct results.
God willing, we will put a book together with the full story, of all the little and big things, good things, and bad things that have happened in the process. The book will include feedback from the involved and the ordinary.
FEEDBACK THAT IS REPRESENTATIVE OF MULBERRY SENTIMENT
Terry Jones a Bad Apple in the Christian Faith Who Brought Hate to Mulberry
Published: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at 12:01 a.m in Mulberry Ledger.
Well, it's all over in Mulberry — or is it?
The Christian Quran book burner went to jail and the World Muslim Congress that has held it Unity Day event for the past nine years has returned to Dallas. The book burner came to Mulberry in hate and the Muslims came to Mulberry in peace to counter the hate.
The book burner is going to find out he can't break the law in Mulberry and get off without a stiff penalty. The World Muslim Congress from Dallas are gone but not forgotten, and they are welcome to return. They came in peace with a record of doing the Unity Day Celebration for the past eight years.
The group included local residents of differing faiths, and they showed respect and to love our neighbors with understanding to achieve worldwide balance. This reasoning is part of my Christian faith. I wish I had been there and I wish the Muslin Unity Day Celebration would have had more support from the churches.
We are not going to have world peace until we can come together without regard to race or religious beliefs. Being divisive and not willing to understand the other side is not the Christian way. It does not mean Christianity has to accept the Muslim or any other way. It means love your neighbor and do unto others as … you know the rest and what is right.
The Muslims summed it up best when they prayed for the fallen heroes who died on 9/11 from a "few bad apples in the Muslim faith." I can understand that logic by adding we have a "lot of bad apples in the Christian faith," and one of them brought hate to Mulberry.
A DOZEN TAKE AWAYS:
1. The Mayors, police, fire chief, religious leadership and volunteers along with representatives of many different religious traditions joined (video clip) in echoing the sentiment of respecting Quran without compromising on the free speech guaranteed in our constitution.
2. Indeed Mayor Hatch said, "One man or a handful of men and women do not represent the values of half a million folks of Polk County" or 318 million Americans. Mayor Fields shared that humanity has a history of abusing the holy books for individual gains, in the words of Butch Rahman - not a single property owner offered their place to the pastor to burn the Qurans – no one in the county was buying his idea. In the words of Suzanne carter, her bible does not teach her to hate the neighbors. Similar sentiments were expressed by ordinary folks (2 videos).
3. The above is a reassuring feedback; ignoring Jones would have deprived fellow Americans and the Muslims around the world with that kind of hope giving information.
4. The media sincerely presented the event as it was – in the positive light without putting a dimmer on it. Our original Press release was augmented by front page news in Times of India and an effective endorsement op-ed by Saudi gazette and carried by over 50 news outlets. The final touch came from Jeff Weiss of Religion News, which was picked up by every major newspaper in the World. At home in Mulberry, the ledger reported factual information of everything that was happening with Pastor Jones or the Unity Day USA event. I Googled it, the report was published in every major language of the world.
5. An alternate behavior model is established in dealing with conflicts, instead of the routine condemnations. This model was indeed set by Jesus and Prophet Muhammad, and we merely followed it.
6. Fellow Americans witnessed a major paradigm change; that Muslims do speak out and offer choices besides condemning or doing nothing.
7. That Muslims are partners in nation building and building a cohesive America.
8. The program reiterated that Muslims pray for the wellbeing of all humanity, and not just MUSLIMS. It's not a new idea, but practiced by a majority of Muslims quietly. We want to reiterate the Quranic verses.....Full article at Huffpost and our first press release.
9. We were clear- we honor fellow citizens thru prayers and respecting Quran.
10. As a part of the published program, we broke for prayers, thanks to Sunni, Shia, WD Muhammad, Ahmadiyya Muslims and other Muslims for joining us in the optional special prayers. I was blessed to have led the 2 Rakat Nafl, Alhamdulillah we all prayed together.
11. I'm sure Prophet Muhammad would be pleased with our work. I followed his example of becoming the Amin. The city loved the message, now; they actually know what MUSLIMS are about. There is an alternate positive example.
12. A new found respect for Muslims, and Muslims were seen as doing the right thing, just, truthful and trustworthy. We are glad we responded positively instead of complaining.
This is a new paradigm in bringing a change, a critical milestone for Muslims in the United States.
I request you, the members at World Muslim Congress and the Foundation for Pluralism to add your succinct but pragmatic comment in 50 words or less for possible inclusion in the book. A sponsor for the book is welcome by individuals or an organization. The book would be a compilation of many articles, your comments and reports in the media.
This book will be a must read for any one before building a Mosque in Murfreesboro, a Ground Zero Mosque or planning a major event. The proceeds will go towards nurturing the pluralistic values of Islam and building cohesive societies to live and let live.
I will be happy to give a talk on the subject of how to become a productive citizen of America and earn the respect as a fully participating and contributing member of the society at large.
God willing we will do things with boldness and clarity.
A full report will be prepared and mailed to the ones who want to read.
Just Google “Quran Burning”, “Mike Ghouse” or “Pastor Terry Jones” for that time period, – you will be amazed with the print and web media coverage. Every Major Newspaper in the world has covered it in positive terms, a healthy change.
The most important endorsements came from Muslims sites - Shia, Sunni and others. The key contributing articles are on the panel at World Muslim Congress and Unity Day USA.
The most important endorsements came from Muslims Newspapers and websites - Shia, Sunni and others. Whether it is Saudi Gazette, or Ahle-Bayt (Shia) News in Iran and the Muslim Majority Nations have covered it all. There is leadership vacuum out there, when the right thing is said, they grab it and it is encouraging.
THE PRESS RELEASE THAT TRIGGERRED AN AVALANCHE OF ARTICLES:
Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida
August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas
Mike Ghouse (214) 325-1916 - MikeGhouse@aol.com
Mirza A. Beg (205) 454-8797 -Mirza.firstname.lastname@example.org
We plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms with dignity and grace.
As Muslims and Americans we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.
Indeed, we are concerned about the violent reactions to Quran burning by the fringe elements among Muslims elsewhere in the world, and through the message of Quran, and the Prophet we hope to mitigate the violence and nurture goodwill. The safety of fellow Americans and fellow humans around the world is our goal.
Our response would include reclaiming the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”
God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.
We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration (www.UnitydayUSA.com) held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.
Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.
We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.
We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.
We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.
Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.
Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.
We hope, our mercy based message will remind Muslims to follow the examples of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), a mercy to mankind to contribute towards a better world. We believe it may also bring a change in the attitudes of followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety.
We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.
What exactly will be do on that day? Please visit www.UnitydayUSA.com
Mike Ghouse, President
World Muslim Congresswww.WorldMuslimCongress.com
Mission of World Muslim Congress
To be a Muslim is to be a peace maker, one who constantly seeks to mitigate conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence of humanity. Just about every activity of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) consisted those two elements. God wants us to live in peace and harmony with his creation; Life and Matter.
We are driven by the Qur'an, Al-Hujurat, Surah 49:13: "O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Allah Knows and is Aware."
Our Mission at World Muslim congress is to work for a world of co-existence through inclusiveness and participation. As a member of diverse family of faiths, our efforts will be directed towards justice and equity to attain peace for the humankind with a firm grounding in commonly held values. We cannot have advantages at the cost of others. Such benefits are temporary and deleterious to lasting peace. We believe what is good for Muslims has got to be good for the world, and vice versa, for the goodness to sustain.
Indeed we aspire to promote goodwill amongst people of different affiliations, regardless of their faith, gender, race, nationality, culture or any other uniqueness blessed by the creator.
A FEW OF THE MANY ARTICLES ARE IN THE LINK
Fixing Sharia Laws
The right-wing Muslims will scream at me for questioning the divinity of Sharia, and the right-wing Christians, Jews, Hindus, and others will be calling me names, as this essay does not condemn Sharia. They simply cannot see another point of view.
Rather than the outright rejection of Sharia, which serves as a system of justice to the given populations in Muslim majority nations, we need to fix the laws; without it a large swatch of population becomes rudderless. Our own constitution has been amended several times, and that is what is needed to be done with Sharia. However, the moderate majorities in all groups see the value in fixing the cancerous cells, rather than rejecting the whole system. Unless we fix things, injustice in the name of justice will continue. The golden rule is central to all religions that say, "Treat others as you want to be treated." There is not a religion on the earth that teaches one to treat the other any less. Most people get their religion right, and some don't.
The conservative men tend to be insecure when dealing with women; no matter what faith they belong to, they behave the same. Their perceived safety hinges on keeping some one or the other under their thumb; usually women. Sharia was a human effort to dispense justice to fellow beings in accordance with Quran and the Prophet's examples; however, men are fallible beings and have failed to deliver justice. They have got it all wrong when it comes to women, apostates, blasphemers and the victims of rape. Sharia as practiced in a few of the Muslim nations does not reflect God's wisdom or the practice of the prophet. It needs to be fixed badly. Our conservative lot gets offended when Sharia is criticized as they (mistakenly) believe that Sharia is God's law, delivered like Quran, and it is not. Criticizing Sharia is the right thing to do, after all how are we going to fix it? Muslims need to feel secure that God is not going anywhere, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is not going anywhere nor Qur'an will disappear; they are eternal. God tells the prophet not to worry if people don't listen to his message, because he is the one who gives guidance. God also says he will protect his system (religion), shouldn't we trust in God? The conservatives, be it Christian, Muslim, Jews, Hindus or others, don't really trust in God, and aggressively preempt him. Just as Americans cannot fathom any other form of law other than the one we know, the Muslims in Muslim majority nations cannot imagine any other law either. Our laws are not perfect, and neither is theirs. We have amended ours many a time, and need to include marriage-equality amendment and more. The Muslims have not made amendments to Sharia in a long time. It is time to fix it and keep the laws to serve justice to the Muslim populations. A majority of Muslim nations are not familiar with any other laws; they will resist pushing new codes on them, just as we would. Remember the Obama-care battle? We need to understand them and encourage amendments. There is nothing wrong with the intent of Sharia; it's the corruption that needs fixing, when done, and Sharia would be as good as any other law aligning fully with the human-rights declaration. Let's deal with a few Sharia-related issues concerning rape victims, apostasy, blasphemy, and treatment of rape victims. Rape
The Council of Islamic Ideologies (CII) in Pakistan declared that DNA evidence in case of rape is supplementary, and they still require the four male witnesses to prosecute the rapists. Science (knowledge) means nothing to conservatives whether they are Christians or Muslims.
Asma Jahangir, the human rights activist of Pakistan, responded, "The council members were refusing to reach out for the truth in rape cases and had given such urgency and prominence to their recommendation as if acceptance of DNA testing was a great threat to Islam." Moazam Syed wrote in the World Muslim Congress forum, "So a rape victim needs to produce four pious Muslims, who must have watched the full act of rape?" A few conservative Muslims may not like this statement, but that pales to the misery of the rape victim, who endures the anguish for her entire life. That ain't justice, and that ain't Islam. The conservatives are not only defensive, but carry an attitude; any suggestion of reason or application of logic threatens them, and they scream that their religion is threatened. I have heard these sentences from Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews, and all other right-wingers in different circumstances. A documentary (Pakistan) is in the making where a 13-year-old girl returning from the school was gang raped, and the damned judge was embarrassed that she dared to bring the case to his court, and the men laughed and questioned, why was she not at home? Shamefully, this is also a part of the men's attitude in America - she asked for it. I am glad they had the sense at least to debate, in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, and Iran; the woman would have been brutally stoned to death -- again, that is not Islam and purely the men culture of those nations.
Honor killing is not a thing to be slapped on to Muslims. In Punjab, Haryana, and other parts of the subcontinent, the Hindus and Sikhs also kill their victim girls to protect the honor of their family. I am sure if we Google it, we may find surprises elsewhere. Learning The first word in Islam is "Iqra" -- meaning read, recite, and understand. That was the first word uttered to Prophet Muhammad by angel Gabriel. Iqra opens the door to everything in life. On another occasion, the prophet said, if you have to learn something new, don't hesitate to go anywhere, including far- off lands like China. The prophet did not say, "Your minds are being plucked out, you don't need it any more to think, everything is given to you in Quran and my examples, just follow it." Indeed the Prophet said, in his last sermon, that he was leaving this book to his followers to read, understand, and follow it. Doesn't learning imply reading, observing, understanding, and adopting the new information to the existing conditions for a better life and a better society? Not all Muslims, but a few of the self-appointed guardians of religion, do not listen to God or the prophet. They have the arrogance to reject Iqra or go to China for learning. They have shut themselves out from learning and push others to do the same. Should we let them? Are they responsible for our actions? Divorce These men eagerly approved and adopted the text-message divorces and even e-mail divorces because they cared about men and not the women who were thrown under the bus at the whim of the idiot men. This is not justice and this is not Islam. Some of the conservative men don't believe in equality of women, and simply don't listen to the prophet. Yet from that very same mouth, they say, "Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is a mercy to mankind" -- Do they fully understand what it means? Fourteen hundred years ago, the Prophet declared that women are free to own property, own their business, initiate marriage and divorce, and could disobey their husbands if they were coerced into doing things against their will. That is Islam.A majority of Muslims believe in it; a few don't but get the media attention. Do we talk about good husbands? We always focus on the bad ones who are violent whether they are American, Chinese, and Arab, Indian, Hispanic, or Russian men. 1200 years later, the western societies accorded that status to women, including the passage of women's-suffrage act here in America just a hundred years ago, while a few conservative Muslim societies have gone back to the times before the prophet. Apostasy
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not punish apostates, that are those who chose to abandon Islam, and yet Pastor Naderkhani in Iran is being harassed; Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan and Lena Joy in Malaysia were relieved with the international pressures.
Prophet was clear, there is no compulsion in religion, and you cannot force any one to believe who does not want to believe. His own uncle chose not to believe in Islam; did the Prophet punish him? This is a divine intentional example from God for people to learn, that there is no compulsion in faith; let anyone believe what he or she is comfortable with. There is confusion among the average Muslims, and it behooves for Muslims to put this thing behind and move on. It is time to follow the prophet and universally declare that there is no punishment for apostasy. Blasphemy Prophet Muhammad did not punish anyone for blasphemy. Instead he did the right thing; prayed for them. The self-appointed guardians of Sharia laws can tell great many stories of the prophet, yet they do the opposite. The blasphemy laws go against the God-given freedom and it aids the crooks to abuse it. In Pakistan a damned crook framed a girl for desecrating Quran. A whole Christian town was destroyed before they discovered the truth; at least that is the saving grace
Muslims believe that we are answerable to God on the Day of Judgment. The more of us speak up, the greater the chance of delivering justice to fellow beings; if we don't, then evil persists. The least a Muslim can do is to speak up.
Sharia was a human effort in delivering justice to fellow beings in accordance with Quran and the Prophet's examples; however, humans are fallible beings and are not delivering justice to women, apostates, blasphemers and rapists, and the raped. Sharia as practiced in a few of the Muslim nations does not reflect God's wisdom nor does it correspond with prophet's practice. It needs to be fixed badly before we sink with our sins of injustice to women. More about Sharia atwww.sharialaws.com.
To be a Muslim is to be a peacemaker, one who mitigates conflicts and nurtures goodwill for peaceful co-existence of humanity. God wants us to live in peace and harmony with his creation, life and matter.
Criticism of Islam, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and free speech
We need to welcome every criticism of Quraan, Islam and the Prophet and deal with it with grace. Let freedom of speech be the corner stone of Islam.
Islam is not going anywhere; prophet is not going anywhere, and by opening ourselves up to criticism, we will learn a lot more about our faith than we would ever know. We need to move away from intolerance to acceptance of a different point of view without having to agree with it. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) lived through it and Muslims can learn from his examples.
Criticism can fade away or rain on us depending on how Muslims respond to it. Lack of conviction in one's faith breeds intolerance towards criticism, whereas firmness in faith can lead us to learn from criticism, explore the infinite wisdom and realize the strength of our faith (Imaan); a worthy feeling to have, instead of living in doubt and shooing criticism away.
You may ask, "Why are you presenting a different point of view, and why should I believe you?" The great scholars from the past have done it, and what is the need for me to learn?
I will ask you, "Why wouldn't you review the work of Tariq Ramadan, Hamza Yusuf, Ziauddin Sardar, Wahiduddin Khan, Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, Asghar Ali Engineer, Chandra Muzaffar, and a host of other critical Muslim thinkers? Why should you believe every word of Maududi, Banna and others? Isn't Islam for all times and all people?
Way back in 1967, my sister had asked me, if I knew more than Allama Iqbal? That question has never left my mind, and I had to scramble for the answer, the answer was a definite no, but I did not want to discard individual responsibility of not learning and knowing it on my own. I was always stuck with one of the most powerful sentences from Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) last sermon, "I leave behind two things, the Qur'an and the Sunnah and if you follow these you will never go astray." The responsibility to know was placed directly on us.
Like all Mothers, my Mother taught me responsibility, she said, "if you do wrong, you alone will get punished and not your brother who might have instigated you, it is not what he said, but it is how you respond that matters to me". She would invariably add, "On the Day of Judgment, you stand alone, there will be no one for you, as each one will be busy in reflecting his or her own deeds."
The Qur'an repeatedly reinforces the paramount principle of faith: "O You who believe, on you rests (the responsibility) of your souls"(Q5:105) and (Q53:38), "that no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another's burden." The picture was clear to me.
I don't wish this for others, but the best thing that has ever happened to me was walking away from Islam and Quraan when I was 15. I made the same mistake that every maligner of Islam makes; reading the wrong translations of Quran and blaming the religion for it. After 30 years of searching for the truth on my own as the Prophet had advised "to read the book", I found the truth. Islam is an inclusive faith, it is about co-existence, it is a faith that appreciates all of God's creation and urges one to respect the otherness of others (Quran 109:6) without having to agree, it explicitly says (Quraan 49:13), that all of us are his creation, created to be different, and that we have to learn about each other to mitigate the conflicts and nurture goodwill. Today, I am proud to be a believer, not a blind one, but a critical believer in Islam.
The Critical thinking has given me inordinate confidence to the point of challenging Pastor Jeffress in Dallas, that if he finds three faults in Quraan, I will convert to his faith, and if he cannot, all I asked of him was to become a blessed peacemaker and work with me in mitigating conflicts and building a cohesive America, where all of us can aspire to live without the fear of the other. He backed off as we returned the bad challenge with the request to reason and finding the truth. We held a Quraan Conference with ten Non Muslim Clergy on the panel and four Muslims including Imam Zia Shaikh, Dr. Basheer Ahmed, Imam Shakoor and Brother Hamid Shaikh, and I moderated the event. A full accounting of the event, including media interviews and the program is recorded in details at www.QuraanConference.com
When you have an issue with your spouse and child, you don't scream and shut them down; the problem will not go away unless you face it and solve the issue. When people accept the solutions willingly, we will have peace. Isn't that Islam is all about, freedom?
Indeed, we must gracefully respond to every criticism of Quraan, Islam and the Prophet and I have the patience to welcome it.
Aren't we supposed to learn and know each other to mitigate conflicts and create the kingdom of heaven right here on the earth, while waiting to go the next heaven? Didn't God say, the best among you is the one who learns about the other (49:13), so the myths, phobias and fears can be dismantled?
I urge fellow Muslims to open to all the criticism with confidence, don't shut it, and let freedom of speech be the corner stone of Islam. Islam stands on its own; it does not need our defense, and it is silly to protect God or the Prophet, they are not weaklings or our property to protect, they belong to the whole universe, don't they?
Muhammad Yunus, a Muslim thinker and a writer at New Age Islam responds, "Doesn't the Qur'an repetitively say, "repel evil with good" (13:22, 23:96, 41:34). Shouldn't you take the opportunity to demonstrate the good in your faith and remove the cloud of hatred that is forming by the twin growing menaces of the day: Islamophobia and Radicalization? Inscribe on the facade of your mosques in bold and golden letters, the verses of the Qur'an that demonstrate the divine scheme on religious pluralism - 2:62, 2:136, 4:124, 5:69, 22:17, 64:9, 65:11 for example.
Tell the believing world by visual display on billboards at all Islamic centers that the divine Light is lit in all places of pure worship (24:35) and God's name is proclaimed regularly in monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques (22:40). Inform the atheist and all categories of non-believers that they all are recipients of a portion of divine spirit (15:29, 32:7-9, 38:72) and God will judge them as well along with the believing humanity (22:17). Tell the whole world that however they demonize our Prophet, we must ignore them as this is an article of faith for us (6:112, 25:31).
Dr. Tariq Cheema of World Congress of Muslim Philanthropists, adds another point of view, "the Muslim scholars and intellectuals around the world must rise to the challenge and offer guidance to the faith-loving masses on how to encounter the exploitation of freedom of speech, which is often quite provocative and insulting. On the other hand every one must strive for a legislation that guards the sanctity of all religions and their Prophets, scriptures, and symbols alike."
The most important Sunnah (Prophet's example) and the first Sunnah is to be the Amin; the trust worthy (81:21), the truth teller and someone who mitigates conflicts and nurtures good will for the peaceful coexistence of his or her neighbors, communities, tribes and nations.
That was the first example of Muhammad (pbuh) to be a good citizen, wasn't it? Wasn't that the first model prophet had set up for one to follow? Mind you, he was called Amin by non-Muslims. Shouldn't we start with the same first foot forward? To be good citizens, whether in Pakistan, America, Saudi Arabia, China or Indonesia, we have to earn it by being a participant and a contributor towards the wellbeing of the nation. Your presence should relax others, and make them comfortable that you are a peacemaker and they can trust you for your fairness. Do you follow the Prophet?
The second most important Sunna to follow is to be Rahmatul Aalameen (Mercy to mankind) (21:107). To be a Rahmat (Mercy) to fellow beings who are Atheist, Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Sikh, Wicca, Natives, Zoroastrians and others, we must be kind to them, no one should be afraid or apprehensive of us. Should anyone be afraid of a Muslim, then we have not followed the Sunna of the prophet.
Please note that I have stripped the title of Allama or Maulana from all the names above. We have a habit of placing individuals next to God, they are just like you and I, of course with more knowledge, sometimes real, and sometimes looped up. Practicing and rehearsing the same wrong thing over and over again does not make them perfect. We need to reserve the titles to the Prophets; all others must be referred to just by their names with utmost respect.
We should not be loose with titles, unless they have shown that Allah is Rabbul Aaalamen (Universality of the Creator) and Muhammad is Rahmatul Aalameen in their actions and words. How many of them would qualify to be an Allama then?
All other Sunna emanates from these two basic steps, clearly and unambiguously corroborated by the Qur'an (81:21, 21:107).
We cannot compromise on free speech, however much a few may abuse it, but free speech is an enduring value and the hallmark of civilization. I believe in free speech and that is the only way societies will grow. As Muslims we need to seriously consider the gains Muslims have had, that far outweigh the tensions given by a handful of loonies.
Islam is a universal inclusive faith, it is from Rabbul Aalameen (creator of the universe, its prophet is Rahmatul Aalameen (Mercy to mankind) and we should be Mukhlooqul Aalameen (Universal, all embracing beings). Islam is about goodness and not forcing others, and not domineering but co-existing, just as the Prophet did and proclaimed in the Madinah treaty. Islam is about appreciating everything God has created on this universe (55:16).
If they curse the prophet, prophet is not going to be cursed, have the strength in your faith and return badness with Good; we know all the examples of his work. When you hear someone curse the prophet, just say I am sorry you feel that way, but if you wish to seek the truth, find it on your own or I will connect you with someone who can guide you, if you don't that is your choice and nothing will come off me or the prophet, your words do not have the power to reduce Islam or the prophet, I will pray peace of mind to you.
Don't feel compelled to convince anyone, let go. What did Allah say to Prophet when he was frustrated that people were not getting his message? You do your dharma (duty) and let them have the freedom to accept. Elsewhere God says there is no compulsion in matters of faith (2:256).
Have confidence, read what is good in Islam and ignore the bad things others say, write, or put it in the film about Islam or its Prophet. From the very first day of his mission, the Prophet was criticized and the Qur'an reviled and the criticism and revulsion only gained momentum through the medieval ages as Islam continued to win the hearts of other people. It has come to surface again with greater ferocity, but we the Muslims as peace makers must act peacefully.
Islam is not going anywhere, prophet is not going anywhere, and by opening up you will enjoy your Imaan (faith) immensely with genuine admiration for its wisdom. I thank Allah for helping me see the light and beauty of Islam, and you can too.
• Huffington Post -Muslims don't get it http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ghouse/freedom-of-speech-and-the-legitimacy-of-muslim-protests_b_1902427.html
• Dallas Morning news -Separation of church and state http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2012/09/texas-faith-is-separation-of-church-and.html
• Dallas Morning news - right to free speech http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2012/09/texas-faith-religion-and-right-to-free.html
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