Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What is Islam?

Islam is a beautiful system (like all other faiths) devised to restore sanity and common sense in a society through simple basics like being truthful, trustworthy, imbibing a sense security in fellow beings, stand up for justice, practice non-judgementalism, believe in dialogue to resolve the conflicts,  jettison arrogance and adopt humility and kindness as their life style.

These are the principles of building cohesive societies where no human has to live in apprehension or fear of the other,  indeed that is the foundation of Islam and a few Muslim have forgotten it. We have to restore it now for building a cohesive world, where no one has to live in apprehension or fear of the other.  You live your life, and let other live theirs. 

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) laid that foundation, and those seven principles made him an Amin, an individual who lives his life per those principles.  Unfortunately, a few have made Islam to be a political system, which it is not. Indeed, sadly all religions have become political systems of you or me, rather than spiritual system of we are in this together.

Preparing a talk on the subject.

Mike Ghouse

Monday, January 25, 2016

9/11: My personal Journey from 2001 through 2013 and my commitment to America.

This is one of the 5 most read stories, at the site TheGhouseDiary.com, it has crossed over 2 Million views.  Mike Ghouse

Since September 11, 2001, many stories have been told and experiences shared, but here is one story among many, that I hope my fellow Americans ought to hear, particularly those who are afraid of everything and everyone, and believe in conspiracies.

In the second half of the piece, I have included links to the Terry Jones' Quran Burning event from 2013, which was diffused through peaceful means. It is a story about skillfully managing conflicting issues of safety of Americans overseas, upholding freedom of speech, perceptions about Muslims, preserving sacredness of religions and building cohesive Societies.

It is an epitome of nonviolent conflict mitigation and goodwill nurturence based on the teachings of Jesus and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Hopefully the world will see a new paradigm in making; what Muslims ought to be, and how they will respond to future incidents of Quran Burning, criticism of Islam, and cartoons of the Prophet. It will be good for Muslims and good for the world. Indeed, blessed are the peacemakers.  A film is being made about this and is called "Sacred".

I hope this piece prompts you to think of the difficult encounters you may have had dealing with people of different faiths.  This is a long story and I hope it offers insights into what it takes to build a cohesive America, an genuinely free America where no one has to live in apprehension and fear of the other.

Please remember God is a good and a just guy. He has not signed a deal with Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus or others behind each others back, and  he treats all of his creation with the sameness as a teacher treats her students or a chef wants his patrons to enjoy his cuisine.  There is serenity in being fair and just, it is the ultimate goal for harmony and balance in the society.  Can we be fair to each other? 

This is also the story of the birth of Unity Day USA, a day to bring Americans Together.

The idea for Unity Day USA was first conceived on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 and took its current form on Sunday, September 11, 2005. It is an initiative to come together to stand up for the safety, security and cohesiveness of America.

On this Unity Day, we the people of the United States of America of every faith, race, ethnicity, culture and background will gather to express our commitment to co-existence, unity, prosperity and well being of our nation.

Our civic leaders including Mayors, Council members, State representatives, Senators, Congresspersons and other officials will honor us with their presence. Each Mayor at the event will give a one minute speech to share his/her thoughts about co-existence and promoting social cohesion in their respective cities. Additionally, our men and women in uniform including police and fire chiefs will be honored for their outstanding service to our nation.

Leaders from various faith communities will share a few words of wisdom from their respective scriptures, beliefs or oral traditions. Unity Day USA is about re-affirming our faith in the goodness in humanity, and the longing for harmony and co-existence. The traditions include but are not limited to Native American, Atheist, Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Earth-traditions, Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Jewish, Sikh, Wicca and Zoroastrians; thus it is an all inclusive event.

It is an awesome experience to feel a sense of unity with fellow Americans that will bring a feeling of coming home to where we drop all of our identities to be united together as an American family.

As Americans we uphold, protect, defend and celebrate the values enshrined in our constitution. Our faiths reinforce the idea of one nation with liberty and justice for all.

As a Muslim, I am deeply committed to America, the land of the brave and the free with liberty and justice for all.

Pictures, comments, sound bites are all at  www.Unitydayusa.com    

On the day of 09/11/2001

Dallas, Texas. About 10:00 in the Morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was called in by AM Radio 1150 to address the situation; and  950 AM also joined in to simulcast the program. The great tragedy had left every one speechless and had frozen everyone from doing anything. I was shaking but was committed to make sense out of the chaos and bring coherence to the day, and pave the way for relevant action.

I was on the air for 7 hours straight, standing on my feet and getting just about every community, religious, civic and business leader and the general public on the air to talk about the situation. Many of them read prepared statements, and one by one they condemned the attack. I did not even get to eat or take a break. The calls were pouring in and I was completely absorbed in the situation.

Among many who jumped on the idea to hold interfaith prayers were Mr. Joel Brooks of American Jewish Congress, Ms. Vinoda Kumar of the DFW Hindu Temple, Mr. Mohammad Suleman of the Islamic Center of Dallas, Mr. Poras Balsara of the Zoroastrian community and Kevin Rafraf from the Baha’i Temple, the list was endless. All the announcements and pronouncements were going on the radio live from every community leader. Mr. Taiyab Kundawala of India Association agreed to hold, and announce the prayer vigil at the association and the fund raising was set up the very next evening. Mr. Mansoor Shah of Pakistan Society was there to do anything that needed to be done. Mr. Ashok Kumar Mago of the Indian Chamber of Commerce also joined in on the Radio. I apologize to many friends, whose name have gone blank on me. I would appreciate if you could share them. This will go as a chapter in my upcoming book on Pluralism.

While this was going on, my late wife Najma had called in to announce about the blood drive and sure enough, hundreds of people were lining up at Wadley Blood center. She drove to the facility and the folks told her that the lines were too long and asked us to hold off the announcements till the next day. I wish I could get hold of the CNN tapes from the next day where they interviewed me for over 10 minutes at the Radio Station we were hanging out. Our friends and my late wife said that every word I said on the TV was just the right word, what a relief! I was tense, but determined to clear the muddy waters.

9/11 is one of the most significant days of my life, and I have made a life time commitment to dedicate this day, every year to serve my nation by bringing Americans together for the safety and security, and peace and prosperity of America.

A major change occurred in my life around that time. I was an Atheist for a long time, not a belligerent one but the pluralist kind, and for the first time in about 30 years I chose to be called a Muslim in Public Sphere. Thanks to my father for inculcating the values of Pluralism in my initial set up. More at Indian American Pluralist

In the random readings of holy books that I continue to do, I came across a verse in Bhagvad Gita, “finding the truth is one’s own responsibility”. The timing was perfect as Islam was being attacked, indeed, that was the reason I had walked away from Islam in the late sixties. This Bhagvad Gita verse inspired me to go find the truth.

Karen Armstrong’s book on Muhammad had made a huge impact on me. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was a divine, distant and a mystical figure to me until I read her book, it made me look to him as another human whose life and decisions I could relate with. He was bent on building cohesive societies and just about every one of his actions was grounded in a singular theme; mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwil so all can live in relative harmony. More at How do I relate with Prophet Muhammad and Prophet the Pluralist. 

I made it my business to hone on the verses in Qur'an that had driven me away from Islam. I had made several attempts and each time I did not like the translations I read. The verse, “finding the truth is one’s own responsibility” did not allow me to gulp down what was apparent about Qur'an. Over the years of searching, I discovered that Quran was deliberately mistranslated by politicians who wore the label of Christianity as well as Islam.

Steve Blow in Dallas Morning News put my thoughts in the words that I cherish, "In the Middle Ages, European leaders commissioned a hostile Quran translation to foster warfare against Muslim invaders. Later, Muslim leaders produced another translation to inflame Muslims against Christians and Jews." Relax, the first translation is not in circulation but is used by the right wing Christian and Jews to support their tirade, the second dangerous translation is by Hilali khan which right wing Muslims like.  Unfortunately it exists and Muslims are now aware of the problem.

However there are over two dozen translations which are alright ( I cannot claim the credit, but I was a catalyst in bringing to attention and now since 2012 editions a few major mis-translations have been corrected. ( Apology to Jews and Christians ) .  The best one among the available translations is by Muhammad Asad. However,  we need a new translation which the average person can relate with and reflects the universality of God. All the mis-translations are at www.Quraanconference.com

That was my background in relating the story of 9/11. 

As the community was fully involved on the air with me, the Interfaith-faith prayers, blood donations and fundraising for the men and women in uniform were all in place by evening. The fog was clearing up, Osama bin Laden was the bad guy and Muslim-Americans had nothing to do with his actions, nor did they authorize him to terrorize any one. Indeed, he placed a wedge between Americans that still needs to be undone. I had literally declared a war against this man.

Atheists, Baha'i, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Jews, Native Americans, Pagans, Sikhs, Wicca and Zoroastrians along with area city mayors, FBI, police and fire chiefs and community leaders graced the first interfaith event in Frisco. Out of which a new tradition evolved called Unity Day. It continues year after year.

A few of us formed a team from different religions and went from place of worship to place of worship and shared the prayers or gave a small talk about the respective religion. That’s where we build the relationship of trust between us for me to read the Jewish Prayers when Joel Brooks was not available, recite the Zoroastrian Prayer for Poras Balsara, Jain prayers for Pradeep Shah or Hindu Prayers for the Hindu community and of course, I represented Ben Moghaddas of Baha’i faith and was always a substitute for the Muslim community. There never was a shortage of Christians, Muslims and Sikhs in interfaith activity at that time. However, it has dwindled down now. Muslims are not participating as much, and at many places I am the only Muslim participating in smaller interfaith events. They go to the big ones though.

One of the biggest walls between Hindus and Muslims was dissolved that week. President of The Dallas Islamic Center, Muhammad Suleman asked me to pull the religious groups for the interfaith prayers and I was pleased to include Hindu prayers. Vijayshree Venkatraman came and chanted the Om Shanti Mantra amidst all other prayers. Perhaps it was the first time Hindu prayers were recited in a Mosque complex. I am sure it is done in India, but it was a new experience for Muslims in Dallas.

If there was one gratifying moment in my interfaith life, that would be one. The other ones are chanting the Jainism’s Navakar Mantra at the Maya Temple in Mexico, Hindu prayers in the Snotes at the Mayan Temples, getting Baptized in the name of God at the place in Jordan River where Jesus was Baptized and dancing with the Pagans in Melbourne and spending time with the Native Australians.

In 1993, I published the first issue of Asian News Magazine which was co-edited by Abraham Thomas. A new standard was set in bringing the communities of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka together. The highlight of the paper was extensive calendar and write ups on the essence of every possible festival that took place in Dallas. Then in July of 1996, AM Radio 1150 approached me to begin the Radio Service for the communities, indeed it was the first Talk Show Radio for the community which paved the way to full time Radio services. These two items highlight the pluralism work that was going on. Every Saturday on the air, we had a segment called Festivals of the world where we shared the essence of every religious festival; we had religious leaders from Aztec to Zoroastrians and every one in between sharing the essence of their festivals on the air.
Unity Day USA - established

The idea for Unity Day USA was first conceived on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 and took its current form on Sunday, September 11, 2005. It is a Muslim initiative to come together to stand up for the safety, security and cohesiveness of America, my initial team included Lee Holcomb of UT Dallas and other volunteers and women members from the Plano Mosque who handled wonderful refreshments.

During planning session of the event, I was opposed by a few to hold prayers from all religious groups in an alphabetical sequence. They preferred that Muslim Prayers be done at first and others to follow, someone did not want Islam to be in the Middle of Hinduism and Jainism. Even the idea of the Abrahamic faiths first and others following it was floated. I was not in favor of it as I have always believed in equality of all humans and by corollary all religions, we dug in our heels.

Before it got messy, I called Imam Dr. Yusuf Zia Kavakci and asked his guidance on it and I was praying for wisdom from him and was willing to walk away from the event if there was a preferential treatment to any group. He thought it over and said, Islamically I was on the right tract to treat everyone on equal footing, however he said, if you want to be political, you choose. I asked him if I could put those words in an email and send to the group, and that was the end of the conflict, what a relief! This Imam is a blessing to our town, indeed I have written a few more of the interfaith moments between us.

The prayers were indeed led by 13 groups of religious leaders. Regina Rafraf led the Baha’i prayers, Ben Boothe led the Buddhist prayers; Christian prayers were led by the late Baptist Minister Roy Harrell with a team of clergy from Presbyterian, Methodist, Unitarian, Catholic and other denominations; Swami Nityananda Prabhu led the Hindu group representing 7 different Hindu Temple; Islamic prayers were led by Imam Dr. Yusuf Zia Kavakci with Shia, Bohra, Ismaili, Sufi, Warith Deen Muhammad, Sunni and other Muslim traditions, Pradeep Shah led the Jain prayers, Rabbi Haas led the Jewish prayers, the Sikh prayers were led by Bhai Harinder Singh and Ramneek Singh, Wicca prayers were led by Brian Langford and the Zoroastrian Prayers were lead by Poras Balsara. In the later years Native Americans, Pagans, Earth based Traditions, Atheists and others have joined in, no one is excluded, however a few continue to malign us and refuse to join standing shoulder to shoulder with people of different faiths.

FBI Chief Danny Deffenbaugh, Mayors or Mayors pro-tem and Police chiefs of Plano, Frisco, Richardson, Dallas, Garland, Carrollton, Addison and representatives of congress woman Eddie Bernice Johnson and State Representative Florence Shapiro were all on the stage. Among the civic leaders were Dean Hobson of the UT Dallas among others.

My conversation with Maria Arita of Fox news was interesting. She wanted to know if it was difficult to pull these various groups together. She could not resist the inherent bias and blurted out, "was it the Moslems that were difficult?" I said no and the answer will be in my upcoming book. It’s an amazing story of interfaith.

In the 3rd annual Unity Day event we discovered something beautiful about how we hold things inside. I have sincere relationships with my friends in different religious communities and they share whatever bothers them, usually is it about Muslims. Every one wants to genuinely find the truth and thanks to my friends from the Zoroastrian and Sikh Communities who held back the issue for two years.

Dr. Harbans Lal and Firdosh Mehta asked me to find out why Muslims walked out on them, when it was their turn to pray in the first Unity day? Remember the Alphabetical sequence? I thank Bhagvad Gita for instilling in me with “finding the truth is one’s own responsibility”… we dug up and found out that it was the prayer time for Muslims when the Sikhs and Zoroastrian got on the stage. I shared that story and told our friends attending the event that you have got to admire our Muslim brothers and sisters, when the time for prayer comes up, they drop everything as nothing else is a priority to them and Mayor Pat Evans appreciated the hint. If that time were during the speech of the Mayor, they would simply fulfill their duty to God and pray. Isn’t it amazing what was construed as dislike to hear the Sikh and Zoroastrian payers, was not? It was such a relief to our friends Dr. Lal and Mehta.

Gregory Gomez, the Apache American surprised everyone and continues to remain the talk of the town. When Gomez went on to the stage with our Hopi Chief Ambrose to cleanse the environment (Done with feathers, a native tradition and I have been cleansed a few times). The first words the Native American spoke thrilled the audience, it was ironic, unexpected and truthful, he said, “Welcome to my country”. The biggest appreciation came from Richardson Mayor, Gary Slagel without missing the beat.

A few more of the moments are at http://theghousediary.blogspot.com/2011/09/do-jews-christians-and-muslims-better.html or in Dallas Morning News at: http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2011/09/texas-faith-do-jews-christians.html

God willing my upcoming book will share some of the most difficult and humorous interfaith moments.

The Biggest Achievement of Unity Day

The pinnacle achievement of Unity Day was on 9/11/2013 - Here is the full story about it and a film is in the making with the title "Sacred".  A New Paradigm for Muslim World. Indeed, every year, our friends who attend the event have said, they feel good about being prejudice free and free from stereotyping others, that is the power of the Unity Day. 

Bad Statistics

2.2 Million Americans imprisoned
14,827 persons were murdered in the United States in 2012
84,376 forcible rapes reported to law enforcement in 2012 http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/crime-in-the-u.s.-2012

Sean Hannity is not a murderer, just because he lives in New York, and New York City alone murders 300 people a year, what a shame!

Bill Blasio is not a rapist because he is the Mayor of New York, and New York City alone raped 1000 women last year, what a shame!

Throughout America, we have the same federal laws  for the criminals as well as the good people among us.  Criminals violate the laws, and the good people don’t.  The problem is not the law books or enforcement, but the few who do not follow the good laws. It is the same story with a few Muslims, it is not the Quran or Islam, it is them, those few. 

We don't stereotype people based on actions of a few. 

As Americans we need not swayed by the current events in the world with the ISIS, Al Qaeda and their likes, they are shamefully within the comparable statistical range  of the world.  Same percentage of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus or others behave the same; mind their own business and a similar percentage are extremists. Read more at Two Islams. 

Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Racism, Homophobia, Xenophobia and Misogyny destroy the fabric of the nation and keep each other’s throats.  We need to clean up ourselves and build a safe America for everyone.

Islam teaches one to be non-judgmental, and consistently encourages individuals to do good. It emphasizes about individual responsibility towards the peace and security of society at large. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) described a good deed as an act which benefits others whom you don't even know, such as planting a tree that serves generations of wayfarers with fruit and the shade. The world is a better place today because of a good legacy bequeathed to humanity by people of all faiths that came before us. We owe it to coming generations to leave the world a little better than we found to usher an era of justice and peace. Indeed, this is the same message, every messenger of God in every faith or a peace maker or a wise men and women have reiterated.

On my part, I am committed to build a cohesive America, and last year the Unity Day was held in Florida, and here is one of the most powerful stories, which is being made into a film.

How to be build a cohesive America, watch this 10 Minutes video at www.AmericaTogetherFoundation.com

Documentary Trailerhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMXsTo4VYh8

Our dream

Each one of us has a dream… a dream  to have livable wages, a loving family, children, a home, reliable car, decent health care, and comfortable retirement.
A majority of Americans want a just   society with safety and security.  We want to live our lives as good neighbors and let others live theirs. 

Our right

Our founding fathers laid the foundation of the creed for such a society, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, and that they  are endowed by their Creator with     certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness".

Our spirit

Martin  Luther  King  Jr.  expressed  the same  in  his famous speech, “ I have a dream that our little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” 

Our world

Native American Chief Seattle said it   perfectly; “All things are connected.   Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth.   Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in  it.  Whatever he does to the web, he  does it to himself."

Our questions

Based on the previous statements and    a commitment to one nation and one America, what are we doing individually to preserve that web?
What are our initiatives?
What are the divisive issues?
Are we going to allay these phobias?
What is your vision for America?

Our responsibility

President Kennedy pointed us in the right    direction,  “Ask not what your country  can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”.  When we give to the country, we collectively receive as well.

Our empathy

Are we connected enough with each other?  Can others empathize with us or even understand the truth about us?    We are no different than them in our   endeavors and aspirations of life.

Our action

Let’s explore daily opportunities to make America a better place for each one of us.  Let’s treat others as we would wish to be treated and have compassion for others who might look different.

If we can learn to respect the otherness of other, and accept the God given uniqueness of each   American, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.

We are committed to providing      education, workshops, and training for future leaders.  We have programs in place to move forward.  All we need is your support.

Our contribution

It takes time, effort and money to bring positive changes; will you  consider contributing $25, $50, $100, $500, $1000 or up?

You can do a one time donation or  recurring monthly donation through our PayPal account on our website.  http://americatogetherfoundation.com/donate/ 

Or you can mail a check to:

America Together Foundation
2665 Villa Creek Dr, Suite 206
Dallas, TX 75234
(972) 243-7040

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, peace, IslamIsrael,Indiainterfaith, and cohesion at work place. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at www.TheGhousediary.com. He believes in Standing up for others and has done that throughout his life as an activist. Mike has a presence on national and local TV, Radio and Print Media. He is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News; fortnightly atHuffington post; and several other periodicals across the world. His personal sitewww.MikeGhouse.net indexes all his work through many link

Moderate Muslims speak out

Moderate Muslims speak out

Since 9/11, talk show hosts, journalists, lawmakers, interfaith authorities and thought leaders have asked: “Who are the authentic moderates of Islam?” Where are moderate Muslims to join the debate on social, civic, religious and political issues, including racism and violent extremism? And, “Who speaks for American Muslims?”
Steve Blow of Dallas Morning News wrote, "Over and over you hear it said: If Muslims oppose terrorism, why don't they stand up and say it? If that has been you, Mike Ghouse ought to be your hero."
Muslims are sick of the terrorists, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and their ilk committing evil acts and conveniently passing the buck to their religion, and Muslims are neither happy with those few gullible Americans who are too eager to buy the poor excuses of these gangs. Instead of punishing these criminals, they are hell bent on finding faults with the religion.
In behalf of American Muslim Institution a rally was organized on the steps of Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, on Friday, November 20, 2015. The symbolic location was chosen to mirror the effort of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who brought a positive change to the American civil Society with his famous, “I have a dream” speech.  Dr. Ghouse believes that this effort has seeded the momentum for yet another positive change; acceptance of Muslims as equals with the process of integration.
A reporter asked what would be achieved by condemning or demonstrating here at Lincoln Memorial.  Dr. Ghouse responded, “Evil exists because good people do nothing about it, we the good people are doing something about it; we are condemning the evil acts of ISIS, and sending them a clear message that the world condemns their act and that they have no place among the civil societies unless they surrender and give up terrorism, violence and extremism.
At the National Press Club, Dr. Ben Carson was asked if he verifies the information he relays about Muslims and Islam. The lack of response led Dr. Ghouse to offer advice and guidance to him, and if he considers the advice, he will save himself a lot of regrets and time on doubling down on the false information, and if he were smart, he can earn at least 3 Million Muslim votes.
Dr. Mike Ghouse is a proud, unapologetic Moderate Muslim and a passionate advocate of Pluralism in religion, society, politics, race, dining, clothing, dancing, sports and every aspect of life. He is a public speaker, thinker, writer and a commentator who is considered an authority on Pluralism and Interfaith relations in America, and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.
Phyllis Curott, the Vice Chair of Parliament of World’s Religions writes," Mike Ghouse has the courage of his convictions - he carries a spark of inspiration that can only be called Divine…..”
Religion News Service,
" (RNS) A Florida pastor plans to burn a pile of Qurans on the 9/11 anniversary, and interfaith activist Mike Ghouse says, “It is not what (the pastor) will do, it is what we do as Americans and American Muslims that matters.”
Dr. Ghouse has appeared in more than 150 TV Talk shows, including 102 with Sean Hannity alone. He has served as
subject expert hundreds of times on nationally syndicated radio shows. Many listeners have heard his informed opinions at the time of the Quran Burning issue in Mulberry, Florida, Quran Bashing in Dallas Texas, during the Ground Zero Mosque, Boston Bombing, Garland, Phoenix, Washington and other major conflicts.
He has published more than 3000 articles on a variety of topics, of these; more than 1000 are on Pluralism, including 225 pieces in the “Texas Faith” column of the Dallas Morning News and 130 articles at Huffington Post.  A thousand articles on politics, Israel Palestine Dialogue, India, and Terrorism, foreign policy, movies, sports, culture and motivation. The rest of the thousand are about the Pluralistic values of Islam and Muslims.
American Muslims are committed to a prosperous and secure American for every one of the 318 Million Americans.
Mike Ghouse (214) 325-1916

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Defending Islam - Dallas Morning news

Dallas Morning News - http://www.dallasnews.com/news/columnists/steve-blow/20100919-In-defense-of-Islam-pursuing-9397.ece 

By Steve Blow sblow@dallasnews.com Published 19 September 2010 02:28 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It was all for politics," he said.

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

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

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

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

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

He said repeated denunciations of terrorism seem to fall on deaf ears.
And some efforts have backfired - like the proposed Islamic information center in New York. He said it should be hailed for furthering the moderate Muslim cause.

Instead, it has deepened hostility toward Muslims.

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

One theme is that people like Mike Ghouse can't be trusted, that Islam encourages deception.
But Ghouse says actions speak louder than words. And he points to elections in Muslim nations.

More than half of Muslims live in countries with some degree of democracy. And time and time again, Islamist parties are overwhelmingly rejected in favor of secular, mainstream parties.
"The religious parties don't get more than 3 percent of the vote," Ghouse said.

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

What keeps him going is faith in Americans, he said.
"The majority of Americans, if they know the truth, they will change their minds."

Moderate Muslim Speaker

Moderate Muslim Speaker
email to: SpeakerMikeGhouse@gmail.com or text to (214) 325-1916


Email to: SpeakerMikeGhouse@gmail.com or text (214) 325-1916

Moderate Islam

Moderate Islam
Moderate Islamic Speaker