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Books and Documents

Interfaith Dialogue

Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never harm you.  Rubbish!  There is great power in words.  Words shape our world and our worldview. They can unite or divide. They can hurt or they can heal. The Bible (John 1:1) reads “In the beginning was The Word” and the Quran teaches that everything came into existence with The Word. Allah (God) uses an honorable term in the Quran Ahlil Kitab —People of the Book, referring to the children of Israel and the followers of Jesus, The Son of Mary.  Yet all too often I hear people referring to themselves as “Non-Muslims”, “Non-Christians” or “Non-Jews”.  These are definitions of who “they are not”.  If I attended a dinner party and the host introduced me as their “non-white friend” I don’t think I’d be around long enough to shake hands. It would be on the level of something Malcolm X once said, “Called me the “N-Word” so much I thought it was my name”. Let us recall that in 615 CE the prophet Muhammad, pbuh, said to his oppressed followers, ‘Go to Habasha (Ethiopia), there you will find a Christian King who is just’. Quran revealed that the whole world is a place for prayer.  Many American Muslims viewed the United States as the early Muslims refugees from Mecca viewed Ethiopia. -- Imam Johari Abdul-Malik

“KARACHI, India” was a talking point and a source of tremendous national hurt and humiliation when my generation was at school — letters written by foreigners often carried an address which ended with “Karachi, India”. The government of the day would come under harsh attack for not making the world know that Karachi was in Pakistan and not India. Hearts choked and people hit the ceiling when an address ended with “Karachi, Pakistan, India”. Those were heady days, and we lived under the spell of the euphoria over Pakistan’s emergence. Those who had opposed Pakistan had no face to show and were hiding in rat holes. So, Pakistanis, carry on! Irrespective of what you are, irrespective of your misdeeds and crimes against yourselves, rejoice, for Pakistan, your country, remains “important”, “pivotal” and — unfortunately — ubiquitous. -- Muhammad Ali Siddiqi

 

Guru Nanakji’s birthday has a special significance to me, indeed, the religion we called Sikhism, started out as an interfaith movement, where he primarily brought people from different religions together and taught common sense goodness; serving humanity and caring for the neighbours. The Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhs is a stories and guidance in poetry composed by Hindu and Muslim spiritual teachers. Indeed, the land for the Golden Temple was a grant by King Akbar and the first brick for the Golden Temple was laid out by a Muslim fakir. Happy Gurpurab to all the Sikhs and to everyone who is a well-wisher of the ideals of Sikhism…. I hope on this auspicious occasion of Gurpurab, the Muslims and Sikhs make a genuine effort to pay tribute to the spirit of Guru Nanak Devji and remove the misunderstandings that erupted from a wrong translation of Quran that happened 350 years ago and has rightfully etched in the psyche of Sikhs. In an article in Huffington post about Kentucky Senator David William’s bigotry I wrote, “No one has a right to belittle other's faiths. If Senator Williams has a problem let it be his problem and one should malign Christianity for his bigotry.” Likewise, King Aurangzeb’s bigotry should not be slapped on Muslims. I have nothing to do with it, nor does any Muslim anything to do with him. Sadly there was a lot of bloodshed during the partition of India that has deepened the ill-will among a few Muslims and a few Sikhs. It is time to forgive for our own sake, as it will release the tension and apprehension within us and free us to deal with each other as free individuals. -- Mike Ghouse

The present day Islamophobia driven greenhorn scholarship draws on the Qur’anic verses with exhortations to kill the Mushriks (technically ‘mushrikin’, translated as unbelievers, disbelievers, idol worshippers) to project Islam as a violent religion that permits killing the ‘Mushriks’. Some radical groups in India fan communal hatred and violence by quoting these verses, applying the word ‘al-mushrikin’ to the Hindus. “He is the One God, hidden in all beings, all-pervading, the Self within all beings, watching over all works, the witness, the perceiver, the only One, free from all qualities (that humans attribute to Him).” Svetesvatra Upanishad 6.11. “The hypocrite men and women are of the same kind. They enjoin the evil, and forbid the good, and hold back their hands (from giving to the needy). They are oblivious of God and God is oblivious of them, and without doubt, they are the deviants (fasiqun) (9:67). -- Muhammad Yunus, NewAgeIslam.com

The regularity of communal tensions and clashes in India is unfortunately accepted as part of the country's fabric. Communal frenzy, as seen in Gujarat, Delhi, Mumbai, Kandhamal and post-Babri Masjid, was considered a problem of law and order. Terrorist attacks on the public, by those belonging to different religions, also keep apprehension alive. Yet solutions to problems that beget such acts do not seem to be India's top priority. The proposed Communal Violence Bill has divided political parties, with undercurrents that are strongly coloured by religion. Religious bigotry divides people, leading to misunderstanding, intolerance, fear, hatred, social ostracism, violence and loss of livelihood and life. Yet post-mortem on major upheavals fails to focus on societal factors, which are responsible for widespread endemic tensions within communities. While ethnic and religious tensions exist in many societies, the Partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan, based on religion, was a watershed. -- K. S. Jacob

SHIA-SUNNI UNITY! There are many who spread propaganda about our Sunni brothers living in Iran. People need to understand there is NO SUCH THING, as "Shia" or "Sunni" mosque in Iran. WE ALL GO TO THE SAME MOSQUES. The ONLY reason Iran is: - the most scientifically advanced country in the middle east- the strongest military power in the middle east- the ONLY country in the Middle East to send a ROCKET INTO SPACE, - the strongest supporter of Palestine- becoming a SUPERPOWER is because of its UNITY. And all those who try to promote disunity in Iran, and claim Sunnis "have no rights," like Abdul Malik Rigi, the terrorist founder of Jund Allah, have proven to be funded by the CIA.

 

 

Six years ago while on a speaking tour of nearly 25 schools, colleges, and universities across India, I discovered that only a handful of students had ever seen a living, breathing Pakistani. None had heard an academic from across the border speak. A twelve-year old school student, who obviously did not know Hindi and Urdu were similar, wondered aloud how a real Pakistani could be speaking their language. For these puzzled students Pakistanis are alien people belonging to an adversary country, not next door neighbors.

The numerous misconceptions and misunderstandings I encountered must be still greater today. With pre-1947 family links slowly withering away, the two countries are traveling on separate economic and cultural trajectories. As travel barriers become ever higher, their respective populations are becoming progressively more unfamiliar and estranged from the other. -- Pervez Hoodbhoy for NewAgeIslam.com

Pakistan was not formed as an Islamic nation. It was instead envisioned as a state designed to provide economic stability and opportunity to Muslims who, post-Partition, would otherwise have found themselves a minority in a predominantly Hindu nation. A state founded for Muslims is by no means the same as an Islamic state. Adding further to this confusion is the central question, what form of Islam was Pakistan meant to follow? Important also to remember is that it was not till 1956 that Pakistan was officially renamed the ‘Islamic Republic of Pakistan’. Time and again, Pakistan’s religious identity has been reinforced through military dictators such as Ayub Khan and Ziaul Haq. Ayub Khan strived to tie Pakistan to a religious identity through provisions in the First Amendment that clearly stated: “No law shall be repugnant to the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and Sunnah.”-- Arsla Jawaid

Today, however, demands for a "Jewish State" from Israeli politicians are growing without giving thought to what this might mean, and its supporters claim that it would be as natural as calling France a French State. However, if we consider the subject dispassionately, the idea of a "Jewish State" is logically and morally problematic because of its legal, religious, historical and social implications. The implications of this term therefore need to be spelled out, and we are sure that once they are, most people - and most Israeli citizens, we trust - will not accept these implications. ….recognition of Israel as a "Jewish state" implies that Israel is, or should be, either a theocracy (if we take the word "Jewish" to apply to the religion of Judaism) or an apartheid state (if we take the word "Jewish" to apply to the ethnicity of Jews), or both, and in all of these cases, Israel is then no longer a democracy - something which has rightly been the pride of most Israelis since the country's founding in 1948. -- Sari Nusseibeh

 

When one comes to the city of Mevlana, and to a university bearing his name, it is only appropriate to commence with his wisdom about the difference between feeling and knowing. Needless to say, I am delighted to be here and feel elated by the honour bestowed on me today. I come as a traveller who has known of the destination but has taken long to reach it. The Persian saying dair aayed, durust aayed does help console me. Turkey and India have known each other for centuries. Both were important pillars of a seamless, borderless world of culture, art, spiritualism and philosophy that extended from Maghrib and Andulusia in the west to all corners of Asia in the east, enriched humanity for over a millennium, assimilated and synthesized many distinctive local, cultural and ethnic features and displayed much diversity within unity. Both contributed to it in ample measure; both take pride in this heritage. -- Hon'ble Vice President of India Shri M. Hamid Ansari

 

Brahmin created and dominated Bhartiya Janata party, which controls Delhi Municipal Committee is reportedly going to name 100 streets and squares for BJP and RSS leaders. Worse families of many dead leaders occupy precious real estate in the centre of capital Delhi and elsewhere. Once allotted as residence to the leader of the caste, the family then made it a museum or mausoleum and it almost becomes a family property. Prophet Mohammed had underlined that God and man are different. (Christians have still not resolved this dilemma fully about the nature of Jesus). Miracles and veneration of dead persons are denounced in Quran (Sura XI, 31). Sufism developed fully by 12th century by which time Arab Islam had been modified and enriched by streams from Persian, Central Asian and other religions, beliefs and philosophies. It was in the heartland of Arab Islam i.e. Baghdad and Aleppo, where Sufis saints Al Hajj (for insisting “Ana Al-haq "- I am the Truth) and Suhrawardy were martyred. -- K. Gajendra Singh

 

Almost every other day, one hears of heinous crimes against humanity. In the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the Hutus systematically slaughtered the Tutsis by the thousands — the UN estimate is 800,000, but this number is certainly an underestimation. In 2004, ordinary American soldiers were seen humiliating and torturing Iraqi captives in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. And from earlier times, there is the ‘Rape of Nanking’— the rape and murder of a number of Chinese people by invading Japanese soldiers on the eve of World War II. In Pakistan the first thing we must do is to rewrite all textbooks which creates hatred for Indians. In India, too, all movies which portray Pakistanis in a bad light must be taken off the screen. We have dwelt on the killings in 1947 on both sides. We should now celebrate the heroes, again on both sides, who helped each other across the border, often by risking their lives. -- Dr Tariq Rahman

People from different religious backgrounds living side by side have been a challenge in Egypt, as well as many places, for ages. In India, Europe and the US so-called multi faith spaces have had some success creating shared spaces where people can practice whichever belief they have together. “Multi faith spaces include spaces with a remarkable variety of names like room of silence, meditation room, prayer room, the hub, chapel and many others. This diversity of names is an indication of the differences in approach, purpose and usage,”…. “In India, Muslims as well as Hindus and Buddhists are very spiritual in their approach to religion. I think we see our religious identity more as who we are. We believe in one God and that our God is the only god,”….. understanding of their fellow citizens. “Sharing our prayer for God would be focusing on the one thing we don’t have in common. But just as Indians have things in common regardless of their religion, so do we. Let’s focus on that,” he says. “We have values in common, such as the respect for marriage, and we have shared problems, such as discrimination from public employment. Let’s gather around that.” -- Mette Eriksen

Mosques, churches, synagogues and other temples. And when your religion is one of these faiths, then you will go to one. And you may not see the other. Yes, you will read about the other faiths, but most of the time you will concentrate on the differences rather than the similarities. And yes, there are differences. But, I have seen very important things in common. And it is the encouragement of all faiths to respect the human soul. And in all religions, killing of innocent human being is at the top of sins. And all faiths encourage kindness to each other. The funny thing is that most followers of different faiths talk to each other with love and trust. But, the very small number of radicals makes all the noise and mistrust. Why does the press write about the clash of civilizations rather than what these civilizations had accomplished? -- ABDULATEEF AL-MULHIM 

"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." One such difficult passage is "Kill the infidels wherever you find them." Ten such propaganda verses were read to separate the myths from reality. They were not read by Muslim clergy, but by Baptist, Mormon, Protestant, Catholic, Unitarian, Methodist, New Age, Unificationists, Sikhs, Hindu and others at the Quran Conference. Shamelessly, anti-Semitism continues to operate under the radar. The anti-circumcision bills in San Francisco and Santa Monica were irksome to some, but frightening to others. Indeed, there are still a few Christians out there who cannot shake off what Fred Phelps was demonstrating with reckless posters such as "Christ Killers." The Judeo-Christian phrase was thrown around in the 40's to build relationships between Jews and Christians. A whole industry of opportunists was born from it. The support for Jews by Billy Graham, Richard Nixon, Pat Robertson, John Hagee, Glenn Beck and other chest thumpers have ulterior motives. They want to cash in on the name of Israel and perhaps convert them. Jews need sincerity and not duplicity to feel genuinely secure. -- MIKE GHOUSE

The talk was about the row at Playland, where Muslims celebrated Ramadan festival and it ended up being a sour event. David Horowitz needs to stop making things up and the police needs sensitivity training. Minorities are sensitive to being singled out - Jews are ready to invoke Anti-Semitism, African Americans are eager to call it Racism and Muslims have a stock answer because we are Muslims. No one needs to be singled out.  -- Mike Ghouse

As India and Pakistan celebrate their independence day their  trajectories since 1947 could hardly have been more different. As India and Pakistan celebrate their independence days their trajectories since 1947 could hardly have been more different. As India celebrates her birthday the world is beating a path to her door. In the case of Pakistan, her existence has never been more in question as the war against al-Qaeda in her northern territories is pursued aggressively by the United States with drone attacks and Islamabad struggles with internal radicalism. India has come off the international economic and ideological fence and, for better or worse, plunged headlong into a Westernizing phase, not only in the cultural sense but also in the geopolitical sense. For the Pakistanis, they must hope that their security forces can make the right choices in taking on the jihadists and that they can be successful before more damage is done to their country. -- David Watts

 

Sixty four years ago, we dreamed of a modern nation- state in which citizens would enjoy the fruits of security, justice and prosperity, one without religious persecution, at peace with itself, its neighbours and the rest of the world. But a litany of false starts, corrupt practices and misplaced concreteness has transformed our progressive reality into a living nightmare. Shortly after independence our leaders determined to woo the United States and become a client state. Across the border in India, its leaders did the opposite, fashioning a doctrine of respectable non- alignment that compelled them to stand on their own feet, develop an autonomous economy and put their stakes in democracy. Today, India has a vibrant strategic relationship with America that benefits it enormously while we have a transactional one with it that hurts us badly. -- Najam Sethi

Accounting for just fewer than 2 per cent of Pakistan’s population, Hindus are Pakistan’s largest religious minority. More than nine-tenths of Pakistan’s Hindus, the report relates, live in the Sindh province, and most of them belong to various Dalit castes. According to the report, some 80 per cent of Sindhi Hindus are poverty-stricken agricultural labourers, and suffer heinous forms of both caste- and religious-discrimination. Christians, Pakistan’s second largest minority, face similar forms of oppression. Many Christians, the report reveals, ‘feel that they are treated as second class citizens and discriminated against in all aspects of life….Christians across Pakistan live in a state of constant fear and insecurity.’ Christians who can migrate out of the country do so, the report adds. The report cites cases of Christians being attacked by Muslim mobs, often instigated by mullahs, their churches being destroyed and being forced out of their lands, which are then occupied by their attackers.-- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

Like other religious minorities in the Islamic Republic, Pakistan’s Dalits, who are additionally discriminated against on account of their extreme poverty and ‘low’ caste status, suffer the pangs of being non-Muslim. The country’s Constitution itself discriminates against all non-Muslims, as it does against women, the report stresses. The Constitution, the report contends, provides no protection to minorities in general, and to Dalits in particular. Basic rights, including protection of minorities and the promotion of social and economic well-being of citizens, are included in the non-binding ‘principles of policy’, rather than the legally enforceable section on fundamental rights, and, moreover, are overshadowed by religious provisions that call for all laws to be in conformity with Islam. The Federal Shariat or Islamic Law Court has the right to turn down any law it considers repugnant to Islam. This, the report says, ‘has further weakened chances of seeking justice against any discrimination’, particularly if the victims are non-Muslims. All these discriminatory provisions, the report insists, are a complete violation of various international human rights agreements to which Pakistan is a signatory. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

Few, if any, Dalit localities have schools. Since they are pathetically poor, expensive private schools are well beyond their reach, and so they have to send their children, if they can afford to do without their labour, to low-grade government schools instead. The curriculum of such schools is vociferously anti-Hindu. Hindus are described in government-prescribed texts as ‘enemies’ of Islam, Muslims and Pakistan. Such hatred in the name of religion plays havoc with the self-esteem of non-Muslim students, including Dalits, says the report. The school texts are based heavily on Islamic teachings, and studying the Quran and other Islamic books is compulsory for all students, including non-Muslims. This, the report says, is ‘the most disturbing aspect of the curriculum’, being in complete violation of international norms and even of Pakistani Constitutional provisions, which, in theory, provide for religious freedom for all communities. The intention in forcing non-Muslim students to study Islam in school might be to goad them to convert to Islam, but, the report stresses, it has only succeeded in alienating non-Muslims even further and ‘at a grave cost’ to national integration. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

“These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Mark 7:6) said Jesus of the Pharisees, known for their loveless legalism and rigid ritualism. Likewise, of those who reject Truth, the Holy Quran says: “Their hearts are sealed so that they apprehend not” (9:87). More than merely viewing the heart as an organ that pumps blood, religions see the human heart as a symbol with myriad meanings. There are believers whose “heart is not proud” (Psalm 131:1) or whose “heart is evil” (1 Samuel 17:28) or “devious” (Jeremiah 17:9). Thus, the prophets speak of “a new heart” (Ezekiel 18:31; 36:26) referring to repentance. The holy Quran likewise refers to the heart: “As for those who believe not in the Hereafter, their hearts refuse to know, for they are proud” (16:22) and “Obey not him whose heart we have made heedless of Our remembrance, who follows his own lust” (18:29). Positively, it asserts: “Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest” (13:28) and “whosoever believes in Allah, He guides his heart” (64:11). Quoting the Holy Prophet, Imam al-Sadiq wrote: “The darkness of the heart is the worst kind of darkness.” -- Francis Gonsalves

 

Following the Prophet’s example, in the last century, the great leader of the then united India’s northwest frontier province, which is now known as Pakistan’s province of Khyber-Pakhtunkwa, Badshah Khan devised a strategy that harmonised the demands of a quest for Justice with the interests of peace. He was inspired by the Mahatma and was his greatest, most unflinching ally. But he had worked out his strategy of non-violent struggle and started his unique movement before meeting him. He said he had learnt this from his study of Quran and Hadith. He found his nonviolent strategy in Islam’s call for an unrelenting struggle against injustice and the Prophet’s constant exhortation for patience and perseverance. He brought the two virtues together and thus was born his unique movement of non-violent resistance against British colonial rule. He told his 100,000 strong non-violent army of khudai khidmatgars (Servants of God):

“I am going to give you such a weapon that police and the army will not be able to stand against it. It is the weapon of the Prophet, but you are not aware of it. That weapon is patience and righteousness. No power on earth can stand against it. …tell your brethren that there is an army of God and its weapon is patience….”[xxv]

Many scholars and peace activists who have studied the Khudai Khidmatgar movement in detail consider this as an Islamic model for non-violent struggle against injustice. Let us hope that Muslims all over the world take this as a model that is as relevant today as it was a century ago.  -- Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam speaking at a parallel seminar organised by Al-Hakim Foundation and Himalayan Research in the UN Human Rights Council’s September 2010 session at Geneva  on the International Day of non-violence:28 September 2010

Fatah argues that though the Holy Qur’an chastises Jews (as it does Muslims and others), its criticism is directed at the wrong-doers and not against all Jews, most of whom were not even born when those transgressions took place. To condemn them simply because they were born Jewish is to challenge God who created them in the first place. This interpretation blends with the Islamic belief that God is just, that He judges people on their conduct and that He does not punish the innocent. Fatah quotes the Qur’an where it compliments Jews, Christians and others who do good deeds. Fatah blames the West’s anti-Semitism, the teachings of Madrassas, the rhetoric of the Iranians after their revolution, fanatical Muslim preachers and Israel’s long occupation of Palestinian lands for fueling anti-Semitism among Muslims. This is true, but legitimate criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism just as the vices of Muslim dictators should not be used to distort Islam or defame all Muslims. -- Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan

..those speaking out against atheist involvement in the interfaith movement are, at the moment, a bit more numerous (just a couple of examples, with several others to follow). As far as I can tell based on what many atheists opposed to interfaith involvement state in their writing, a large percentage of them seem to have kept their distance from interfaith work. I understand their hesitation given the criticisms they offer, but I can’t help but wonder if there is some disconnect when those who criticize the interfaith movement the most also seem to have had little to no actual experience with it. I could be wrong, but I’d be surprised if someone who had been involved in interfaith work would suggest, as prominent atheist blogger P.Z. Myers did, that it “cheerfully and indiscriminately embrace[s] every faith without regard for content.”-- Christopher Stedman

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