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Interfaith Dialogue

Is this not what some neo-Hindu groups such as the Arya Samaj also claim? I asked the swami. ‘The Arya Samaj does talk of monotheism, and opposes idolatry’, he answered, ‘but its founder, Dayanand Saraswati, was vehemently opposed to Islam and Muslims.’ ‘On the other hand,’ he explained, ‘our approach is based on love and unity, seeking to bring Hindus and Muslims together and to assert the claim that a true Sanatani is actually also a true Muslim, in the real sense of the term as someone who has truly submitted to God.’ -- Yoginder Sikand

I ask Yugal-ji to tell me his views about the Babri Masjid controversy that continues to rankle unsolved. ‘It was a mosque, no doubt,’ he insists. ‘There was no temple on the spot before. Indeed, Ram was not even worshipped in ancient times, the cult of Ram being a relatively new invention. So, there’s no question at all of the Mughal king Babar having destroyed a Ram temple and building a mosque in its place.’ Yugal-ji continues, ‘No one knows if Ram was ever born, or even if he was a historical figure at all. The Puranas claim he was born nine lakh years ago or so, but of course no recorded history exists from that period.’ But that is not all, he says. ‘As far as the Shudras, who form eighty per cent of India ’s population, are concerned, Ram is simply unworthy of worship. He worked to uphold the Brahminical social order and the degradation of the oppressed castes, though Brahmins and other so-called ‘upper’ castes, which live off the sweat and blood of the Shudras, might believe him to be divine.

I am eager to learn what Yugal-ji believes to be the cure to the curse of communalism. ‘Ultimately’, he insists, ‘the only lasting solution is for human beings to identify themselves as just that—simply as humans. As long as we continue to regard ourselves as Hindus or Muslims or whatever, the menace of communalism can never be cured. We have to move towards a stage when identities are no longer premised or bracketed with religion. Our only identities should be that of being human. The final antidote to communalism is humanism’-- Rakesh Kumar

Launched in 2005 by former UN chief Kofi Annan and the prime ministers of Spain and Turkey, the forum began with the aim of creating a comprehensive coalition which would focus on promoting the peaceful coexistence between diverse groups. Its target has since evolved to one designed to sweep aside misunderstandings and prejudices between cultures while defusing tensions between the Western and the Islamic world.

"Two contradictory narratives of truth": the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is central to West-Islam relations, but it is not on the agenda at the 3rd AoC meeting.The third Alliance of Civilizations forum was held from 27-29 May in Rio de Janeiro at a time when military confrontations taking place in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian territories keep armed ideological struggles in the headlines and societal issues based on religion and culture dominate the political discourse in France and other parts of Europe. -- Nick Amies

Atzmon is a former Israeli soldier who now lives in London. He is not only a renowned author and writer but also a famous award-winning jazz musician. Described as a musical genius he has recorded with the likes of Robbie Williams, Sinead O Connor, Robert Wyatt Paul McCartney, Tunisian singer Dhaffer Youssef and countless others.

With a strong presence on and off stage and a disarming smile, Atzmon has a huge following not only for his music but for being a unique thinker and philosopher.

Admired for his fearless stance against oppression, he is also at the forefront of a taboo discourse that many will not venture into out of fear of being branded anti-Semite; and that is the discourse on the Jewish identity, Zionism and Israel. -- Shabana Syed

Photo: Gilad Atzmon

 

After the most disgusting legislation of 1974, when Bhutto declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslims and then the shameful Ordinance passed by General Zia ul Haq in 1984, the wife of the first Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, had this to say as reported in the Daily Dawn, Karachi, July 10th 1985:

“During the past one year, Newspapers have reported murders of Ahmadi notables in mysterious circumstances. More recently, hundreds of arrests have been made of members of this peace loving Community. Those arrested have been reportedly subjected to physical torture, while the charge against them is usually that of wearing Kalima Tayabba badges. This situation deserves to be condemned forthrightly without any reservations. It is known history that while the Ahmadiyya Community supported the cause of Pakistan, most of Mullah Community, their present persecutors, opposed the creation of Pakistan tooth and nail. The two great Quaids, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan, appreciated the contribution of Ahmadis towards the Muslim cause and recognised it by appointing Chaudhry Muhammad Zafrullah Khan as the first Foreign Minister of Pakistan. In those great days, Pakistan had not been reduced to a theocratic State, and not only Muslims, regardless of the auxiliary beliefs, but even Hindus, were given Cabinet posts. The rights of minorities and small groups were not paid just lip service, but were protected with deliberate effort.” (Daily Dawn, Karachi, July 10th 1985) -- Dr. Iftikhar Ayaz

"Puja and namaz go side by side in our homes,'' says Chand Bhai. "You may say we are both Hindu and Muslim." The pradhan of Kharkheri, he says that while he and his wife solemnized their wedding after saat pheras around the holy fire, daughter Shakina had a nikaah. "The matter of faith is left to individuals,'' quips Nainu Khan, a retired soldier. "Whether one goes to the mosque or visits the temple is his or her decision. Most of us can recite the aayats of Koran as fluently as the Hanuman Chalisa. We celebrate Holi and Diwali as fervently as we observe Ramzan and Eid.''

Interestingly, no one knows how this came to be, or when. These practices, they say, have been followed by their ancestors down the ages and they intend to keep them alive. There are just three rituals of Islam that the Cheeta-Meharats have to compulsorily follow - sunnat (circumcision), dafan (burial) and eating halal meat. "These practices are a must for all members of the community, the rest is left to individual discretion," says Rustam Cheeta, a representative of the Cheeta-Meharat Mahasabha. -- Akhilesh Kumar Singh

Photo: TOGETHER IN PRAYER: Puja or namaaz, the choice is left to the individual

While studying abroad in the French city of Strasbourg in 2007, I decided to grow a bushy beard. Little did I know that in France, only traditional Jewish and Muslim men don anything but the most finely trimmed mustache or goatee. Since I did not wear a yarmulke or other head covering, people who saw me on the street assumed that I was Muslim. I felt that police officers and passersby treated me with suspicion, and even on the crowded rush hour bus, few chose to sit next to me if they could avoid it. On one occasion someone followed me home and tried to start a fight, only to find that I was a bewildered American, not a French Muslim. – Joshua Stanton

Muslims and Jews squabble over Jerusalem, making a mockery of the very reason why the city originally gained religious significance for both communities. It was here that their common ancestor, Abraham, showed that true faith calls for sacrifice. Today, they only need to be true to their faiths to live in peace….

If Muslims and Jews truly respect Jerusalem, they would respect what it originally stood for for both of them — sacrifice. Just as Abraham was willing to sacrifice his beloved son for his love of god, so would they be willing to give up their claims on Jerusalem for their love of god and his children. In renouncing their temporal rights, they would have truly claimed the city’s spiritual legacy.

The same spirit of sacrifice would lead them to be willing to concede rather than demand more land, relinquish their own rights rather than appropriate what belongs to others. This was the message their common ancestor once relayed to them — they only need to listen to him to end their conflict and live in peace. -- Saif Shahin

 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - As Mahnaz Shabbir thought about a coming flight, she grew worried about the full-body scanners used at some airports. Kansas City International Airport will be one of 11 airports getting body scanners by this summer, federal authorities announced last week. The scanner coming to KCI would be installed at a security checkpoint serving Southwest Airlines.  Shabbir is concerned that the scanners might compromise the modesty teachings in Islam. Other religious groups, such as Orthodox Jews and conservative Christians, express similar views. The question is whether religious teachings on modesty will be trampled in the march toward better security. -- Helen T. Gray

Photo: A full body scanning in progress at a US airport.

Towards Meaningful Interfaith Dialogues
Datuk Dr Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid

Towards Meaningful Interfaith Dialogues
Dr Ibrahim Ahmad Bajunid

In a world torn by ideologies and quest for supremacy in all domains, there are bands of good people everywhere who work quietly to promote understanding, religious integrity, unity, integration, peace and harmony. They interconnect respectfully, with humility, commitment, empathy and hospitality.....

 

At the Dar al Iftaa, Egypt's supreme body for Islamic legal edicts over which I preside, we wrestle constantly with the issue of applying Islam to the modern world. We issue thousands of fatwas or authoritative legal edicts—for example affirming the right of women to dignity, education and employment, and to hold political office, and condemning violence against them. We have upheld the right of freedom of conscience, and of freedom of expression within the bounds of common decency. We have promoted the common ground that exists between Islam, Christianity and Judaism. We have underscored that governance must be based on justice and popular sovereignty. We are committed to human liberty within the bounds of Islamic law. Nonetheless, we must make more tangible progress on these and other issues. Sheikh Ali Gomaa

 

Today, many ideological struggles continue to divide the world. However, the major ideological conflict is not between religions, but between people who believe in truth, in God's existence and in the need for cooperation, on the one hand, and on the other hand, people who deny truth, who deny holiness: – the unbelievers … This will be done by forming an alliance of all conscientious people, namely, the righteous among Christians and Muslims, along with devout Jews, who will come together and unite in this common cause.  -- Joel Richardson

 

Interview: Chandra Muzaffar on Islamic Reform and Liberation Theology

As for inter-faith dialogue, I, as a Muslim, believe that there is much that Muslims need to set in order before they can genuinely dialogue with people of other faiths. Certain deep-rooted, traditionally-held notions, shared by millions of Muslims, must be recognized as being gravely inimical to genuine inter-faith dialogue, such as common assumptions about terms such as kafir and jihad, the alleged ‘impurity’ of non-Muslims, the notion of Muslim supremacism and the belief that all non-Muslims are ‘enemies of God’ or are doomed to perdition in hell. We need to revise our understandings of these issues if we are at all to be able to proceed with the task of inter-religious dialogue and solidarity. Many of these understandings emerged after the demise of the Prophet, at a time of Muslim political expansionism. These were later reinforced in the face of Muslim political losses and traumas in the wake of the Mongol onslaught, the Crusades, and, then, European colonialism, and, now, Western, particularly American, imperialism. We need to re-evaluate our views on these matters, and bring them in line with proper Quranic understandings, which I believe to be just and egalitarian. -- Chandra Muzaffar, Malaysia’s best-known public intellectual, tells academic Yoginder Sikand

The Wandering Jew, like Cain, is Everyman. We are what we will to be: Cain or Abel, with a soul or without one, sympathetic to our fellows or indifferent, human or non-human. That is the metaphor of Melville’s Ahab, of Marlowe’s Faust, of Conrad’s Kurtz, of Hawthorne’s Doctor Rappaccini, of Bunyan’s Demas; it is the conflict inherent in everyman that has intrigued writers from the beginning of time, the chasm of duality that walks the earth, the body and the spirit, selfishness or selflessness, the ego dominant over all regardless of the consequences, the self inflicted wound that separates soul from body, and in that identity declares that he has attained the greatest good, to be not human, the ultimate loss of identity. Emptiness, mad. 

Every civilization has had its Cain, its Ahab, its Wandering Jew. The image of Olmert laughing while the mother digs through the rubble of her home captures the cold-hearted man responsible for that death, that Mother’s pain, that instance that mirrors thousands of others piled high in Gaza, but it fails to capture the reality of the metaphor that has to encompass the devastation wrought in the name of Israel that stains the very soul of Judaism. -- -- William Cook

The idea that not talking is a good strategy is based on four myths, all of which are deeply flawed.

Myth #1: The Composite Dialogue benefits Pakistan and is bad for India.

Myth #2: Stopping the composite dialogue will protect India from further terrorist attacks.

Myth #3: Stopping the Composite Dialogue helps India put pressure on Pakistan to take action against terrorism.

Myth #4: Pakistan has “not done anything” to bring the perpetrators of Mumbai to book. -- Siddharth Varadarajan

 

In a note sent to New Age Islam, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader B. P. Singhal has tried to define the highly controversial word “Fundamentalism”. His definition has 10 points and at the end of every point, he reaches the conclusion that a Hindu can never become a fundamentalist. The obvious implication is that some religions promote fundamentalism but Hinduism doesn’t. Clearly, there will be many, among them Hindus too, not to speak of followers of other faiths, who will dispute these conclusions and the issues that seem to define fundamentalism for Mr. Singhal. Indeed, there are many Hindus, among others, who consider his VHP itself a fundamentalist organisation and for them this write-up would just appear to be a rather shaky attempt at self-exoneration.

Nevertheless, Mr. Singhal’s thesis deserves debate and discussion, particularly as this term has now come to simply signify extremism of any kind, used as a pejorative mostly, though it started originally in a very specific sense to describe certain Christian fundamentalists within the Protestant community of the United States in the early part of the 20th century who interpreted the Bible as the “inerrant, factual, and literal word of God”, but again, even then to describe different “levels or versions of their fundamentalist belief”. It would certainly help to clear the air somewhat. -- Editor

More specifically, the Indian government's dossier concludes that the Mumbai attack was coordinated by Lashkar-e-Taiba, or the Army of the Pure-a Pakistan-based, Saudi-influenced Islamist terrorist and guerrilla force that fights mainly in Kashmir.

A decade ago, Lashkar's emir, Hafiz Saeed, announced his intention to destroy India: "We will not rest until the whole [of] India is dissolved into Pakistan."

 After the Mumbai attack, Saeed delivered a public sermon in Lahore in which he spoke approvingly of a new "awakening" among Indian Muslims, and described his co-religionists as "second to none in taking revenge." A satellite-telephone conversation between one of the Mumbai terrorists and a supervisor in Pakistan, intercepted independently by the United States, also points to Lashkar's involvement in the raid. After many weeks of prevarication, Pakistani officials conceded that the Mumbai attackers appear to have come from their country. -- Steve Coll, The New Yorker

Muslims and other minorities have always considered India as Darul Aman and all of them have strong sense of loyalty to this great country which is their only homeland. They would never dither from this position. And this author strongly believes that all human beings, whatever their religious beliefs or cultural values, should coexist in peace and harmony. Our politics should never be based on religion, caste or language. It should be based only on our common problems. -- Asghar Ali Engineer

If we could use the power of music, I thought, to connect young Israeli and Palestinian musicians in the context of the greater community, we could succeed in building trust among the masses. A year ago, under a fellowship from MTV and the U.S. State Department's Fulbright Award, I created a project called Heartbeat: Jerusalem, says Aaron Shneyer, a guitarist, bassist, singer-songwriter.

 

This is in response to Sultan Shahin responds to Ghulam Muhammed’s nightmare vision

To stand firm on false prestige would do no good to the Muslim community. To dream of rebuilding the Babri mosque in the same place is asking for the moon in the present circumstances. Muslims could never get back the disputed site as the court that could not decide the case in so many years, would not dare to give its verdict in the near future. All odds are against them. The question is what if one mosque is lost? Will that be the end of Islam in India? That apparently is not the case as Muslims have lived without the mosque since 1992. What benefit Muslims would draw by their insistence on rebuilding the mosque in the same place?

 
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    ( By Iqbal Husain )
  • Hats Off is out of his mind. Is there any ambiguity at all?.... 
    ( By Naseer Ahmed )
  • A bunch of hardcore christian theologians says Hats Off! He is not only in denial but resorting to a blatant lie. I repeat that ....
    ( By Naseer Ahmed )
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  • Sir, In Sanatana Dharma (aka Hinduism), volumes have been written to establish that E:kam  e:va adviti:yam "One Only without a Second"....
    ( By Chilukuri Bhuvaneswar )
  • @DG Gyan Chandra Sikhism and Buddhism ? Reinterpretation and revision is the call of the hour.
    ( By Anand Kumar )
  • Let there be a 10 day seminar of the learned,men of knowledge.One side Ulemas of Sunni,Shiya or whomsoever....
    ( By DG Gyan Chandra )
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    ( By Muhammad Shah Rukh )
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    ( By Iqbal Husain )
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    ( By Dalchand Chauhan )
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    ( By U.p. Ojha )
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    ( By Dalchand Chauhan )
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    ( By Muhammad Shah Rukh )
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    ( By Aamirr Sohail )
  • @amirr Sohail America fought in Korea in Vietnam for years then why Vietnamese and Koreans did not took to terrorism. No ....
    ( By Bijay Choudhary )
  • @Bijay Choudhary  Islamic terrorism is only 20 years old and Quran is about 1400 years old. Do you still think that the ....
    ( By Aamirr Sohail )
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    ( By Bijay Choudhary )
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    ( By Jayaraman Subri )
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    ( By hats off! )
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