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Friday, June 30, 2017

July 4th event by Muslims for America and Center for Pluralism


Mike Ghouse (214) 325-1916
President, Center for Pluralism, Washington, D.C.,
email: Mike@Centerforpluralism.com
Web: http://www.Centerforpluraism.com

July 4th event by Muslims for America and Center for Pluralism

Washington, D.C., Jun 30, 2017 - The Center for Pluralism and its Board of Directors have every reason to be jubilant.  Each successive year, they see the vision of the Founding Fathers coming to life, where every American is treated with dignity and respect.  

Mike Ghouse, President of the Center said, “We are not a perfect union yet, but a perfect union we will be, as we can continue our efforts to be an inclusive society. The Fourth of July should not simply come and go; we must make it a remarkable day. It should be a great happening to augment National Integration, where Americans of all faiths, or no faith, races, ethnicities, nationalities, political, sexual and other orientations come together to celebrate the oneness of our nation. “

This year the Muslim contributions to America are highlighted.  Each one of the Board Members is excited. Dr. Karen Hollie-Thibodeuax, Fatima Argun, Sam Madden, Dana Lankford-Russell and the supporting team members OS Modgil and Ali Azhar Fateh have provided extensive support.  The encouragement and long term support for Pluralism came from Ambassador Sada Cumber, Mr. Farooq Wazir Ali and Professor Emeritus Dr. Harbans Lal who are genuinely committed to a cohesive America.

Muslims have been contributors towards the wellbeing of the United States of America from the very beginning; the declaration of independence on July 4th, 1776.  Morocco’s Sultan Muhammad III was the first world leader to recognize the sovereignty of the United States followed by Nederland’s Johannes de Graaf and Tipu Sultan of Mysore (India).  The legend has it that Tipu Sultan had fire crackers going up in Sriranga Patna, his Capital cheering America’s independence. He faced the same enemy that the United States had faced: Lord Cornwallis.


What: July 4th Celebrations
Time: 2-4 PM
Where: Farragut Square, Washington, D.C. (right across from the Farragut West Metro) 912 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20006


American Muslims uphold, protect, defend and celebrate the values enshrined in the U.S. constitution. Their faith reinforces the creed of "One Nation under God, with liberty and justice for all."

“The more integrated we are, the safer it is for every one of the 322 million Americans to feel and live safely.” Mike Ghouse concluded.

Don't forget to bring your flags and chairs.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

BJP, Muslims, Ram Jethmalani and Piyush Goyal

Did Ram Jethmalani say Insha Allah?
Did Ram Jethmalani say Insha Allah?  At 2:59 – in the last 3rd minute when he was asked what is left for him to do? He says Insha Allah he will put them in Jail… I heard it twice - is there a equivalent word in Hindu/Urdu that sounds like Insha Allah?

BJP’s Piyush Goyal said Quran will be in public service in UP?
Contributed by Bani Hashim.

Within one year, Uttar Pradesh will be erected with 100% electricity.
No more club memberships for officers.  Bible, Quran and Geeta shall be in every office .. at the 5th minutes 5 in the video.    No discrimination will be tolerated in the name of religion.  Immediate action will be taken against the culprits who violates the above laws. 


Did you hear differently?

Understanding the Essence of Islam

Islam remains a myth to many people who are not Muslims, not because it is complicated, but simply because its purpose and its role in society were rarely explained.
You’ll learn how Islam is a part of the family of faiths and contributes to the well being of humanity. The dots will be connected to bring a clear picture for you. It is one of the 13 workshops on 13 different religions explained in the link below – and will be held on Tuesday, April 18, 2017 from 1-4 PM.
If you are in Washington DC, don’t miss this workshop on Understanding the Essence of Islam on 4/18/17  
Details: http://centerforpluralism.com/understanding-the-essence-of-islam/


Tarek Fatah and Indian Muslims at odds



Indian Muslims and their Future

Several Indian Muslim are writing possible solutions to shape the future of Muslims in India.  Insha Allah, a few of us will be compiling a list of pragmatic articles written by different authors – if you see some good solutions, let me know. These will be posted at the Center for Pluralism and World Muslim Congress and other website.

Thank you.

Mike Ghouse
(214) 325-1916 -Text
Center for Pluralism, Washington, DC 
Pluralism Studies in Religion,Politics,Culture and Society


Dr. Mike Ghouse is President and Executive Director of the Center for Pluralism committed to building a cohesive America where no American has to live in tension, apprehension or fear of the other. He is a pluralist, thinker, writer, activist, motivational speaker and a news maker. He offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. More about him in 65 links at www.MikeGhouse.net

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wisdom of Lord Mahavir – Live and Let Live

Publisher’s note:  Lord Mahavir is to Jainism, what Buddha is to Buddhism or Jesus is to Christianity.  As a part of our educational programs, at the Center for Pluralism we bring the wisdom of spiritual masters on their resepctive birth celebrations. Sunday, April 9, 2017 is Lord Mahavi’s birthday.
These great men and women are the founders of great religions or statesmen, whose wisdom and teachings contribute towards creating a better world for humanity in general.  Additionally we are pleased to acknowledge that a part of the definition of pluralism is borrowed from the Jain philosophy of Anekanatavada.  Pluralism simply is respecting the otherness of others.
Mike Ghouse
# # #
By Anup Pahade
Lord Mahavir was the twenty fourth and last Tirthankara (spiritual guide or a Messenger) of the Jain religion of this era. According to Jain philosophy, all Tirthankaras were human beings but they have attained a state of perfection or enlightenment through meditation and self-realization. They are the Gods of Jains.
Mahavir was born on the thirteenth day of rising moon of Chaitra month, 599 B.C. in the state of Bihar, India. This day falls in the month of April as per English calendar. His birthday is celebrated as Mahavir Jayanti day.
Mahavir was a prince and was given the name Vardhaman by his parents. Being son of a king, he had many worldly pleasures, comforts, and services at his command. But at the age of thirty, he left his family and royal household, gave up his worldly possessions, and become a monk in search of a solution to eliminate pain, sorrow, and sufferings and find permanent happiness.
Mahavir spent the next twelve and half years in deep silence and meditation to conquer his desires, feelings, and attachments. He carefully avoided harming or annoying other living beings including animals, birds, and plants. He also went without food for long periods. He was calm and peaceful against all unbearable hardships that he was given the name Mahavir, meaning very brave and courageous. During this period, his spiritual powers fully developed and at the end he realized perfect perception, knowledge, power, and bliss. This realization is known as keval jnana or the perfect enlightenment.
Lord Mahavir travelled around India for thirty years preaching to the people the eternal truth he realized. The ultimate objective of his teaching is how one can attain total freedom from the cycle of birth, life, pain, misery, and death, and achieve the permanent blissful state of one’s self. This is also known as liberation, nirvana, absolute freedom, or Moksha.
Teachings of Lord Mahavir
Lord Mahavir explained the interdependent nature of life on earth and the need to live in peace and harmony. Ahimsa or Non-violence and peaceful coexistence was among the key principles in his teachings. These teachings couldn’t be more important today with the rise of violence and terrorism around the world. Live and Let Live was the guiding principle of Jainism under Mahavir and it is a principle that is greatly needed in the world today.
As the population of the world continues to increase, we will continue to see tremendous strain on the limited natural resources we have on earth. There is enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed. One of the important teachings of Mahavir was Aparagraha or non possession. By limiting our possessions and consumptions we can reduce the exploitation and destruction of natural resources. Contentment is greatly needed in today’s materialistic world. Jainism teaches that true happiness lies within self and having more materialistic possessions is not the key to happiness.
The principle of Anekantvada or non-absolutism is one of the great contributions of Jainism under Mahavir. This theory of pluralism guides us to view and respect viewpoints of others and become a more tolerant society. The multiplicity of viewpoints and freedom of expression are important values that need to be embraced, preserved and protected around the world.
Jainism greatly influenced Mahatma Gandhi, and he adopted the Jain principles of asceticism, compassion for all forms of life, the importance of vows for self-discipline, vegetarianism, fasting for self-purification, and mutual tolerance among people of different creeds.  Mahatma Gandhi said:
No religion in the World has explained the principle of Ahimsa so deeply and systematically as is discussed with its applicability in every human life in Jainism. As and when the benevolent principle of Ahimsa or non-violence will be ascribed for practice by the people of the world to achieve their end of life in this world and beyond. Jainism is sure to have the uppermost status and Mahāvīra is sure to be respected as the greatest authority on Ahimsa.
— Mahatma Gandhi
The message of Mahavir was the message of peace and non violence. It was a message of tolerance, peaceful coexistence and finding true happiness. If we all embrace and live by his teachings, we could make this world a better place to live for us and generations to come.
Anup Pahade is located in Dallas, Texas and serves on the Board of Directors at Jain Society of North Texas.
# # #

Tarek Fatah and Indian Muslims at odds

Tarek Fatah is the new provocateur in India with his TV show “Fatah ka Fatwa” on Zee News. While most Muslims go about living their lives, a few could not stand his slant on their practices and attacked him at the Jashn-e- Rekhta, the festival of Urdu language in New Delhi.

There are two sides to the conflict and am pleased to present both views.

Fatah is as intolerant as the people who mistreated him.  He cannot handle criticism and that is his greatest weakness. He is known to cut you off from his facebook page, yahoogroups or other social media if you differ with him. 

The guy is trapped in the net cast by the right leaning groups and is too eager to appease them, and of course delivers the words they want to hear. He validates the stereotyping of Muslims for them. All the while, he relishes the thrills in vexing those few Muslims. 

The right groups’ hypocrisy is incredible.  They want to throw out the Pakistani players and singers but they love the Pakistani bashers. As Mahmood in the film Padosan says, “Ek pay rehnaji”. Tarek Fatah is their man who bashes Pakistan and also Muslims. They got two in one devil. What has happened to the integrity?
I would have admired him as a reformer, if his intent was to bring the change, but his intent is not reform but trouble making. You have to be a part of the change to bring the change, you cannot be apart and dictate Muslims what to believe and what to do. That is the problem with bellicose reformers like Fatah. If he follows Mahatma Gandhi, he would succeed, some of the changes he advocates are needed.

However, the Muslim behavior towards him was not Muslim in any fashion. I am sure each one of the guys that misbehaved towards Tarek can easily recite how Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) treated people who differed with him.  He was kind even towards the lady who threw trash on him, he prayed for the miscreants in Taif who pelted rocks at him and there are plenty of examples that they quote so gleefully, but don’t believe in it enough to practice it.  

I urge Muslims to be Muslims and see how you earn respect from fellow humans. Be the Amins of the society and be the conflict mitigaters and goodwill nurturers.

If you entertain the ugly thought of harming Tarek Fatah, I will tell you God will protect him, not because he deserves it, but because you are unjust and mean towards him. On the Day of Judgment Prophet will go against you if you are unjust towards fellow humans.

We don’t like anyone from the majority to silence us, but we are doing the same to others who differ from us. We need to clean up ourselves from the duplicity.  Our inside and out should be the same.

It is embarrassing that some of us do not have faith in God, Prophet or the Quran, yet they claim to be faithful.  They think God is a weakling and will disappear if someone criticizes him and believe that Prophet Muhammad needs their protection; can you believe that mind set? It should be the other way around God protects us all, and Prophet’s mercy is upon all of us, not just Muslims.

Harassment of Tarek Fatah is not acceptable; this is a dangerous trend of silencing people. People like Taslima Nasreen, and Tarek Fatah have come and gone, but the bad behavior of those few Muslims make all of us look bad. 

God, Quran and the Prophet are not going to disappear because someone criticizes them, they are here forever. Instead of fighting with them, we need to fight with ourselves in finding the answers to their criticism.  Over the years, I have accepted ugly challenges from men and women who attacked these; I’ve studied many versions of translations and have taken up challenges from the rough rods.

Please visit www.QuraanConference.com to read the whole story.  That’s how strong my faith is and I thank Allah and the Prophet for the guidance. I hope you’ll earn your faith through accepting challenges gracefully and responding reasonably.

The right thing to do is challenge Tarek Fatah to a debate, be prepared to lose, he is very knowledgeable. Getting angry at him or simply quoting Hadith won’t cut it; he will make you look like a fool when he points out that it is not a legitimate quote.  Study the wisdom of the Hadiths but please beware of the fake Hadiths that go against God’s qualities of Rahman and Rahim and justice. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is a mercy to mankind, and if a Hadith shows him to be unkind and a misogynist, it is a fake Hadith.

Tarek will lose if you use the wisdom to challenge him, you will lose if you use the circular logic that Quran says so or Hadith says so, full stop!  Full stop discussions have no place in Islam. What you read is not the whole truth, even the translation of Quran are flawed (read four translations to know the truth). We have to learn, see the signs of God and continue to learn.

Men like Fatah are needed in the world to challenge Muslims who cannot think. Islam is covered up with layers of myths that are not Islamic, and we have the responsibility to clean it up. Thanks to him for stirring it up the dust.

Only Allah decides who is wrong or right as far as Imaan is concerned, and not you or me. Only Allah should be feared, if these guys act like Allah to frighten others, they are committing shirk.

Do us Muslims a favor, if you want to harass others, be a bully, do it in your own name, and not in the name of Islam; none of us are authorizing you to do bad things in the name of Islam. You are on your own today as well as on the Day of Judgment.  Your acts are your own, and have nothing to do with Islam. I don’t care what you do, but don’t do anything to malign Islam and don’t be arrogant to believe that God and the Prophet need your protection, they don’t need you, you need them to help you become kind, just and respectful of God’s creation; life and environment.

God bless you.

Dr. Mike Ghouse is President and Executive Director of the Center for Pluralism committed to building a cohesive America where no American has to live in tension, apprehension or fear of the other. He is a pluralist, thinker, writer, activist, motivational speaker and a news maker. He offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. More about him in 65 links at www.MikeGhouse.net

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Indians Beware of your passport and your attitude towards others.

What happened to Alok Madasani, who was injured in a bar shooting that killed Srinivas Kuchibhotla, and that has completely shaken the Indian community. I am as apprehensive as any Indian. Indeed any one who does not look white may be subjected to someone's ire.  

One of my Hindu friends proudly shared a story of how his baby daughter was delivered in Mecca by an Egyptian Doctor. It was a good story as the Doctor had bend over backwards to accommodate the Hindu Customs.

Now his daughter’s passport is stamped Born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia!

Some of my fellow Indian Americans are pushing the US Congressmen to declare Pakistan as a Terrorist State without realizing that they are so stupid and selfish. In their endless hate for Pakistan, they are sticking a knife in the back of fellow Indians whose passport bears Pakistan as the place of birth.

Many of my Indian Hindu American friends, the prominent ones, were born in Karachi and Lahore. Some tried to change Lahore, Pakistan to Lahore, India. That would be even more dangerous. The imbecile immigration officer like the one in the story link below would be so proud to catch them, because the only thing he may know is Lahore is in Pakistan and this guy may have fake passport. Even if Indians change the birth place in the passport to avoid this, that would be even a bigger threat. You cannot go wrong if you are honest and  you cannot go wrong if are a peace monger with neighbors instead of a hate monger.

One of our fellow Indians was shot dead and another one severely injured in Kansas this last week. This has shaken me to my core.  Some of the men who are roaming the streets have no idea who is what; anything that is brown is a threat to them.  You and I may be safe in some areas, but there are areas where you and I and that idiot Shelli Kumar (talking about the well known ones) are meaningless to the man who is angry. This man Kumar and a few Indians in Dallas are hate peddlers, and I hope the law of Karma works on all such people who thrive on selling hate to fellow Indians.

This reckless behavior is happening in India too, I have seen a few videos where Christian men were being beaten up for no reason, Muslim and Dalit women were harassed.   These thugs in India and America are making all Indians and all Americans look bad, just as some damned terrorist make all Muslims look bad. Remember evil exists not because of a few evil men, but because good men don’t do anything about it.

The least you can do is speak up against bad acts of a few people. No person with evil thoughts, hatred for others or ill-will be free from the clutches of Karma.

Read this story, a French White man was born in Egypt and was harassed. Even if you have paid money to Trump campaign, no one will come to you if are detained and chained in the airport. It could happen to you and happen to me.

The Kansas City Shooting Is Quickly Changing How Indians View The U.S.

Mike Ghouse

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Republic Day Message to fellow Indians

I am proud of the pluralistic ethos of my motherland, India and my homeland, America. It is a pleasure to call both the nations, “God’s own countries.” Let me explain why, and make a few suggestions that you can act upon as an individual to sustain the pluralistic ethos of India. Let’s do our bit in restoring dharma, the righteous living.
Republic Day Message 
Happy Republic Day - click the image

Our nations, Democratic Republic of India and the United States of America are microcosmic representations of the universe we inhabit. We are blessed geographically with a range of topography from deserts to fertile lands, from mountains to the shining sea and the flat lands to valleys. Seasons wise, we enjoy all the four full seasons – winter, spring, summer and the fall. Indeed, we are blessed to be represented by every race, ethnicity and religion.
My interest as a social scientist is in sustaining the pluralistic ethos of India and America, which are threatened by a few short-sighted, but powerful rabble rousers among us.
Pluralistic ethos simply means, living our life and letting others live theirs. It is accepting the God given uniqueness to each one of us. No matter what language we speak, how we look, what we eat, drink, wear, or how we worship the creator, we will accept each other’s uniqueness as legitimate, and then respect the otherness of others. You are who you are, and I am who I am.
Hinduism talks about Vasudhaiva Kutumbukum, an idea that we are all part of one family despite our differences. Islam, Judaism and Christianity talk about having a common father and mother; Adam and Eve and we are an extended family. Sikhism blends us all under Wahe Guru and the Baha’i faith wraps all of us as many paths but one source, similarly Jainism, Buddhism, Tribalism and other traditions have richly contributed to the idea of cohesive societies.
Cohesive Societies are communities where people mind their own business, live their own lives and let others live theirs, but yet, work together as one composite unit.
Every Indian and American has a need to feel that he or she is a part of the society, rejection will certainly create problems.As an example of cohesiveness, look at our own bodies, we are made up of several items like heart, brain, kidneys, lungs, liver, anus, mouth, nose, ears etc. No part can claim that his role is the most important one. Indeed, there was a battle once when the organs were arguing about their role in normal functioning of human body. The Anus claimed that he was the most important organ in the body, the other organs laughed and ridiculed him, and to show them, he decided to assert his claim and shuts down for two days causing unbelievable misery and havoc! Frustrated with the pain, the other organs acknowledged his importance, and rightfully called him an ass hole but begged him to start functioning, so others can function normally. A cohesive society is when all of us function together for common good.
Prime Minister Modi had surprised the nation with his inclusionary statement made on November 1, 2014. As a Pluralist, I whole heartedly welcomed that statement and congratulated him for taking that step. He said, “The BJP should be like a bouquet so that every Indian felt there was a flower in it that he or she could identify with. “And, “A poor and illiterate person living in a slum should think, ‘Yes, there is a flower for me in this bouquet’.
At this precise juncture in our history, the Dalits do not feel like a flower in the bouquet. I do invoke the Prime Minister to act on his talk, and create an environment of inclusion. Unless he gets his party men to believe in what he has said, his leadership will remain a mere talk. A few rogue elements from his party are hell bent on throwing his bouquet into gutter; and his legacy is on the line.
Modi can finish his term as another promiser and talker, or become the doer. The choice is clearly his, and he alone is the driver of his legacy. All he has to do is give a 3-minute speech on each major incident like Rape, farmers Suicide, Dalit Suicide, homicide of writers, and witch-hunting for beef and murder of Akhlaq, to assure the people that he does believe in the principle of Vasudhaiva Kutumbukum, and that he will not tolerate any Indian making the life of another Indian miserable. That is all it takes for Ram’s sake. We are losing the ideal of live and let live, and PM Modi can restore it far more effectively than any one in India at this time.
As Indian Americans, most of us have cherished the values of America and have become Americanized. Being American is respecting and believing in the rights of others, and being American is to value others life liberty and pursuit of their happiness; being American is letting each faith member practice his or her faith, and build his or her place of worship; and being American is NOT drawing sadistic pleasure by denying others rights. Unfortunately, we have a few in both nations who have not imbued the great values of these nations, and it is our duty, and responsibility of each one of us to the be pracharaks of American values.
The idea of Liberty is I don’t agree with you, but I’ll fight for your rights. Yes, if we the Indian Americans can truly call ourselves Americans, we have to speak up.
Suggested actions for the organizations and individuals
We have to have the following actions in building a cohesive India, where no Indian has to live in apprehension or fear of the other, and feel included in every sphere of life.
1. Today, on this Republic Day, let India’s flag be hoisted together with fellow Indians who are Adivasis, Atheists, Bahá’ís, Bos, Buddhists, Christians, Dalits, Hindus, Jains, Jewish, Muslim, Sikhs, Tribal, Zoroastrians and every Indian representation. Let no Indian representation be left out. Reach out and bring them together at the Red Fort, and let them all proudly hoist our Tiranga, then go ahead and give them a hug, it will speak million words of our good intentions. It will generate the spirit of sab ka saath on a social basis.
2. The Indian American Organizations can do the same, invite Indians of all hues to come together, and celebrate the Republic Day in the spirit of India. If your heart is dirty and a sewer runs through it, the people can see through you, and not come, clean it up, they will come. I will be happy to make the calls to those who are unwilling for the sake of India.
3. Acknowledge that we see God as one, none and many; and in every form; male, female, genderless and non-existent, being and non-being, nameless and with innumerable names, and as Indians, we should not be biased towards any one.
4. Today, proclaim that India is God’s own country, and is represented by every race, nationality, ethnicity, language, culture and religion. Announce that we are Adivasis, Native Americans, Atheists, Baha’is, Bos, Buddhists, Christians, Dalits, Hindus, and Jains, Jewish, Muslim, Pagans, Shinto, Sikhs, , Wicca, Zoroastrians and every possible grouping out there on God’s earth. We are Brown, Black, White, and Yellow and come in all the colors nature has produced us.
5. Aspire for an India that the world can emulate; and not the other way around. India is a pluralistic democracy where everyone can eat, drink, wear or believe whatever he or she wants to in his or her pursuit of happiness.
6. Announce that from this day forward, every Indian will have equal access to education, employment, housing, business loans, and entrepreneurial opportunities and if anyone is denied that opportunity, you will step up and stand up against the violators.
7. Every Indian wants justice and demands a fair treatment of every one of the 1.31 billion Indians; rich or poor, connected or not, we must come to grips with the social and community life to create an exemplary India that will become a model nation in the world. Create an Equal Opportunity Commission based on US Model. Ask not what others will do, ask yourselves, are you capable of being a good Samaritan?
You can institute a pledge that every public office holder from the Peon to the President of India and everyone in between must take and live by it. Violation should disqualify him or her from holding the public office. Let it be monitored publicly.
As Indians we can that pledge to both India and America on the Republic Day:
1. I pledge allegiance to India, one nation that stands for liberty and justice for all.
2. I pledge that I honor and treat every Indian with “full” dignity.
3. I pledge that all individuals would be treated on par.
4. I pledge that I will treat all religions with equal respect, equal access and equal treatment.
5. I pledge that I will oppose any act that treats any Indian less than me.
6. I Pledge that I will work for an India, where every individual can live with security and aspire for prosperity.
7. I pledge that I will protect, preserve and value every inch of India and every human soul in India

This would be the first step towards ensuring a just, peaceful and prosperous India that can sustain its progress and peace. If you can do it, then you can expect others to do it.
I love my India.
Jai Hind.

Mike Ghouse

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Pakistan's Sikh Legacy - Amardeep uses Pluralistic Language

I was moved by the language of this article, it is reconciliatory and bridge building in nature. I loved the description where he let the "mitti" slip from his hand for what it would remind him of, it went against his sentiments of watan ki mitti, but he did the right thing to let it go.

What happened during partition was sad. What is shameful is, those who endured the pain on all sides, continue to pass on that hatred to their offspring, do they really want to dump their misery onto their children? If we are 'sincere', I mean 'sincere' peace makers, we should give hope to the next generation and not mess them up with our problems.

When I read an occasional stray note from a Indian or a Pakistani about their hate for the other, it saddens me.  If they don't claim to be religious, it is fine, but when they call themselves Hindus, Muslims or Sikhs, they are betraying their own religion.  None of the religions teach you to hate, but the politicians and guardians of religions and a few hateful men mess up the lives of future generations.

The bottom line is we have to leave a better world for our kids, we have learn to understand the past but build the future where they can spend their time in finding means to enjoy rather than spend their time in ill-will towards the other.


I am organizing an interfaith conference in Karachi, if you have an interest to join or to speak, the speech will be checked by me before hand, it has to build bridges.  You can text me at (214) 325-1916 – The event will be in September, and we have every faith except Buddhism is represented, we are looking for Buddhist, connect us with on, particularly a Pakistani Buddhist, but any Buddhist for that matter. 

This is a good piece worth reading

Mike Ghouse
All about me at www.MikeGhouse.net 

# # # 

Pakistan's Sikh Legacy -  

Courtesy - Times of India 

“If you could visit any place in Pakistan, where would you go?” asks Amardeep Singh whenever he gives a talk to introduce his recently published travelogue Lost Heritage – The Sikh Legacy In Pakistan.
The question, aimed primarily at Sikh members of the audience, invariably elicits two answers: Sikh holy places. Their ancestral village.
It was the same in Boston on June 18, 2016 at the E-5 Center where Amardeep Singh gave his 42nd such talk. He understands the response all too well. After all, he too once had the same “myopic” reasons, as he says, for wanting to go to Pakistan, which he considers his “homeland”, being the land of his ancestors and also where Sikhdom’s holiest sites are located, like Nanankana Sahib, birth place of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru.
But when Singh did finally fulfill his dream to visit the country in October 2014, he had an epiphany halfway through his solitary trip that changed the meaning of his travels. It also changed the course of his life. He realised that reducing Pakistan to religion was doing a disservice to the country, its people and the larger cause of humanity.
The process may have begun earlier, when Singh applied for a visa at the Pakistan embassy in Singapore, where he has lived for the past 16 years. When the visa officer handed him back his passport, Singh refused to take it.
“I am going to my homeland for the first time,” said Singh, who was born in Gorakhpur, India, in 1966. “And you want to restrict me to ten days?”
The officer laughed and said he would increase the visa duration to 30 days. Emboldened, Singh pushed further. He wanted a visa for the entire country, not just two or three cities, and he wanted it to include “Pakistan Administered Kashmir” – the term that he prefers to use rather than the loaded “Pakistan occupied Kashmir” or “Azad Kashmir”. He suggests using such neutral language, also for “Indian Administered Kashmir” in an attempt to convey an acceptance of the reality that Pakistan or India manage the region, plus “it allows us to balance and focus on the core message of the book”.
Singh is “deeply grateful” to the Pakistan government for granting him a 30-day, non-police reporting country (rather than city-specific) visa – facilities normally denied most Indian / and Indian-origin travellers and vice versa.
But perhaps the story of the metamorphosis of a corporate banker into a photographer/travel writer starts even earlier. Singh was never a “corporate junkie”, even while working with American Express first in Hong Kong and then Singapore as head of revenue management.
He undertook many solitary trekking holidays in remote, far flung areas in India, Tibet and other places throughout his 25-year banking career. Then there was his love for history and travel that led him to devour travelogues like British era explorers like William Mooncroft (1819) and Alexander Burns (1831), and later accounts like Alice Albania’s ‘Empires of the Indus’.
Those experiences — travel with no access to the outside world, reading historical accounts and travelogues, photography, writing — he feels, were “God’s way” of preparing him. The dots joined organically. The Pakistan ‘pilgrimage’ that he initially started with, his life’s pursuit, became not the culmination of a dream but the starting point of another journey powered by secular, universal ideals.
Historical traumas like the cataclysmic 1947 Partition of India with its ensuing bloodshed produces a first generation that doesn’t talk, observes Amardeep. The second is lost. The third, to which he belongs, goes in pursuit of the stories.
His father was born in Muzaffarabad, in the western-most frontier of the former princely state of Kashmir that both India and Pakistan lay claim to and which in turn claims independence. Amardeep turned up to try and find his roots in Pakistan in 2013 like a wanderer on a pilgrimage, carrying three pairs of clothes, his camera, and the contacts of a couple of Facebook friends. “A madman in love” is how one audience member describes him.
In Pakistan, Singh says that he met and connected with 14 Pakistanis who were on a similar pursuit, to discover their common heritage. And all of them were Muslim. Singh realized that the legacy that they shared could not be easily compartmentalised into “Muslim” or “Sikh”.
The “Sikh Empire” touted in the history narrated by the British colonists and their successors, was actually deeply secular. The distortion of history has meant other, more dangerous falsehoods being perpetrated, like the basis-less rumour that Sikhs converted the Badshahi mosque in Lahore into a stable for horses. On the contrary, Ranjit Singh in fact gave financial grants to the Badshahi Masjid.
In the pre-partition era, Sikhs had invested heavily in creating the Khalsa schools and colleges, which imparted excellent education to students of all faiths. Abandoned by the departed community, these today operate as Islamia schools and colleges.
He also came across many non turban-wearing followers of the Sikh Guru Nanak in Pakistan, all of Pashtun origin and from the Khyber area.
These realisations – about the secular or syncretic nature of what he had assumed was a “Sikh” heritage — pushed Singh beyond his original limited goal of taking a fistful of earth back from Muzaffarbad as a momento for his family. It stopped him in his tracks as he picked up some riverbank soil at the site of a bloody massacre of Sikhs soon after Partition.
The place is known as “Domel”, where the Jhelum River meets the Neelum River. (“We even ascribe religion to our natural resources,” comments Singh, referring to the Muslim name, Neelum, for the waters known as Kishan Ganga on the Indian-administered side).
On October 21, 1947, a war cry arose over the hills that the local non-Muslims were ill-prepared to counter: Loot the Hindus, behead the Sikhs. Armed marauders herded some 300 Sikhs to the bridge on “Domel”. Shots rang out. Among the bodies that toppled into the river were the grandparents (Nana and Nani) of Amardeep Singh’s wife.
Also killed were both parents of five-year old Jaswanti. A Muslim neighbour the next morning found the little girl scrambling along the riverbank looking for her father and mother. He took her into his own home, renamed her Noori, and brought her up as his daughter.
Jaswanti/ Noor is Amardeep’s distant “bua” (aunt) related to his father. In his book he relates the stranger-than-fiction story of how she was found in 1998 and connected to her to the Sikh side of her family. At 73 years, today she continues to live in Pakistan as a Muslim.
Amardeep recounts how, looking at the bridge over the river, he let the soil fall back to the earth from his hands at “Domel”. It was what he had come for. But he realised that the lesson he wanted to impart to his children was different. This souvenir could remind them forever of hatred and bloodshed.
“I went to get soil but came back with a book,” he says. The soil would have been just for his daughters. The book however is a reference for coming generations of future traveler and history lovers.
In the two weeks he had spent so far in Pakistan, Amardeep had realised that the “Sikh legacy” of this land went far beyond gurudwaras and ancestral homes, and was in fact not limited to adherents of the Sikh faith. The legacy lived on in human interactions, experiences, memories, music, poetry, spirituality and other aspects of a shared history that belongs not just to Sikhs but also to Hindus, Muslims, Christians and others. For example, others too lay claim to rituals, poetry and music that Sikhs consider to be “theirs” This legacy, he stresses, is secular in nature.
Throughout his journey, Amardeep used the lens, not of a pilgrim, but of a traveler chronicling socio-historical aspects.
An important aspect of this lens is to place the contemporary reality of gurudwaras and havelis built and owned by Sikhs into a historical context without blame or judgment. Many of these buildings are being used as police stations, libraries or people’s homes. The mass cross-border exodus left these buildings abandoned, and those who came to this land were bound to fill the vacuum for their own survival.
Putting things in context also means being able to see the positive aspects, like the fact that the Pakistan government has since 1980s been looking after the holy places of non-Muslims. With the mass exodus of an entire community, the government can’t possibly maintain every aspect of the heritage but clearly the intent is there, as Amardeep stresses. The number of functional gurudwaras in the Punjab has increased from one to twenty-three over the past decades. Several Hindu temples has also been revived. People of all faiths must support and encourage these moves even though they may be, as Singh “the tip of the iceberg” given the magnitude of the issue.
Amardeep also holds responsible for the neglect those who have kept silent rather than being vocal in demanding that this heritage be preserved. Sikhs who visit Pakistan don’t even ask to visit the Lahore Museum, he observes. Due to the lack of demand the Museum’s Sikh Gallery has been closed as Amardeep discovered when he tried to see it.
Pakistani Sikhs, he observes, are in general too poor and focused on their own survival to pay attention to such higher pursuits. It is up to the diaspora — increasing numbers of whom now visit Pakistan for religious reasons — to push for these demands beyond religion.
After Partition, practically the only Sikhs left in Pakistan were those living in the Pashtun areas bordering Afghanistan. Post 9/11 Taliban inroads into the region, accompanied by attacks on religious minorities forced large numbers to flee to the Punjab. Many Sikhs took refuge in the Gurdwara Punja Sahib at Hassan Abdal, says Singh. He notes that Pakistan has for years been combating militancy while also reviving the historical religious sites belonging to religious minorities.
All in all, Amardeep Singh’s message is clearly not limited to Sikhs and Punjab or Pakistan. It is about the need to go beyond surface identities and labels to an interconnected, secular past, and universal values. This is not just about the past but the way to a more harmonious way forward.
This article was first published in Himal Southasian. Amardeep Singh’s “Lost Heritage – The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan” is a monumental 504-page book, weighing 3 kg, with 507 photos complementing the story line. It can be ordered here.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.