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Saturday, January 13, 2007

What's in a name

6/28/06 Mike Ghouse

When people visit with me, they are sizing me up for my background. What Iâm made of, what's my religion? What is my r-e-a-l name? They are fishing out for the words that I utter, and anxious to catch me with a word to make a quick determination about me. Their whole being is consumed in sizing me up.

In one such group, three of us were deeply involved in talking about religions, the fourth one put the word checker on me, trying to figure me out. At one instance I was relating the story of religions, as soon as I said Allah has sent a prophet to every community, the fourth man beamed up for his discovery about me, then saw the dismay on his face when I quickly added that Lord Krishna says, whenever the society turns amoral, one amongst you will bring the morality back. He probably said to himself [he escaped again ]. He really could not take it any more when I said Christianity is more indigenous to India than Europe, so are Jews who have been in India for over two millenniums.

Please tell me your r-e-a-l name? At that time, I pull out my wallet and show them my Drivers license. If it is a Hindu, he will ask, how can you have a Christian Name? A Muslim would say, it is not nice of you to change your name, your parents gave a beautiful name and why did you change it?

Name is simply an identifier, over the years a few names have become signature names of certain religions. In the present day "Names like Rama, Shiva, Ganesha, Vishnu and Krishna are pretty much the names of Hindu faith, Mohamed and Ali are Muslim names. But this is not universal though. The minor minorities in each community relate with the names of other minorities and majorities.

In India, many of the Sikh names are a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity, they carry the names both ways, the Christian names are similarly both Hindu or Muslim oriented. The Buddhist and Jain names have their own uniqueness as well as they blend in with Hindu Names. The story is same in all national identities, in the US, the Jewish names are pretty similar to Christian names, although certain names do stand out as Jewish. However, in the US, many a people who are converting to Islam cannot be identified by the faith. Just to throw some of the biggest Muslim names in the US are like Ingrid Mattson and Michael Wolfe.

The Iranian names, be it Bahai, Christian, Jews, Muslims or Zoroastrians – sound similar except when they add a specific word like Ali, Hussein, Mohammad etc.

It comes as a shock to many a Muslims that the name of the prophet Mohammad (pbuh), and the names of the first four leaders in Islam like, Siddique, Uthman, Omar and Ali were not Muslim names. They had the names prior to them becoming Muslims and continued after that. When people were becoming Muslims during the times of the Prophet, no one was ever asked to change their name. Prophets father’s name was Abdullah, Abdul Mutallib was his grand father and Abu Talib was his uncle, none of them were Muslims. The Jews and Christians who became Muslims continued with their names. The Indonesian Muslim names include Padmavati, Rajshri, Gandhi, Ram etc.

What difference does it make to me if your names is Amar, Akbar or Anthony? Am I going to run away from your store because of of my name?

I do hope, in the next few years people choose the names from a menu of names. The Americans already do, many of them do not have any prejudice towards a name, it will not be long when you see an American Presbyterian, Baptist or Catholic choose names like Krishna, Mohamed, Chandra, Saira, Savithri, Buddha, Nanak etc for their kids. Lets develop an open mind.

My name is Mike, a part of my full name Mike Mohamed Ghouse. I chose the name Mike some 30 years ago, when I was working in Saudi Arabia. My friend, Everett Blauvelt, who is like Dad to me, called me with that name. It has since become my name. My Mother, the only woman in the whole town where people came to consult her about religious matters, every time she wrote to me, she put my name as Mike Mohamed Ghouse on the envelope she addressed. Meri Maa ka approval mere liye kaafi hai.

Jai Hind
Mike Ghouse
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