Diwali Message from Americans to Indians and Pakistanis
11, 2015 - Sterling, VA - The Adams Center Mosque in Sterling, VA - a suburb of
Washington, D.C held an interfaith gathering to celebrate Veterans Day, Diwali,
the 50th Anniversary of ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) and for a
motivational talk by Dr. Raj Mohan Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.
American Muslims congratulate Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Muslims and others around
the world on the happy occasion of Diwali. Diwali Mubarak! Diwali ki Shubh Kamnayein - Happy
returns of the day.
few years ago, at the White House Diwali celebrations, to the surprise of some
300 Hindu leaders gathered from around the United States, a Muslim leader was
invited to address the Diwali function, and they found Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed's
message very inspiring. No wonder he received a roaring applause. It was
apparent that the gathering had found a true interfaith leader.
Dr. Syeed is the National Director of the office for
Interfaith and Community alliances for the Islamic Society of North America
(ISNA). As a man dedicated to building harmony and good relationship among the
faith communities, he quoted the Quran, "Minaz Zulumati Ilan Noor (from
Darkness to Light).' The broader meaning is 'to ease from difficulties,"
that is indeed the essence of Diwali, the wining of goodness over evil and
seeking God's guidance to take us from darkness to the light.
A few years ago, Jyoti Bhatia, former President
of the Dallas-Ft.Worth Hindu Temple, and Nishi Bhatia, President of the Dallas
Hindi Association asked me to speak about Diwali at a dinner gathering to a
group of people from different faiths and cultures. I cherished the
opportunity, and loved talking about Diwali, as its essence reflects the ideals
of pluralism, and symbolizes hope and positive energy, victory of good over
evil; a new beginning. Diwali indeed is all about seeing the light at the end
of the tunnel.
The Diwali Celebration is a part of the epic
Ramayana, and the Ram Lila (enactment of the story on stage) which are played
out all night long in towns across India. I grew up watching it in front of my
house, and my friends played different roles in the show. Indeed, one of my
former relatives played Hanuman's role.
It was a challenge for me to tell the story of
Ramayana to a group of people who knew nothing about it, and in 30 minutes!
Thank God, it turned out to be a successful program. The audience was
informed that the story would be narrated through slides and along with the
names of key persons, the story would be reiterated, and at the end they would be
asked for feedback. The Bhatias and I felt amazing joy when each one of
them answered the questions from the story. Eureka, they got it!
Although Diwali is a Hindu tradition, people of
all faiths participate in its celebrations - Hindus, Jains, Muslims, Sikhs,
Christians, Buddhists and others.
Appeal to the Indians and Pakistanis
On this Diwali, I appeal to the Indians to shed
their ill-will towards Pakistanis and vice-versa; it has not done any good to
anyone but has given grave heartaches. Let's free ourselves from the
influence of politicians who rejoice in creating ill-will between people, and
let's pray that our politicians clean up their hearts and live a serene life
and let others live in peace and harmony.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff assured
his fellow countrymen who are Hindus that he will stand by them against
injustice, and added, "Every community living here whether Hindu, Muslim
or Parsi, belongs to me and I belong to them. I am the prime minister of all
communities, he said, while addressing a ceremony to mark the Hindu religious
festival of Diwali. He continued, "It's my duty to help and
facilitate you. If you are in distress, I will stand with you. Even if a Muslim
commits an injustice, I will stand with the victim." Meanwhile, the PM
announced the construction of Bhagat Kunwar Ram Medical Complex in Hyderabad
and the Guru Nanak Gurdwara." – The Tribue.com
There is a saying in Urdu/Hindi language,
"Der aayed, durust aayed" - that is, "Even if you are late, I am
glad you made it right.
It is a good start. Someone has to be the
first, and now I hope and pray that Narendra Modi starts wishing fellow Indians
who are not of his faith on their happy occasions. It can be his first goodwill
If Modi and Shariff take the right steps, more
people will follow them and good has to come in the end, and the darkness has
A few Muslims do bad things, just as a few
Hindus, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Sikh, Jain and others do.
The teachings of Quran and Bhagvad Gita must be
honored in the truest sense; of course, some will misinterpret both texts.
Any interpretation of the holy books that causes one to be biased towards
fellow beings cannot be right - cannot be divine words. We should quit
making a villain out of God. Indeed, Dr. Raj Mohan Gandhi's message to
the congregation at the Mosque was to struggle (Jihad) against bias, if you
found you are biased towards others, conquer the evil within yourself, be a
winner, be the Ram.
Nawaz Shariff invoked the words of Prophet Muhammad
(pbuh) - "If one of you is unjust to a fellow being, on the Day of
Judgment, I will stand up against you and support those whom you were unjust
towards." That is the Islamic teaching. God in the Quran repeatedly
says in so many different words that Justice and Mercy are the two pillars of a
good society. You have to throw away the lenses of ill-will to see the
beauty in each holy book. Bhagwad Gita, Granth Saheb and other holy books
offer the same sane advice.
My appeal to all of you is to drop the bias
against the other. If you hate someone, hate what that individual did to you,
and not the parents, siblings, community, townspeople, or fellow religionists.
Try this today; cherish the serene pleasantness you feel inside of you…
that is your real heaven!
May this Diwali take us all from the darkness
to the light, Amen!
Dr. Mike Ghouse is a community consultant,
social scientist, thinker, writer and a speaker on Pluralism, Interfaith,
Islam, politics, human rights, India, Israel-Palestine and foreign policy. He
is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on
issues of the day. More about him in 63 links at www.MikeGhouse.net and the
bulk of his writings are at TheGhousediary.com