Tuesday, May 29, 2012

TEXAS FAITH: Is religious freedom under attack in America?

Indeed, every group feels that their religious liberty is under attack. Is there a time in history when a group did not feel threatened by co-religionists, other religions and the governments? Here is a short history and possible solutions.

This a weekly column at Dallas Morning News, here is Mike’s contribution on the topic.

MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas

Indeed, every group feels that their religious liberty is under attack. Is there a time in history when a group did not feel threatened by co-religionists, other religions and the governments? Here is a short history and possible solutions.

Jews have always been under attack. They felt at home in Spain, which was destroyed by butcher Ferdinand. Then, they felt at home in Germany, but the Holocaust tore them apart and their belief in humanity was shattered. Every day, they have to be on guard. Someone or another is making anti-Semitic comments.

Fred Phelps was in Dallas in July 2010 demonstrating hate against Jews. The anti-circumcision bills in San Francisco and Santa Monica in 2011 were irritants. Last month in Houston, the Jewish academy could not participate in a basketball game. It was set on Saturday, most Jews refrain from activity that day. Indeed, it is restricting their freedom to practice their religion by exclusion and being insensitive to their faith.

Hindus are an open game to evangelists. A few years ago, a Baptist convention made a declaration to harvest the "Poor Hindu souls". This year, Russians made a serious attempt to ban Bhagvad Gita, the Hindu Holy Book. In November 2011, a Kentucky state senator attacked Hinduism as an idolatrous belief. California textbooks portrayed Hinduism in negative light, so the battle is still on. There is a debate among Indians: Had Bobby Jindal of Hindu parents and Nikki Haley of Sikh parents practiced their faiths, and not converted to Christianity, would they have become governors?

Sikhs had to fight with Arizona to keep the name of a Sikh 9/11 victim on a memorial wall. Wicca had to fight for the headstone in Arlington Memorial Cemetery for those who died serving America. Of course, there are enough stories about Native Americans, atheists and others.

Muslim Americans strongly feel the noose tightening on their freedom. Most restrictions are coming out of sheer ignorance and a false understanding of what their faith is about, as they practice in America rather than Saudi Arabia or Iran. The senators and representatives who have initiated anti-Sharia bills can't even tell what they are opposing.

The irony is neither the organizations nor the Muslims are seeking Sharia to be a part of the American law. All they are asking is to have options to square personal matters between family members through a jury, mediation, court hearing or the Sharia guidelines. Indeed, it is no different than the option of Jews using Halaqa in their personal conflicts or going to a psychologist for counseling.

Most Christian denominations have been under attack by fellow Christians. Missionaries were unforgivably cruel to natives around the world, including America. Most of the groups that infringe on the freedom of others have also been a victim.

The Catholic diocese has rightly filed the law suit protesting the Government's intrusion in the practice of their faith that the employers provide workers free contraceptives. This is the right thing to do - to stand up for the freedom of religion. As a Muslim I have stood up for freedom of every religious group, in this case with the Catholic Church. Indeed, it was good to see evangelical leader Richard Land make the same pledge along with me on Sean Hannity Radio.

In summary, the issues are about whether a majority - or the government - can arrogantly push vulnerable ones into obeying.

We need to build an America where no one is apprehensive or afraid of the other. Each one of us needs to feel home, a home where everyone can drop his or her guards and lives freely.

It is our duty to safeguard the liberties endowed by our creator to practice our beliefs. It behooves for us to stand up for each other, why should anyone stand up for you, if you are not willing to do the same for them?

To see all the contributors, please visit Dallas Morning news at:http://religionblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2012/05/texas-faith-is-religious-freed.html
. . . . .

MikeGhouse is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. Mike is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News and regularly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. The blog www.TheGhousediary.com is updated daily.

Hijab not a religious requirement; Al-Azhar - 2



Thanks for the question, “What have i got to lose by following the Quran literally and the Messenger?”

The answer is nothing. 

The answer is a major problem when you impose your beliefs on others.  Blind following has been the source of so much pain and misery in the world.

A father killed his teen daughter for not wearing Hijab, it is not in Sudan, Afghanistan or elsewhere, it was right here in the USA. There was one in Canada too.

You and I may live in civilized societies where God-Given life is sheltered, but when your father kills and mothers silently goes along. There is something evil about it.  If you say that is wrong, that is what most Muslims say - yet those murderers believed that they were following Prophet’s Sunnah.  

In India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Dubai and elsewhere–   ruthless, uncivilized idiotic men, quote Sunnah to frighten the wife, give a divorce at the whim and put that mother on the street. These men live here in America too.  As a woman do you believe that Prophet, the mercy on mankind would have said something like that?

Gutless men, beat their wives, because they say Quraan allows it. Nonsense! The Quraan like the Bible and other holy books were interpreted by insecure control freaky men from the past, who wanted to keep woman under their thumb, mercilessly they have falsified translations of 4:34. Thank God finally; a woman Dr. Laila Bakhtiar has put these men to shame -- it is not beating, it is separation that Quraan calls for. It is embarrassing to sit in the mosque and listen to these primates telling in interfaith conferences - that man can hit the woman softly like with tooth pick or tooth brush... and the smirk on their faces is disgusting. These men who had the audacity or ignorance to make a villain out of God; cause the suffering to women; half the population.

The bloody mistranslation of Quraan 1:7 is the main reason for Islamophobia. I have been dealing with almost every Islamophobes out there - Thank God that version of translation has been removed in the last two years. Thank God, I have put in my two cents with an Imam from Riyadh, I met in interfaith meeting. Now, the free copy of the Quraan given out is Muhammad Asad’s translation - which also carries at least one flawed (4:34) translation, and the Hilali Khan translation is corrected in a few places now.

Shanaz, why change? 

I am not a scholar, and I did not go to an Islamic college to memorize and repeat the same stuff over and over again.   I am a common Muslim like a majority of Muslims, I see the flaws that have caused so much pain to Muslim women in those nations…

Yes, it is wrong, but it is the books! An Imam from a small town would rather believe what is in the book than common sense.  He has got something to back up and continue until we make those corrections and it is not easy.

All those men and women who were bent on bringing a positive change will be cursed and condemned by the religion industry mob - Iqbal, Sir Syed and a host of others were not spared, they were called Kafirs. Pakistan has another great man who is chased out of his country by the religious gangsters. 

Those men had the balls to do the right thing regardless of what the mob said.  Thank God we live in America and together, Insha Allah, remove the non-sense that has been ascribed to Rabbul Aaalamen and Rahmatul Aalameen.  Even Hamza Yousuf is being attacked for talking sense; the worse that could happen to him is not visit Iran, Pakistan, Netherland and other place where he may be in danger. But the Muslim majority, the good 95% of them is picking the good stuff form the internet.

Prophet Muhammad is Rahmatul Aalameen, the mercy to mankind, is he not? Could he have said anything like what is ascribed to him?  
The great imams who may have mistakenly quoted prophet are not the ones to answer God on the Day of the judgment, it is you and I. And it is our responsibility to find the truth = the truth is simple; No injustice to any human, spouse or not, children or not, Muslims are not. That is how simple and good Islam is. That is why we call the Prophet Rahmatul Aalameen, the one who brought the message of mercy, from the most merciful God, our creator. Not ours, but everyone’s. His words and saying are to bring kindness and mercy to humanity and we need to de-corrupt his message.

Modesty is a requirement of Islam; Hijab (in various formats) is a cultural development and no woman should be forced to wear or not wear in the name of Religion. 

Original posting URL -  http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2012/05/al-azhar-confirms-hijab-is-not-part-of.html  Much of the discussion  is at WorldMuslimCongress@yahoogroups.com. Many have contributed both in favor and challenging it. 

Mike Ghouse committed to nurturing pluralistic values enshrined in Islam.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Moroccan Muslims and Pluralism

Monday, May 29, 2012


Pluralism (Interfaith) dialogue with international delegates. In the last five years I have met religious, academic and civic leaders from Central Aisa, Middle East and North Africa.

International Visitors.Interfaith Dialogue with Mike Ghouse

L-R : Siham Faouzi, Mike Ghouse, Dr. Mariam Ait Ahmed Ouli, Dr. Samir Boudinar, Ed Thomas, Mohammad Ait Rhanimi, Emad Hussein and Dalia Ibrahim. All pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeghouse/sets/72157629941859588/

This group is from Morocco and each one is committed to cohesive societies. Dr.Boudinar went to a Christian College in Oujda, Morocco, where Christians Students were a majority, Jews were in 2nd largest group and he was a minority!  Dr. Ouli was nostalgic about the Jewish family next door, who came to her mother to cook food on Saturdays, as it was Shabbat day for Jews, and Siham was telling beautiful stories about boys and girls playing and Mohammed was sharing how much he misses his friends from school day, who emigrated to Israel....

This is the third group of people I have met from Morocco and I am amazed at the pluralism stories.
Everyone was thrilled and the conversation went from intense to humorous exchanges.
You can see the excitement of Dr. Ouli in the pictures, she is a professor and teaches interfaith, and she and I hit it off very well. She wrote a book on Interfaith and the need for it, it’s in Arabic and is called Jadliyat al Hawar.  I have asked her to get that translated in English and maybe we should work on getting her to speak to the Muslims in ISNA conferences.

The story is same three years ago, I hosted a luncheon for a 12 nations delegation from Middle East and North Africa - they were so excited to talk about interfaith... and one of the assistants of the man who issues opinions (Fatwa) on Islamic matters at Al-Azhar university was delivering the verses from Quraan for every piece of pluralism conversation and I recall the Imam from Oman was incredible in supporting my understanding of Pluralism from Quraan.  Some four years ago, my guru Dr. Imam Yusuf Zia Kavakci and I were addressing the Students body at SMU, I was thrilled with the opportunity, same thing happened there, Dr. Kavakci wanted me to address the questions from the students first, and then he would say Brother Ghouse's statement is reflected in Quraan Verse...

The group was incredible, I told them the story of how I rejected Islam and became an atheist, they expressed curiosity but no judgment and I loved that. Then I shared with them what made me come back to Islam after almost 30 years - it was a verse in the Hindu Holy book, Bhagavad Gita which said, finding the truth is your own responsibility. I shared with them my talk on Scriptural reading at the Parliament of world’s religions, and the powerful Quraan conference held in Dallas - it was a culmination of my research and subsequently my faith, pluralism was the reason I chose Islam.   

They did not even flinch when I said, Islam was a choice and I would have been equally comfortable choosing any one of the 10 major religions, the goal would have been the same. 

Dr. Ouli, added that the interfaith dialogue should include the "role of religions in pushing knowledge, the knowledge we shared about Quraan 49:13 - the best among you is the one who learns about each other. There is a presumption that by knowing each other and respecting the otherness of other, we can create cohesive societies.

The translators always amaze me, two weeks ago, I had an interfaith conversation with an Imam from China and the translator amazed me with the accurate and moment to moment translations and now Emad Hussein floored me with quick translation of the words like pluralism and wrote for me in Arabic (in the pictures).

I will finish this in two more sittings.

Mike Ghouse

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Saudi woman blasts religious police; a real hero.

Saudi woman blasts religious police

This is a shameful act caught on some one’s Mobil phone. A woman is being harassed in a Saudi Mall for not covering her hair and her hands and apparently wearing nail polish. This is Saudi law in action and not an Islamic thing, as it is not practiced in 53 of the 56 Muslim majority nations. It is the Saudi law, Iranian law and Taliban practice (in areas where those few dominate) and not a Muslim thing to force.

Women have choices in most nations most of the times. However, we cannot say this is a universal truth.

Shamefully, we the men, across the globe need to ask ourselves, if we have the laws where the men can tell the woman to shut up, how many of the men would rejoice? Don’t look elsewhere, nearly a fourth of our own population in America; the men who are going through bitter divorce may love it.

If you are one of them, how different you are from the Saudi religious police, or from those who believe the place of a woman is kitchen and raise children.

Sadistic men are everywhere.

I hope the Saudi Government wakes up and stops this non-sense and abuses of human rights. I hope more women speak up!

I hope the gandoo (gutless) men, ungandoo themselves and speak up instead of walking away when a woman or any one is harassed and oppressed.

It is irritating that an ordinary woman had to defend herself. I would like to go sit in a mall and record all of this non-sense on a hidden camera...

Hold it, no one is free from this evil, the sadistic few among Jews have spat on women for not covering their hair in Israel this year 2012. The sadistic few among Hindus have vandalized the girls on Valentine’s Day in India… the sadistic few among Muslims in Afghanistan also beat women for not wearing the Hijab…and on the other hand the sadistic few among Americans chase women out of a social setting by staring at their bodies … Damn it, women get chased for wearing full clothes and for wearing least clothes, the girls who dare, do risk harassment whether they are in full clothes or the least clothes.

The Talibans dictate women to cover up, the French and others dictate women not to cover up. Who the hell are these men to tell others what to wear? 

I wish a fictional government emerges somewhere, where women rule. In that government, the liberal women will pass laws banning men from wearing suits and full clothing and encourage men to wear fig leaves. The conservative women have the men whipped for not covering other parts of the body.

I would also want to imagine, where the majority of men and women, take up the issue in the ballot and approve live and let live laws. Let men and women wear, eat, drink and believe what suits them as long as they are not hurting anyone measurably.

All of us need to speak up and seek a society where a woman can go anywhere, any time of the day without fear of the other.  Indeed, I have heard two men talk about it – The 2nd one was Shri C. Rajagopalachari, the last Governor-General of India and the first one was Prophet Muhammad, both of them had said similar things. While Jesus, Moses, Krishna and others worked on building safe societies. The prophet had said he envisions a civil society where a single woman laden with jewelry can travel to Damascus and return back to Madinah without ever fearing or being harassed by one.

We all need to aspire for such a society, where every individual member of a society feels safe.

 Please note, at the end I saw MEMRI.TV logo, and I thank them for highlighting this event, even though their intention is not good.  
MikeGhouse is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism, politics, civic affairs, Islam, India, Israel, peace and justice. Mike is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning News and regularly at Huffington post, and several other periodicals across the world. The blog www.TheGhousediary.com is updated daily.

Saudi woman, Saudi Malls, women harassment, we are in it together, Americans together, cohesive America, speaker Mike Ghouse

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Al Azhar confirms HIJAB is not a part of the religion

URL - http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2012/05/al-azhar-confirms-hijab-is-not-part-of.html

The following statement is in reference to the "Burqa ban movement" in United Kingdom, it sounds more like a political movement to appease someone. Burqa Ban is brutish and driven by men's primal instinct to control women. No one should have the right to impose what a woman wears or not wears. However, we should seek acknowledgements and endorsements from Muslims that Burqa in it is form is cultural and not Islamic. Over a generation or two, either the practice will continue or fade for a sizable population, but it should never be forced.
Our position on Hijab
Islam is about freedom and not compulsion, Q 2:256, "Let there be no compulsion in religion". We recognize that culture is deeply ingrained into each one of us, and a full Hijab wearing woman will not go cold turkey and quit wearing the Hijab the very next day.  She will not be comfortable with it and none of us have the right to tell her to wear or quit wearing it. The change should come out of her own volition as it is a part of her cultural life.  It is like forcing a vegetarian to eat meat or ordering a meat eating person to quit eating meat.

As Muslims we should be pro-choice based on Quran and Prophet's teaching, the prophet had said, if the husband compels her to believe (in matters of faith) other than what she believed, she does not have to obey him.  Meaning a woman should have the freedom to wear full Hijab, partial Hijab or just the head covering or not wear the covering at all,  but never forced.
That is the genuine freedom, a critical value of Islam.
Mike Ghouse,
World Muslim Congress.
A think tank committed to nurture the pluralistic values of Islam. 

# # #

This statement is in reference to the "Burqa ban movement" in United Kingdom, it sounds more like a political movement to appease the secular government. 
Burqa Ban is an useless and losing battle. However, we should seek acknowledgements and endorsements from Muslims that Burqa in it is form is cultural and not Islamic. Over a generation or two, either the practice will continue or fade for a sizable population, but it should never be forced.

Go for the winning battles, small ones and gradually big ones. You will create enemies out of average Muslims and then it becomes a fight....
is it necessary? What is the need to employ so much energy on this issue?

Several articles are referenced below, and two versions of the stories, both from Egypt, one affirms that Hijab is not a part of the religion, and another Zealot Shaykh Tantawi compels a woman to take the Niqab off. He is wrong, however big he is to compel and take advantage of his position of a scholar. Islam is about freedom and not compulsion.

A good guideline for discussion would be resisting the temptation to reject a presentation by others as propaganda.

As far as your statement,  “A statement of a Ph D thesis cannot change the ruling of the scholars of all times”, kindly note, that only God’s word remains unchangeable, and Prophet’s words remain unchangeable, provided, they are his words. Everyone else’s word should be questionable. Muslims are to read (Iqra), question and believe.

A few Muslims have been threatened, frightened and reduced to meekness with no guts to question the veracity of the scholars. With the unprecedented availability of knowledge, two generations down the road, you will see that new breed of Muslims will have stronger faith in God to question everything. They will be Allah fearing and not Mullah fearing, and they will question the authenticity of Imam Bukhari, Hanbali, Shafii, Jaffari and others without batting an eye. That is when Islam will be re-realized to its fullest extent. Right now our fear to question has put layers of dust over Islam…

I hope Gehan can provide further research on this, however the responsibility falls on all of us, we are responsible to find the truth on our own.
Some 15 years ago, we had a Muslim woman scholar giving a talk about the same subject; the Muslims “In charge” of the event were scrambling to shut the woman down, because they did not have the stomach to hear that Hijab is cultural and not Islamic.

There is nothing wrong in wearing the Hijab, if one is used to, and no one should compel the woman not to wear or to wear. It should be her choice. However, to force on as religious duty is wrong, because it is not religious. Who am I to say this? An ordinary Muslim, whom Prophet told to read and understand the book , as I am responsible for my acts on the day of judgment .  
Mike Ghouse, World Muslim Congress.

RE: MuslimsTogether :: al Azhar confirms HIJAB is not a part of the religion
This is sheer propaganda. Please give us the whole Ph D thesis for checking. A statement of a Ph D thesis can not change the ruling of the scholars of all times.
Who are these people of WMC? What is their interest?

Shah Abdul Hannan

From: WorldMuslimCongress@yahoogroups.com [mailto:WorldMuslimCongress@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of ISLAM
Sent: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 9:44 PM
Subject: MuslimsTogether :: al Azhar confirms HIJAB is not a part of the religion

here is my humble interpretation:

Finally al Azhar clarifies its position and announces that hijab has nothing to do with religion

al Azhar's endorsed Sheikh Mustafa Mohamed Rashid's PhD thesis on Sharia and Law for which he obtained a grade of excellent, where he stated that hijab is not an Islamic requirement (fard), and that the interpretation (tafseer) of the verses (ayat) and the circumstances during which they appeared has led to the widespread misunderstanding about the so-called 'Islamic Hijab' denoting covering the head, of which there is absolutely no mention in the Quran.

Yet some have misconstrued the intent and correct interpretation of the Sharia, refusing the logic and sequence of its appearance, abandoning the proper methods of citing and interpreting of the verses (ayat), their historical background and reason for them.  They have done so either intentionally, or with good intention but with lack of the essential analytical savvy.

This hijab issue imposed itself on the Islamic and non-Islamic psyche, and thus becoming the defining factor, meaning, and nature of the Islamic faith to non-Muslims, which led some non-Islamic nations to consider it a divisive political statement.  In consequence to the resulting friction, some female students have been expelled from universities and jobs, only due to their adherence to this false belief, thereby attaching to Islam a non existent requirement.

So inconsistent and misguided have the proofs of the supporters of the hijab theory been, that it would sometimes take the form of khimar or jalabeeb, which distanced them from what they meant by head cover, which is indicative of their restrictive set of mind.

'Hijab' was mentioned in verse (ayah) 53 of al AHzab, where it signifies 'wall' or 'what prevents view' and it was in regards to pure "ummuhat al mo'mineen" where a "hajib" is to be placed between them and any men.

As for verse (ayah) 31 of Al Khimar - Sourrat al Noor, that is also a redundant claim, as the intent here is the cover of the breast and neck - the background here is the covering of the breast whose exposure is un-Islamic, and not what is now understood by hijab for the head.

And in regards to the historical background of verse (ayah) 59 of Sourrat al AHzab was to distinguish between the pure and the promiscuous whores and slaves.

Finally, in the mis-use of the Hadith about Asma'a, daughter of Abu Bakr, when she walked in on the prophet (pbuh)s gathering, and he ordered her to not expose her face or palms - this Hadith is not a binding Hadith, as it is one of al AHaad and not one of the consistent, or the connected confirmed.

from the Arabic text at http://www.elbashayer.com/news-192556.html

1. BBC - Egypt's highest Muslim authority has said he will issue a religious edict against the growing trend for full women's veils, known as the niqab.

2. Shaykh Tantawi eventually tells even a teacher to remove her niqab!!
When the Grand Shaykh was invited to address a group of young female high-school students, he noticed one of them wearing a face-veil (niqab). This seemed to irritate his Excellency rather mightily, and, his conscience so roused, he proceeded to ask the supercilious girl to remove her veil (he is preceded by the likes of Jack Straw and Tony Blair, amongst other honorable mentions) – he charged on, blasting, “I have already told you that the niqab has absolutely nothing to do with the religion, and it is something that is from custom!”

 Atif al-Awami, vice-chancellor of Ain Shams University, added that he "personally believes that the niqab was nothing but a social habit that spread in response to motives unrelated to religion."

  1. World Muslim Congress: Me without my Hijab
  2. World Muslim Congress: Burqa to no Burqa
  3. World Muslim Congress: Burqa - Panipat to Paris
  4. World Muslim Congress: Nazia wins womens rights
  5. World Muslim Congress: Canada should not ban Burqa.
  6. World Muslim Congress: Burn the Burqa
  7. World Muslim Congress: Veil and British women
  8. World Muslim Congress: To Veil or Not to Veil
  9. World Muslim Congress: Fifteen Tips for Muslim Men talking about ...
  10. World Muslim Congress: Lifting the Veil on the Niqab
  11. World Muslim Congress: Muslim Dad Kills Daughter

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Teaching Intolerance in Saudi Arabia


NOTE ADDED May 25, 2012 - Apparently this is old News prior to correction, however, I have asked the writers in Saudi Arabia to present the new and improved curriculum, we must be fair, it happened with us, our California text books were wrong about Hinduism, much of it is corrected now. Mike Ghouse

The following is a report about what is taught in Saudi Arabian schools. It amounts to giving sewer to children as a drink… to ruin their minds and hearts in the long haul.

What they are teaching in Saudi Arabia is a major concern, however, it should not be looked as an opportunity to laugh at them, but an opportunity for all of us to examine about ourselves and find a solution to bring about a world wide change, we are all in this together. 

Let’s never forget the words of wisdom from the first pluralist of the world; Jesus Christ, who said, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” As a society we should not rejoice the badness of others, instead we need to ponder and find ways for all of us to move towards “treat others as you would want to be treated.” We are all guilty of our own.

Even here in the United States, the most advanced nation, our school books at one time were derogatory towards Hinduism that I know of and have written about it with concern. Our own military was teaching hatred of Muslims in a civil society.  In Pakistan and Bangladesh children were taught to hate Indians, in Palestine and Israel same thing goes; denigration of each other. I am sure some where in India, they teach hatred towards Pakistanis, as it spills out in the language of a few Indians. A few parents still teach (by their attitudes) their children prejudice against Mexicans, African Americans, Muslims, Mormons, Jews, Gay and Lesbians…. the hate business is everywhere. No one is free from it.

We may have ugly feelings towards others, do we need to dump this on our children? What if they turn around and tell us to go hell for teaching them hatred towards.......  are you guilty of using words, comments and examples that amounts to giving sewer to your children to drink? It is time to reflect. 

Is this what we want to teach our children?

We are our children’s number one enemies, with our teaching and observing our stinky examples, they learn to become difficult people and perhaps live in misery their whole lives. They cannot relate with the real world out there.
Nations are no exception to this – the leaders of most of the nations spend their damned time in scheming and destroying others, instead of building bridges and living and letting others live.

This is a serious issue, we need to come together to find solutions. Lets’ begin with ourselves – take a few minutes to assess your own feelings after you read the following piece and then seriously evaluate if those feelings add to the well being of the world or aggravate it further. The choice is always yours, about how you feel – hateful, resentful, avengeful, merciful, solutionsful or full of compassion and desire to change ourselves first before we think about changing others. If we are crappy, how can we expect others to be not?

Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies where no one is apprehensive of fearful of the other.  

You should see what even first graders have to read in Saudi Arabia.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — In the years just before the 9/11 attacks, I spent two semesters at a public school in Riyadh for my training as a teacher. I was stationed each day at the campus gates, instructed to inspect the girls' abayas as they left school. For each student older than 12, I checked: Was she wearing the tent-style cloak over her head and down to her ankles? Was her face fully covered, no slits for her eyes? I felt like a hypocrite, penalizing girls for violating a custom I don't support -- and one that the majority of Islamic scholars say is not a religious obligation.

The mandate was and still is part of the government-issued curriculum taught in Saudi public schools; it was in their textbooks that the girls were told they should cover their faces in order to be good Muslim women.

Much is made about the role of Islam in Arab societies -- how different interpretations of the Quran can shape laws and conventions. But less often do we consider how these interpretations reach our children: at school and, ultimately, in the textbooks they read. Since Saudi Arabia's first national textbooks were issued in 1937, the controversies they have inspired have mirrored the country's most fundamental debates -- about religion, the treatment of women, the influence of the West. Over time, textbooks have become instruments of the country's religious conservatives, replete with calls to jihad and denunciations of non-Muslims. Yet despite periodic reform efforts, and even though these efforts have escalated amid the global outrage that followed 9/11, in many ways the books remain stubbornly impervious to change. Even in the past two years, they have instructed first graders not to greet infidels and warned 10th graders of the West's threat to Islam.

The Saudi education system wasn't always destined for orthodoxy. King Abdulaziz, the kingdom's founder, established the precursor to today's Education Ministry in 1925, seven years before officially founding the country in 1932. The first national textbooks were heavily influenced by Egyptian and Lebanese curricula, and their chief author, the researcher Omar Abduljabbar, was considered a progressive, opening one of Saudi Arabia's first private girls' schools at a time when only boys could attend public schools.

By the 1950s, however, religious ultraconservatives had begun putting down roots in the Education Ministry. Despite the ministry's efforts to recruit members of the Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt and Syria, who were seen as proponents of a more liberal form of Islam, the more powerful Saudi religious establishment ensured that textbooks and school policies would become more intolerant and conservative, which the government's 1968 educational policy document solidified formally. In the following decades, those brave enough to criticize the government-mandated curriculum were scarce if not nonexistent. Saudis who were unhappy with the public education system could send their children abroad; even private Saudi schools were (and still are) required to teach Arabic and the government's religious curriculum.

Things went on this way with few changes until 15 of the 19 hijackers responsible for the 9/11 attacks were revealed to have been Saudis. Suddenly, outsiders began asking questions and pointing fingers, wondering what exactly was being taught in our schools. A 2002 Boston Globe report, for instance, bearing the headline "Saudi Schools Fuel Anti-U.S. Anger," quoted inflammatory passages from a government textbook, such as, "The hour will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews, and Muslims will kill all the Jews." Saudis, too, began to reconsider: What kind of messages were we teaching our children?

The question was blown wide open in 2006 with the publication of a Freedom House report titled "Saudi Arabia's Curriculum of Intolerance," which was translated into Arabic and published in the local newspaper Al-Watan. The report analyzed 12 Islamic-studies textbooks, concluding that "the Saudi public school religious curriculum continues to propagate an ideology of hate toward the 'unbeliever'" -- most egregiously in a 12th-grade text that instructed students to wage violent jihad against infidels to "spread the faith." Many Saudis bristled at a foreign organization meddling in their internal affairs, but the findings managed to rekindle the debate about Saudi education. The pages of Saudi schoolbooks were finally submitted to a new, unfamiliar scrutiny -- not just from outsiders but also from Saudis themselves.

The Education Ministry responded to the criticism, appearing to commit itself to reform by relegating 2,000 teachers it deemed extremists to administrative roles far from the classroom. The ministry also instructed principals to report anyone preaching extremism.

Yet textbooks remained largely untouched, with only the most explicitly intolerant material removed. Now and then a journalist today picks up one of the government-issued schoolbooks only to find that extremism has sneaked back into Saudi schools.

In the 2010-2011 academic year, the new first-grade jurisprudence book (yes, "Islamic jurisprudence" is taught in the first grade, along with a subject called "monotheism") condemned saying hello to non-Muslims. The lesson was presented as a dialogue between a teacher and a student named Ahmed. Ahmed asks, "Should I say hello to people I don't know?" The teacher replies, "Yes, you say hello to Muslims you know and Muslims you don't know."

The news caused an uproar in the Saudi media that prompted the Education Ministry to recall the books and remove the offensive portion. But the new copies suspiciously omitted the names of the book's authors, replacing them with the phrase "Authored and revised by a team of experts." Among the book's creators had been Sheikh Yusuf al-Ahmad, known for suggesting that the Grand Mosque in Mecca be rebuilt to ensure complete gender segregation and for calling for a boycott against supermarkets that planned to employ female cashiers. (The sheikh is currently in prison for speaking out against the government's practice of imprisoning political dissidents indefinitely and without charge.)

Just last year, new interpretations were introduced in the boys' 10th-grade hadith, the book of the Prophet Mohammed's sayings and traditions. (Ever since a 1958 royal decree that allowed Saudi girls to attend public schools, boys and girls have been required to use different textbooks.)

The move seemed progressive on the surface: The new subjects included human rights, Westernization, globalization, and international scholarships -- but under these headings lay more propaganda. Westernization, for instance, was described (in a mouthful) as a policy "exerted by the dominant forces by tools such as the Security Council and the United Nations in order to implement Westernization strategies in poor countries, especially Islamic nations, under the slogans of reform, democracy, pluralism, liberalism, and human rights, particularly with regard to women and religious minorities." The book also warned that by obtaining an education in the West, Saudi students were at risk of adopting beliefs, values, and behaviors at odds with Islam.

The hadith additions were widely thought to be an underhanded way of criticizing Saudi King Abdullah's scholarship program, which since 2005 has funded 130,000 Saudi students to study in countries such as Australia, Britain, Canada, and the United States. That such anti-Western language made it into the hadiths proves how embedded Saudi ultraconservatives are in the Education Ministry -- they were able to modify textbooks even against official national programs.

The Education Ministry ultimately held its ground, revising the textbooks to exclude the intolerant subject matter. Still, teaching extremism is only one facet of a much larger, more persistent problem. In a 2009 study on education reform in Saudi Arabia, Riyadh-based researcher Ahmed al-Eissa found that the lion's share of the average male Saudi student's class time -- about 30 percent -- is still in religion. It's no wonder then that Saudi Arabia ranks so poorly in other core academic subjects. In the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, published by the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics, only Ghana and Qatar fared worse than Saudi Arabia in eighth-grade math scores across 48 countries. In science, Saudi students only performed better than those in Ghana, Qatar, Botswana, and El Salvador.

A study published last year by religious scholar Abdulaziz al-Qasim found that Saudi religion textbooks "have focused far too much on the lowest educational and skill objectives, such as rote memorization and classification, and neglected entirely the objectives of analysis, problem-solving, and critical thinking," leading to "passiveness and negativity." But Eissa's 2009 study noted that there is widespread refusal within the Education Ministry even to acknowledge the need for an overhaul.

It has been more than a decade since the Education Ministry began working on a plan to address these problems. Known as the Comprehensive Curricula Development Project, it is expected to be implemented across the kingdom in the next year, according to its website. Yet, if one reads the project's mission statement for religious textbooks, it is difficult to be optimistic. It calls for the books to require that "the learner grasp his membership and loyalty to Islam and derive all his affairs within it and renounce all that goes against it," as well as to "protect himself in facing deviant sects, creeds, false interpretations of sharia with reason, evidence, and politeness." Nowhere in the statement's 28 points is there any mention of tolerance or peace. 

Somehow "time management," No. 28, is a bigger priority.
Even if the ministry's changes materialize, education reform in Saudi Arabia is not simply a matter of revising textbooks. It's a matter of changing the minds of whole generations. Saudis who were taught to believe a very narrow interpretation of Islam are now foisting it onto millions more students. They will have to determine a way forward -- but they won't find the answer in their textbooks.


Email to: SpeakerMikeGhouse@gmail.com

Voice of Moderate Muslims

Voice of Moderate Muslims
Voice of Moderate Muslims

Moderate Islam Speaker

Moderate Islam Speaker
Moderate Islam Speaker

quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797



We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration (www.UnitydayUSA.com) held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.

URL- http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2013/08/planned-muslim-response-to-quran_18.html

Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.