Ahmadiyya Muslims Interfaith Symposium in Houston

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Please note: If you believe that yours is the only way, this is not for you.
Houston, Saturday, January 21, 2012. The Ahmadiyya Muslim community held an interfaith symposium, as they do frequently and do a great job at it in selecting the right topics. The following was my talk including sharing the essence of  the talks of speakers before me.

Dr. Sulekh Jain explored on the idea of Anekantavad, different views must be valued, and indeed part of the definition of Pluralism has origins in it.

Dr. Asha Sharma summed up the essence of Hinduism in the phrase Vasudaiva Kutumbukum, meaning the whole world is one family.

Rabbi Jonathan Siger shared a story on Humility, the reason we all originated from one couple was to bring humility to mankind, so we do not claim that our tribe is a superior one. That was a great thought. Indeed, Quraan is clear on the topic as well, consider no prophet over the other, all are God’s messengers including Prophet Muhammad, had God said, Muhammad is the elevated one among the prophets, Muslims would have become arrogant. Thank God for that. Humility builds bridges and arrogance kills it.

Rev Butch Green – Jesus was boundless he reached out to every segment of the society, indeed that is being God like, to have no barrier between him and his creation, the same idea is called Brahman in Hinduism. He mentioned that the word peace is mentioned over 100 times in the bible. Indeed Quraan also has the word peace about the same number of times.

Prophet Muhammad’s last sermon was about equality between races, ethnicities and sexes.  Love thy neighbor is matched by know each other.

Gyani Gurmit Singh Bhatia – He spoke about speaking out against injustice and live the life that Baba Nanak taught, he shared the ideals and one of them was if you don’t see god in all, you don’t see god at all.

Indeed, Sikhism started out as an interfaith movement and its holy book, the Guru Granth Saheb is composed by three different religious people.

Imam Naseem Mahdi shared the story of supplication that Muslims recite, Allahumma Rubbi Astaghfirli… He said a Rabbi, turned around and said that was the supplication recited by Prophet Solomon….. Open my heart to learning and knowing others.  Imam Mahdi reiterated from Quraan- make no distinction between prophets of god.  I am always amazed with the Ahmadiyya and Ismaili communities for their extra focus on essence of Quraan; it seems that they have understood it beyond the ritual part of the religion.

This paragraph was not a part of my talk: Amazingly the average Ahmadi and Ismaili knows about the essence of his/her version of the faith much more than an average Muslim of other denominations knows about his or her version of the faith.  The fact that the communities are smaller makes it easy for everyone to study their tradition compared to the larger communities. I wrote an article in Dallas Morning News backed with Pew Survey which said, the people of majoritarian religion know less about their faith, let alone others than people who belong to minority faiths. The highest knowledgeable ones about religions were among Atheist, Agnostics and others. That is an understandable fact.

This particular paragraph was not a part of my talk either. Imam Mahdi rightfully talked about Mullah Exploitation. However, I need to take it up with him about his statement that the other Muslim Mullahs believe that all Jews and Christians will go to hell and they (Ahmadiyya) instead believe in Quraan which says, whether you are a Jew, Christian or a Sabean (others), if you do the right thing like taking care of your neighbors, God will reward you and you need not worry. This is the belief of all Muslims, it is from Quraan. His statement is not completely in line with what is out there, and amounts to stereotyping other Muslims. We are all Muslims to the general public regardless of our denomination.

Indeed every speaker talked about the need for intra-faith dialogue, the Rabbi shared that no two Jews agree, the orthodox don’t consider reformed Jews to be Jews as they allow women Rabbis, the Christians do not consider Mormons to be Christians… and the issue is similar among Muslims, a substantial number of Muslims consider Ahmadiyya as non-Muslims. It is a sheer arrogance on the part of majorities in all religions and societies. This has got to be deliberated; it is more of politics of division than religion.

Diversity is intentional each one of us is made different with our own thumb print, dna, taste bud and hope, some day in the future, we nurture the religion bud and learn to accept the differences. Taking this idea further, God did not want Jesus to convert the whole world into Christianity, it will not happen, he did not want Muhammad to convert the whole world to become Muslims either, it will never happen, he would not allow Krishna to have monopoly on the 7 billion of us, neither any religion will ever win every living human on the earth. Diversity is natural and certain.

No religion is superior and no prophet is superior either. God has not signed a deal with any one of them behind others back. In the eyes of God, we are all his creation; he gives preferential treatment to those who have done the best in keeping his creation in harmony and peace, but God will never treat any one any less than the other. If he did, who wants a God like that? Religion is about humility and not arrogance.

Interfaith Scriptures: There is a beautiful book in the market to review different scriptures on a given topic, its called World Scripture, a comparative anthology of sacred texts by inter religious foundation, an initiative of Rev. Sun Myung Moon.

If we can learn to respect the otherness of other and accept the God given uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge. 

To be a Muslim is to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill. God wants all of us to get along and the best among us is one who knows each other and who does the most to keep his creation intact and in harmony. 

 Mike Ghouse  is committed to building a cohesive America, where no Americans has to live in apprehension or fear of the other. He is a speaker, thinker and a writer and offers pluralistic solutions on current issues. His work is listed at www.MikeGhouse.net   

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