Don’t judge me by my friends.
I believe in inclusion, and inclusion starts with me. Before I ask others to include me, I have to be inclusive first, otherwise, it sounds hollow.
Please don’t fall into the trap of judging me because who I am with, God has blessed me with the wisdom to have strong convictions, but be open to knowledge. I remain who I am, and you are who you are, and I will always make an effort to know the other. The more we know about the others, the greater the chances are of mitigating conflicts. We have to take the time to understand other’s fears and aspirations to find solutions.
My friends include every human, good, bad and ugly, from every race, and every faith and ethnicity. I embrace everyone. I am immunized strongly, and no one can transmit their bad nature to me.
You will find me in the company of people who are on the extreme right, left and the center, liberals and conservatives, progressives and regressives, religious and atheists, gays and straight, republicans and democrats, communists and capitalists, BJP and Congress, and enemies and friends.I have no enemies, even though a few consider me to their enemy.
A majority of us moderates, meaning individuals who want to get along with others, mind our own business, and not judge others until we have first-hand knowledge. I respect the otherness of others and wish the very best for others. The moderates believe in the Golden rule, treat others as you want to be treated. Moderates are not a group of people, it is the attitude of individuals, and you and I can be a moderate most of the time, all the time and a few times.
Mother Teresa is one of my ten mentors, and she had said something to the effect that, “If you want to make peace with your enemies, she says, go talk with them, talking with friends will not change the equation.” I strongly believe in it and am driven by it.
My Muslim friends in the past did not want to invite me to speak in their gatherings, because I was on Sean Hannity show, they did not even hear what I say on the show, but drew their own conclusions. The other day I posted a picture with Ayaan Hirsi Ali and got some nasty e-mails for being with her. I was surprised even Katrina Lantos of US Human Rights agency is perceived negatively. Once I defended Pamela Geller’s right to speak in London that produced a lot of hate mail. On the other hand, I have vigorously defended CAIR on Hannity and other shows, and the right did not like that either. ISNA is not quoted on Hannity any more as a co-conspirator, as Syeed bhai gave me the documents and I shared that with Hannity. Hannity has not bashed on the Quran for the last 4 or 5 years after I sat down with him and gave a copy of Muhammad Asad’s translation. There are several other concessions from Fox News – merely because I knew them. You may like this story of Hannity. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gd-mgSFziII
A month ago, I was standing with a man who wore a hateful T-shirt against LGBT community, a few people chewed me out for merely standing with him, and of course, and I speak out. A few months ago, I was with a Bicyclist who made from San Francisco to Washington defending the rights of the Unificationist church members who are being persecuted, I was called names for associating with the ministry of Rev. Sung Myung Moon, what do they know about him? Just a week ago, someone wrote ‘ugly’ emails for standing up for the rights of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
One of these days, if I live on, I will chronicle these incidents. Doesn’t laugh, every group has men and women who are sadly misinformed. There is one from every faith group from Atheist to Zoroastrians and everyone in between, and there is from every race and ethnicity as well. No one can cast the first stone, Jesus was right!
Some of us will always be searching (consciously and subconsciously) and working to free ourselves from malice and prejudice, indeed, it is liberating and brings genuine peace of mind.
We held symposiums about the Genocides around the world, as many as we can, the Indians were ticked off because we talked about Sikh Genocide and the Gujarat Massacre which happened in India, but the Pakistanis were happy about it. When we talked about the Bangladesh Genocides, the Indians were happy as it reflected badly on Pakistan, and when we talked about the harassment of Hindu minorities in Bangladesh, a few Muslims were ticked off, and when we talked about the plight of Kashmiri Pundits, there was no appreciation from a few Hindu friends Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had said, standing up for Justice is one of the most important values and the right thing to do, if you cannot stop it, the least you can do is speak up, the Prophet was right!
I have stood up with the Jewish community at three Synagogues, Jewish Post, Jewish Schools, and Holocaust Museum when Pastor Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church held his hateful rallies in Dallas, and within a few months I stood up with the people of Gaza in a rally in downtown Dallas. Was I against Jews or in support of Jews? Neither, I was there for the human rights of individuals regardless of who they were.
Do all Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and others act that way? Hell no! Only those who have not understood the value of human rights do. They have also not outgrown out of the selfishness they are obsessed with. While we talk about the Genocides of one, they scream out loud, what about me without even taking the time to see if they were included or not. Guru Gobind Singh, the Sikh Guru encouraged his men and women to treat the wounded enemies in a war, and if you recall Dr. Sanjay Gupta had treated an Iraqi combatant in the conflict.
We did a skit in one of the programs where the (actor) son screams ‘what about me and my problems?’ He continues to whine about being ignored…. Then the father (actor) walks up and slaps him and tells him, I did not teach you to be that selfish to the point of not seeing others’ difficulties and quit screaming about your own, quit the me-me-and-the-me attitude. Lord Krishna had said in Bhagavad Gita, finding the truth is your own responsibility, and the truth shall set you free. Krishna was right!
I played the son, and it was difficult for me to find anyone to play father or mother and slap the son on the stage. Americans just don’t do that, it is our culture. I talked to Rev. Petra Weldes, my sister in spirituality, she said, she would have loved to slap me. Petra, you will get that opportunity, LOL!
Our communities and the world would be a better place to live if we value our rights as humans first. Let’s look at each other as fellow beings, which we are, and not look down upon what they eat, drink, wear and believe or how they appear.
We have crystallized the definition of pluralism to mean, “Respecting the otherness of the others and accepting the uniqueness of each one of us”. Pluralism is nothing but an attitude of living and letting others live, and it is applicable in every aspect of life including culture, society, religion, politics, gender, food, ethnicity, race and other uniqueness.
You are who you are, and I am who I am. As long as we don’t mess with each other’s space, sustenance and nurturance, and mind our own business, we all will do well. If we can learn to respect the otherness of other and accept the God-given uniqueness of each one of the seven billion of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.
Every religion is beautiful and is committed to teach us all to learn to live with each other with least conflicts. A majority of the followers of each religion get that right, a few don’t. It is our responsibility to reach them out, allay their fears about others. The Torah says, don’t look down on strangers, for once we were strangers too, indeed Torah is right!
Pluralism is not a set of rules, it is simply the attitude of live and let live religiously, politically, culturally and socially. We are committed to building cohesive societies, where no human has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of a fellow being.
I am blessed to be a pluralist with zero bias towards my fellow humans, and urge you to read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. You do your part and let others do theirs. http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/
Please don’t judge me for who I am with, as I plan to be with every one of God’s creation.
Dr. Mike Ghouse is a community consultant, social scientist, thinker, writer, newsmaker, and a speaker on Pluralism, Interfaith, Islam, politics, terrorism, human rights, India, Israel-Palestine
foreign policy. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. Visit him in 63 links at www.MikeGhouse.net for his writings at TheGhousediary.com and several blogs listed therein.