Speech on India’s Pluralistic values
I hope to deliver a full-blown speech on India’s pluralistic ethos. Parts of it have been delivered in different places.
- Pluralism defined
- Pluralism is Islam (Ref: Quran & Hadith)
- Hinduism’s Vasudhaiva Kutumbukum
- Religious Freedom Prosperity of Nations – Sone ki Chidiya
- Integrated societies
- Rebranding India
- The obligation of Indian Americans
- Standing up for others
- Hindutva is not Hinduism
- Pledge of Allegiance
Pluralism is the development of an attitude of respecting the otherness of the other. You are who you are, and I am who I am.
God has created each one of us to be unique with our thumbprint, eye print, DNA, taste buds. God in the Quran says, had I wanted to create every one alike, I could have done that. But I chose to create humanity into different tribes, communities, nations, races, and by extension belief systems.
He created everything in perfect balance and harmony – look at the universe, the planets, all function precisely as they are programmed (Quran 55:5-11). However, he endowed us with free will for us to create our social harmony.
Pluralism in Islam
God could have made all of us alike, one single race, religion, or a community, but he chose to create us into different races, nations, tribes, and extensions beliefs. (Quran 16:93, 49:13). He knew such uniqueness would create conflicts, and he offered guidance on how to conduct a civil dialogue between different people.
Each one of the six verses of the Sura Kafirun puts two opposite people on the same plane and equal footing. Not once it suggests that the other is inferior or deficient than yours. Finally, it says, to you is your faith, and to me, is my faith.
However, I must warn my fellow humans to be aware of the mistranslations of the Quran. When Muslims read the Quran, they rarely get into the translations, but when non-Muslims read, interpretation or translation becomes the only source of understanding it.
If you are a Christian, Jew, or Hindu, and if you are offended, then you are looking at the foul translation. Indeed, I was offended, too, but in-depth research led me to see the truth. Quran is a book of guidance for all humanity and not exclusively for Muslims. There are 55 translations available in the market, and two are out of line.
God assures every human (yes, every human) that if you serve his creation, that is fellow humans, he will take care of you. Quran 2:62, 5:69, 22:17, and several other verses.
If you are a business owner, all that you want is your employees to protect your business, its income and resources, keep the losses to a minimum. You certainly wish to a harmonious working environment, so your business thrives, and everyone feels secure and productive.
God is no different; he created everything in harmony and expected us to care for everything he has created without exception. That is all God’s will. It does no matter what religions you follow, and he will reward you for taking care of his world.
One of the best examples of Pluralism is the actions of the Prophet. After the conclusion of the Hudaybiyyah peace treaty, Suhayl ibn Amar objected to the names of signatories, he did not agree that Muhammad was the Prophet. Imagine what the response of Hazrat Umar and Hazrat Ali would have been, but the Prophet understood the issue and had his name rewritten as Muhammad, the son of Abdullah. That is respecting the otherness of the other — full story in the book American Muslim Agenda.
God’s wisdom appears everywhere on the earth and in every community. Indeed, Hinduism’s Vasudhaiva Kutumbukum is identical to the Quran’s words that we are all one family born out of Adam and Eve.
Religious Freedom and the Prosperity of Nations
India has a beautiful record of religious freedom, the kings in the first century onwards welcomed everyone, The Jews and Christians, Muslims and Zoroastrians. They all have flourished along with the majority of Hindus. Once again, India holds the record to be the first land among the nations to have so many religions in one place.
That tradition of religious freedom continued during the Moguls; they did not interfere in the spiritual practices of any faith. Indeed, the great King Akbar had many of the Hindu scriptures translated into other languages giving it a boost to the knowledge contained in the Vedas. Puranas and the epics poems of Bhagavad Gita and Ramayana. From times in memorial, India has contributed towards science, mathematics, medicine and the richness of the world.
The Moguls were native sons of the soil, born and raised in India and took the nation to the new heights of economic development and fostering integration and encouraging interfaith dialogue. During their rule, India had reached its peak in economic and cultural achievements, and it became the world’s largest economy producing 25% of the world’s GDP. India was rightfully called the sonay ki chidiya, the Golden bird during their times.
They also brought most of the smaller kingdoms into one vast nation and had cultivated a strong, stable, and a cohesive India. India was once again one nation.
The Europeans were way behind and started eyeing on India’s wealth. They were not born in India, nor they chose to stay in India and develop the nation. Their focus was robbing the nation’s resources and shipping back to their kingdoms. For the first time, in India’s history, the nation’s wealth and supplies were transferred out of India and continued for the 200 years under their rule.
Innumerable studies have proved that the nations that have the most religious freedom are the most prosperous ones. The United States is a shining example of sustainable prosperity through the practice of freedom (Ref: Can Modi save India listed below).
We believe that every human aspires to live in a cohesive society where he or she feels secure about his/her faith, ethnicity, race, culture, and uniqueness. Everyone should be able to eat, drink, wear, and believe whatever suits him to live his life in the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. That is the hallmark of all civilized nations. When people are free from tensions, they focus on building society.
The prosperity of a nation hinges on religious freedom. India’s success is attributable to its history of religious freedom and social integration. The Hindu Kings had Muslim Generals (The Wadiyar’s and Shivaji), and the Muslim Kings Army chiefs and Chief advisors were Hindus (Akbar, Tipu Sultan). They were secure people.
Muslim poets wrote some of the best bhajans, composed by and sung by Muslims. Likewise, some of the best explanations of Islam came from Hindus, Sikhs, and others. The Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs were secure in their faith and had no hesitation in appreciating ‘the otherness of the other.’ Unfortunately, today, they are afraid of praising the otherness of the other, as if praising them is a betrayal to their faith. How insecure!
A few Hindus are scared to tell Salaam or Eid Mubarak, and a few Muslims won’t say Happy Janmashtami as if they become Muslims or Hindus by saying that.
For nearly half a century, the songs Indians sung everywhere were that of Saigal, Rafi, Mukesh, Talat, Kishore, Suraiya, Lata, Noor Jehan, Asha, and so many others. All of us were their fans, and they were not Muslims or Hindus for us, they were our beloved singers.
Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Rajesh Khanna, Shahrukh, Aamir, and others have been our heroes. Until recently, we did not think of them as Hindus or Muslims. Even in sports, Tendulkar, Pataudi, and others were our favorites, and no one gave them a religious tone. What’s happened to us now? We need to feel secure again and drop the communality out of our minds.
Interfaith Marriages have been there for nearly a thousand years. Akbar the great married a Hindu woman Jodha Bai, Sunil Dutt married Nargis, Shahrukh and Aamir Khan have also married Hindu women. We never had a problem with that, because both the Muslims and Hindus felt secure about their faiths. And we did not have fanatic Hindus and fanatic Muslims who placed wedges.
The Pluralism I teach, preach, breath, and live is a gift of India, and I am committed to gift America and the world.
I hope we the people, clean our acts when it comes to the Dalits and the untouchables. They have been mistreated for thousands of years, and it is the one thing about India that should embarrass us. We must do the right thing for our fellow Indians and live without guilt.
It is embarrassing to have experienced and know about it firsthand. The constitution fixed that problem legally in 1950, but the practice has not died down yet. I hope it pains you too.
The British Raj had screwed our pluralistic ethos. To keep my talk short, I will give the outline, and I expect you to know our history. They did everything to divide and rule and succeeded in making fools out of us. The key milestones of such schemes were evident in the 1857 war of independence, 1871 census and the partition blood bath.
Thanks to Mahatma Gandhi for his efforts to restore India to its instincts of Pluralism. He carefully crafted brand India as the land of Ahimsa, which is non-violence and equality of humanity. Dr. Ambedkar enshrined India’s constitution by incorporating the secular ideals of Pandit Nehru, Unified India’s vision of Sardar Patel and the pluralistic vision of Maulana Azad.
Thanks to the founding fathers for their vision. Every Indian is proud of India’s constitution, modeled after American values of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Indeed, India’s law may be the first of its kind in the modern world, where each religion was fully respected and accepted as part of the whole. Thus, a pluralistic constitution.
The obligation of Indian Americans
We have an obligation to the land that gave birth and nurtured us. The air, water, and the food from that land run in our veins, and we care about her. Of course, that sentiment is in all of us who were born and raised on the Indian soil.
All of us who were born and raised on the Indian soil, feel a sense of obligation to do something to fellow Indians. Indeed, that is the reason why AFMI is working so hard to uplift the Indians in general. If you uplift one community, you are uplifting the whole nation together.
I could not resist sharing this song that expresses our desires to contribute to India’s wellbeing.
इस धरती पे जिसने जनम लिया
उसने ही पाया प्यार तेरा
यहाँ अपना पराया कोइ नहीं
है सब पे माँ, उपकार तेरा
मेरे देश की धरती…
At this point in history, India is treading on a dangerous path, and we must be aware of the consequences and offer solutions.
Patriotism requires us to be critical of the government and keep them on their feet to prevent them from making disastrous mistakes. Those who choose to kiss, and equate the politicians to God are making a severe mistake and letting the nation go down the spiral. We don’t have to demean ourselves to be the Chamchas (sycophant) of the government, current or any government.
We must stand up for the others.
If we don’t stand up for others, why should anyone stand up for us? We need to stand up for the rights of every Indian, regardless of his or her faith.
We are all one large family irrespective of what we eat, drink, wear, or believe. We must stand up for the rights of all Indians.
The right education.
I cannot live in peace if I frighten others. If we want to build a prosperous India, we need to remove any apprehensions. None of us is an ugly rakshas.
We should quit poisoning our children against each other, and it will screw up their lives when they grow up. We need to focus on giving our children the right education. I am sure my contemporaries, born after Independence, have gone through the same knowledge. In my 6th standard social studies book, in my public Urdu school, I learned about Buddhism, Hinduism, Christians, Islam, Jainism, Sikhism and Judaism – and a page about Buddha, Mahavir, Jesus, Guru Nanak, Prophet Muhammad, and Moses. Did you grow up with similar studies?
Imagine a boy raised in a Madrasa, Muslim, or RSS. He will never say Ramazan Mubarak or Happy Janmashtami to each other as if he will become a Muslim or Hindu by wishing the other. These attitudes are destructive to India’s long term prosperity and security. The man was never taught to be inclusive.
Do you blame Modi or his schooling? Modi could not wish Eid Mubarak to Muslims until someone told him to, of course, inclusion is not in his blood.
Do you blame Modi for not wearing a Muslim cap while he wore every possible headgear on this campaign trail?
Modi did not have any empathy or sympathy when six-year-old Asifa was gang-raped, mutilated, and killed until the whole nation stood up against such ugliness.
Modi had no compassion for Dalit women when they were humiliated or when they are beaten up for acting equals.
He has never experienced how a woman feels if she is abandoned and does not even get financial support. He is trying to do the same for Muslim women when he puts the man in jail for divorcing his wife on the spot.
We have to seriously think about our education system of teaching and practicing the values of Vasudhaiva Kutumbukum. Should we poison our children and let them burn with hatred for the other forever? It will screw up India’s prosperity.
Mr. Modi unilaterally abolished article 370 of the constitution without the consent of the people, without even a due process. I can understand the extremists who are rejoicing this mayhem but can never Imagine the Indian Americans be supporting this without the consent of the governed. No American should support this. We respect the permission of the people, and we don’t thrust and push our ideas on the unwilling.
“What the all-powerful forces seem to ignore is the inalienable truth that the Indian Muslim’s destiny is inextricably tied to that of the country: Both will rise or fall together.” Indian Express.
Hindutva is not Hinduism.
No matter what the extremists do, lynch, harass, rape or beat up, please do not call them Hindu Terrorists. It is very offensive to the overwhelming majority of Hindus, who are full human beings and stand up for righteousness.
As a Muslim, I am offended as well. I have relentlessly fought against the phrases Islamic Terrorism and Muslim Terrorists, as they were offensive to me. These phrases are not only offensive; they are downright stupid; let me explain why.
Even though the word Hindutva has Hindu in its name, it is not Hinduism from any stretch of the imagination. Hindutva is a ruthless political movement like Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Nazi, right-wing Zionism (not Zionism), Neocons, and others. They believe they are superior to others, and all others are inferior to them. Same as Nazism.
You can punish the Individual, and restore justice in the society. Whereas you cannot kill, hang, bury, or shoot the religion as it is intangible, and it amounts to barking in the dark.
Please don’t blame religion, any religion, for that matter. Blame the individuals and punish them. That will restore trust in society, blaming religion is like a mad dog barking in the dark with no results. You can punish an individual but not the faith, and it is intangible. You can beat, kick, shoot, hang or bury the religion, then why bark at it?
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
Patriotism is uplifting hopes of the people and creating an environment of peace and harmony for them. Patriotism is not fighting wars and killing each other. We should never elect a leader who does not have a plan for peace and prosperity.
Every public office holder from the Peon to the President of India and everyone in-between must consider taking this pledge and live by it. The violation should disqualify him or her from holding the public office.
- I pledge allegiance to India, a unified nation that stands for liberty and justice for all.
- I pledge that I honor and treat every Indian with “full” dignity.
- I pledge that all Indians would be treated as equals.
- I pledge that I will treat all religions with equal respect, equal access, and fair treatment.
- I pledge that I will oppose any act that treats any Indian less than myself.
- I Pledge that I will work for an India, where every individual can live with security and aspire for prosperity.
- I pledge that I will protect, preserve and value every inch of India and every human soul in India
Dr. Mike Ghouse [Washington DC, Founder, Center for Pluralism; Author, American Muslim Agenda] Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a speaker, thinker, author, newsmaker and interfaith wedding officiant. He had dedicated his life to promoting the ideals of Pluralism in religion, politics, society, culture, and race. More at www.CenterforPluralism.com