Thursday, October 24, 2013
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Mirza A. Beg
April 3rd, 2008
Is never perfectly dark
The restful dark
Of deep slumber
Stray eerie light seeps in
From the streets of the
Smoldering day, from the
Tormented world beyond
Eyelids quiver with twilight
Of wakeful concerns of the day,
Of wars, real and imagined
Of inhumanity and lost friends
Inducing an amorphous ache
From myriad hazy sources
Flooding the heart and mind
And engulfing the soul
With countless Images
Of tortured bodies
Of hungry faces
Of loss and injustice
Of slings and arrows
Of lost opportunities
Of what could have been
Should have been, but is not
In the name of
And misused religion
In the deathly stillness
Of a body, dormant
The restless mind soars
To resonate with the spirit
Of possibilities of peace
Just and humane
Clear and concise
To capture lost opportunities
To mend the frayed fabric
And make shattered souls, whole
Slowly the sleep returns
To cloud the vision
Clarity dissolves in a mist
Leaving only a few kernels
Morning is melancholy
I stare at a blank page
Failing to capture that
Monday, January 23, 2012
From Sectarian to Multi-Religious Congregations
Mirza A. Beg
January 18, 2012
Indian Muslim Observer Jan. 23, 2012
The article “Surya Namaskar, Fatwa and Muslims “, by my friend Mike Ghause (printed below- http://www.indianmuslimobserver.com/2012/01/latest-editorial-surya-namaskar-and.html) brought to my attention a rather juvenile endeavor by the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Mr. Chauhan. He wants to congregate the largest assembly of worshipers, to garner a place in the Guinness book of world records, beating the record held by Kazakhstan. Mr. Chauhan has asked the schools to participate, perhaps because it is easy to assemble a large crowd by collecting obligated student.
Every one knows, certainly the Chief Minister of a state should know that a pluralistic society respects all religions equally. A call from the Chief Minister, the chief authority of the state with jurisdiction over the schools with multi-religious body of student is a form of coercion of students from other religions.
Apparently a respected Muslim Qadi (Legal Scholar) advised (Fatwa) that the bowing to any other entity except God is un-Islamic and the Muslim Students should abstain.
I substantially agree with Mike’s views in his article. I might add that the Indian democracy has come a long way, but has not matured enough. Often unnecessary small misunderstandings among different religious communities have been exploited by the sectarian interests to injure the cohesion of the communities. At times they deteriorate in riots and loss of innocent lives.
Press often unknowingly misconstrues the verbiage of religious leaders to mean what it does not. ‘Fatwa’ is one loaded word that evokes exaggerated sectarian passions. Unmitigated and ill-explained opinions even when right can sow unnecessary dissension.
As juvenile as the desire of the Chief Minister is to get into the Guinness book, it offers a teachable moment for our society particularly the youth. Some of the following is well known, but perhaps not fully understood in all its implications:
India is a Pluralistic Democratic Republic. It honors all creeds and their right to worship or not to worship. The government should not promote, impose or suppress any set of beliefs. Such a society works better when we as individuals also honor and respect the belief of others and try to understand them. And when religious scholars or jurists give their opinions on social issues they should be extremely careful in the nuances of their verbiage.
From my childhood my friends and I have worshiped in our own ways, but that did not stop us in participation in the religious festivals of others. It was that much more fun, it created deeper understanding of others and closer friendships.
I do not have Muslim, Hindu, Jain, Christian, Jewish, or friends with other prefixes, but have friends whom I value for who they are and for our unselfish bonds. They also happen to belong to many other religions and beliefs.
If he does hanker for a place in the Guinness book of world records, it would be a lot better if the Chief Minister Chauhan invites people of all religions to come together and offer prayers in their own traditions at the same place and the same time for the betterment and amity in the country and perhaps the world as Mike has suggested. What a grand spectacle and occasion of amity it would be. Guinness may even have to open another category for the Multi-religious congregation of worship.
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Friday, January 20, 2012
by IMO admin | January 20‚ 2012 at 2:55 PM
By Mike Ghouse
The Surya Namaskar is a Hindu religious tradition, a beautiful act of bowing to the Sun and welcoming the first rays of dawn as an expression of gratitude to the energy it breathes in to life and everything about life.
India is a pluralistic society, where we have come to respect every which way one worships one, none or many representations of God. Even among Hinduism we have an amazing diversity of people who express their gratitude from no to an iconic to an abstract manifestation of that elusive creator.
The Chief Minister of the State of Madhya Pradesh, Mr. Shivraj Singh Chouhan called on the schools and the public to join him in the Surya Namaskar to beat the Guinness world record set by the Kazakhs who currently hold the world record in mass prayers. The intent of performing this act with a million people was not for spiritual need, but to get on the Guinness Book of World Records; a crazy passion of Indians.
At least Shivraj Singh Chouhan did better than Rick Perry, the governor of Texas who invited the evangelist exclusively to pray for the nation’s well being in a certain way to exclude all other Americans including Christians of different denominations. Indeed he duped the evangelicals in buying their support for his bid to the Presidency.
The Times of India reported that the city’s Chief Muslim cleric Qazi Abul Kalam Qasmi said, "Parents should take a call on sending kids to school, if there is apprehension that the child may be forced." The newly appointed Qazi maintained that Suryanamaskar, which involved 'bowing before the sun', was against Islamic tenets. "If a Muslim performs the 'suryanamaskar' the child and his parents would both be accountable in the act of felony." Qasmi maintained.
Indeed, the Qazi is right; it is not an Islamic practice to bow to any manifestation of God, but the God himself the non-visible energy. Everyone should have the freedom to pray or not pray in certain way and no one should compel or look down for not participating. That is our pluralistic ethos for over 5000 years and we need to be loyal to that heritage.
An alternate way to look at the opinion of the Qazi would have been to participate in the group act, but do it in a way that works from an Islamic point of view. This would have meant that we are all in this together for a better India and better place to live cohesively. However, no one should expect everyone to jump and do what they do. It would have been a good example of working together without compromising our faith.
Prophet Muhammad had led mass Prayers for rain and famine and for other goodness of the society. Two years ago, I was planning on going to Florida and witness a pastor burn the Quraan, if he was indeed burning, I was going to pray my two Rakat (unit) Nafeel Muslim prayers next door to his Church in an open space with prior permission from the City. We all would have prayed for his well being along with several fellow Muslims. Burning Quraan was not an act of bravery but stupidity and countering it with anger would have been greater stupidity. Unfortunately he postponed his act and I had a 9/11 Unity Day event the next day in Dallas as well.
There are examples set by Prophet Muhammad for situations like this. While he was travelling to Taif, a few miscreants pelted rocks at him causing him to bleed, his associates wanted to go get the boys, but Prophet stopped them and instead asked them and the Angel Gabriel to join him in prayers and pray for their well being. This is what Jesus meant when he said, turn the other cheek.
Prophet Muhammad was the ultimate peace maker, every act of his is a model for us to learn from, and he was the consummate conflict mitigater and goodwill nurturer.
When we attend weddings, some of us are strictly vegetarian and some eat variations of meat products from fish and poultry to beef. We wear different clothing’s and drink a variety of sodas to coffee with cream or black and same goes with the tea. Do we have a problem with that? Then we should not have the problem with this either as long as the Chief Minister is not getting his wish at the cost of public funds.
The right wingers among us need to honor Muslims, Christians, Jains, Sikhs and Hindus for their choices and each minority should not take this as an imposition in a free society. Nor any one should be negative if one does not participate.
May Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s dreams to solidify his political stand come true and those who are opposed to him politically can also hold a Chandra Namaskar to get what they want, but together, let Madhya Pradesh go on the Guinness book of world records. Bengal or any other state has a choice to out do it as well.
[Mike Ghouse is committed to building cohesive societies where no Indian has to live in anxieties, discomfort or fear of the other. He is a frequent guest at the TV, radio and print media offering pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. His work is indexed at www.MikeGhouse.net and his current articles at www.TheGhousediary.com. Mike Ghouse is now associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Foreign Editor. He can be contacted at MikeGhouse@aol.com]
Friday, August 26, 2011
Rooting-out Corruption is Good, but
Parallel Government is Injurious to Democracy
Mirza A. Beg
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Indian Express, Delhi, August 26, 2011
Milli Gazette, Delhi, August25, 2011
Anna Hazare has captured the imagination of the Indian body politic. His clarion-call to end the exponentially growing, endemic corruption in India has been reverberating and gathering supporters with each passing day. The news media in India has become his megaphone.
The corruption has been increasing over the decades in magnitude as well as pervasiveness. The developing economy, increasing disposable income of the middle class and much larger workforce provide more opportunities for bribes. At the top levels of the government the bribes have grown from thousands to tens of millions of Rupees.
On my visits to India, I enjoy asking probing social and political questions in conversations with a wide spectrum of very friendly and talkative fellow travelers. Everyone is against corruption as a simple nebulous principle. But the answers get clouded and muddled when it benefits their lives.
The Indian Government finally realized that the evil of corruption has reached the tipping point and drafted a legislation to create an independent office of Lokpal (ombudsmen) to watch over various agencies with independent, but limited authority. It would have the power to investigate. Based on evidence, it would recommend and direct the judicial system to take action. Obviously it would take time for such a system to mature and work. Unfortunately the judicial system is not beyond corruption either.
The office of Lokpal would be similar to the office of the Election Commissioner, which has worked rather well, notwithstanding all the ills of the society. Indian elections are by and large fair and have successfully changed the government many times.
Yet the corruption at all levels including the legislature has grown, because the most important driving force for voting for a candidate is not honesty, but sectarianism – a substantial majority votes based on religion, cast and regional advantages. Political parties put up candidates based on these considerations. Once elected, they distribute economic largess as well as jobs and contracts to their most important supporters and casts in their constituency. Ironically, it is not considered corruption by a large majority of the populace.
Anna Hazare and his companions proposed a much stronger and aggressive office of the Lokpal (ombudsman). They insist that all the branches of the government would be under its authority including the Prime Minister. It would have independent police and judicial powers. In effect, it would be akin to a parallel unelected government, and would have minimal check on its authority.
When aroused, people like simple and fast remedies. Anna Hazare’s remedy of cut ting the Gordian knot in one strike is simplistic and very appealing. To force his ideas on the government, he first threatened and then took up a fast unto death. It sounds enticing, especially coming from a person who has put his life on the line and has a long record of service to the poor and personal honesty.
Taking advantage of the situation, all sorts of people have jumped on his band wagon for their own purposes, while many opposed to him have unearthed records, where he appears to have supported unsavory ideas and people. Many in the minority community want to join him but are weary of some of the Anna’s unsavory backers. No one is perfect, and he has some explaining to do.
I applaud his taking a stand and galvanizing the placid electorate to demand reform. One needs to look at it not from sectarian perspective, but a long range national perspective. Means and ends should be carefully considered. They do matter. Democracy is not easy to nurture. A system that changes with the changing wind of public opinion does not last very long. An unaccountable parallel government is an idea fraught with danger. Impetuously designed laws with the best of intentions have unintended consequences. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
That is why most stable democracies have a bicameral legislature, so that a part of the legislature, called the upper house or senate --is protected from the immediacy of the impetuous public emotions.
Democracy by its very nature is inefficient. The system of checks and balances is an impediment to quick solutions of long festering social problems. Simplistic and draconian solutions against an evil are easy to understand and support. Anna Hazare has projected himself as a leader in the Gandhian tradition. But there is a difference.
Gandhi Ji agitated and fasted to give voice to the people, against an unelected imperial colonial government. Hazare is holding hostage, a legitimately elected government of the people. With his popularity growing by the day, the government is being held on ransom with a false choice of Hazare’s bill or widespread chaos.
In a democracy, the government is only as good as the people vote for. If the electorate really wanted honesty and integrity, they could have voted for them as beacons. But they did not, they vote for personal aggrandizement on the basis of cast etc. Impetuous quick solutions often bring unintended consequences. Thoughtful people should take time to bring in change without injuring the constitution and the essence of democracy. The start has been made to check corruption. Anna Hazare should compromise to get a good bill instead of throwing the country in to chaos.
Monday, July 11, 2011
Republican Debate - Stealth Agenda of Gingrich and Cain
Mirza A. Beg
Saturday, June 20, 2011
Counter Currents June 23, 2011
Media Monitor Network, June 23, 2011
Tuscaloosa News, Sunday, June 26, 2011
OEN OpEdNews.com, June 28, 2011
The Republican debate of June 13th moderated by John King of CNN was generally a collegial affair. It was essentially a “Knock Obama” rally, with understated minor differences among the candidates.
Except, when CNN moderator John King asked former Godfather Pizza magnate, Harman Cain, “You recently said you would not appoint a Muslim to your cabinet and you kind of backed off a little bit and said you would first want to know if they’re committed to the Constitution. You expressed concern that, quote, “a lot of Muslims are not totally dedicated to this country.” Are American-Muslims as a group less committed to the Constitution than, say, Christians or Jews?”
Cain backpedaled a bit and said,” I would not be comfortable because you have peaceful Muslims and then you have militant Muslims, those that are trying to kill us. And so, when I said I wouldn’t be comfortable, I was thinking about the ones that are trying to kill us, number one. Secondly, yes, I do not believe in Sharia law in American courts. I believe in American laws in American courts, period. There have been instances –“
John King turned to other candidates and asked their views on the subject. Some candidates were uncomfortable, but not former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.
Trying to resuscitate his dying campaign, stridently he said, “Now, I just want to go out on a limb here. I’m in favor of saying to people, if you’re not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration, period.” He added “We did this—we did this in dealing with the Nazis and we did this in dealing with the communists. And it was controversial both times, and both times we discovered after a while, you know, there are some genuinely bad people who would like to infiltrate our country. And we have got to have the guts to stand up and say no.”
For those who do not know, Gingrich was approvingly referring to the Red baiting campaign of early 1950s by the Republican senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin and his cohorts. It has been widely condemned as the most shameful period in modern US history. It lives in infamy as McCarthyism. As Gingrich says, there were “some genuinely bad people”- but it is opposite of the way he construes. The bad people were, Senator McCarthy and his minions, who maligned and tried to destroy decent Americans by innuendos, as Gingrich does.
Yes, a few Muslim citizens have engaged in terrorism against the US, but an overwhelming majority of Muslims are productive and loyal citizens. It is no secret that Muslim bashing is popular among some in the Republican Party. They conveniently forget that some of the plots were thwarted by Muslims contacting the police.
Sadly not one candidate on the podium admonished Cain and Gingrich, as they would have, if such a sweeping statement was made to malign other minorities such as Jews or Blacks. Even sadder yet, it did not elicit much comment in the popular media either.
Not too long ago some Republicans did stand up to challenge such remarks, but the party has changed.
In 2007 Republican debates, while others remained quiet, John McCain condemned Mitt Romney’s remark that he will not appoint any Muslim to his cabinet. McCain said, “I’m proud of the Muslims who are currently serving in the United States armed forces and my sense is that if they can serve in that manner, they can serve in any position of responsibility in America.”
In December 2002, an intemperate remark by Senator Trent Lott cost him the leadership of the Republican Party in the Senate. Celebrating the 100th birthday of South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, Senator Trent Lott, the Republican leader in the Senate said, “When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years, either.”
Those remarks were construed as racist, because in 1948 Strom Thurmond broke with the Democratic Party on the issue of enforcement of civil rights legislation and ran for the Presidency as a State’s Rights Party candidate.
The US Constitution is secular. Thankfully our laws are not based on religious preference. Although when not in conflict with the civil laws, in some jurisdictions it has accommodated people, who by mutual agreement wanted their personal disputes settled by arbitration by religious tribunal. Courts have enforced the result of such arbitration in case of Jewish, Mormon and other religions as in contract law.
The spurious injection of Sharia in the debate is a “Red Herring” to divert attention and garner cheap popularity from the considerable weight of the xenophobic wing of the Republican Party. There is no monolithic Sharia law. These laws were developed by different schools of thoughts in the 9th century to check the creeping autocracy of the rulers. They are open to debate, and have evolved on diverse lines through the ages.
The irony is that most rightwing Republicans are opposed to the idea of separation of “Church and State” notwithstanding the first amendment. That is why Rev. Pat Robertson found so much traction in the Republican primaries in the 1980s. Rev. Charles Kimball writes in his book, “When Religion Becomes Lethal “ that Ralph Reed, the head of the Christian Coalition, famously referred to the practice of running “stealth candidates” where the radical agenda would be hidden from voters by focusing on hot button issues such as abortion or homosexuality. By the time the voters knew what victorious candidate really advocated, they would not know what hit them.
Some of the 2012 Republican aspirants are not much different. Some want the United States to be under the Biblical laws, while others in an effort to dupe them are stealthily raising a bogus threat from the Sharia laws. To protect all, multi-religious as well as irreligious citizens, would it not be better to, honestly adhere to the principle of “Separation of Church and State”, no lying, no ifs and no buts?
Instead of the loyalty test for ordinary law abiding citizens of any faith or no faith, the electorate should reject stealth candidates whose support for the US Constitution is dubious. If elected they would have to take the oath of office with fingers crossed.