Is it worth talking with the radicals and the extremists?
Should members of the Muslim community engage extremists and radicals in public discussions?
By Mike Ghouse
Each one of us thinks differently. We have a choice to ‘stay away from each other’ and let the ill-will, suspicion and doubts simmer to become unmanageable. I hope if you take the time to ‘study’ the three videos and the notes below, you will change your mind about using the phrases like “right wing” “Red necks” and other epithets. These are bad choice of words to describe fellow humans who react differently to situations.
Last week, I posted this video from a Fox News debate with Sean Hannity and Brigitte Gabriele on face book in two different places, and got shot down by my friends saying it is a waste of time to deal with the hard wired, without realizing they were as prejudiced as the ones they were accusing of.
In the above video, if you had the time to ‘listen’ (not hear but listen) to what Brigitte Gabriel said. No doubt she sounds hateful and gives her own convoluted reasons. If Muslims (her perceptions) did not do certain things this would not happen. I hope you see a room for a dialogue there…. Next time you tend to discount someone, please make an effort to listen to them. What sounds like a condemnation may be an actual invitation to clarify concerns? Will she change her mind? Of course she will as long as it is not to your advantage but for common goodness. She is human and will take a lot of “seeing the facts” for her, and it is worth the effort.
She had invited me to speak at her San Antonio chapter of ACT, there again, there were several who came up and said they did not know Islam teaches peace and non-violence. It was one against all others, I did not see it that way, I saw that they wanted to hear another point of view, and thank God I was one of the two Muslims who went to speak, others Muslims had rejected.
We should not expect people to change just because we speak, but am glad at least they wanted to hear. Quran often reminds us to honor free will as the overriding value of God’s creation.
Prophet Muhammad during a meditative mood thought it aloud. Lord, I am frustrated, the message of oneness is not received by enough people, what should I to do? God responds, “Muhammad, don’t give up teaching the values of oneness of God and accountability of one’s actions, do your duty, let me be the one to give them guidance to receive.” Please note these were not the exact words from Quran or the prophet, but it is the meaning found in many verses including these two; 10:99 and 28:56 referred to in Muhammad Asad’s translation.
It is difficult for a few Muslims or people in any group to understand that we have to talk with the ones who are opposed to us, malign us and tear us apart. Mother Teresa has the perfect advice for those few, “If you want to make peace with your enemies, go talk with them.” Talking and gossiping among friends won’t change a thing, but talking with the ones who want to tear you down, does creates a chance. I have seen the results time and again.
It is not a waste of time, people are getting the message.
As I was walking out of the terminal in the Los Angeles Airport, someone tapped on my shoulder, I looked back – the guy said he was a surgeon in Los Angeles and my fan, and I was plain flabbergasted. He said, he and his friends have discussed about my presence on Hannity and said, “You break their narrative.” Before you came on the scene, we took what was given to us as the gospel truth, but when you started to butt in and challenge Hannity; we realized that there is another point of view. Even though you don’t get to say all your points, the fact that you challenge him has made us look for more. We must give him the credit for giving your website address and we read your full points. He moved on by saying, keep up the good work.
This happens frequently in the planes, airports and this week at CPAC. I really wish the progressive attend the conservative meetings and Vice-Versa to have hopes that we can talk with each other.
I continue to believe that we need to listen to people without prejudice; the so called right wing people express their thoughts in a way that frightens many.
You will not believe the following video, what you see is that conservatives are screaming out loud for reassurance, that we are all in this together and together against extremism. When we have one voice, see what they do. Here is Stuart Varney about our work.
It is a grave mistake to write off others as bad people, at the end we all lose. Listen to the videos again, there is so much to learn, they tell us what it takes, and that is a good beginning. I would rather spend time with them, even if I don’t get anywhere with them. Remember it is not a business to have measurable returns for your time; it is a service with nothing to be expected but serve.
My late wife used to command me frequently, “Why waste your time for the community, no one would appreciate it, put in the same hours in your consulting business and bring more money, at least I will appreciate it and we can take more vacations.”
My passion for Pluralism (religious, political, cultural, civic and societal) runs deep, and has led me to devote the rest of my life to this purpose. As you may know, with my qualifications I can make substantial money, as so many do and wither away, but I want to live a purposeful life by bringing a sense of security to every American, where all of us drop our guards and live a tension-free life. If we follow our calling; there is peace and joy in it.
No one will point a single finger at me, if I did nothing.
Dealing with Brigitte Gabrielle, Pamela Geller and their likes does make sense. There are those like the guy in the Airport, and there are those who call me names. I even get death threats. I receive a lot of emails and by the way 16 Million people have visited my Google profile and 20 Million have visited my website. Someone is listening some place, what God said to Muhammad was also said by Krishna to Arjuna, do your duty and let God decide to give the fruit. I am at peace.
Jesus’s wisdom is powerful – don’t condemn the sinners, you have zero chance of redeeming them. If you condemn the sin, in this case what their talk does to create apprehension, you have at least 0.01 % chance of redeeming them. I would invest my time in redemption than condemnation.
Here is another video about Hannity – I strongly believe dialogue is critical to bring a change. We can have meetings all day long, but talking with friends creates fewer chances for change than talking with those who are opposed.
Take a look https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gd-mgSFziII
I wrote this piece because I was attacked by a few major Muslim organizations for going on Hannity, they did not see what can be done by positive engagement. God willing, I am seeking a few friends to fund the Center for Pluralism, and I hope to train enough people to start the dialogues and bring about the change we need to.
I urge you not to run from the ones who appear to eat you alive, talk to them, and if you want to get somewhere with them, have patience.
God bless us all, we are one nation, if we can learnt to respect the otherness of others and accept the God given uniqueness of each one of us, then conflicts fade and solutions emerge.
Mike Ghouse and the Center for Pluralism are committed to building a cohesive America.
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