Sunday, January 24, 2016

Town Hall Meeting about Terrorism and Foreign Policy

 Mike Ghouse’ Townhall meeting |

Saturday, January 9, 2017, Dallas, TX – “War on Terror is the dumbest idea ever floated” was the title of my talk, and I spoke at two places; one was a private gathering, and the other was a group from College of Complexes at Roma Pizza Place on Greenville Avenue.

Here is a full video - including Q&A -

About 60 people attended the event at Roma Pizza Place; this was my 3rd time speaking with this group represented by diverse American political values. There were conservatives, liberals and moderates; Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and Independents, and a whole range in between. I love this group, as rarely do I speak to such political diversity and walk out learning as much as sharing my views.

Three out of sixty were ethnically and racially different – there was me, and a Black Gentleman, and the third one was of either Hispanic or Native America Origin and is running as a libertarian against Republican Congressman Kenny Marchant, whom I have voted twice.

I've been doing these town hall meetings for a while, it is good to be a moderate and have the ability to see different points of view without prejudice. I ask them “ Don’t go home regretting that you should have asked that lingering question, I will welcome any tough question, we are here to place everything on the table, be sincere with our expressions and deal with the issues honestly. You cannot upset me with any question. ” I encourage frank talks and people do open up to me, and hats off to them for dialogue in the most civic manner possible.

Let me take a detour with my background – in the late eighties, I was tuned into David Gold, the talk show host on AM 570 in Dallas, who was so venomous towards Palestinians and Arabs and made a hill out of every mole. They would not take my calls; they would screen the calls and would not take any one who was opposed to him.  Lo and behold, years later David became my tenant, and I had a conversation with him. His income went up with the ratings, and ratings went up with rants and antics, why would he want to dilute his show with facts?  He inspired me to go get my own Radio show in 1996, on AM 1150 which I ran for 5 years – I made sure both sides of the issue were addressed equally and fairly and no opinion was screened out.

I am looking to get going again in Washington DC with a talk show hour, and I am looking for volunteer research assistants to fact check on Limbaugh and his likes, we still have some talk hosts who will not put opposing views, and we will challenge them to facts. Americans deserve to see two sides of the coin, and not bamboozled by one or the other.  I am a moderate,  and there aren’t any moderate shows out there, although a majority of Americans are moderates.

I asked my audience to lay it out and they do. However, it puts a huge responsibility on our shoulders to repair the world, it was not easy to hear fabricated stuff and the propaganda that some of my fellow Americans have bought into, but what can we do, for that is all they know.  I was not surprised to hear Trump justifiers. We have a lot of work to do.

Town hall meetings are true research material, honest people will tell us honestly what they think about the issue, in this case Muslims.  

There were several rational and good voices in the meeting, some of them who spoke well for Muslims had one thing in common- I.e., each one of them cited examples of good Muslim interactions-- I was particularly buoyed because, one lady said,  had it not been for the medical treatment she got from the Islamic center of Richardson,  she would not have been alive, and that center was set up and established by my late wife Najma and Dr. Amer Shakil, God bless her and may give the strength to Muslims to do more of this.

The second one was the guy who had attended Texas Muslim Barbeque in Cowboys stadium headed by late Dr. Lalani, and the first few meetings for that big event were held in my house, I was one of the three initiators of it besides Ambassador Ahsani. It is so good to hear its lasting effects almost after a decade. This meeting has pumped me up with the initiatives they I've proposed over the years. 

I have responded to some 15 questions, and then about 10 of them shared their 2 minutes  comment, did not get a chance to address them all, but concluded the meeting with a commitment to address them soon. 

The full video will be out in 15 days; instead of negatively reacting to those comments,   we have to think, what is that we need to do to fix the problems. 

These meetings are helpful in learning about each other, what our problems are, and how we solve them. 

We have to become Amins of the society. Praise the lord, many a Hindus Jews, Christians and others consider me as an Amin; the foundation for building cohesive societies.  Amin is some one who tells it like it is, the truth, is trustworthy and around whom people feel secure.

There were several questions and comments - I have made some note and hope to repond to them this week, right here as an update of this note.

A few more pictures

Dealing with Terrorism, the Islamic way

Dr. Mike Ghouse, community consultant, social scientist, thinker, writer, news maker, and a speaker on Pluralism, Interfaith, Islam, politics, human rights, India, Israel-Palestine and foreign policy. He is deeply committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day; he will discuss how the Bush and Obama methods of handling terrorism have not worked, where the first method created more terrorism and the second one has not mitigated it.  

Also, as a moderate Muslim, Mike will discuss the Islamic way of handling terrorism, to wit:  “Mr. Baghdadi, you have three days to stop killing innocent people and destroying Allah’s creation, life and environment.  If you do not heed the warning, we will hunt you down an ambush wherever you hide.  If not, we will gas you, a few square miles at a time, not to hurt you, but to capture and put you on trial and ask you to give up the false claims you are making about your religion.   Soldiers from around the world will be on the front line against you.”  He argues that blaming the religion is the dumbest thing to do, because we cannot beat, kick, hack, shoot, hang, kill or bury a religion, it’s an intangible thing!   

Mike concludes that we can blame the individuals and restore trust and harmony back for the society to function peacefully and cohesively. See also 


Using cool heads against terror

This is indeed a good piece, my piece which is similar was published at Arab News as well 

Mike Ghouse

 Using cool heads against terror

After long years of reading from the hymn sheet provided by its hosts, sense finally seems to have dawned on the United Nations. The world body has apparently concluded that it is insanity, in the words of Einstein, to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.  
Addressing the UN General Assembly last Friday, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon did not beat about the proverbial bush as he unveiled a blueprint to tackle the challenge of extremism.
The UN chief was unusually honest in his counsel to those busy fighting the ever widening war on terror: “We all lose by responding to ruthless terror with mindless policy – policies that turn people against each another, alienate already marginalised groups, and play into the hands of the enemy. We need cool heads and common sense. We must never be ruled by fear – or provoked by those who strive to exploit it. Countering violent extremism should not be counter-productive.”
Cool heads and common sense? That’s the last thing anyone in the coalition of the willing wants to hear right now as it fights ‘Islamist terror’, forever shifting goal posts in the crusade against imagined enemies.
Has anyone noticed that for the first time since the end of the last Great War, the two superpowers, United States and Russia, and their numerous gofers all find themselves on the same side of the fence as they purportedly take on the monster called Isis or Daesh.
Indeed, it is interesting that the usually voluble Washington did not make even perfunctory noises when the Russian bear barged into what has traditionally been Uncle Sam’s turf.  
In his last State of the Union address, President Obama trashed the talk of an imminent World War III between the West and Islam, accusing clowns like Trump of playing into the hands of Isis.  The first black president of the most powerful white, Western nation may not see it as such but many in the West already seem to have concluded that this is indeed a civilisational battle for survival.  In fact, Pope Francis already sees the Middle East conflict as World War III.
Whether one likes it or not, after long years of Western wars and the violent extremism of groups like Isis that they have spawned, this has indeed acquired the proportions of a civilisational clash, something that neocon pundits like Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington have long dreamed about.
Meanwhile, a Pakistani columnist of a popular Urdu newspaper thoughtfully pointed out that with the involvement of the US, Russia, UK, France, Germany and other members of Nato in the Middle East’s theatre of war, nearly all major schools of thought representing Christianity – from the Catholic church and Church of England to the Russian Orthodox church – are waging wars in Muslim lands or fighting forces that claim to speak on behalf of the believers.
Hardly surprising then, notwithstanding the anger and revulsion that the Isis tactics and its claim to represent the Muslims evoke everywhere, it continues to attract the young and restless from around the world. 
On the other hand, after all these futile wars and years of carnage and destruction that have left millions dead and homeless in the region, not to mention the mindless destruction of historically rich countries like Iraq, Syria and Libya, there is still no sign of a willingness to confront or even acknowledge the sources and drivers of this conflict.
Indeed, a few weeks ago the New York Times reported that the US is considering a Pentagon proposal to set up a string of military bases in the Middle East, Southwest Asia and Africa which could be used, “for collecting intelligence and carrying out strikes” against Isis’ many affiliates across those regions.
The bases would serve as hubs for Special Operations troops and intelligence operatives who would conduct counterterrorism missions, creating what the Times described, in Pentagon-speak, an “enduring American military presence” in these volatile regions.
This despite the overwhelming evidence – and acknowledgement by President Obama among others – suggesting that the Western invasion and occupation of Iraq gave birth to the spectre called Isis.
There cannot be a more absurd idea.  An “enduring American military presence” from the Middle East to Africa, over and on top of what already exists across the region, may be the best thing to happen to the extremist fringe, from Isis to Al-Qaeda and TTP to Boko Haram, further allowing them to portray themselves as the ‘defenders of the faithful’ and inflate their ranks.
If this isn’t precisely what the West and their allies are secretly hoping for, they would do themselves and the region a huge favour by not taking that perilous route.
Military force and brutal, police state tactics cannot defeat terror and extremism.  Short-sighted and crude measures like UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s threat to deport Muslim women if they do not learn English and his promised ban on the Muslim veil do not help the cause of fighting extremism either.  These pronouncements are hardly any different from the intemperate rants of US presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
Camerons and Trumps would do well to spare 15 minutes to scan and mull over Ban Ki-moon’s proposals, delivered as part of the UN action plan to counter extremism.  The UN chief offers 70 specific recommendations for action under five broad categories:
Prevention: It requires improving underlying conditions, helping individuals attain their full potential growth. It is humiliation and desperation that drive men towards extremism. “Extremism flourishes when human rights are violated, political space is shrunk, aspirations for inclusion are ignored, and too many people – especially young people – lack prospects and meaning in their lives”, pointed out the UN chief.
Principled leadership and effective institutions: The UN calls for building “inclusive institutions that are truly accountable to people.” The UN chief points out that “poisonous ideologies do not emerge from thin air. Oppression, corruption and injustice are greenhouses for resentment.”
Prevent extremism by promoting human rights: “All too often”, the UN chief noted, “sweeping definitions of terrorism or violent extremism are used to criminalize the legitimate actions of opposition groups, civil society organizations and human rights defenders. Governments should not use these types of sweeping definitions as a pretext to attack or silence one’s critics.”
Inclusive approach: An ‘all of government’ approach that breaks down “the silos between the peace and security, sustainable development, human rights and humanitarian actors at the national, regional and global levels – including at the United Nations.”
UN engagement: It involves actions by the UN itself while also promoting coordination with and support for national plans of action that address the many inter-linked dimensions of the violent extremism and terrorism threats.
Real food for thought there. The UN approach at last acknowledges why violent extremism has spread so rapidly around the world and attempts to craft an effective response to it that, in the words of Rami Khouri, cuts out its core drivers at the roots, rather than snipping off the buds that sprout at its extremities.
But if governments around the world, especially the world powers and their allies busy fire-fighting in the Middle East, do not take these recommendations seriously and adopt them as a global action plan, the UN recommendations are not worth the paper they are written on.
Doubtless, the battle ahead is long and arduous. You cannot win it by quick-fix, dishonest tactics or by unleashing more firepower and boots on the ground. What is really needed is serious, meaningful dialogue and hearts-and-minds engagement between the West and the Islamic world at the civil society level, while addressing the ideological drivers and sources of this long-festering conflict.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The plight of Kashmiri Pundits

No human being should endure the humiliation and injustice.  This is what makes the society less than civil. 

The suffering of Kashmiri Pundit’s is shameful, and they have been thrown out of their own homes where they lived for centuries. It is time that we the people talk about it and resettle them back in their homeland.

No nation should ignore injustice to her citizens.  I hope Mr. Modi can take care of this, it’s long overdue.  It's painful what has happened to the pundits.  We have addressed this issue in our annual Holocaust and Genocides programs over the last ten years, along with many issues around the word including the Sikh Genocide, Bangladesh Genocide, Gujarat Massacre, and Burning of Dalit Villages.

As humans, we should feel the pain for every human and rise about the religious lines; indeed, it is the sectarianism that breeds most of the conflicts.

The menace of terrorism must be dealt with appropriately. The war on Terror will not cut it, it is the dumbest idea ever floated by Bushmen, and it has not receded, but aggravated it further. A dialogue is critical, only the powerful have the ability to shape things for common good. Only the powerful have the ability to demonstrate their civility, our government should take responsible steps to restore justice to the Kashmiri Pundits.

Here is a video produced by Anupam Kher.

Mike Ghouse