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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Interfaith Marriages of Saif Alik Khan and Kareena Kapoor

Its a joy for me to read about  interfaith marriages where people respect the otherness of others, and accept the God given uniqueness of each one ... my standard sentence for 15 years. Did you see Saif Ali Khan used the same sentences but shortened?
The source of publication is not known, but I know about the actor and his parents. India has a long list of celebrities and politicians marrying interfaith.
Mike Ghouse
# # #
Saif Ali Khan, for those who may not know, is the son of actress Sharmila Tagore and cricketer the Nawab of Pataudi.


Below are his musings about religion, faith, God, politics, and modern society.

Intermarriage in India.

Written by Saif Ali Khan | Posted: October 15, 2014 2:20 am

I am the son of a sportsman, I grew up in England, Bhopal, Pataudi, Delhi and Mumbai, and I am more Indian than any Hindu or Muslim I know because I am both. I wrote this piece not to comment on the masses or the problems of communalism in India and its villages, but because this is an issue that concerns my friends and their families.

It wasn’t peacefully accepted by anyone, initially, when my parents wanted to marry. The royals had their issues; the Brahmins theirs. And, of course, extremists on both religious sides issued death threats. But the marriage still happened — the fact that my grandmother also had to fight to marry the not-as-wealthy and therefore not-so-suitable nawab of Pataudi might have helped things along. We grew up on real-life romantic stories about our elders marrying for love and not worrying too much about tradition. And we were brought up to believe that god is one, with many names.

When Kareena and I married, there were similar death threats, with people on the Net saying ridiculous things about “love jihad”. We follow whatever religion or spiritual practice we believe in. We talk about them and respect each other’s views. I hope our children will do the same.

I have prayed in church and attended mass with Kareena, while she has bowed her head at dargahs and prayed in mosques. When we purified our new home, we had a havan and a Quran reading and a priest sprinkling holy water — no chances taken!

What is religion? What is faith? Does a perfect definition exist? I don’t know. But I know doubt. I’m intrigued by the politics of doubt. Doubt gives us faith. Doubt keeps us questioning what keeps us alive. If we become sure of something, then there is a danger of becoming fanatical.

Religion needs to be separated from a lot of things. Our religions are based on fear. The Old Testament spoke of a Promised Land for a people, but there were people already living there. The problem is still burning today. There have been too many atrocities committed in the name of god.

I know good people are scared of marrying their daughters to Muslims. They fear conversion, quick divorces, multiple marriages — basically, it suits the boys a bit more than the girls. All this is undoubtedly outdated. A lot of Islam needs to modernise and renew itself in order to be relevant. We also need a loud moderate voice to separate the good from the evil. Islam today is more unpopular than it has ever been. This is a great shame to me, as I have always thought of Islam as the moon, the desert, calligraphy and flying carpets, the thousand and one nights. I have always thought about it as a religion of peace and submission. As I grew older, I saw religion twisted and used so badly by men that I distanced myself from all man-made religion. I choose to be as spiritual as I can be.

Anyway, I digress. The good news is that no one needs to convert from their religion to get married. The Special Marriage Act, when applicable, is the paramount law of the land. If you marry under this, it is upheld over any religious law. It is truly secular.

The fabric of India is woven from many threads — English, Muslim, Hindu and many others. A major concern in today’s India is that we keep deleting our past. To say Muslims don’t have a role in India is denying their importance and contribution. It is like saying women don’t have a part to play in India. Why do we need to deny Islam? It’s what we are. We come with our mix. To deny this is to cheat us of our inheritance. I don’t know what “love jihad” is. It is a complication created in India. I know intermarriages because I am a child of one and my children are born out of it. Intermarriage is not jihad. Intermarriage is India. India is a mix. Ambedkar said the only way to annihilate caste is intermarriage. It is only through intermarriage that the real Indians of tomorrow can be truly equipped to take our nation forward with the right perspective. I am the product of such a mixed marriage and my life has been full of Eid and Holi and Diwali. We were taught to do adaab and namaste with equal reverence.

It is sad that too much importance is given to religion, and not enough to humanity and love. My children were born Muslim but they live like Hindus (with a pooja ghar at home), and if they wanted to be Buddhist, they would have my blessing.

That’s how we were brought up.

We are a blend, this great country of ours. It is our differences that make us who we are. We need to get beyond mere tolerance. We need to accept and respect and love each other.

We are most certainly not a secular country. The intention was to become one and our Constitution has provided every framework to make that possible. But, more than six decades on, we have still not separated religion from the law. To make matters worse, different laws apply to different people, making it impossible for us to think as one. There are different laws for Hindus and different laws for Muslims. This is bound to create trouble.

I think we should have one law for all Indians, a uniform civil code, and we should all think of ourselves as one nation. All our religions must come later and be by the way. Teach our children about God and his thousand names, but first we must teach them respect and love of their fellow man. That is more important.

I stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy first, then Santa Claus, and finally, I really don’t know what I feel about a personal god. But I believe in love and in trying to be good and helping the world. I don’t always succeed and then I feel bad. My conscience is my god, I think, and it tells me that that one tree in Pataudi near which my father is buried is closer to god than any temple, church or mosque.





Saif Ali Khan is an actor and producer

Monday, January 5, 2015

Two interfaith weddings on News Years day

Today, I officiated two interfaith weddings – between a Palestinian Muslim and a Lebanese Christian, and British Atheist and a Mexican Christian. The second wedding was a surprise, last minute call, literally last minute call; friends of friends. There have been many Jewish-Muslim, Muslim-Hindu and other combinations. I had to learn a lot to officiate Christian-Jewish and Christian-Hindu weddings. 


What the couples have chosen to do must be admired by one and all, in this divisive world, where people have difficulty in agreeing, difficulty in getting along – they are setting a new standard – of accepting and respecting the God-given uniqueness of each other. 
About 40% of wedding in the US are interfaith weddings and a new report just came out - 22% of weddings are interracial. 

The day is not far when there will not even be a mention of these, as the interfaith and inter-racial weddings become routine. Do you remember the days when most everyone glanced or stared at inter-racial couples? If you thought inter-racial means black and white, then you have ways to go to understand the phrase.


Years ago, a good friend’s daughter’s wedding was a disappointment – they went ahead and carried forward with the wedding without Muslim and Christian clergy, I am sure they missed a critical part of marriage – to experience what they have seen a marriage to be while growing up.  That prompted me to officiate the weddings to bring a sense of completion to the couples in interfaith weddings. 

I love the emotion and love flowing between two people while officiating the wedding, they look so beautiful. 



Thank you
mike

Mike Ghouse

(214) 325-1916 text/talk
...............................................................................................................................
Mike Ghouse is a public speaker, thinker, writer and a commentator on Pluralism at work place, politics, religion, society, gender, race, culture, ethnicity, food and foreign policy. He is a staunch defender of human rights and his book standing up for others will be out soon, and a movie "Americans together" is in the making.  He is a frequent guest commentator on Fox News and syndicated Talk Radio shows and a writer at major news papers including Dallas Morning News and Huffington Post. All about him is listed in 63 links atwww.MikeGhouse.net and his writings are atwww.TheGhousediary.com and 10 other blogs. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.

In Interfaith Homes, Dealing With the ‘December Dilemma’

This piece is for real and full of humor. Indeed it happens at the interfaith homes, and it is rightly called December Dilemma. How far does a spouse go to accept the otherness of other? How far should one go? Does the faith that you are conditioned to prevent you from participating in the other? Can we integrate culturally?

A few good examples that most people cannot do are: The great Indian actor Shahrukh Khan has married a Hindu woman, and they are raising their kids with both Hindu and Muslim cultures - kids are comfortable in celebrating both festivities without a second thought. Indeed there are several such celebrity examples.  I took my children to every place of worship so they don't grow up calling other's practices as weird, all diversity is within their grasp, and nothing is weird to them. We celebrated Christmas in full swing, I did not feel any resistance in me, though it was not my belief, culturally it was not a conflict to me.

Of course, I have grown and matured to be full interfaith pluralism person, all faiths and culture are home to me. I am comfortable with all - thank God, I fully respect and accept the God given uniqueness of others.

When I get the time, I will write a full article on this theme.

Mike Ghouse

Courtesy - New York Times

Zachary Assael-Berkowitz Staggers bought a Christmas tree for his Catholic ex-girlfriend, Alison McCarthy.

KIRSTEN LUCE FOR THE NEW YORK TIMESBy ANDY NEWMAN

DECEMBER 22, 2014

Two people meet. They fall in love. Big questions come up. Move in together? Do you want children? Big questions are answered. Life flows on.

Then December rolls around, and for some couples, things get complicated.

“Can we get a tree?”

When one half of a couple is Jewish and the other is gentile — more to the point, when one grew up with a Christmas tree and the other did not — the question can come freighted with all sorts of cultural and emotional baggage.

A seven-foot-tall “Menorah Tree,” with each candelabra stem covered in evergreen foliage and ornaments.

MIKE PATCHEN

The Christmas tree has its roots in pre-Christian winter-solstice rites — a celebration of the death-defying power of evergreen plants. But as everyday symbols of Christianity go, it is a potent one.

With Hanukkah in the homestretch and Christmas approaching, The New York Times asked Jewish readers in interfaith relationships about their first trees.

For some, allowing a tree into their living space was a guilt-inducing surrender to assimilation. For others, it was a joyous merger, often involving both a tree and a menorah.

Sometimes each side has to give. When Simon Silverstein and his wife got together in Brooklyn, he was firmly anti-tree. “I’d say, ‘I’m not used to this, and I really do not want it,’ ” he recalled.

Eventually, after the couple had children, Mr. Silverstein agreed to a pine branch stuck in a pot. Today, their tree is a wooden “tree sculpture” that he made, with a Star of David on top. “Our compromise seems to be working,” Mr. Silverstein said. “We’ve been married 50 years.”

In Cheshire Frager’s case, it was her gentile husband who had to give. Like many Jews, 

Ms. Frager, who is from Queens, grew up sharing in her Christian friends’ traditions. When she married an Italian-American 44 years ago, she looked forward to a Christmas tree of her own.

“Imagine my chagrin,” she wrote, “when the tree turned out to be a tiny Woolworth’s special, two feet tall, which my art-director husband decorated with Life Savers and other itsy-bitsy items.”

After “seven bitter years” of small-tree Christmases, the couple moved from an apartment to a house, and Ms. Frager got her way: a real, six-foot tree, with lights and tinsel and cranberry strings.

“Guilty? No way,” said Ms. Frager, who works for a Jewish charity. “We didHanukkah stuff for Hanukkah and Christmas stuff for Christmas.”

But for Eric Ben Reuven, of Astoria, Queens, the first tree “was a hard thing.”

The tree, he wrote, “was beautifully decorated and added a warm TV-show glow to the living room, but it did hurt a bit to see it there.” Mr. Ben Reuven’s now ex-wife later converted to Judaism; no more tree. “It did feel strange for her to not see a tree in a home she was living in,” he wrote.

One of the most creative compromises can be found in the home of Michael Patchen of Greenwich, Conn.: a seven-foot-tall “Menorah Tree,” with nine oversize candelabrum stems, each vined with evergreen foliage and decorated with ornaments.

At the Jewish Outreach Institute, a New York organization that helps interfaith families connect to the Jewish community, Paul Golin, the associate executive director, says he fields frequent questions about what is widely referred to as the “December dilemma.”

“Unfortunately, everyone has to answer it for themselves about their own comfort level,” he said. “It’s a question of what does this mean and how do you present it? For example, I’ve heard of households where the child is helping Daddy or Mommy celebrate Christmas, so they set it up like this is a tradition from this side of the family.”

Mr. Golin himself does not have a Christmas tree. His wife is from Japan and is not Christian, but like many Japanese, she grew up with a tree and lobbied for one. “She said, ‘It’s a Japanese cultural thing.’ But I said, ‘No it’s not Japanese, it’s Western and is how the culture has adapted.’

“So we agreed to celebrate only Hanukkah in our home,” he said. “But my wife does feel some degree of loss and she is making a sacrifice, and I tell her I appreciate that. She’s giving up a piece of her childhood.”

Michael Bassman, of Jackson Heights, Queens, wrote that while he was “uncomfortable with the tree,” he goes along for his family.

“It looks nice, smells great, and is an indispensable part of the Christmas ritual for my wife, and for the last 13 years, my kids,” he wrote. Mr. Bassman helps pick out the tree, but: “I don’t do the trimming.”

And then there is the case of Zachary Assael-Berkowitz Staggers, 28, and his Catholic ex-girlfriend, Alison McCarthy. Though broken up a few months, they are still friends, so when Ms. McCarthy asked him to help her get a tree, he agreed.

On the appointed night, Mr. Staggers overcelebrated at dinner, found himself unfit to drive, and canceled. Ms. McCarthy was livid. “It was as if I had desecrated a church or told a group of small children that Santa did not exist,” Mr. Staggers said.

The next morning, he headed out to a sidewalk tree stand. At a loss, he asked the vendor to recommend a tree. “Just pick one,” the man replied brusquely.

Mr. Staggers found a tree that was small but “seemed pointy enough or fluffy enough or something.” He took it to Ms. McCarthy’s apartment. She was out. He put the tree in the stand.

“Chubby and round, it leaned to one side clumsily and partially blocked the entrance to my ex’s bedroom door,” he wrote. Wrapped in a string of Christmas lights, the tree looked “like an obese man trying to fit into women’s lingerie.”

But at least she has a tree, he told himself.

That night, Ms. McCarthy texted, “Thanks for the tree,” and he felt redeemed. Then he saw she was still typing.

“Too bad it’s not a Christmas tree,” Ms. McCarthy wrote. “It’s a Hanukkah bush and it’s a bit on the schlubby side.”

Jewish youth kill ban on Interfaith Dating

The Jewish community has usually led the way in adapting to changing world. 40% of weddings in the United States are interfaith weddings and the Jewish share is 43% instead of making the life difficult, they have relaxed the rules.  All it takes is one daring Rabbi, and others will follow.

Again, Pope Francis is the first religious leader who can be called leader of all religious people, he has paved the way for acceptance of the needs of the society. Now, its catching on in different faiths. Even though there is not an open announcement to go marry people of other faiths, there are no calls to ban and punish.

However, in the Asian world, it is not only a taboo, but it is vehemently opposed. Both Hindus and Muslims have killed several boys and girls for marrying outside their faith.

Shamefully in India, it is a big mess particularly since the radical elements in Hinduism got into power some 15 years ago. The extremists among Hindus even harass unmarried couples sitting together in a restaurant on valentine's day and bent on destruction and intolerance,  just as they do in Saudi Arabia. It is not  Hindus or Muslims, but the radical extremists in both the groups.  Right now the radicals among Hindus have gone berserk and making life difficult for all Indians. It will go away once the congress government comes back in power in the next election, the change has to come as the Government of Modi is not doing anything to create a safer India for her citizens. Thanks to Good Hindus, they have started speaking up, and hope it will subside.

Mike Ghouse

Courtesy - Intermountain Jewish News




Teens at USY's 2014 convention in Atlanta.
Teens at USY's 2014 convention in Atlanta.
NEW YORK – United Synagogue Youth voted to relax its rules barring its teenage board members from dating non-Jews.
The amendment was adopted Dec. 22 in Atlanta at the annual international convention of the Conservative movement’s youth group.
The change affects the 100 or so teen officers who serve on USY’s national board and 17 regional boards.
The thousands of teens who participate in USY programs have not been subject to any such bans.
After some debate at the convention, the USY board also elected not to adopt a controversial proposal to alter requirements that teen board members be Sabbath and holiday observant when it comes to travel, public functions and taking school exams.
While dropping the prohibition against dating non-Jews, board members should “model healthy Jewish dating choices,” the newly adopted amendment to USY’s constitution says.
“These include recognizing the importance of dating within the Jewish community and treating each person with the recognition that they were created Betzelem El–him (in the image of G-d).”
Comment via the IJN blog posting, "Short term solutions to long term problems"
The change on dating policy reflects where most young Conservative Jews are when it comes to dating outside the faith.
Some four in 10 Conservative Jews who have married since 2000 have married non-Jews, according to the 2013 Pew Research Center survey of US Jewry.
Jordan Dinkin, a USY member from Reisterstown, Md., said she considered running for her region’s board when she was finishing up her junior year of high school until she learned that USY rules precluded board members from dating outside the faith.
Dinkin, 17, has a non-Jewish boyfriend.
“It disappointed me a lot that I had to give up that opportunity because of my secular life,” she told JTA.
“Obviously people who are active in USY are people who are passionate about their Judaism. I believe that as a progressive youth movement, if we choose in our secular life to date someone who is not of the Jewish religion, I don’t see why there should be limitations within USY.”
THE CONSTITUTION that sets standards for USY was written several years ago by the 15- to 18-year-olds who lead the movement, and it always has been their prerogative to change them, according to Rabbi David Levy, the professional director of USY and director of teen learning at the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
The vote tally on the new amendment was kept secret, but the teens who supported the change wanted to ensure that the movement does not come across as judgmental of families who should be welcomed into the movement, Levy said.
“While we maintain the value that dating within the faith is key to a sustainable Jewish future, we want to be positive and welcoming to USYers, many of whom are from interfaith families,” he said.
The movement’s educational programs will continue to promote the importance of dating within the faith and committing to creating Jewish families, Levy said.
The USY vote comes weeks after Wesley Gardenswartz, the rabbi at one of the nation’s largest Conservative synagogues, Temple Emanuel in Newton, Mass., floated a plan to his congregation that would allow him to officiate at interfaith weddings in cases where the couple committed to raising Jewish children.
He later dropped that controversial element of the proposal.
The Conservative movement officially frowns on intermarriage, forbidding its rabbis from officiating or even attending interfaith weddings.
In practice, however, synagogues generally are welcoming of interfaith couples, with some granting membership to non-Jews, and some Conservative rabbis have attended interfaith weddings.
Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, said the policy change does not reflect a change in USY’s values.
“It continues to recognize what we know to be true: encouraging Jews to marry other Jews is the most successful path toward creating committed Jewish homes,” Wernick said in a statement.
“At the same time, we can’t put our heads in the sand about the fact that we live in an incredibly free society, where even committed Jews will marry outside the faith. If they do, we must welcome them wholeheartedly and encourage them to embrace Judaism.”
Some 750 teens came to Atlanta for this year’s USY international convention.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Two interfaith weddings on News Years day

Today, I officiated two interfaith weddings – between a Palestinian Muslim and a Lebanese Christian, and British Atheist and a Mexican Christian. The second wedding was a surprise, last minute call, literally last minute call; friends of friends. There have been many Jewish-Muslim, Muslim-Hindu and other combinations. I had to learn a lot to officiate Christian-Jewish and Christian-Hindu weddings.


What the couples have chosen to do must be admired by one and all, in this divisive world, where people have difficulty in agreeing, difficulty in getting along – they are setting a new standard – of accepting and respecting the God-given uniqueness of each other.
About 40% of wedding in the US are interfaith weddings and a new report just came out - 22% of weddings are interracial. 

The day is not far when there will not even be a mention of these, as the interfaith and inter-racial weddings become routine. Do you remember the days when most everyone glanced or stared at inter-racial couples? If you thought inter-racial means black and white, then you have ways to go to understand the phrase.


Years ago, a good friend’s daughter’s wedding was a disappointment – they went ahead and carried forward with the wedding without Muslim and Christian clergy, I am sure they missed a critical part of marriage – to experience what they have seen a marriage to be while growing up.  That prompted me to officiate the weddings to bring a sense of completion to the couples in interfaith weddings.

I love the emotion and love flowing between two people while officiating the wedding, they look so beautiful. 



Thank you
mike

Mike Ghouse

(214) 325-1916 text/talk
...............................................................................................................................
Mike Ghouse is a public speaker, thinker, writer and a commentator on Pluralism at work place, politics, religion, society, gender, race, culture, ethnicity, food and foreign policy. He is a staunch defender of human rights and his book standing up for others will be out soon, and a movie "Americans together" is in the making.  He is a frequent guest commentator on Fox News and syndicated Talk Radio shows and a writer at major news papers including Dallas Morning News and Huffington Post. All about him is listed in 63 links at www.MikeGhouse.net and his writings are at www.TheGhousediary.com and 10 other blogs. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.