TEXAS FAITH: Is religious freedom under attack in America?

Indeed, every group feels that their religious liberty is under attack. Is there a time in history when a group did not feel threatened by co-religionists, other religions and the governments? Here is a short history and possible solutions.
This a weekly column at Dallas Morning News, here is Mike’s contribution on the topic.

MIKE GHOUSE, President,
Foundation for Pluralism, Dallas

Indeed, every group feels that their religious liberty is under
attack. Is there a time in history when a group did not feel threatened by
co-religionists, other religions and the governments? Here is a short history
and possible solutions.

Jews have always been under attack. They felt at home in Spain, which was
destroyed by butcher Ferdinand. Then, they felt at home in Germany, but the
Holocaust tore them apart and their belief in humanity was shattered. Every
day, they have to be on guard. Someone or another is making anti-Semitic

Fred Phelps was in Dallas in July 2010 demonstrating hate against Jews. The
anti-circumcision bills in San Francisco and Santa Monica in 2011 were
irritants. Last month in Houston, the Jewish academy could not participate in a
basketball game. It was set on Saturday, most Jews refrain from activity that
day. Indeed, it is restricting their freedom to practice their religion by
exclusion and being insensitive to their faith.

Hindus are an open game to evangelists. A few years ago, a Baptist
convention made a declaration to harvest the “Poor Hindu souls”. This
year, Russians made a serious attempt to ban Bhagvad Gita, the Hindu Holy Book.
In November 2011, a Kentucky state senator attacked Hinduism as an idolatrous
belief. California textbooks portrayed Hinduism in negative light, so the
battle is still on. There is a debate among Indians: Had Bobby Jindal of Hindu
parents and Nikki Haley of Sikh parents practiced their faiths, and not
converted to Christianity, would they have become governors?

Sikhs had to fight with Arizona to keep the name of a Sikh 9/11
victim on a memorial wall. Wicca had to fight for the headstone in Arlington
Memorial Cemetery for those who died serving America. Of course, there are
enough stories about Native Americans, atheists and others.

Muslim Americans strongly feel the noose tightening on their
freedom. Most restrictions are coming out of sheer ignorance and a false
understanding of what their faith is about, as they practice in America rather
than Saudi Arabia or Iran. The senators and representatives who have initiated
anti-Sharia bills can’t even tell what they are opposing.

The irony is neither the organizations nor the Muslims are seeking
Sharia to be a part of the American law. All they are asking is to have options
to square personal matters between family members through a jury, mediation,
court hearing or the Sharia guidelines. Indeed, it is no different than the
option of Jews using Halaqa in their personal conflicts or going to a psychologist
for counseling.

Most Christian denominations have been under attack by fellow
Christians. Missionaries were unforgivably cruel to natives around the world,
including America. Most of the groups that infringe on the freedom of others
have also been a victim.

The Catholic diocese has rightly filed the law suit protesting the
Government’s intrusion in the practice of their faith that the employers
provide workers free contraceptives. This is the right thing to do – to stand
up for the freedom of religion. As a Muslim I have stood up for freedom of
every religious group, in this case with the Catholic Church. Indeed, it was
good to see evangelical leader Richard Land make the same pledge along with me
on Sean Hannity Radio.

In summary, the issues are about whether a majority – or the
government – can arrogantly push vulnerable ones into obeying.

We need to build an America where no one is apprehensive or afraid
of the other. Each one of us needs to feel home, a home where everyone can drop
his or her guards and lives freely.

It is our duty to safeguard the liberties endowed by our creator
to practice our beliefs. It behooves for us to stand up for each other, why
should anyone stand up for you, if you are not willing to do the same for them?

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is committed to building a Cohesive
and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. He is a professional speaker,
thinker and a writer on pluralism,
politics, civic affairs,
Islam, India, Israel, peace and
justice. Mike is a frequent guest on Sean Hannity show on Fox
TV, and a commentator on national radio networks, he contributes weekly to the
Texas Faith Column at Dallas Morning
and regularly at Huffington
and several other periodicals across the world. The blog www.TheGhousediary.com is
updated daily.
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