Op-Ed by Rev. Michail Curro

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Executive Director, Interfaith Center for Racial Justice

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.

In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late…

We still have a choice today; Nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Curro2011MLK2 (1)In the stunning revelation that US forces had killed Osama bin laden, we are all called to reflect on what this means and re-emphasize the necessity to lift up the importance of nonviolence as taught and practiced by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (and Mahatma Gandhi before him).

President Obama emphasized in his death announcement that, “we need to remember that we are one country with an unquenchable faith in each other and our future.”

It would great if we could put an end to cynicism about government, see rancor in politics disappear, have Islamaphobia replaced by trust, and feel genuinely optimistic.  Thankfully, through my work with the Interfaith Center for Racial Justice (ICRJ), I haven’t lost hope and believe unity and working for the common good is achievable, but only if we use nonviolence.

Each year our Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Celebration of Macomb County draws over 1,200 people—gathering draws every sector of our county and demonstrating unity and common purpose.  For one evening, this most diverse grouping of community leaders commemorate Dr. King and re-commit to working for a better tomorrow for all.  It is a night where all seems possible to build unity and strengthen community while lessening bigotry, intolerance and racism.  President Obama’s vision and King’s dream—both so eloquently articulated—seem shared and attainable during this celebration. 

Still the challenge after each MLK Celebration (and today in the aftermath of bin Laden’s death) is to remain united, focused, and hopeful.  We attempt to do this by calling on community leaders to keep MLK’s teachings at the heart of all they (and we) do.  And not just King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, but more importantly his teachings about and use of nonviolence to initiate social change and to create the “beloved community” we desire.

Our efforts here may never be more important, particularly in witnessing the spontaneous celebrations that followed the news of bin Laden’s death, the quick call that justice has been served, and the loud public clamoring to see photos of bin Laden with a bullet hole through his head.

I am reminded that Mahatma Gandhi once said of retribution:  “An eye for an eye and soon the whole world will be blind.”  Or as Dr. King explained, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already void of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Like every American, every Muslim, and most everyone around the world, I am delighted that Osama bin Laden was finally captured.  It is a great accomplishment.  Bin Laden and his followers symbolized terrorism and violent death.  But I cannot celebrate his death or think that his death alone is equal justice for all the death, loss, pain, and expense his actions, and those of al-Qaida, have caused.  I caution us from expressing such hate and vengeance for our enemies.  And I ask that we learn more about and practice nonviolence—the tool that has brought about the most change historically (Gandhi, Civil Rights) and we are witnessing in Egypt today.

Central to the ICRJ’s programming (and to nonviolence) is overcoming fear, particularly fear of others and the recognition that we cannot lift ourselves up by putting others down.

Our “Listen, Learn, & Live” (LLL) programs aim to build bridges of understanding among people of different cultures and faith traditions.  Currently we are in the middle of our ninth module on Islam and Muslims.  And earlier this week we began a module on Christianity at a mosque.

LLL’s purpose, however, isn’t just to deepen intellectual understanding but to help build trust among different people that fosters relationships and ultimately unity in working together for social justice.

We offer a variety of programs annually, including two June LLL modules:  an experience with the Black Church and on the Chaldean community.  And later this year we will look for community support and involvement in our LLL Summer Camp for Teenagers, fall interfaith breakfast seminar, interfaith Thanksgiving Celebration, and upcoming 2012 Silver Anniversary MLK Celebration.

At this time of great social change worldwide, our community can either choose to follow the downward spiral of vengeful distrust of others, or continue the important legacy of nonviolence that brings about real and lasting justice and peace for us, for our children, and our children’s children.

(For more information please call (586) 463-3675, visit www.icrj.org, or email curroicrj@sbcglobal.net.) 

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Hazare’s Anti-Corruption Protest: Genuine Or A Show?

April 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

NEW DELHI: Ironically, of the roughly 17 times that Mahatma Gandhi is known to have fasted throughout his career, none was regarding his stand against corruption. Yet, there is no doubt that the impression held then by the Father of Indian nation, Mohandas K. Gandhi holds true even today. In his opinion, “Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today.” Paradoxically, the manner in which noise has been raised against corruption in today’s age is barely reflective of Gandhian style in taking a strong stand on issues affecting the common people. In fact, the most important fasts undertaken by Gandhi in September, 1947 and January, 1948 were in favor of peace among the different religious communities living in India. Multi-religious secularism was one of the most important goals promoted by fasts undertaken by Gandhi. His first fast in March, 1918 was to display his support for mill workers of Ahmadabad, who were suffering because of cut in their livelihood driving them to the point of starvation. Besides, the dress adopted by him, the Indian-dhoti (loin cloth) wrapped around him, was his style of identifying himself with the Indian poor. It was this dress that led British statesman Winston Churchill to label Gandhi as the “half-naked fakir.”

Against this backdrop, one is naturally tempted to analyze the Gandhian-hype raised by the fast recently undertaken in India by Anna Hazare. Earlier this month, he went on a fast against corruption. He ended his fast after 98 hours, when the central government conceded to his demand and issued a gazette notification setting up a joint committee of ministers and civil society activists to re-draft the Lokpal Bill. Breaking his five-day fast on April 10, he said: “Fasting is the most democratic way of protest. Anti-corruption bodies like the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) and Vigilance Commissions have failed, since they are all under the government. Such a law (Lokpal) is urgently needed to ensure independent investigations on corruption charges.”

Welcoming Hazare’s decision to end fast, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated: “I am happy that the government and representatives of civil society have reached an agreement in our mutual resolve to combat corruption. This is a scourge that confronts all of us. The government intends to introduce the Lokpal Bill in Parliament during the monsoon session.”

Chaired by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the joint drafting committee on Lokpal Bill held its first meeting on April 16. The meeting co-chaired by senior advocate Shanti Bhushan lasted for around 90 minutes. The 10-member committee for redrafting the Bill includes Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily, Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal and Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed. Besides Hazare himself, his nominees are Justice N. Santosh Hegde, Shanti Bhushan, advocate Prashant Bhushan and activist Arvind Kejriwal. The committee’s second meeting is scheduled for May 2.

While Hazare’s fast lasted, the media and political hype created the impression as if the entire country was participating in a major revolution, and they will not rest till their mission was accomplished. With the fast over and the government playing its part in paying due attention to Hazare’s demand, questions are being raised over the credibility of the entire show.  In fact, with each passing day, more questions are being raised on whether the whole affair was worth the attention it secured and money spent over it. Also, Hazare and a few of his nominees in the drafting committee are facing trouble over their individual credentials. Hazare has been strongly criticized for having praised Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for the state’s development. This has naturally provoked activists and secular Indians to raise questions on whether Hazare has paid any attention to sufferings faced by victims of the Gujarat-carnage that targeted Muslims. People in general are also puzzled at Hazare having included both Shanti Bhushan and his son Prashant in the committee. Besides, “news” on a CD containing an alleged conversation between Shanti and a few politicians over “influencing” a judge, has raised questions over the “clean and corruption-free” image of Hazare’s associates. 

Strongly condemning his praise of Modi, a statement, signed by activists, read: “For the veteran anti-corruption social activist, Hazare to endorse a politician against whom a Supreme Court led investigation into conspiracy to commit mass murder and rape, subversion of evidence and pressure and intimidation of key witnesses is still under way, reveals a narrow and mercenary understanding of the meaning of corruption.”

Drawing attention to there being a linkage between the people close to Hazare and saffron-brigade groups, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress leader Digvijay Singh said: “I can’t call him to be supporting the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or the BJP cause. But he should be careful with some associates he chose. The banner which was used as the backdrop (at the protest site) Bharatmata resembled that of the RSS. People who are close to the Gandhian (Hazare) were somehow close to the BJP also.” Singh suggested that Hazare was being “exploited” by certain people for their own political motives.

Interestingly, while Hazare’s “movement” appeared to be at its peak, there was no dearth of celebrities, including film actors displaying their support for his anti-corruption drive. Questions are being raised on whether the celebrities’ support for Hazare’s stand was genuine or was simply a “lip-service” for media’s sake. Now, those who didn’t support him are justifying their stand. Actor Sharmila Tagore has strongly criticized Hazare’s hunger-strike. Tagore, who has earlier served as chairperson of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), said: “In a functioning democracy hunger strike tantamounts to blackmail and the government also gave in to it.” In her opinion, “corruption is a very important issue and it needs to be tackled, but not in the way it was done.” Tagore pointed out: “There was no debate or discussion in the media too. Besides people like Baba Ramdev joining in and Anna’s subsequent praising of Narendra Modi and Raj Thackeray was disturbing.”

While different people may have their own reasons for describing Hazare’s “fight” against corruption as Gandhian or not, clearly, prospects of it succeeding in totally rooting out corruption at all levels from the Indian system remain dim!

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Israel Bars Gandhi Grandson from Entering Gaza

April 15, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Palestine Information Center

RajmohanGandhiPhoto1 GAZA — The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Tuesday barred Rajmohan Gandhi, the grandson of Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, from entering Gaza Strip.

Gandhi expressed absolute sorrow for not being able to visit Gaza, adding that he was deeply depressed over the scenes of repression he witnessed in the Palestinian lands.

He said that the Israeli talk about a Palestinian state in light of those de facto conditions was “meaningless”, adding that the separation wall, settlements and bypass roads were more horrific than what he imagined before visiting Palestine.

Gandhi said that the Israeli government was treating Palestinians as second class citizens and was robbing their land.

He said he was deeply touched over the story of prisoner Fakhri Al-Barghouthi who had been held in jail for 33 years and could not meet his two sons, whom he left as little children, until they were detained by the IOF soldiers.

Gandhi said that he would publicize the Palestinian suffering in India, the USA and any place he visits, adding that he would also exert efforts for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

PS: Rajmohan Gandhi is recipient of AFMI’s Pride of India Award

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Houstonian Corner (V11-I31)

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Pakistan Federal Minister Mir Gul Mahmood Jakhrani in Houston

Picture A “Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) represents the whole country, as we have strong presence in all the provinces of Pakistan and we have always worked for the reign of democracy and never accepted dictatorship. The sacrifices of their own lives by the founder of the party Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and recently Benazir Bhutto, have been for stronger and democratic Pakistan and under the present able leadership of PPP, we will achieve the dream of good governance in Pakistan as we will finish our tenure of five years:” These were the sentiments of Mir Gul Mahmood Jakhrani, Federal Minister Pakistan. He was on a short visit to Houston, after attending 25th Annual Convention of Sindhi Association of North America (SANA), which was held at Saint Louis, Missouri between July 2nd and 6th, 2009.

Earlier Vice President PPP USA Khalid Khan (who is also President of Pakistani-American Association of Greater Houston – PAGH) and PPP Houston’ President Syed Riaz Hussain welcomed all the esteemed guests, among whom were Consul General of Pakistan in Houston Aqil Nadeem, City of Houston Councilperson M. J. Khan, Office Bearers of SANA, and many more. They thanked everyone to have come on a very short notice.

City of Houston Councilperson M. J. Khan conferred Honorary Citizenship and Ambassador of Goodwill Proclamation on behalf of Mayor of Houston to Mir Gul Mahmood Jakhrani.

For more infromation on PPP USA activities, one can visit http://www.pppusa.org/

Hillcroft to be “Gandhi Avenue”?

Picture B Efforts are underway, by the India Culture Center, to change the name of Hillcroft between Highway 59 and Westpark to “Gandhi Avenue” before October 02, 2009, which is the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi and the International Non-Violence Day. Some are in favor, while others are not.

Those who favor it, say that Houston is an international city and this diversity should be reflected in the names of the various streets of Houston. Also as Gandhi’s name is associated with Non-Violence, that will help to restrain crime and ferocity in the area.

Since Hillcroft, between Highway 59 and Westpark, has many international shops and restaurants from South Asia, those in favor of the change in name are saying that this section of roadway qualifies for the new name, which can be either Mahatma Gandhi Street or Gandhi Avenue.

There are others, who say that since majority of businesses are South Asian, it will be proper, if both Indian and Pakistani personality names are part of the new name for Hillcroft, like Gandhi-Jinnah Avenue.

Houston City Council Person M. J. Khan is favoring the change saying if majority of the people of the area want the name to be altered, then it should be changed.

However there are others, who feel that this same area has famous businesses belonging to Spanish, Guatemalan, Arab and Persian Communities: As such they feel that if there is need to change the name, it should be all inclusive.

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