Hindu Muslim Unity: Bihari Muslims donate land for world’s largest Hindu temple

PATNA: Muslims in Bihar, in a stellar demonstration of communal harmony, have donated land to help build the world’s largest Hindu temple which will have the capacity to seat a staggering 20,000 people. “Muslims have not only donated land, they have also provided land at a nominal rate for construction of the world’s largest Hindu temple. Without help of Muslims, it would have been difficult realise this dream project,” Acharya Kishore Kunal, secretary of the Patna-based cash-rich Mahavir Mandir Trust that is undertaking the ambitious project, told IANS.

Kunal said that more than three dozen Muslim families have their land in the middle of the proposed location of the temple and some Muslims families have land along the main road that connects to the project site.  “Some Muslims donated lands and others helped and supported us to purchase their land for the temple. If Muslims had not come forward, the temple project was sure to have got delayed…”

“The temple will be earthquake proof (since it) is near the Nepal border,” Kunal said. He said the Virat Ramayan Mandir will be taller than the world famous 12th century Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia, which is 215 feet high. The complex will comprise 18 temples with high spires and its Shiv temple would have the largest Shivling in the world, another distinction.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: Bhakti and Sufi traditions unite India and Pakistan

Sufi Muslim offering prayer in Rajasthan, India
Sufi Muslim offering prayer in Rajasthan, India

The Sufi and Bhakti tradition in Pakistan and India are two such trends from within Islam and Hinduism respectively, that are focused more on the unity of humanity as a whole, overcoming sectarian divides.

The saints from these traditions had massive appeal among people of different religions and they were away from the centers of power, unlike the clergy. We have seen rich traditions of people like Kabir, Tukaram, Narsi Mehta, Shankar Dev, Lal Dedh, clearly from within the Hindu tradition, while Nizamuddin Auliya, Moinuddin Chishti, Tajuddin Baba Auliya Ajan Pir, Nooruddin Noorani (also known as Nund Rishi) coming from a clear Sufi tradition and Satya Pir, Ramdev Baba Pir, having a mixed lineage, where Bhakti and Sufi themselves are deeply intertwined.

Sant Guru Nanak did try a conscious mixing of the two major religions of India. He traveled up to Makkah to learn the wisdom of Islam and went to Kashi to unravel the spiritual moral aspects of Hinduism. His first follower was Mardan; and Miyan Mir was the one who was respectfully invited to lay the foundations of the Golden Temple of the holy Sikh Shrine. Guru Granth Sahib has an inclusive approach to religious wisdom. No wonder people referred to him as, ‘Baba Nanak Sant Fakir, Hindu ka Guru Musalman ka Pir’ (Saint Nanak is a saint for Hindus and a pir for Muslims).

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: American Hindu and Muslim help empower women in Afghanistan

 Sunita Viswanath & Naheed Bahram
Sunita Viswanath & Naheed Bahram

Women for Afghan Women started in 2001 as a grassroots, volunteer-driven effort to help Afghan women and girls find justice for brutal conditions imposed by the Taliban, who ruled over most of the country at the time. Since then, a small staff and a committed group of volunteers have provided the gamut of services – including crisis management, human rights advocacy, legal services, and domestic violence counseling – for Afghan women in New York and in Afghanistan.

More than 15,000 women and girls have been helped through the organization’s efforts, and more importantly, they have become a voice for women who otherwise have been silenced or marginalized due to pressure from or stigmas within their own community. While there have been many setbacks, founders Naheed Bahram and Sunita Viswanath say that the small victories continue to push them towards their goal – a fully equitable and empowered Afghan women’s voice.

Bahram, whose Muslim faith inspires her social action, says she is buoyed by her commitment to her “sisters in need” and the ongoing effort to fight injustice and inequality. She says she can see the growth and the change in each woman the organization has helped, including “the smile on their children’s faces as they score the highest grade in the class despite being in the country for less than a year.”

Similarly, Viswanath says survivor stories continue to inspire her, and ties her Hindu faith with an ongoing commitment to social justice. “The teachings from my Hindu upbringing — of oneness of all beings, all peoples, the whole universe — require me to live my life as seva or in service to the most marginalized, disenfranchised, those whose rights are the most violated,” says Viswanath, who is also a founder of Sadhana, a coalition of progressive of Hindus.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: real life Bajrangi Bhaijaan story

KARACHI:  An Indian woman stuck in Pakistan since she accidentally crossed over as a child has drawn attention as a real life example of “Bajrangi Bhaijaan,” the film starring Salman Khan that has made waves in both countries. Geeta was nine when she crossed into Pakistani territory. Personnel of the Punjab Rangers took her to a social welfare organisation, the Edhi Foundation, in Lahore. She soon moved to a home in Karachi.

After spending some time at an Edhi Centre in Lahore, the girl was shifted to a Karachi shelter where Bilquis Edhi, a philanthropist known as ‘The Mother of Pakistan’, named her ‘Geeta’ and became quite attached to the girl. The shelter home’s staff have created a separate praying room for her, adorning it with colourful posters of Hindu deities.

“She is a devout Hindu and has even put up colourful posters of Hindu deities, and an earthen lamp on the table,” Human rights activist and ex-minister Ansar Burney told PTI.

“This is the Ganesh that I got for her from Nepal,” Faisal said pointing toward one of the figurines.

Read more: Communal Harmony
Additional Link: Facebook page on Geeta’s case

Hindu Muslim Unity: Hindus & Muslims take care of Kerala’s Jewish minority

Sarah Cohen, Kochi's oldest living Jew, 93 years old
Sarah Cohen, Kochi’s oldest living Jew, 93 years old

KOCHI: According to a local, the street was once home to as many as 11 synagogues. But now only the Pardesi Synagogue stands, believed to have been built in the 15th century. Visitors now pay Rs 5 for an entry. “We are doing what we can to ensure that the synagogue continues to be functional in view of the handful of Jews left here,” says Yaheh Hallegua, who is in her early 40’s, the youngest of the community. She works as the in-charge of the synagogue. A lot of tourists visit the synagogue, which is situated at the end of the Jew Street, which has over a 100 shops, mostly selling antiques and arts and crafts owned by Kashmiris.

“It is difficult to believe that there were thousands of Jews here until the early 50s,” says Sarah Cohen, 93, the oldest living Jew in the locality. A middle-aged Muslim looks after her, besides managing the household for nearly 15 years now, since the passing of her husband.

“Sarah is the most popular and well-known among the seven living Jews,” says Santhi John, a shop-owner and neighbour. “Both Indian and foreign tourists make a beeline to her shop because she is always happy for an interaction,” she adds.

K J Joy, the Hindu caretaker of the Pardesi Synagogue for over 25 years informs with pride that the blue-and-white-tiled floors were imported from China and the candle-lamps from Belgium and other countries.

“I pray for peace and well-being of the town; after all, it is the only place I have been associated with since my childhood. There is no question of me leaving my 150-year old house that was built by my ancestors. I would die here like just my husband and my grandparents,” Sarah adds.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: UAE Gurdwara holds iftar

Sikhs hold iftar for fasting Muslims
Sikhs hold iftar for fasting Muslims

DUBAI: Representatives of Al Manar Islamic Centre ended their fast on Monday evening at the Jebel Ali-based Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara during an iftar organised by the temple committee that represents 250,000 members of the Sikh community. The iftar followed a religious discourse where scholars exchanged ideas.

Both Sikh priests and Islamic scholars exchanged ideas on the oneness of humanity and existence of one God before a gathering of more than 100 people.

Surinder Singh Kandhari, chairman of the Gurudwara, told Gulf News: “We consider the month of Ramadan an excellent time to observe interfaith harmony and bond with the community. Our religion has taught us the importance of the oneness of all human beings and the important role that the community kitchen at the gurudwara plays in bringing people together to share a meal. Every day we hold a langar (free meal for the community) for 1,000 people at the Sikh temple and on Fridays for 10,000 people. This iftar, which has become an annual feature since last year, is an excellent opportunity for us to forget our egos and come together and share a meal with our Muslim brothers.”

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: Hindu youth distribute sweets to Muslims on Milad-un-Nabi

MANGALAGURU: A few youngsters belonging to the Hindu community calling themselves ‘Friends of Bakrabail’ distributed sweets to the Muslim brothers on the occasion of Milad-un-Nabi a which marks the birth of the Prophet.

The Bakrabail village is situated near to Salethur at the Kerala border in Dakshina Kannada district. Every year during the feast, Muslims from the nearby Madrasas organise a rally, which convenes at Bakrabail junction. This year a group of youth called ‘Friends of Bakrabail’ showed their heartedness by distributing sweets and refreshments to all present at the rally. This act of showing communal harmony and brotherhood among different religion has been appreciated by all.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: Australian Hindu fasts for Ramadan

Kartik Mohandas
Kartik Mohandas

BELLA VISTA: When Kartik Mohandas breaks his Ramadan fast he meditates while his Muslim friends recite Islamic prayers. “Fasting exists in most messianic religions. Navratri is a period where Hindus fast for nine days and hold festivities on the 10th day. So fasting is not specific to any culture.”

“I have only one phrase and it comes from a vedic [Sanskrit] text, vasudhaiva kutumbakam, which means “the world is my family. Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, they all had their revelations out in the desert after fasting. There’s got to be something to it, some experience that they went through.”

Read more: Communal Harmony
Read more about Fasting in Hinduism and Islam

Hindu Muslim Unity: Temple built next to Mosque by Muslim family flourishes for 200 years

Hindus and Muslims practice their faiths side by side
Hindus and Muslims practice their faiths side by side

Muzzafarnagar in Uttar Pradesh has been the house of communal harmony right from its existence. Here everyone believes in the age old ethos which has led to upsurge the traditional root of the country. One such instance is of Shah Alam Zaidi. Muslim by religion, Zaidi and his family donated a land for building a Hindu temple and a mosque adjacent to each other. Zaidi is famous among the people of the region, as he serves to the temple with utmost devotion and faith. During the occasion of Navratari he takes part in all the rituals performed in the temple. Built two hundred years ago this temple and mosque in its side clearly reflects the fact that the culture of communal harmony still prevails in the country.

Read more (video included): Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: 12 year old Muslim girl wins Bhagavad Gita competition

12 year old Maryam Siddiqui has won against 4000 competitors to win the Bhagavad Gita Champion League
12 year old Maryam Siddiqui has won against 4000 competitors to win the Bhagavad Gita Champion League

MUMBAI: Maryam Asif Siddiqui might have been a regular 6th Grade student but she’s not. The 12 year old from Cosmopolitan High School, Mira Road, Mumbai, recently won the Gita Champions League hosted by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

When asked what motivated her to participate in the competition she said, “I have always been inquisitive about religions and I often read up on them during my free time. So when my teacher told me about this contest I thought it would be a good chance to understand what the book is about. My parents too supported my idea of participating in the contest” Her curiosity was driven by the fact that she: “tried to understand what the Gita tries to tell us. The more I read about different religions, the more I have realized that humanity is the most important religion that we must follow”.

It’s no wonder that Maryam’s different thinking originates from her family and her father. “Our family believes that one needs to respect and accept all religions. No religion preaches hatred or wrong. However, there are some members who have misguided us. Before these have a bad influence on the children, we need to talk to them and make them understand what is right,” said her father, Asif Siddiqui.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: American gurdwara promoted interfaith relations in California

Stockton Gurdwara 1912
Stockton Gurdwara, circa 1912

At the turn of the century, several thousand Indians settled in regions like Northern California. It’s the largely untold story of the migration of Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims from pre-partition India from the late 19th century up until the passage of the Asian Exclusion Act (which was passed to limit Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, and Indian migration). At the time, about two-thirds of Indian immigrants in California were Sikh, and as a result, the Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society – a gurdwara – opened in Stockton in 1911.

Because Hindus and Muslims in the region were still small in number, and unable to get the approvals to build any sites of worship, the Stockton gurdwara served as a place of worship for all three religions. While Hindu-Sikh co-worship was common in northern India for centuries, a place for all three groups in the United States was created by circumstance and sustained through interfaith bonds.

Over the next three decades, the Khalsa Diwan hosted Hindu leaders and Muslim leaders alike, including the Hindu leader Swami Yogananda, who founded the Self-Realization Fellowship and authored Autobiography of a Yogi. Moreover, it served as a meeting ground for those seeking to build support for the Indian freedom struggle, especially those involved with the Ghadar Party. Despite having different religions, Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus still felt strongly connected to India and identified strongly with Indian nationalism.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Related links:
Sikhism and Religious Unity
Sikhism’s 10th Guru on Unity

Hindu Muslim Unity: Where Hindus fast on Ramadan & Muslims ban cow slaughter

Mithi, rural town in Pakistan

MITHI: A small town where both Hindus and Muslims have lived together since the creation of Pakistan enjoys cooperation and harmony.

“I am a Hindu from Sindh, but throughout my life I have lived with Muslims and this is why during Ramazan, we fast along with them; and when it is Muharram, us Hindu boys lead the procession because this is the culture which Sufism has given us” one Hindu resident said

It is a town where Muslims, out of respect for Hindus, do not slaughter cows; and where Hindus, out of respect for Muslim rites, have never organised any marriage ceremonies or celebrations during the month of Muharram. Not only that, the Hindus of Mithi also happily participate in providing food and drinks for Muslims during Ramazan, and both groups exchange sweets on Eid and Diwali. The crime rate in Mithi is at two per cent and never has anyone witnessed any incident of religious intolerance.

Read more: Communal Harmony

Hindu Muslim Unity: Various faiths congregate to listen to RamKatha

Multi-faith leaders in prayer
Multi-faith leaders in prayer

RAJKOT: India has amazing diversity. What is even more amazing is how India embraces so much diversity. Showcasing this assimilative aspect of India, scores of people from different religions recently gathered to listen to Ramkatha or the narration of the ancient.

Renowned Hindu preacher Morari Bapu narrated the story in Rajkot city of India’s western Gujarat state. The event was attended by high functionaries of different religious faiths. The main objective behind organising the event was to bring together people from different religions under one roof. Members of about 58 different communities including Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs were present during the recital of the Ramkatha.

Read more: Communal Harmony