Mankind’s past dictates that schismatic fears coupled with communal violence are two of the main reasons for dissolution of societies. Our history is rife with examples of nations dilapidated because of lack in understanding and appreciation of each others faiths and beliefs. Pakistan, on a similar note, seems to be stuck in a faith warp at the moment. If we are to move forward as a nation, we will have to find a way to somehow inculcate the idea of religious freedom and tolerance within our society.
Thomas Jefferson once said: “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” – furthering this thought, it is important to point that all the Abrahamic religions of the world invite man to a common end that is the worship of the same God albeit in different ways. At one place, the Quran says “There is no compulsion in religion” and at another it advises “No one will bear the burden of another one”. This means that each and everyone amongst us will be accountable for his/her deeds once the curtains are drawn. While I’m not the one to resort to scripture to win arguments or score points, these Ayahs from the Quran should be more than sufficient to serve as a clarion call for those enchanted by Madrassas and home-bred Maulvis preaching hatred, bigotry and intolerance.
The mindless brutality which is the Shia genocide, along with persecution of minorities under the veil of blasphemy laws have become an everyday thing for us. Aren’t these incidences more than enough to shame us? To make us realize that in our bid to reign as ‘better’ Muslims, we have become animals? There are millions of Pakistanis living all over the world with the freedom to practice their faiths without any fears. Why can’t we set a similar example for Pakistanis living in Pakistan instead of resorting to violence and belittling each others faiths? It all comes down fundamentally to tolerance existent in societies.
Be as it may, the optimist inside of me firmly believes that peaceful coexistence and tolerance alone can provide an effective off-set to the plague of terrorism. The key is ostracizing those we think are responsible for this human tribulation and culling out the sources of trouble first. Rest of the chips will fall in place accordingly. A few of the troubles are also a result of the common misunderstandings based on divergence of religions and their perceptions. It is no secret that the teachings of Islam have been seriously distorted by many. Munir Report from our past and the current religio-political landscape are a testimony to how no two clerics can unite on an ‘Islamic’ platform. However, as far as tolerance is concerned, when seen in its true perspective it will not be difficult to see that Islam is a religion of peace and has great regard for human life. The scripture also says that if someone kills a man for nothing he has already killed the entire mankind. After all, let us not forget that the word Islam is derived from the Arabic root ‘Salema’ which means peace and purity.
We also forget that it was the work of Muslim saints in the sub-continent, who taught lessons of love, peace, respect and harmony to people in the region. Rich Sufism has been a part of our ethnicity and culture. Our mystics and Sufis’ shunned this dogmatism we see today and adopted an altruistic approach to reduce the sufferings of ordinary man. They envisaged it as the greatest sin; to cause trouble to fellow man on basis of religion. They taught us that tolerance must be enshrined in our societal set-up to foster inter-faith harmony.
I can say with certainty that our survival as a nation lies in tolerance, inter-faith harmony and promotion of religious pluralism. One of the principle requirements of any prospering society is that communal accord is promoted by identifying and accepting rights of each group for a free access to financial and economic opportunities. Inter-faith harmony, in fact, is the greatest provenance of strength that solidifies foundations of a country and by the same logic, absence of such virtues collapse nations. From a political lens, the anxiety of communal unrest and the consequent handicapped growth and development also divert government’s attention. Mutual respect and understanding among the multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian people and multi-faith people will bring a lasting peace which will help the weary government feel safe to devote its energies to nation building, which is the need of the hour.
It is time we redefine our cultural identity and take a step in the right direction. It is time we respect our creeds and cultures. It is time we prosper.
Author has double masters from Oklahoma and is currently a senior digital media analyst maintaining oversight of Pakistani media and politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org