Inculcating religious tolerance

THE assassination of Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab reportedly owing to his views on the Blasphemy Law, has sparked a debate on how religious tolerance can be inculcated. The intolerance of views diverse to one’s own is not specific to Pakistan. Duluth Times in its Op-Ed ‘Religious intolerance of Pakistan is a global threat’ comments that over the past few years, it has seemed that almost every terrorist act anywhere on the globe somehow has involved Pakistan. It states that finding a clear answer may be a complex exercise, but the unyielding and state-sanctioned religious intolerance in Pakistan is the major contributing factor for this phenomenon. The daily opines that soon after its founding, Pakistan succumbed to the demands of religious extremists who started a concerted campaign to establish a puritanical fundamentalist state. The successive governments allowed this religious bigotry to flourish and distract the people from real issues of governance. Intolerance gradually crept into the fabric of Pakistani society. In 1974, the Pakistani government committed an unprecedented act of religious intolerance when it constitutionally defined who is a Muslim.

In 1984, Ordinance xx and the subsequent anti-blasphemy laws institutionalized the persecution of minorities and religious dissidents with severe punishment and even death for those non-Muslims “impersonating” Muslims. It adds that the unfounded but patronized religious intolerance of the Pakistani government has encouraged extremist clerics to define their own obscurantist version of Islam. Their version allows no tolerance for divergent views; killing any non-Muslim or heretic is their favourite slogan. This kind of religious intolerance is bound to outgrow the geographical boundaries of Pakistan and a few such waves already have occurred with the outpour exponentially increasing. Whether it be the World Trade Centre bombing in New York, the shoe bomber’s foiled attempt to blow a U.S.-bound plane, the 7/7 subway attacks in London, the massive hotel and synagogue killings in Mumbai or the recent botched Times Square bombing attempt, each incident has its roots submerged in the philosophy of hatred and the religious intolerance of Pakistan. It concludes that if not reverted, this monster can perpetrate unparalleled damage to humanity and civilized culture throughout the world.

Two wrongs do not make a right. However religious intolerance in USA touched new heights after 9/11. Last year, Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Church in Gainesville, Florida threatened to burn the Koran on the anniversary of September 11 as a message of warning to the Islamic world, clearly depicting hatred and propagating religious intolerance for Muslims. One is also reminded of the vitriolic commentaries from around USA about the building of a community mosque in NYC near Ground Zero all these showed pure hatred. Saudi Justice Minister Abdullah bin Mohammad al-Sheikh’s comment on the subject merits attention: “We all know that those who instigate those doubts are the enemies of God, the enemies of religion, and the enemies of all humanity. Their hearts are full of hatred. They have misled so many people with the fallacies and lies that they spread through the media … that even some Muslims have believed them.”

The Daily Mail proposes that to create religious tolerance among Pakistanis, opinion builders of all shades of life must come forward to play a positive role. Community leaders, intellectuals, politicians, the media, school, college and university teachers all can contribute. Unfortunately, in our society, the religious teacher and the Imam of the mosque are very powerful as they can mould opinions from their pulpit. They need to realize that the people should be led with the teachings of Islam which propagates tolerance and not intolerance. So far some of them had used their power of the gab to mould public opinion in the style of demagoguery and instigating their followers on the hate trail. We have our work cut out to bring the people back to the credibility of tolerance if we want to secure the future of our successive generations otherwise they will be doomed to repeat the same mistakes and perish in ignominy, unsung, unheralded – Dailymailnews