Manifestation of intolerance in society

By Muhammad Jamil

LAST month, a man hurled a shoe at Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal while he was addressing a workers’ convention in Narowal. On Saturday, an unidentified person threw ink on the face of Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif during a PML-N workers convention in Sialkot.

On Sunday, a former seminary student hurled a shoe at former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at Jamia Naeemia seminary in Garhi Shahu when he reached the rostrum to address the participants of the event. The attacker then chanted a slogan in favour of religious party; he was beaten up by the PML-N guards and handed over to the police. The former prime minister in his brief address recalled the history of the seminary and praised its late leader, Mufti Sarfraz Naeemi. In Faisalabad, a PML-goon tried to throw shoe on Imran Khan, which was foiled by his guards. The attacker said he was provoked by Shehryar son-in-law of Rana Sanaullah.

Police said the attacker on former PM was identified as Talha Munawwar, a former student of the seminary. Moreover, police said they arrested two other suspicious persons from the seminary who raised slogans when Nawaz Sharif was departing from the seminary. Talking to Geo News, Allama Raghib Naeemi, the head of the seminary, condemned the incident and said Islam teaches respect. In a press conference later, he said that though democracy espouses differences of opinion, expressing differences this way is not appropriate. Meanwhile, all leaders of the allied parties of the PML-N and even opposition leaders including Asif ali Zardari, Bilwal Bhutto Zardari, Sh. Rashid, Imran Khan and Asfandyar Wali Khan have strongly condemned the attack on Nawaz Sharif.

Intolerance is a lack of respect for practices or beliefs other than one’s own. It also involves the rejection of people whom we perceive as different, for example members of a social, religious or ethnic group other than ours. Intolerance can manifest itself in a wide range of actions from hate speech to physical injury or even murder. Extremism has many forms and manifestations in a society afflicted with extreme poverty and extreme opulence, there is always a disaffected and discontent mass of people, disenchanted and disillusioned who can be lured by the criminals to ‘eke out’ living to keep their body and soul together. They can be conditioned by the religious zealots to perpetrate acts of terrorism or fall a prey to the sinister moves of the intelligence agencies of hostile countries. India’s RAW in collaboration with Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security are out to destabilize Pakistan.

Pakistan government had launched the national narrative on extremism and terrorism titled “Paigham-e-Pakistan” on January 16, 2018, rejecting terrorism, extremism, sectarian hatred and use of force to impose Shariah in the Country. Yet, on February 3, 2018, the suicide bombing killed 11 soldiers including a captain of Pakistan Army in Swat. It is therefore imperative to implement the national narrative in letter and in spirit, as mere declaration would not stop those who have been indoctrinated by the extremists. The narrative comprised a 22-point Fatwa (religious decree), and it was endorsed by over 1800 religious scholars of all schools of thought from across the Country. The narrative declared Jihad (Islamic Holy War) as the prerogative of the State only and called suicide attacks ‘haram’ (forbidden) in the light of Holy Quran and Sunnah. However, more steps are imperative, as mere sermons would not convince the misguided elements.

The responsibility to enforce the Paigham-i-Pakistan is laid on three entities: the academic/religious institutions, the government institutions, and the mosques. The curriculum, it is advised, should teach the ethics of disagreement and inculcate the spirit of tolerance. Of course, differences are natural among the people with different backgrounds and sects. Allah, subhanahu wa ta‘ala says: “If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single community, but (His plan is) to test you in what He has given you; so strive as in a race in all virtues. The return of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which you dispute” (5:48). From this ayah we see that being different is by Allah’s design; and differences among people cannot be and will not be eliminated. However, it has been ordained that one should not exceed limits even during war.

Can we prevent dissension and enmity by learning how to disagree? To differ and disagree is only natural, but the way we differ, is a matter of attitude and discipline. Last month, a seminar titled ‘Ethics of disagreement and narrative of dialogue’ was organized by the Law and Justice commission of Pakistan in collaboration with the International Law Foundation and Remedy Foundation at Lahore High Court Bar’s Javed Iqbal Auditorium. Speakers at a seminar emphasised the need for promoting tolerance in the society to curb menace of extremism and terrorism. Secretary Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan Dr Muhammad Raheem Awan expressed concerns over growing intolerance in society. He said that we have been divided in sects and it is crucial to change our track. “We must deal with others with love and compassion and adopt the attitude of forgiveness in accordance with teachings of Islam”, he added.

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