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RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE IN PAKISTAN Vs WEST

by Nizamuddin Nizamani

Published in Nizamuddin’s blog, 07/03/2011

Brute killing of Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, Federal Minister for Minorities on March 2, 2001, in Islamabad in a spate of terror reminds us the incident that took life of late Salaman Taseer, vocal and bold Governor of Punjab, both stood for tolerance and coexistence, among the followers of different faiths in Pakistan, illustrates the level of intolerance prevailing in the frustrated and lethally equipped extremist groups in our unfortunate country.

Pakistani constitution includes Islam as state religion and also provides for anti- blasphemy laws, prone to misinterpretation and misused by the disgruntled elements; that, legitimize their heinous and violent activities in the name of sanctity of the faith mostly aimed at settling their personal scores.

Interestingly, therefore most of the victims blamed for blasphemy have been Muslims, among them particularly young women, accused by their revengeful opponents.

In addition the religious parties and groups combine the notion of securing the sanctity of the Shariah with anti western and mainly Anti-American rhetoric. We regularly listen to the mixed anti-American and anti-Jewish speeches on the streets every other day. American constitution provides religion as individual choice and a private affair and delinked from the state.

European states and countries after bitter experience of centuries, done away with theocracy after Europeans suffered a lot at the hands of extremists controlling the church from thirteen to fifteenth century. Rigid Muslim elements in Pakistan today play parallel to their counterpart Christian cousins of dark and middle ages. Although during those days enlightened Muslim mystics and Sufi saints preached and disseminated Islam through the message of love, peace, tolerance and coexistence. In the West innocent people particularly women in Middle ages were blamed to be the Witches who worked for Devil, therefore were punished by burning them alive.

Protestants were victimized and persecuted through such provisions. Heinrich Krammer and James Sprenger, two men were empowered by Pope Innocent VIII in 1484 to prosecute alleged Witches. They wrote a book as Witch-hunter’s Manual titled Malleus Maleficarum. It was written in the witch mania during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It contained complete instructions on the prosecution of witches. Based on the proposed diagnosis in the manual thousands of the innocent people were burnt and killed in the name of upholding the sanctity of the religion. Today’s Europe is different and so is United States, but we are still living in the Stone Age. It is not that the West was always tolerant, but they learnt in the process that the narrow mindedness and persecution of opponents was disastrous not only for their religion but also for mankind. Muslim religious groups apparently play defensive and they think that west and particularly US is bent upon destroying the Islam and Muslim world and they cite the examples of military operations against many Muslim countries.

There is no doubt that extremist and anti-Muslim elements still exist in the west and in US and some Christian groups dominated by xenophobic whites would continue their hatred campaigns but their size and influence is far limited. They are not mainstream and do not have support from their own communities. Traces of Ku Klux Klan and its splinter groups are generally white racist who dislike everyone and everything that is not white; they are not particularly anti-Muslim.

A new trend of presenting converts from Islam like Walid Shoebat who, present himself as former Muslim Brotherhood and PLO terrorist, now educated to be against Muslim, presented on popular TV Channels like CBN etc may be an artful attempt to poison people against Islam and Mulims. He would even blame Muslims as part of Natzi campaigns against Jews during Second World War. Such activities are however exceptions not the rule.

Generally people in the US are highly tolerant to each other and would not poke their nose in others affairs, come what may. Officially US constitution provides for right to congregate and preservation of the religio- cultural practices to all the groups provided those are not harmful or threatening to any other groups.

People in Pakistan are told that Muslims are victimized in US, however, while discussing this issue, many Muslims in US would appreciate the moral and other support from individuals with Jewish and Christian background. In addition many Jewish people would not support Israeli State policies.

Ironically, in our social fabric we have witnessed breeding of fanaticism and extremism due to integrating religious conventions with backward tribal values, that would be otherwise prohibited in Islam. It is reported that in ordinary seminaries, in addition to religion, through oral syllabi, anti-Christian, anti-Jew, anti-Hindu and indoctrination against different sects with in Islam has brought us to this sorry state of affairs.

Islam is second largest religion in US and reports show that through sheer merit and struggle, large number of Muslims of Pakistani, Indian, Arabic and African origin have reached higher places in education, health, science and technology. Therefore as a result of tolerance, coexistence and acceptability, all the American nationals without their ethnic or religious background, are loyal to United States. On the contrary most of Pakistanis would be loyal to their ethnic and sectarian origin but not to the state. Many Think Tanks in US have considerable presence of experts with Muslim background. Although some of the Muslims question the aims and implications of controversial missionary campaigns like Joshua Project aimed at converting Muslim Ethnic minorities to Christianity. As whole Muslim families particularly Pakistanis in US feel more secure than any of their neighborhood, towns or cities in Pakistan.

We need to learn coexistence, respect and tolerance for the others opinion, norms and beliefs. This way we can make this country worth living. Otherwise the prevailing circumstances would lead to unprecedented exodus and can result in catastrophe, impossible to manage.


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