While there are tons of problems that Pakistan is currently facing, religious intolerance certainly holds one of the top spots in the list. The threatening part is its rapid growth, and God forbid what may happen if we don’t take enough measures to put an end to this. Be it the murder of Salman Taseer or the bus attack in Karachi on an Ismaili community or the frequent attacks on Shi’ites, Hindus, Christians and Ahmadis, Pakistan has seen its fair share of religious intolerance.
One thing is clear, religious intolerance and the growth of Mullah culture is in parallel. The so-called Mullahs, who have made themselves the guardians of the religion, frequently forget about the most important lesson of all when someone holds a thought that contradicts with theirs, tolerance and peace. Who gives you a strange look, a crash course on the religion and tells how much you have disrespected Islam and the Prophet (PBUH), if they see you with a French cut beard and long shorts. It’s sad that a religion so huge and diverse has come to this, deciding whether who is a Muslim or not on the basis of him wearing a Shalwaar kameez and having a full beard.
A lot of these Mullahs are also those who teach in our seminaries, showing young minds the version of Islam that is just not correct and that is where the real problem of religious intolerance begins. Unfortunately, these clerics are in more number than the real ones who knows and follows the true Islam. A recent example of such Mullah is Kaukab Noorani Okarvi who during a live TV-programme, threatened and tried galvanising people of Pakistan to commit murder of a renowned Film/TV actor Hamza Ali Abbasi. While PEMRA took quick action but it left a number of people wondering, if it was enough. Pakistan is a democratic country and being a democratic country, every individual has a right to express his/her views.
Probably the most nauseating thing is the reaction of our political elites, who rarely condemn such incidents for the sake of their own political agendas. As by condemning these attacks or standing against it, might make them lose their voters. While our armed forces are taking action against terrorists to stop religious extremism such incidents also needs to be highlighted on a big scale, as religious extremism is not just confined to religious terrorism.
Some of our liberals keeps on blaming laws like blasphemy for this but the problem is much deeper and severe. The need to change the mentality and mind-set of people is more crucial than changing such laws, but nevertheless they must be repealed. And the best way to do so is through education, by reforming those seminaries that are breeding ground for such mentality. Making policies that not only changes their curriculum and teaching methods but also keeps checks and balances. And this is not just about extremism, even if we look aside from the extremism factor, they don’t have much to bring in to the society as the curriculum of these seminaries is old and out-dated.