Since my childhood I have been taught and told that Islam is a religion of peace and we must win hearts by our conduct, care and love for others and a soft voice. This is how our father taught us to be. Never to hurt others’ feelings no matter whomever the other may be. Religion, caste and creeds are only to distinguish, and not a tool to hate.
This is how I grew up. In those days there was peace and love. People lived like larger families and cared for the sentiments of others. We practiced our religion the way we were taught and never questioned others’ religion or one’s viewpoint. No one at that time wore multicolored turbans or caps to distinguish one’s religious belongings.
But by and by things started to change, especially in the 80s, when to prepare an army to counter the Russians in Afghanistan on the behest of America, the then president Zia ul Haq diverted the otherwise peaceful religious ideologies and way of live to radicalism. This was done to motivate the youth to fight a holy war against the infidels (the Russians) who had invaded Afghanistan with a view to compel them to leave Afghanistan. We were in fact coaxed with a bait of military aid to fight for the US interests in Afghanistan. And our youth, charged with the spirit of Islam, did fight well and ultimately forced the Russian exit.
And then, the Americans abandoned us and the Afghanistan and the youth that had learnt nothing but fighting in the name of religion. And whatever we are witnessing today is the fallout of that flawed policy. The same generation which also included Muslims from all over the world (which has now become foreigners) had nothing else but to fight on and gave birth to the Taliban. Suddenly the people who were once loved and admired by the Americans have now become the “Enemy.”
I will leave Taliban here and come back to our own country. The opening of many centres in Pakistan to train youth to fight the Russians became havens for hard liners, as no soft-liner would go and die in another country. The mushrooming of such centres gave a new gift to us – the many colourful turbans representing different schools of thoughts and permeated into our society. Now standing on a roadside one can see people wearing more than a dozen colours of caps representing their faith. Since these people are the descendents of the hardliners, their views about others are also rigid for obvious reasons.
This rigidity has robbed us of the otherwise tolerant society we once were. Instead of projecting love and peace, which in fact is the essence of Islam, our society is becoming intolerant. Instead of discussing matters logically in a lower tone, as was preached by our revered Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him), we have become excessively loud, harsh and emotional in pressing on others our own viewpoint, no matter even if it is wrong or wrongly interpreted. Every school of thought, which is now many and many, is trying to score a point on the other to win rather than understand.
This rigidity has also started to have its fallout on what other preaches or how the other wants to live. Suddenly people of other religions are being targeted brutally. The incident at Gojra and the very recent Asia Bibi case are a few to be quoted. Despite being the people of book, Christians are being equated with people of no book, while people of book have a special place in our religion. Even people of no book living peacefully in our country are our responsibility to take good care of them, rather than treating them with discern and deceit. Labeling each smaller incident as blasphemous shows our intolerance and rigidity. And we fail to realize that it is our rigid stance that makes people of other faiths and religions to react. And when they react, while we fail to realize our own instigation, we charge them under the blasphemy law. Instead of resolving issues amicably and peacefully, the rigid local priests and imamas blow out the otherwise a petty dispute or incident into an issue of national or even international concern.
We utterly lack practical manifestation of Islam, which teaches us perseverance of love and tolerance for others. Let us practice the true essence of Islam and let others be running to us due to our better behavior, better aspirations, better understanding of life and the hereafter. Let us not make them repel from what we are doing at present as everyone want to live a peaceful life, loving and caring for each other.
PS: The recent killing of Punjab's governor followed by the killing of Shahbaz Bhatti, the minister for minorities and a Christian by faith, leaves much to ponder. apparently, the two incidents look to be those of TTP (and even as claimed to be so), but to me these killings seem to be work of some hidden hands and forces operating with a very long term agenda and strategy. Unfortunately, most of the analysts are focusing their attention to the face value and not digging in deep. Let us think more deeply and find out what could be the real motive behind all such barbaric incidents.