Intolerance in Ramazan: A new phenomenon or a revision of Zia’s era?

Published: August 9, 2012
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Does the word 'restrain' only mean refraining from eating and drinking while negating other people from their right to move about freely around you and do what they please? PHOTO: AFP

The instances of lack of tolerance this Ramazan have been too many to account for. Either Pakistan has glided one step further in achieving the state of ‘piety’ during this Ramazan or I have grown up enough to actually observe and notice these loathsome antics.

I don’t know why this Ehtram-e-Ramazan Ordinance had to come into action all of a sudden because almost all my life I’ve witnessed instances of tolerance and forbearance during this holy month. While we observe the lack of tolerance of not letting people eat freely during fasting hours, I remind myself of those non-Muslim friends of mine from school who used to fast during the month of Ramazan, purely out of respect of the religion. They would fast on all Fridays, and on the 21st and 27th Ramazan; as it is believed that they are “Zyada barkat walay Rozay” (more blessed fasting days) . We would invite them to our Iftar parties and they would join us happily and enthusiastically.

Our schools, colleges and universities would also keep their canteens and cafés open, for non-Muslims as well as for Muslims who would not be fasting (which is a win-win situation for both, the cafés and the customer).

I know of that tolerant part of Pakistan where we would play Holi with our non-Muslim friends and send them dishes for Iftari as we would to our other neighbours and Biriyani on Eid day. No one made a fuss or frowned when they would send their home-made Mithai (sweets) to us on Diwali, not once thinking that ‘Muslims’ won’t eat their food. Then would come Eidul Azha and we would send the mutton from the sacrifice to our non-Muslim friends while taking care that no beef is packed for them mistakenly to avoid offending them in any way. On the ninth and tenth of Muharram, these friends would send us “Channay” (chick peas) and would share our mourning.

Scanning the news for today, I found the 60 Hindu families have decided to migrate to India, so sick are they of having been endlessly persecuted in this country that claims to make space to its minorities.

I grew up in a surrounding where it was only natural for  people from different religions, backgrounds and communities to understand and respect each other’s beliefs and fundamentals and share with each other whatever happiness, celebration or grief we experienced. This is what made us live peacefully and harmoniously.

But it looks as if the times have changed. Not only has it become difficult for non-Muslims to move about (eat and drink) freely during Ramazan, with the Ramazan Ordinance in action and police been given the authority to ‘raid’ the places, it has become extremely difficult for anyone not fasting to get away with the situation. For me this looks like a new phenomenon since I had not been a part of such fanaticism before but really it is a kind of revision of the dark rule of  Ziaul Haq in whose regime this biased and solely subjective Ordinance was given a statutory form.

Given the current scenario, I would only ask two questions here: Does the Holy month of Ramazan not teach us to show restrain and tolerance? Does the word ‘restrain’ only mean refraining from eating and drinking while negating other people from their right to move about freely around you and do what they please?

I think the essence of Ramazan is far greater than refraining from eating and drinking; it has a lot more to do with Huqooq-ul-ibad (rights of people) than Huqooq-Allah (rights of God). Anyone can please God by offering prayers five times but what actually pleases Him is watching us please His people. So lets not forget to respect are fellow Pakistanis and their beliefs, because this month teaches us to be selfless and giving, not demanding and selfish.

Have you experienced any intolerance this Ramazan?

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Paras Abbasi

The author is an IBA grad currently working in the public monetary sector. She is an avid reader, book reviewer and short-story writer who blogs at www.ofcoffeeconversations.wordpress.com and @ofcoffeeconversations on Instagram.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.