Living in a state of sickness

Published: September 1, 2010
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Many minorities have found themselves further marginalised in the crisis

Ahmedis say they are not provided space in relief camps, Hindus say goods are not distributed to them, when non-Muslims die in a plane crash their coffin says ‘kafir’ – Pakistan is suffering from a sickness.

The sense of religious superiority that an increasing number of people seem to be developing has made us intolerant to say the least. And so in times of hunger, homelessness and even death, it remains important to point someone out as kafir. Quite obviously, our increased religiosity has failed to inculcate basic humanitarian values.

Hindus and Muslims that have lived together in Dera Allah Yar and Usta Muhammad since Independence have moved to different relief camps in Quetta. The Hindu community chooses to live separately because it fears that it may be penalised for not fasting and following Muslim traditions. They have therefore sought refuge in their temples. It is an unfortunate state of affairs indeed.

Once again, much is to be learnt from the western world. According to a BBC report, the British public has given £40m to help the flood victims. The Disasters Emergency Committee of the UK says it has never seen such a pattern of giving for any appeal in its 45-year history. The funds come despite growing militancy in our region, reservations regarding money falling into the wrong hands and of course, Pakistan’s shameful misuse of funds from the 2005 earthquake. Nonetheless, people continue to give purely for the sake of humanity, undeterred by boundaries and beliefs.

Maybe hoping for religious tolerance in our environment is futile since the sense of religious superiority is injected from childhood. Years ago I would occasionally go to teach a special class of visually impaired kindergarten students. There was a girl I was particularly close to, and when one day I gave another child more attention than her she came to me and said: “Don’t talk to him, he is Hindu.” The little boy looked down quietly – maybe he knew his voice didn’t matter.

zehra.abid

Zehra Abid

Peshawar desk in charge at The Express Tribune. She is fluent in Urdu, English and Turkish. She studied at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara

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