Of coexistence, mannequin challenges and Pakistan

Published: December 8, 2016

The history of the region where Pakistan exists today would tell you a lot about its pluralistic values. This is the land where Hindus and Muslims have peacefully coexisted for years. This is the land of Muslim Sufi saints like Baba Bulleh Shah, Baba Fareed and Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, who preached values of humanity, coexistence and religious tolerance which is why they are revered today, not just Muslims, but by Hindus and Sikhs of the region as well.

Even when you fast forward to 1947, it is evident that the post partition era of Pakistan was also very pluralistic. Do we not know our very first law minister, Jogendra Nath Mandal – a Hindu, was appointed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah himself? Have we forgotten Sir Zafarullah Khan, the first Ahmadi foreign minister of Pakistan? Then there’s the president of the All India Muslim League, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah (Aga Khan III), the spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims.

It is not possible for Literature fanatics to not be familiar with Bapsi Sidhwa and Ardeshir Cowasjee from the Zoroastrian community. And when it comes to the defence of the nation, Cecil Chaudhry and Wing Commander Mervyn Middlecoat are two names that come to mind from Pakistan’s Christian community.

These are the foundations of the country we live in, which is now, unfortunately, seen as a hotbed of religious intolerance and extremism. This is why Dil Say Pakistan – Pakistan’s first transmedia campaign entailing documentaries, music videos, TV shows, radio programs, virtual reality experiences, social media activities, animation series, film festivals and on ground activities across the country to celebrate Pakistan’s diversity, acknowledge its unsung heroes. We decided to carry out an initiative as citizens of a country that is home to people belonging to various religious backgrounds; a fact that (when discussed on mainstream media or in political discourses) is disregarded by claims that Pakistan only belongs to Muslims.

While I agree that 95% of Pakistan’s population is Muslim, there are various indigenous religious groups such as Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Kailashas, Bahais who have been living in this region for centuries as well. Apart from these groups, the Muslim population in itself is diverse, as it consists of various sects, traditions and lifestyles – and that is what makes Pakistan unique.

We decided to break this stereotypical image of Pakistan by highlighting its religious diversity in a short video showcasing the ‘mannequin challenge’. We aimed to spread the message that we are all human and Pakistani, despite all these religious differences. We are people who coexist and live as friends and, as is obvious in the video, we belong to different faiths, yet we gathered together to shoot this video and had a great time.

Sunnis, Shias, Barelvis, Deobandis, Ismailis, Bohras, Ahmadis, Bahais, Zoroastrians, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Kailashas met on a common ground in Islamabad. These people stood for peace and humanity, they stood against bigotry and extremism, and above all, they promoted the concept of coexistence.

Hassan Raza

Hassan Raza

The author is the Social Media Manager of Dil Say Pakistan, which is Pakistan’s first transmedia campaign to celebrate Pakistan’s diversity, acknowledge its unsung heroes and enable social good.

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