Our culture of intolerance

Published: July 28, 2010

The solution to the growing menace of intolerance is challenging but we would have to begin from somewhere.

When quizzed about our culture we Pakistanis can go to any length to prove that we are like any other normal and civilised nation having no dearth of artistic sense and know how to appreciate sports, good music and movies but sadly many people in the Western world fail to buy that. Those who identify Pakistan through the daily dose of media coverage believe us to be an uncouth nation, sans values and compassion. Our country is considered synonymous with terror where killings and human slaughtering are undertaken without any remorse. That almost makes us look like a psychologically abnormal nation. It is easy to blame others for misunderstanding us but we need to dissect our own shortcomings which are responsible for the growing intolerance and fanaticism.

Controlled emotions play a great role in determining the nation’s destiny. We have Japan’s example. They never forgot the 6th of August 1945 but instead they invested their energies in building up their nation. Unfortunately, we Pakistanis are controlled by emotions especially in respect to religion. Not only are our people exceedingly emotional about religion, additionally everyone thinks that he/she is representing the correct version of Islam while the rest are wrong. These two ingredients; thinking one is correct and then exercising extreme emotions, are the core force behind a clash. Since most of the people are semi-literate or illiterate, it becomes easier for those believing in militant Islam to exploit their emotions.

It is apt to note that not just are hardcore militants from the far flung mountains involved in indoctrination but that the mullah of a local mosque is also playing a major role in flaring the emotions of the population. For example in this one instance, the mullah of one of the mosques in residential area would deliver his sermon on the loudspeaker. He never discussed religious matters. All he did was to instigate the youth to lift arms against America and the Western powers that are fighting their Muslims brethren in different regions and he kept repeating after every second sentence that Islam was in great danger. Ironically, I’m talking about a mosque located in the same area in Peshawar where a US counselor was attacked in August 2008. No one from the official circles took notice of the mullah’s rants despite the fact that the use of loudspeaker wasn’t allowed other than for the calls for prayers. No one questioned him for misleading people knowing that the entire province and Peshawar were broiling with a string of suicide bombings at that time and such instigation was the last thing anyone needed.

Anger and frustration, found in abundance in our people, is another reason for the alarming intolerance. Militant groups never hesitate to slay people who are not on the same page with them ideologically, politically and religiously. The long history of sectarian violence is testimony to this brewing anger and frustration. These groups fail to understand that there has always been diversity of religious views and opinions and it is virtually impossible to direct everyone towards the one idea. Instead of freeing themselves of biases they believe in elimination of the conflicting idea. It is a kind of cleansing, which isn’t very different from Hitler’s idea of purifying the Aryan race. The recent killing of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister’s 28-year-old son and the subsequent suicide attack near the minister’s house shows that those warriors can go to any length to suppress opposing voices.

The problem is that the majority of people in Pakistan are living underprivileged lives and are frustrated with the corrupt system. An aimless life with no charm makes the job of the propagandist way easier. Injustice is also a chief cause of all evils in the society. It breeds intolerance and sanctions the use of violent means. If the people had access to basic facilities and especially if they were equipped with the wealth of knowledge we wouldn’t have been in the mess we are in today.

The solution to the growing menace of intolerance is challenging but we would have to begin from somewhere. An efficient network of spies setup by our intelligence agencies can monitor suspicious seminaries and groups. The youth of Pakistan especially from the underprivileged class should be engaged in positive and constructive activities in various fields with good prospects. A fair and swift justice system will restore the faith of people. The preachers of violence will resist change but if we want to be remembered as valuable nation in the annals of history we have to bring the much needed social change before we are annihilated by the enemies within our own ranks.


Ayesha Umar

Interested in current affairs, cultural and gender-based issues Ayesha religiously tweets @ayeshaesque. In her free time she blogs at Fifth Junction and indulges in random photography.

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

  • Rana Bilal

    Well Done and Keep it Up Ayesha. Outstanding article. simply loved it. this is what we want as we have to start from some point. and these mullahs should be……Recommend

  • Kash

    Our powerful intelligence agencies can do everything if they want to.Recommend

  • B

    Spot on!Recommend

  • Ibrahim

    I agree with Kash, that the intelligence agencies play a significant role, one way or the other. They could do a lot to end sectarianism and the intolerance that it breeds. The fact that they do not shows that they do not want to end it – they benefit from it, and so they secretly support it.Recommend

  • http://baithak.blogspot.com/ temporal


    for this …. we have to bring the much needed social change before we are annihilated by the enemies within our own ranks. we need a national will backed by resource

    both, am afraid are unavailable or in short supply.Recommend

  • http://sadaf-fayyaz.blogspot.com/ SadafFayyaz

    great post,,,,pointed out Recommend

  • shahid latif

    It is all true.Recommend

  • Mansoor Khalid

    Aggression and Intolerance are a projection of one’s Ignorance. The Ignorant mind frequently uses primitive defense mechanisms in trivial situations, much like savages and animals. The enlightened know better than to fall in the traps of ego and act on reason instead of passion.Recommend

  • amingorrine

    Very Interesting!
    Thank You!Recommend

  • Abdul-Mughis Rana, Lahore.

    In the past, whole machinery of Pak was used to force upon each and every that this is jihad and Farz e Ain. Infact, Americans were of the view that someone from the Saudi Royal family should lead Jihad against USSR thank God that mistake was not done OBL was named.
    @Rana Bilal Its very ez to point finger at gharib Molvi sahib and this too is only in Muslims, regretfully not even 5 % of Muslims (pray) namaz what to talk about masjid and its role.
    A thrown out Captain asked, is this Islam’s flaw (Nauzubilla) ? As far as Islam is concerned aam Muslim is illiterate infact Ph.d and other highly qualified ones know Islam (afsos) as a myth. Instead of expecting others and criticising Islam and its pillars i.e. People who are remnants of gone Islam we must take charge of saving my Islam personally rather than tea party organizations which will not help the World.
    Islam is in black & white but needs human to change their lives with! We have many humans who embraced Islam and now putting their every effort to shine themselves because Islam is a chosen, enlightened and the only religion by God (all past religions stands null and void).
    Please forgive us all Muslims now and do your part!!Recommend