Stories about tolerance

My Lent prayer for Pakistan

This year, Lent began on March 9 for Christians. Lent is a period of fasting leading up to the feast of Easter, recalling Jesus’ 40 day fast in the wilderness, where he had to struggle with hunger, thirst and the temptations of the devil. In Catholic churches, ashes in the shape of the Cross are applied on the foreheads of all Christians. It is a symbol that we are from “dust and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). It reminds us that God created everything and no one has superiority over Him. Through these 40 days of lent, Christians should give up ...

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Ahmadi in America: Why Shahbaz Bhatti’s death gives me hope

My life in America has been a breeze compared to the life I would have had in a Pakistani village had we stayed there after I was born. But try telling that to a misfit outsider transplanted to Texas. I happen to be an Ahmadi by birth and by practice. It is common knowledge that in Pakistan, where I still have family, anti-Ahmadi conferences take place regularly. During these conferences, audiences are taught that they have a religious duty to kill Ahmadis. As a result, some uneducated Muslims who are unable to read the Holy Quran for themselves, are misled to believe ...

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Forget French, it’s time to learn Pushto!

Education is more than a predefined curriculum or a Grade Point Average (GPA). It can shape a society. But the education system in Pakistan has failed. The people of our country do not understand each other and have allowed issues based on culture, language and even clothes plague the future of the country. In Pakistan, diversity has turned into a burden and coexistence of culture and opinion has turned violent and bloody. All this is a result of an education model that promotes isolation and hatred. Education exchange The launch of an extensive student exchange program within the borders of Pakistan can remedy the problem of intolerance. Student exchange programs are ...

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Parents’ role in infusing tolerance

Intolerance has risen to a level that now threatens the very survival of our society, Islamic or secular. People in positions of responsibility don’t think twice about commenting, in rather careless and offensive language, about the deep-rooted beliefs of millions of people. On the other hand, those who take offence think it right to settle scores with those who made the comments through any means possible. People start fighting in bazaars, parks, as well as on public transport. Someone asked the Holy Prophet (pbuh), “How many times shall I forgive my slave? He keeps on making mistakes.” “Seventy times,” was the reply. Many ...

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Tolerance & understanding: Learning from Egypt

Just before Christmas last year, I passed a group of children arranging themselves in two straight lines outside the big church in F-8, Islamabad. They had a special program planned and were waiting to welcome their guests with flowers. I caught a glimpse of laughter and nervous excitement and nearly smiled, before seeing the police van, ambulance and fire engine parked on the curb. Then there was a sudden stab of panic and I wished I could stop to usher them all inside. “Please, God, let them be safe,” was all I could think on the way home. Is it ironic ...

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Pakistan’s mullahpoly: My way or the highway

In Pakistan, it seems as though religious clerics have acquired a copyright over Islam, and are exercising this right in its full capacity, including its publication, adaptation, distribution and interpretation. I can safely say that most of us believe that Islam is a religion for all humanity and everyone has a right to learn and practice it. However, the custodians of Islam in this country like to follow and impose their self proclaimed rule. If “Islam Incorporated” was a company than religious fanatics would be the management. The creditors (Islamic sects) loan its goods and services; shareholders (madrassah owners) invest their ...

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On blasphemy, clerics and intolerance

Intolerance is making headlines again. One can elucidate that local cleric Qari Salam’s decision to facilitate an FIR against Aasia Bibi or the appointment of JUI-F cleric Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani as the 12th chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) show that we are victims of our own social confusion. I couldn’t help but notice that the history of intolerance and ignorance has always been battling against humanity. One of my colleague who visited Aasia Bibi’s village in Nankana to interview Qari Salam was astonished by the lack of remorse he felt regarding the decision to facilitate the ...

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Aasia Bibi: A question of religious freedom

The recent case of Aasia Bibi once again thrust Pakistan into the international stage for it’s appalling record of human rights. But though many commentators have called for the repeal of the blasphemy law, I feel we are missing the bigger picture. Calling for piecemeal legal reforms is a necessary part of incremental, pragmatic and gradualist change (tadarruj as it’s know in the classical Islamic legal traditions). However, the greater point about this case is the issue of religious freedom. It is a question of freedom of conscience and freedom of expression. On another level it is to do with ...

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Eid in Mumbai: A celebration of tolerance

Being a secular, multi-religious country, there are a number of festivals celebrated in India and the festival season just doesn’t seem to end. If Diwali just went by, well now comes Bakra Eid. And when someone talks about unity, at least when it comes to occasions like these, what’s great is people coming together irrespective of their religious backgrounds. Yes, when it comes to the religious practises like the prayers and sacrifice, its only the Muslims who do follow it and most Muslims have to go to the slaughter house or local mosque compound for the sacrifice so as to ...

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My friend, the special editor

Walking along Goosley Lane in the New Ham borough of London, I saw a notice on the front wall of a house. “Disabled Person”, it said. I wasn’t sure what it meant but I was curious. “The city council makes a slope instead of the edged curb in front of a special person’s house so that their wheelchair could pass into the house easily. They also place this notice on the wall and if you make the mistake of parking your car in his or her way, you will be fined heavily,” said my host in London. He also told me ...

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