The menace of extremism has to be tackled on all fronts and teachers are essential to that end

Pakistan is currently plagued by the dual syndromes of intolerance and extremism, which have reached an alarming state permeating hate and venom for those who differ from us whether it is race, ethnic background or faith. Hate crimes are on the rise and the advent of terrorism is an outcome of intolerance and extremism.

These syndromes are exactly what our religion professes us to avoid while the father of the nation had warned against. In his address to the Constituent Assembly on 11 August 1947, with prescience, the Quaid had stated: “If you change your past and work together in a spirit that everyone of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations, there will be on end to the progress you will make.

I cannot emphasize it too much. We should begin to work in that spirit and in course of time all these angularities of the majority and minority communities, the Hindu community and the Muslim community, because even as regards to Muslims you have Pathans, Punjabis, Shias, Sunnis and so on, and among the Hindus you have Brahmins, Vashnavas, Khatris, also Bengalis, Madrasis and so on, will vanish.”

Having seen the world and its intricacies from a close range, the Quaid had ordained: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State. As you know, history shows that in England, conditions, some time ago, were much worse than those prevailing in India today. The Roman Catholics and the Protestants persecuted each other. Even now there are some States in existence where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. Thank God, we are not starting in those days. We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.”

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Unfortunately we did not heed the advice of the founder of the nation. In fact bigots tried to obscure this important speech of the Quaid to instil hatred and intolerance.

Resultantly, the society of Pakistan has become so intolerant that ethnic cleansing, subjecting people of different faith, ethnic origin and sect to revulsion and brutality. Additionally, women receive harsh and unequal treatment from men and are often maltreated.

In this bleak milieu, one would expect that since the religion of Islam teaches tolerance and assures balanced rights of minorities and women, the religious teachers would take up the cudgel of teaching tolerance and spreading the message of tolerance and interfaith harmony to the followers of the faith. Unfortunately, the mosque and the pulpit have become the platform where in many cases; hate, revulsion and chastising others are propagated. Numerous religious seminaries, building on intolerance and extremism, are churning out extremists, terror mongers and even suicide bombers.

One would expect the government to play its role in ensuring that a balanced society is nurtured but the current dispensation is preoccupied in firefighting and trying to stave off punitive action in corruption cases against the former Prime Minister. Media, which is a major opinion builder, preoccupied in covering the fallout from the Panama and Paradise Papers, has failed to spare resources towards nation building.

In these circumstances the news that two major educational institutions, one in Karachi and the other in Quetta had picked up the gauntlet of inculcating tolerance in students and the youth, is like a whiff of fresh air.

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The Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Karachi organized a two-day moot on `Diversity and Peace: Challenges for Social Diversity’ while the Balochistan University and Sardar Bahadur Khan Women University jointly hosted a Training Session titled: ‘Insaniyat, Ikhliaqiyat and Shhariyyat in Pakistan’ (Humanity, Morality and Citizenship in Pakistan).

In the former event, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Karachi, Prof. Dr. Muhammad Ajmal Khan emphasized the need of fostering tolerance in the society. The erudite scholar was of the view that promotion of tolerance and inter-faith harmony in the society was essential for making the headway. He stressed that we should respect the law as well as the culture and customs of others as well and promote inter-faith harmony in the society. Dr. Ajmal opined that in the present-day era the academic institutions also serve as the centre for the training of the younger generation. He said that we should create awareness among the youth to stay away from intolerance and extremism.

Another scholar attending the moot, Prof. Dr. Hassan Askari Rizvi, expressed his views that through this conference the message is being disseminated that Pakistan is a peaceful country and was utilizing its resources in the fight against terror. The role of teachers is most important in character building of students for achieving lasting peace, tranquility, promotion of human rights and resolution of religious, political conflicts.

It is a coincidence that both events took place on the same dates. Addressing the training workshop at Quetta, representatives of civil society, educationists and scholars emphasized the role of teachers and students in promoting love, fraternity and resolving disputes in the society.

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Organized by the University of Balochistan in collaboration with Higher Education Commission, the Training Workshop hosted speakers from the legislation branch, eminent scholars and academics. The training session was attended by a large number of teachers, students and civil society representatives.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Kashif, Director Legislation Parliament House said the character building of students could also ensure significant change in the societyHe announced that another training session for the country’s vice chancellors would be organized in Islamabad on November 20 after the conclusion of this two day training session of the students of Balochistan University and Sardar Bahadur Khan Women University.

Highlighting the importance of training sessions, the speakers stressed such sessions were need of the hour. They advocated the importance of cementing relations among government, state and educational institutes adding that protection of human life is vital. They suggested including human rights topics in curriculum, while conflicts among students could only be resolved by a judicious approach.

A number of speakers highlighted understanding and appreciating the basic role of women for promoting change in society. The change could commence from one’s own home, family and institutions.

It is heartening that the role of education institutions and teachers in inculcating positive thinking and tolerance is being highlighted but it is an uphill task and to stem the rot more seats of learning should take up the responsibility of ridding the society of extremism.

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