Sufi Teachings In Curricula Can Help Counter Growing Bigotry
There was a time when our society was not divided in the name of religion. Different religions and faiths co-existed, and they were tied in a bond of harmony. People took part in each other’s religious festivals, fostering the spirit of brotherhood. One need not go too far to remember that time. The Punjab of 18th century had all these values that strengthened pluralism and cultural diversity.
Read Heer-Waris Shah and you will have an idea about the atmosphere in that era through the poetry. Sufi ideology was a guiding principle for many at the time, and minorities were treated fairly because of the message of peace that Sufism advocates.
In the society that is reflected in the story of Waris Shah, Muslims living in all religions respected the virtuous, sacred personalities of all other religions. Humanity reigned supreme.
People were big-hearted back then. In the Heer-Ranjha story, Ranjha pleads to a Hindu yogi because he believed that every human being is the creature of God and the prayers of the righteous are heard.
Even in nineteenth century, the atmosphere of tolerance continued to flourish. With the advancement in education and modernization, the culture of co-existence should have strengthened, but this was not the case.
The centuries-old harmony and religious tolerance was destroyed by religious bigotry. Believers of one religion become divided along sectarian lines and started shedding blood. The era of tolerance came to an end, and people became thirsty for blood.
Persecution Of Religious Minorities Began When The Message Of Tolerance Was Forgotten
Pakistan faced a similar situation when minority communities’ worship places started getting attacked by extremists. Thousands of years-old Buddhist statues and monuments were demolished. The ones who demolished these boasted of their ill-dong and the world mocked our mistreatment of those weaker than us.
The entire country was blamed for the acts of a handful of bigots. Although Islam says “ ﻻ ﺍﻗﺭﺍءﻓﯽ ﺩﻳﻥ” (there is no compulsion in religion), the bigots persecuted religious minorities in the name of Allah. When we study the teachings of our Prophet (PBUH), he showed the pluralist image of Islam by allowing non-Muslims to worship in mosques.
But the version of Islam that the extremists practice has had dangerous consequences for the society. Bigotry became a norm.
Having said that, the recent steps taken by the Punjab government should be acknowledged. A Christmas grant has been announced for nearly six thousand families, ensuring that drainage, roads, gas, electricity and other facilities are upgraded and improved in minorities-dominated areas.
Planning the maintenance, renovation and renovation of minorities’ religious sites is an important and vital step. These centuries-old sites are a historical heritage of Pakistan, and it is the government’s job to protect and preserve them.
Such holy sites can attract visitors from all over the world and this would help Pakistan economically.
Similarly, several steps are being taken to bring minorities, especially the Christian community, into the stream of development so that their condition in the society is improved.
Besides providing technical training to the 5,000 youth under the PS, DF, five per cent of quote for minorities has been set, which is another important step.
Sindh Govt Must Also Work Towards Eradicating Forced Conversions
We also expect the Sindh Government to introduce legislation against the practice of forcible conversions in the province.
Furthermore, lessons of tolerance and harmony need to be added to the curricula and children need to be taught how historical sites in the country are a symbol of our pluralist culture.
Sufism should be added to the curricula because it gives the message of humanity which we desperately need right now.