A counter-narrative for hate speech
Pakistan has long been a victim of extremism and has faced many unfortunate incidents because of this evil. Many people have fallen prey to hate speech on the basis of religion, ethnicity, gender and cultural indifferences. The recent mob lynching of Mashaal Khan of Mardan’s Abdul Wali Khan University was also due to the alleged blasphemy he committed on social media. While social media is a great tool to disseminate information, it is also spreading hatred among the people over heated political and social debates
Some students from the Institute of Social and Cultural Studies (ISCS), University of the Punjab, are participating in the international competition of Peer to Peer (P2P) Facebook Global Digital Challenge: Promoting Narrative of Tolerance among Students. For the purpose, they have launched a campaign, ‘Let tolerance be our virtue’ that provides a counter-narrative for hate speech and extremism in order to promote harmony and peaceful coexistence.
In the P2P challenge, student teams are challenged to counter the pervasiveness of hate and extremism on social media in ways that are credible and authentic to their peers and communities. For this, university students develop and execute campaigns and social media strategies against extremism that are believable to their peers and resonate within their communities. This is an initiative by US State Department managed by EdVenture Partners and supported by Facebook.
This is for the first time a public sector university from Pakistan is participating in the P2P challenge after Lahore University of Management Sciences won the competition last year. The campaign has been launched on the directives of Punjab University’s Dean for Behavioural and Social Sciences, Prof DrZakria Zakir, while Vice Chancellor Dr Zafar Mueen Nasir is also overseeing the campaign.
While talking to DNA, Dr Zakir said, “I always think that if the attitude of our youth is not positive, peace cannot exist in the country. The negative elements use youth in the first place to carry out their activities.”
By using modern information technology, we are making a doable effort for global communication. We are trying to spread the message of peace, moderation and harmony and since this is a global program, it will help present a positive image of Pakistan to the world. Although this is small effort but it is a step in the right direction. Violence is an ideology that can only be dealt with by changing mindsets, the dean said about the campaign.
About the intolerance in the university itself, he said that Punjab University is an institution. If there are some miscreants among the 2,200 students, we can’t say the entire university lacks tolerance.
Dr Zakir was hopeful that his university will win the competition. He said that our group is diverse and the students are coming up with great ideas.
Mudassir Mustafa is the campaign coordinator while other team members include Izaz Hyder, Momina Iqbal, Nabiha Shahram, Uroosa Yousuf, Zain-ul-Abidin, Zunaira Khalid, Dr Anum Khursheed and Dr Zeeshan Ali Shad.
Talking to DNA, team member Zain said, Punjab University has the most diverse student body in terms of ethnic, religious and cultural identities.
The campaign, he said, aims at building respect and acceptance for each other’s diversity and added that it is a step to initiate a chain of change among the youth from the current state of affairs.
There are several sub themes under the banner of LET TOLERANCE BE OUR VIRTUE. The campaign spans to four weeks with four different themes. In the first week, activities were chalked out on the sub theme of DON’T JUDGE, START ACCEPTING, which gave a message for respecting each other’s individuality. For second week, the theme was HATE BREEDS VIOLENCE, SPREAD KINDNESS while for third week, it is HATE FREE ZONE or PEACEFUL CO-EXISTENCE. RESPECT FOR ALL is the theme for last week.
It has only been two weeks since we launched the campaign and we already have over 2,000 likes on our Facebook page, Zain said.
He said that we use the hashtag #BeTolerant and upload content, pictures and videos related to our themes on the Facebook page while celebrities are also helping spread the message, and added that a play on the first theme of ‘Don’t judge, start accepting’ was also organised that attracted the students.
Pakistan has long been a victim of extremism and has faced many unfortunate incidents because of this evil. Many people have fallen prey to hate speech on the basis of religion, ethnicity, gender and cultural indifferences. The recent mob lynching of Mashaal Khan of Mardan’s Abdul Wali Khan University was also due to the alleged blasphemy he committed on social media. While social media is a great tool to disseminate information, it is also spreading hatred among the people over heated political and social debates. The values of tolerance and patience are abating from the society courtesy the intolerance that is witnessed everywhere.
As per the description, this entire campaign of being tolerant is specifically focused to bring change from within the youth. The hate speech causing violence and politics of conflict can only be neutralised by tolerance being the ultimate virtue.
The students are of the view that a society without tolerance descends into chaos. In a world divided on the pathological dualism based upon hatred and violence, only a message of tolerance and harmony can bring peace. To nurture a polarised and violence-free society, narratives of tolerance and peaceful co-existence are the required catalysts. The underlying principle of tolerance and peace is the narratives of positivity and harmony. They stress that the harmony-induced sensitisation will bring the ultimate behavioral change in the deep rooted mindset based upon biases and intolerance.
The teams participating in the P2P Facebook Global Digital Challenge of spring 2017 are supposed to submit their campaigns by 8 June. Let’s hope that we can actually be tolerant and a Pakistani university wins this time and brings a good name to the country.