On the road to Intolerance

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An act of valour or moral decline?

An old woman, who was a neighbour of the Prophet (PBUH), tried her best to irritate him by throwing garbage in his way every day. One day, when he walked out of his home there was no garbage. This made the Prophet (PBUH) inquire about the old woman, and he came to know that she was sick. The Prophet (PBUH) went to visit her, and offer any assistance she might need. The old woman was extremely humbled, and at the same time abashed by her actions in light of the concern that the Prophet (PBUH) showed her.

By seeing the example of compassion of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), she became convinced that Islam must be a true religion that the Prophet (PBUH) was preaching.

This lesson of compassion towards those who abuse would be carried by the Muslims for centuries to come. At present, however, we seem to have forgotten the great message of the Prophet (PBUH), and apparently are well on our way to becoming an intolerant society ready to lash out its rage on any difference of opinion whether political, or religious.

Whereas our society has remained an infected victim of violent religious sectarianism, and ethnic groupings over the past few decades, now in the light of certain attempts to disgrace the political leaders it is nothing less than alarming to see that we might be running out of patience and tolerance with respect to difference of opinion in national politics as well. Such incidents aimed at disrespecting the politicians in public although are not new, however, subject to their recent consistency, hold the capability to spark an all new war of violent abuse and hatred among not just the political leaderships, but the common political workers as well.

The aforementioned abusive incidents (whether verbal or physical), just to be clear, ironically, have not only targeted leaders of opposing political parties, but have also been witnessed within the same party as well. So the triggering point is not just an opposing political entity, but also an opposing political thought or act; what we commonly call difference of opinion; even if it comes from within the same party. In theory and practice, political culture of intolerance of this sort can have far reaching implications, and grave consequences for our already struggling political structure.

In the light of certain attempts to disgrace the political leaders it is nothing less than alarming to see that we might be running out of patience and tolerance with respect to difference of opinion in national politics

The recent wave of throwing shoes kicked off from the KPK assembly where PTI MPA Arbab Jahandad hurled a shoe at Baldev Kumar, his own party colleague in an attempt to protest his presence in the house following a murder accusation. Following the incident, the Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal came under fire when a shoe was thrown at him in Narowal during an address to the workers’ convention. Khawaja Asif, next in the list, became a victim of ink thrown at him in Sialkot, once again while he was addressing the workers convention. The most prominent incident of all took place at Jamia Naemia (Lahore) where a shoe thrown hit the chest area of ex-prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif. The incident caught the media by storm, and sparked condemnation from all political entities. Imran Khan, supposedly a more popular political figure, also had a shoe thrown at him in Faisalabad.

This practice of hurling shoes at political figures in public is neither new, nor limited to Pakistan, but an equally accustomed trend in other countries including the west. The most popular one perhaps we all remember is the incident that took place at a press conference in Baghdad (Iraq) where the then US President George W. Bush was targeted by a local journalist who threw his shoes at him. The trend has recently prevailed in Pakistan; nevertheless, political accusations apart, it was encouraging to see the entire political leadership on the same page in this regard, condemning the acts and those who conducted them.

The perpetrators of such acts, on one side, where attempt to defend their doing by calling it freedom of expression, on the other might also consider it as an act of valour. To their disappointment, unfortunately, it is not so! Values such as freedom to express and the idea of valour must not be confused with such disrespectful acts. Every human being, irrespective of his/her social status and public standing, possesses the very basic human right of self-respect the provision of which, under all circumstances, must be ensured and no one should be at ease to violate the same.

We Muslims, being the custodians of the most profound teachings of human rights, values, and character, as passed on to us by the Prophet (PBUH) and the religion of Islam, must ensure to adopt the great message to its fullest, and to uphold our character to show the rest of the World community the enlightened path.

Let us be patient, tolerant, and respectful towards difference in opinions, and let us learn to live and let live!