How inclusive are we as a society?


Lessons we can learn from New Zealand’s response to tragedy

No words can describe what a tragedy Christchurch attack was. We also fall short of words when describing the gesture extended by the premier and citizens of New Zealand in the aftermath of the shootings. This level of support and solidarity was not a compulsion on their part, a point that should not be forgotten while acknowledging and appreciating these acts of sympathy. Thus, this incident and its response have raised several questions that we must answer as a nation, if we claim to be one.

While the redrawing of New Zealand’s iconic silver fern with all pinnae representing Muslims in different stages of prayer is a stunning tribute to the 50 victims, their families and the whole Muslim community, it should be kept in mind that all of this is part of voluntary commiseration. What nations like us need to remember is that while a fern is a symbol, the white portion in our flag is not a mere symbol; it is a reality.

I am not talking about what those societies are reaping for us in the form of Islamophobia. I am insisting on what our nation, a Muslim country built on the sole purpose of providing recognition to a minority of the Indian subcontinent, can do to be a little inclusive and embracing towards other religions if not as much as New Zealand can be. I guess it is the exact same thing we were yearning for some seven decades ago on this stretch of land of which we have deprived modern-day Pakistan’s minorities. While we should be appreciative of how inclusive New Zealand is, we need to question ourselves whether or not we will be able to be even half as inclusive as they are.

It is not only about countries like the United States of America that need to revisit their gun policy and response time on the basis of actions taken by New Zealand but also about nations like Pakistan that should better re-evaluate the hatred and animosity that is being injected in their foundations since inception.

How tearful were are eyes on seeing Jacinda Ardern wearing a dupatta, quoting a saying of our beloved Prophet (PBUH), sending blessings on him and consoling the families of victims by extending sincere empathy after attacks, but all this is a classic manifestation of inclusivity.

“New Zealand mourns with you” is a message for all, reiterating the fact that Muslims have not been disowned by the people of that country and that a mindset’s hatred towards Muslims is not a reflection of the majority. But while we are applauding this gesture and much more that the citizens and leaders of New Zealand are doing to prove how inclusive that society is and that bearded men and head-covered ladies, too, are a part of them, can we expect the same thing from ourselves at any level, let alone our leaders, when we are hesitant in wishing our Christian colleagues on Christmas or Hindu fellows on Holi?

While we commend Ardern for making an effort to send blessings on our Prophet (PBUH) and quoting his saying to show how united the whole nation stands in this tragic hour, can we for once shrug our thoughts of whether or not it would be right to greet a non-Muslim with Assalam-o-Alaikum?

The very next piece of news broadcasted on most Pakistani news channels this Friday after the mention of how the whole of New Zealand is paying tribute to the victims after one week was of the acquittal of two accused in Mashal Khan lynching case. That incident, too, is an example of what we have been rearing in our society in the name of Islamomania or, in other words, religious intolerance.

I guess it is the exact same thing we were yearning for some seven decades ago on this stretch of land of which we have deprived modern-day Pakistan’s minorities

Forced conversions by marriage, abduction and rape, lynchings, target killings, attacks on places of worship, social isolation and lack of opportunities for minorities… all these taglines are not referring to incidents occurring outside Pakistan. This is what has been happening in this country since forever and that, too, shamelessly. The recent action taken by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Fayyaz ul Hassan Chohan’s final fiasco has helped in some face-saving of the nation, but the latest incident of abduction, rape and forcible conversion of a Christian mother of three by a local mullah has tainted the image much darker.

Besides, attacks on mosques in non-Muslim countries are as comprehendible, though not justifiable, as incursions of churches and temples on this stretch of land. But how can we rationalise attacks on imam bargahs and mosques of different sects within Pakistan, a Muslim country the denizens of which stand divided under the shade of the white-green flag? Perhaps, we have perceived and accepted the green portion to be an amalgam of different shades because that is the only possible true reflection of us in current circumstances.

Honouring Jacinda Ardern is actually equivalent to celebrating the existence of such optimistic, inclusive mindset full of compassion for others which we all had believed to have been extinct since long. Such souls are still there, and so is the hope of seeing a different world… a different us.