Blasphemy and its punishment, what can and cannot be justified in the name of Islam and whether the religion preaches reconciliation or intimidation. Such key issues were addressed at the Jashn-e-Faiz’s session “Charter of Compassion and Tolerance and Intolerance”.
“Any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate,” said Abbas Husain, a member of the Faiz Centennial Committee who talked on the principle of compassion. He said that we urgently needed to make compassion a luminous and dynamic force in our polarised world in order to break down political, dogmatic and religious boundaries.
“Each and every one [of us] has been equally affected by intolerance in our society and as a result, we have terrorism in the north, target killing in Karachi and bomb blasts all over the country,” he said.
So far in the country’s history, 45 people have been convicted of blasphemy, out of which 17 were psychiatrically ill. “Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put the other there,” he told The Express Tribune.
The session was open for public comment during which students and other visitors shared their views and grievances. One commenter, however, changed the perception of tolerance in our society. “I don’t think we have become intolerant. I think we have become more tolerant. We are now more tolerant to killings and more tolerant to injustice,” remarked Dr Taimur Rehman of Laal band.
“The session was interactive enough for me to develop my own opinions rather than [continue] relying on what is largely believed about the blasphemy law,” said a Karachi University student, Shaheen Ashraf.
Natiqa Fayyaz, a volunteer with the CFD, said religious topics such as the Blasphemy Laws always get “extreme reactions”. “But irrespective of what they [audience] believed in, it was good to see that people were listening to the speakers and giving their opinions or asking questions where they felt confused.”
Organiser Mohsin Sayeed said that the most important part of the seminar was that the laws were discussed openly rather than in “closed rooms or in hushed tones”. “This,” he felt, “was a beginning for sure”.
The openness of the discussion exuded the philosophy and ideology of Faiz. Bol, ke lab azaad hain tere…
Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2011.