How can we stop our children from being radicalised by extremists?
I ask this question because all around me, our kids are being brainwashed by adults who are scared that Islam will disappear from the world if the younger generation is not trained to kill for the sake of religion.
“Dada, you will not go to heaven if you do not keep a beard, Mehroze Khan Chacha told me”.
“Nana, you should wear shalwar kameez when you go to the mosque, not jeans and T-shirt, Akmal driver Chacha says so.”
“Dadi, you should not watch TV, Allah will punish you for it, our Quran teacher told us.”
“Mummy, why don’t you wear a burqa, our Islamiat teacher says your prayers will never be accepted if you don’t.”
When you hear such sentences from children who are only six or seven-years-old, you wonder how you can prevent your children from turning into extremists.
We cannot prevent our children from speaking to our staff members (drivers or security guards) or those who teach them how to read the Quran. These individuals are placed in our lives and we cannot overlook their presence. Muslims have differing beliefs, but the hard-core ones, which we need to keep our children away from, are the ones who believe that not only Pakistan, but the whole world has been created for Muslims who follow an extremist version of Islam.
This belief automatically negates the concept of sub-sections within a majority. When I was a child, we heard that there were only two sects, which have existed for centuries. Mosque Imams were more relaxed and I never heard anyone preaching that it was a good deed to kill those who did not follow the “true” faith, Islam.
Eventually, things started getting worse. Almost all the Christians of Karachi migrated to greener pastures (most Hindus had fled to India immediately after partition). When we were in school, we would play and eat with Christians, Hindus and Parsis (there were a few Jews as well).
Nowadays, children rarely come across non-Muslims. I occasionally come across teenagers who think that only a few non-Muslims are left in Pakistan, and it’s only a matter of time before they are wiped out.
The decline probably started after some of our labourers and working class individuals began returning from Middle East countries like Saudi Arabia, and became convinced that the hard-line version of Islam practiced there was far superior to the relaxed one inherited by Pakistan.
Suddenly there was a proliferation of organisations preaching what they considered the “true” Islam and many people joined them. It was not long before our TV channels also began to telecast programs in which so-called scholars were invited to convince people to follow their ideologies.
At wedding dinners and such occasions, religion and politics are the most popular topics. I keep overhearing obscure things such as whether Islam allows us to eat prawns and crabs or whether a man’s nikkah is broken if he prays behind a man who belongs to another sub-sect. Extreme cases include brothers quarrelling over which imam should lead funeral prayers because they both belong to different sub-sects.
I wonder if this battle can ever be won. At times I am filled with despair over the decreased levels of tolerance in our society, especially when I witness things such as people in my neighbourhood building a new mosque because the Imam of a nearby mosque followed a slightly different version of Islam. Now, when I go to offer prayers in the mosque where the Imam apparently follows a different version of Islam, some of my neighbours express their aversion openly.
I weep for my people, for my country and for the Muslim world. I have no solution to the problem, except perhaps keeping our children away from individuals who lean towards extremism.
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