On blasphemy, clerics and intolerance
Intolerance is making headlines again. One can elucidate that local cleric Qari Salam’s decision to facilitate an FIR against Aasia Bibi or the appointment of JUI-F cleric Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani as the 12th chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) show that we are victims of our own social confusion.
I couldn’t help but notice that the history of intolerance and ignorance has always been battling against humanity. One of my colleague who visited Aasia Bibi’s village in Nankana to interview Qari Salam was astonished by the lack of remorse he felt regarding the decision to facilitate the FIR filed against her. When asked about pardoning Aasia Bibi, he went on to say that if it was his own "personal matter" he could consider pardoning her. Furthermore, he also hinted at potential public backlash from such a decision. The point I am getting at is that there was societal dynamics, which trumped anything supposedly rational.
Discussing the idea of social confusion, KK Aziz in his book “The Pakistani Historian” worried that changing society had been replaced by apathy and a lack of thought. The truth is we have reached a point where lack of education and moral strength has bred this confused circle of intolerance. Various facets of life ranging from politics to religion and even culture has challenged this attitude to live for the “now” as Aziz puts it.
Furthermore, with the death of pan-Islamic thought, our society’s ethical and moral debate has been hijacked by the religious cleric. By any means, the Council of Islamic Ideolgy has failed to even raise a proper voice against terror because religious parties remain confused about how religious beliefs fit into the concept of Pakistan. Furthermore, the state’s endorsement of Sherani is a sign that clerics retain political power during a time when academic Islamic scholars are forced to live in exile.
It seems that while living for the present, we have forgotten our past. As we boast laurels about old Islamic empires and hope for a new Saladin to come to our rescue, remember that the difference between then and now was an inherent attitude of tolerance. Tolerance in education, thought, and life in general meant that there was a collective will to strive and adapt to the changing times.