In recent days, around 500 flood-affected families of the Ahmadi community, who were devastated by the recent floods, were shunned from relief camps apparently set up to 'help' the citizens of Pakistan in their time of need. Amongst those relief camps which denied the hapless families any assistance or support, were so-called religious charities.
Now it should be noted that the camps in question were in fact running on the generous donations of the people of Pakistan to help their fellow citizens. Despite this, these relief camps ignored these Pakistani men, women, and children who had been ruthlessly uprooted from their ancestral homes, and along with their sense of purpose, had their houses, personal possessions and life as they knew it snatched away from them. Their final and only hope lied within the relief camps set up by the people of Pakistan through their private funds.
However, when push came to shove, they found out that this support system was also not forthcoming. They hadn't done anything wrong. Their only fault was that they belonged to a group of individuals who dared to believe in something allegedly at odds with the majority of opinion, and for that they were penalised.
And this type of intolerance isn't a one-off incident. Instances of intolerance in the Pakistani society are noticeable in every nook and cranny of the country, whether it be regarding religion, ethnicity, or social status. Widespread are incidents of those maulvis who are more excited at the length of a person's beard than the piety of one's actions, or food outlets being closed during the day in Ramazan because heaven knows what would happen if a pious believer were to see a grain of food within a 10-metre radius of his watchful eyes. Let us not forget ethnic-sectarian strife in the largest city of the country, where, ironically, although you have the same desires, wants and ambitions as the individuals from other backgrounds, you don't have the tolerance to allow anyone but yourself to achieve them. Hence you can't give an inch, let alone live along side 'the other'.
In a nutshell, one recent experience perfectly sums up our predicament. On making a trip to the store to pick up some groceries, a roundish figured man with a flowing white beard pointed towards my shorts and forcefully asserted that they are an inch too short and hence 'haram'. That's right, haram. We are living in times of target killings, corruption, bribery, nepotism, hypocrisy and religious narrow mindedness, and this gentleman seems to find the length of my shorts as his biggest concern of the day. If nothing else, at least we can say that we aren't picky when it comes to a topic to be intolerant about.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 23rd, 2010.
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