‘Combat extremism with a new discourse’

Speakers at convention urge govt to take strict action against those promoting hatred.

Our Correspondent February 04, 2015
Clerics warned the media against criticising religious decrees.

FAISALABAD: Speakers at a consultation titled Preventing Hate Speech for Social Cohesion on Wednesday urged the government to take strict action against those misusing loudspeakers and circulating banned literature promoting hatred.

They said lists of banned organisations should be made public and awareness campaigns should urge people to stop giving charity to front organisations for these outfits. They said those financially supporting anti-peace activities in Pakistan should be identified.

The Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM) and Rights of Expression, Assembly, Association and Thought (REAT) had organised the consultation.

AWAM Director Naseem Anthony said syllabus being taught in schools pointed to differences between various communities and promoted intolerance.

He said syllabus being taught at schools and seminaries must be purged of literature inciting hatred towards minority communities.

“The government should dedicate serious efforts to review literature being taught to students,” he said.

Awami Workers Party general secretary Arif Ayaz said, “Laws to combat hate speech must be carefully enforced so that excessive curtailing of legitimate free expression can be avoided. Public awareness about laws against hate speech should be increased through media.”

Peace and Human Development (PHD) Foundation Director Suneel Malik said, “Laws play an important role in addressing hate speech. They should be complemented by policy measures to bring genuine changes in social attitudes, perceptions and discourse.”

He said the government must invest in a fresh discourse.

“Such initiatives will combat inequality and structural discrimination from the grassroots,” he said.

Shahid Anwar, a rights activist, said “It is unfortunate that clerics misuse loudspeakers at places of worship against those practicing of various religions.”

He said seminaries spreading extremist ideologies should be closely monitored. He said religious scholars and clerics making hate speeches and drafting banned literature should be taken to task according to law. He said it was time the government became serious about it.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 5th, 2015.


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