The way Hindu temples were vandalised and private properties destroyed recently in Sindh’s Ghotki district is yet another reminder that the challenge of religiously inspired violent extremism is bigger than we thought.
Moving beyond a shallow condemnation, the government will certainly have to act to increase the cost of committing such violence, that too on spurious grounds.
Apart from the specific measure related to the Ghotki incident, two things must be done to protect all religious minorities in Pakistan from violence. First, the groups and individuals using faith to gain political and religious influence should be strictly dealt with under the law.
Secondly, the state should demonstrate zero tolerance towards hate narratives being disseminated online and in other ways by extremist religious groups, individuals and their supporters. A clear, unequivocal message should be sent that the state alone is the custodian of the constitutional rights of all citizens, irrespective of their faith.
The fear expressed by the majoritarian mindset that religious minorities could harm the sovereignty of Pakistan is simply baseless. For one, patriotism cannot be reduced to religion alone without declaring non-Muslims in Pakistan as non-citizens.
A general argument can be made that Pakistan’s power elites have been patronising religious, ethnic, cultural and racial disagreements to further their regime, instead of looking at the diversity of religious, cultural and societal opinion in Pakistan as a sign of inclusiveness and plurality. That has significantly damaged the country’s social fabric, mainly its humanistic values such as empathy and compassion, which safeguard individuals and societies from hate and aggression.
Irrespective of its geographical location and its religious or secular tendencies, if a society possesses a sense of majoritarian supremacy or is hyper nationalistic or harbours a collective sense of hatred and aggression, then it lacks empathy and compassion. The absence of these two attributes could push society towards chaos and anarchy.
The phenomenon of religious intolerance has its own dynamics but in recent years it has increased through its connectivity with larger extremist discourses fanned in cyberspaces. Social media platforms have increased the exposure and vulnerability of the youth to divisive and extremist ideologies. This exposure is making people sensitive about their identities. Such an identity crisis is beneficial to the radical groups.
By arrangement with Dawn...