Declining level of tolerance

Professor Waheed Uz Zaman Tariq

As the time passed, our level of tolerance has declined, gradually and we have reached to a point when we feel that our forefathers were wrong. We are perhaps like those Qaramta dissident sect of Sindh, who attacked Multan almost a millennium ago. They killed the Hindus first and destroyed their temple, which was dedicated to the Sun worship; a combined tradition of Hinduism and Zoroastrianism. The temple was very popular and Hindus visited there from all over India. Their ladies laid their golden ornament to please the deity. The city became so rich that Al Masudi (a great historian and expert in geography from Baghdad, 896 AD-956 AD), called it Madinat al Zahab (the city of gold). According to Dr Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi, when the Muslims took over the city, they found that the Hindu Brahmin priests fought to get their share.

The Muslim rulers took over the administrative and financial matters and paid lucrative salaries to the priests. They spent a lot for the maintenance of the temple and comfortable stay and rituals of the pilgrims. Multan was border city of the Muslim state. The Hindus did not attack it because the temple and its affairs were well looked after. When Qaramta attacked the city, they destroyed the temple, killed the Hindus ruthlessly and then they killed the orthodox Muslims of Multan. They blamed the Muslims of sponsoring the shirk (polytheism). They established their own rule and made a mosque. Al Beiruni (Birth: September 4, 973 AD, Khwarezm Death: December 9, 1048, Ghazni), wrote about their abandoned mosque, after the fall of city to the forces of Ghazanvid rulers. On the floor of the building which was once their mosque, he saw that the leaves of henna were crushed to make the powder.

We saw a similar example of Buddhist monuments of Afghanistan, which had survive the attack by the companions of the Prophet (PBUH), on the far off outpost of Bamian of the Persian Empire. The monuments were remained intact for fourteen centuries. All looked towards them as the signs of the past, in accordance with the teachings of Quran. “Similar situations [as yours] have passed on before you, so proceed throughout the earth and observe how was those who denied had met to their end.” (Surah Ali ‘Imran 3:137 – Al-Qur’an). The generation after generations of Muslims had passed till the Taliban destroyed these monuments by dynamite. It meant that their previous generations were all wrong. They did it despite all resistance shown by different countries and a lot of deliberation.

This was not peculiar to the Muslims. The intolerance was a recent phenomenon at a universal level. The Babri Masjid was located at Ayodhya in Faizabad district and was one of the largest mosques in the Uttar Pradesh state. What we read from the Persian writings, inscribed on its walls, it was built in 1528–29 CE, by Mir Baqi, as ordered by the Mughal emperor Babur. There were political reasons, which led to a debate that previously a temple existed, where the mosque was built. Since the end of the 19th century, several cases of dispute between Hindus and Muslims, were heard in the court over the mosque. It was on 6 December 1992, when a mob of Hindu extremists demolished the Babri Masjid and riots took a toll of 2,000 lives, all over India.

Even in the heart of the Europe, the Muslims were ruthlessly massacred in Bosnia and other states of Balkans, to cleanse the ethnicity of Muslims and make Europe free from them. Then, it was the turn of Kosovo. All happened fairly recently and it exposed the mind-set of many Europeans, who otherwise, claimed to be the most tolerant ad civilised people, on the globe. Their current treatment of the Muslim refugees is visible to the world. In their own times, the Muslims rulers of Europe both of Spain and Portugal (711-1492 AD), as well as Ottoman ruler of East Europe (1453-1914 AD) had remained tolerant to all religions and ethnicities.

What is the state of Rohingya Muslims in the Buddhist Burma, ruled by the Noble Laureate of Peace, is awful. The Buddhists were always considered to be the most peace loving and tolerant people. Indeed, they vanished in India in the hands of Hindus, without showing any resistance, about one and half millennium ago. What happened to them in the recent past, is a new phenomenon. The Muslims suffered in their hands but their plight after 2015 is a genocide and displacement. Even, in their refugee camps, outside Burma, they are passing through the worst turmoil of the history. In Bangladesh, they are suffering, where the Bihari Muslims has seen the worst plight, after the fall of Dacca in 1971 and they have been living under subhuman condition, with a stripped off nationality.

The situation in Pakistan is not ideal. The minorities have been mishandled with one pretext or other. The people, who wanted to occupy their land, had played all possible kind of tricks. Their colonies have been burnt and mass attack had taken place, with ill information. We cannot live in isolation and have to respect the world opinion. The world bodies have shown their concerns for what is going in Pakistan. According to a report by Minority Rights Group International (MRG), Pakistan is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for religious minorities. The mafias, looters, religious extremists and terrorists have all targeted the minorities.

On May 5, 2013, a mob of people, which carried clubs attacked a Hindu temple of Larkana. It smashed the idols, robbed the gold artefacts and set the place of worship ablaze. In September 22, 2013, the deadliest attack by two suicide bombers was carried out at All Saints Church in Peshawar, by unknown terrorists. At least 83 Christians were killed. On March 7, 2013, a group of demonstrators, comprising of hundreds of angry persons set ablaze, at least a two hundred houses of Christians in Joseph Colony, Lahore. It happened after a resident of that colony Sawan Masih, was accused of blasphemy. Three churches were set ablaze there. A day before the incident, it was told that the local police had been asking the Christians to vacate their residences. On November 4, 2014, an enraged mob had beaten a Christian couple to death near Lahore and burnt their bodies in the brick kiln where they worked on Tuesday for allegedly desecrating the Holy Quran. On May 13, 2015, gunmen entered a bus and opened fire on the passengers belonging to the Ismaili community in Karachi, killing at least 43. On November 21, 2015, a factory owned by members of the Ahmadiyya community was set ablaze at Jhelum. On March 27, 2016, a suicide bomber exploded himself in a crowded park on Lahore, where Christians had gathered to celebrate Easter Sunday. At least 72 people were killed and more than 300 wounded.

The opportunist elements have abused the situation. Minority girls have been kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam and produced to the court subsequently, when they had been left with nothing, in case they went back. Hindus have migrated from Pakistan to India, where they have been looked with suspicion. The greedy people have not left even the graveyards of the minorities. I am sure that they did the same with Muslim graveyards, also.
The Muslims had ruled India for a millennium or so. They have shown respect to all religions and ethnicities.

Our forefathers told us stories, when they lived side by side, with their non-Muslim neighbours with mutual respect and had developed a social order of coexistence, with mutual respect. Therefore, the phenomenon of intolerance is a recent one. It is global and affects all religions and ethnicities. We had been expecting a better behaviour, in the days of so called enlightenment and education but we are heading towards a difficult situation. In Pakistan, we may not blame the civil society for terrorist attacks, as everyone had been its victims, but the perpetrated attacks common people and a wave of intolerance in the minds of masses is to be taken seriously. There is a need for psychoanalysis of the society and study of social factors. Islam teaches us tolerance and mutual respect.

It believes in the sanctity of places of worship and lives of people of all religions. The grievances have to be settled in courts and not in the streets. The religious scholars must teach the followers of Islam behave with dignity and mutual respect and should discourage the use of name of Islam for ulterior material gains and personal interests. Once our own house is in put in order, we may ask others to mould their behaviour for tolerance.