Feb 8, 2011

Society: a mirror image

We as a nation should look at our attitudes and acts in order to promote tolerance for a safer Pakistan

By Adeel Pathan

Intolerance seems to have seeped into the whole society, be it our personal lives or professional. Our mindset is becoming prone to extremism and this is not restricted to physical intolerance (such as violence) but can certainly be looked at as violence in our attitudes where we hardly accept diverse opinions.

Reasons could be many but the foremost is the intolerance in our approach. That is why we are being labeled as an intolerant society within the state of Pakistan. We show this through our gestures and ways in responding to certain things or actions. We are carrying multiple identities, we tend to be a good Muslim and a patriotic Pakistani but never think the obligations of being a good and sensible citizen who accepts diversified opinions.

What is evident is the reflection of our collective attitudes towards looking at things without getting information about issues and forming conclusion without thorough research, which we as a nation suffer a lot.

Mushroom growth of anything has side effects and the same is the fate of an enormous growth of Pakistani electronic media which has a much bigger outreach than that of the print media. Television channels, especially news and current affairs, hold series of talk shows an opinion can be rejected without any logical grounding.

Vulnerable sections of society become immediate victim of this attitude. Why do we always happen to see the poor or powerless peoples falling victims to our intolerant approach on roads, homes, offices, etc? It is just because of the fact that it only aims at overpowering the others.

The gruesome killing of Salman Taseer was an eye-opener of this outburst of intolerance which exists in our attitudes. All sections of society are equally responsible for this decay in society. Intolerance has different modes but it usually affects the weak the most and the same happens when a minority (read a religious minority) comes under attack in our part of the world as they seldom hear massive voices that directly sympathise with them.

The reaction to the murder of Punjab Governor was also a show of intolerance because intolerance is gradually being instilled into our minds through some sections of the media. Some television channels and hosts have certain ideologies. They think others are always wrong and they are always right so the end product they give us on television screens is reflective of their mindsets. When they discuss issues such as blasphemy, they keep on pushing in the wrong direction instead of just focusing on the real issue.

This is the situation we are living in. We don’t want to get out of the ‘boxes’ and feel comfortable and happy with ourselves. Anybody who has a different opinion becomes controversial. This wave of intolerance is not something new in Pakistani society but this needs to be addressed after looking deep into the roots which lie in the upbringing of our youth in an atmosphere where they consider things ‘right’ only when they hear or see from the eye of those whom they follow.

We as a nation should collectively look at our attitudes and acts in order to promote tolerance for a safer Pakistan, especially for those who have yet to open eyes in this society of ours. The level of intolerance seems to have also increased in the themes of drama serials because the soaps show that being intolerant is being prominent. All the elements of civil society -- lawyers, engineers, journalists, intellectuals, development workers, doctors, students, religious scholars, teachers, etc, should join hands to challenge intolerance. This is not an easy task. But it is never too late to begin something and ask the young generations to start looking at things differently.

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