I am sure any sensible person with a thinking mind cannot help but be appalled about how the world is changing and how the threat of religious extremism that is often accompanied by terrorism and violence continues to find new ground.
Now whatever steps the Pakistani government or global powers may take, however many wars on terror, drone strikes and military operations are launched, the fact remains that a long term solution will never be found through just these means. We need to analyze the problem first and I know it is a multi-faceted problem but on a micro level, the problem is the mindset where killing other human beings is considered not just acceptable, but even commendable.
Society is made of individuals and each individual is shaped primarily by two institutions: his home and his school. Quite often a person’s conduct and behavior can be traced back to either or both of these two. Thus the greatest responsibility for the direction a society will take, in my opinion, rests with the parents, the school teachers and the spiritual leaders.
As parents we must try to inculcate tolerance, goodwill, compassion and love in our young children and also be very conscious and careful about what they are exposed to as their impressionable minds can be very easily and even inadvertently influenced. But then many parents themselves are the products of this society and have in their own time been influenced by similar notions which they naturally and spontaneously promote.
This is where the school and teachers, especially school teachers come in. I have been in the education sector for about 30 years now, out of which 14 have been as Principal of a high school and I tell you in all honesty that we need momentous reforms in the education sector. I personally know many teachers and principals, more especially in the government sector, whose horizons are narrow and their own knowledge extremely limited and biased, and they authoritatively preach their own version and interpretation of Islam, quite often erroneously and permanently influencing young minds.
They strongly discourage debate and reason, simply because their limited knowledge does not have the answers. The bar for the process of hiring teachers vis-à-vis their qualification, knowledge, mindset and how they view this great vocation must be thoroughly evaluated and checked before they are entrusted with the great task of shaping the future. We also must have a uniform, quality education system across the board in our country, without which we can never hope for a unified nation.
Thirdly and perhaps most importantly is the molvi or mullah. Most of us never take the trouble to understand our religion ourselves; we neither have the time nor the inclination. We have confined that to the Mullah, who for most part is pretty ignorant himself. Anyone who is assigned the task of preaching to people from the pulpit must be a scholar and properly qualified for this important and influential position. Our average molvi, who calls the shots, especially in rural communities and exerts considerable influence and clout, must be an Islamic scholar and his appointment should be regulated by the government. The Friday sermons that easily and quite surreptitiously shape minds and mindsets must be monitored by the government and anyone promoting hate and malice must be taken to task. Similarly organizations and their heads that spread hate and intolerance because of vested interests or misguided enthusiasm must also be dealt with appropriately.
The self righteousness that has invariably accompanied religion in our country since the late 70’s has made it a very sensitive topic where any kind of discussion or dissent is discouraged. We all have taken to cherry picking and reject or accept religious doctrines according to our convenience and / or bent of mind and with so many interpretations and schools of thought and each with its own axe to grind, makes consensus and a unified approach impossible. Our memories are short and turning a blind eye to anything unpalatable is definitely easier than confronting it.
This mindless sense of superiority, where anyone who is not a Muslim is not good enough, is a mindset many of us follow while we yearn for an afterlife that will take away all our ‘deprivations’ in this one. Indeed Silence in the face of evil is itself evil and the silent majority must get its act together against people spreading hate from mosques and schools judging, and condemning those who do not measure up to their definition of Islam.
If the present situation continues to escalate Muslims will be totally alienated and pitted against the rest of the world and it is not difficult to see what will be the outcome. In our zeal to become better Muslims and land in paradise we have some how bypassed becoming better human beings. We are passing judgments which we are not in our domain and giving bigots like Mr Trump fertile ground to make matters worse. Let the almighty decide who is right and who is wrong when the time comes and meanwhile try to make this world a better place by making positive contributions and becoming more tolerant. It is a matter of the survival of not just us but our coming generations. Let us remember that we do not inherit the world from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children and we owe it to them to leave them a world full of love, peace and understanding and not war and hate.