Seeds of peace in a barren land?


Those who were present in the lecture theater on Wednesday 18th of March 2009, around 3:45 PM saw one of the reasons the state of the world (and particularly this country) is the way it is. The irony of the incident though, lies in the fact that this TISF slot was devoted to a talk supposedly meant to promote harmony and understanding. For what it’s worth- I can honestly say Aneeq (as Saram introduced him to me as) or Adnan (that’s the name the presentation was saved as) and other members of Seeds of Peace sure have their work cut out for them.

Seeds of Peace is an ambitious project with the aim of promoting peace and acceptance among young people in war-inflicted countries (like ours). Pakistan has the unique honor of being in a state of war within its political boundaries, as well as having hostile nations on both sides of the border, so this program- in a Utopian world- may actually help this country more than mass producing rocket launchers. In a Utopian world, of course, we’d be mass producing progressive, honest intelligent leaders that actually care about the country, and that sure as sin isn’t happening.

I missed the start of the session, but when I entered Aneeq was asking the crowd what they thought was the definition of ‘identity’? After a bit of a discussion the crowd as well as the speaker came to the conclusion that a) Identity was about self- actualization and what we perceived ourselves as; and b) it was defined by categories and labels, whatever label that you put to yourself willingly (or unwillingly) is in a way your identity. These categories could be general, such as “I identify myself as a human”; or narrower like “I’m a TIPian.

After the concept of identity was driven home, he discussed what constituted an ‘us’, and what constituted an ‘other’? Who are ‘we’ and who is ‘everyone else’?

Aneeq asked out “What is an example of the Other?”

Sarim answered “The Indians”

O.K., let’s not go there…can anybody name a different ‘other’?

Aasim: “the people outside TIP.”

How poignant is that? In our happy, green, lake centred world we are all TIPians, but anyone who isn’t is not a part of us. Let’s take this to a larger scale…in our happy surviving-go-lucky country we are all Pakistanis, and those who don’t live here, or weren’t born here, or whose parents weren’t born here, are not. They are NOT an ‘us’. Technically that’s perfectly fine because not everyone can be a Pakistani, so where do the problems start?

The answer followed a few minutes later, and became the reason why projects like these have become so extremely important in today’s world.

Aneeq described a project at St. Anthony’s school where a dialogue (I’m not sure though- we never found out what the activity really was) was held between two groups of christian and muslim children. He could not continue because a religious debate sparked up.

“In Islam there can BE no intermingling of religions! It is NOT permitted, and you can’t argue with the Book!”

“Why are Muslims so insecure about their faith? Can’t it be possible that non-Muslims are affected rather than the other way around?”

“There is no discussion. What’s in the Quran is final.”

And Allah also said in Surah al Kafiroon “ For you your religion, for them theirs.”

Should one’s religion be personal? Or should he/she wear it on his/her sleeve?

Should one shun people who are different, or should one accept them openly?

Would Islam approve tolerance? Or would Islam approve intolerance (I’m sorry, bigotry and prejudice are the only opposites of tolerance I could find and they both sounded offensive)And most importantly, as Aneeq asked: “What are the limits of tolerance?”

Are there any limits to tolerance?

14 Replies to “Seeds of peace in a barren land?”

  1. I personally believe dat peace and harmony lies in how much tolerant u r…..tolerance in every sense, be it thoughts or actions and we must learn to control our reactions.
    and we as muslims should interact with others so as to know wat thet r facing and to convey the word of God and let dem know dat all the solutions to thier problems lie in our religion.

  2. First of all; I would like to congratulate Sarim for bringing out a thoughtful session.

    Tolerance limit varies from person to person. One thing might be tolerant for me but for the other person; it may not. What I percieved from the discussion is that we should always start from the common grounds. Now; if these common grounds works then we can go towards further discussion inlcuding religions too (if not, then we should stop). Intemingling should be within a limit and this limit is a point where we started to feel that going beyond this will affect our moral values or certain ideas/priniples for which we are very strict about. It is always better to leave the discussion before it start getting very personal and oviously getting personal’s limit is different for everybody.

  3. I will be most interested in knowing the writer’s views on the question of identity. Without being offensive, I strongly oppose the view that the contents of a holy book cannot be questioned.

    @Amna: I don’t think the solution to world’s problems lie in any religion. Apart from spiritual problems (that have more to do with religious metaphysics) almost all the problems of the world are socio-economic and political in nature. And the religion (in this case Islam) was formed around 1,400 years ago. The social order and means of production which determine the shape of a society have changed drastically since then. These are my views and of course I don’t intend to hurt your religious sentiments.

  4. Kazim,
    Actually i haven’t put my views of anything in the article at all. the sentences between the quotation marks are actual things that were said during the session. Considering i helped come up with the definitions of identity stated above, i can safely agree with what the article says 😀

    And a lot of people hold the opinion that a Holy Text cannot be questioned. Of course, holding any sort of opinion is not a problem; it’s when people begin foisting that view down the throat of others that the real trouble starts.

    by the way, you might find this debate interesting. do read the comments

  5. @ kazim
    well dats da point, our religion is da ultimate solution. it isnt for a certain age or time or creed but for da whole of humanity till eternity.

  6. Interesting discussion, Lots of people talk about how much tolerance Islam preaches, lots of people argue how much peaceful religion Islam or any other religion is. What i am unable to understand is the need of the religion, why is it important to divide the mankind in so many religions and make them hate each other? Every religion claims to be the righteous one, every religion teaches its followers that they are going to get rewarded for choosing this particular religion. But seriously do we choose religion? Most of us here are Muslims because we were born in Muslim family and our parents taught us that Islam is the greatest religion.

    Religion was invented at a time when humans did not yet achieve an understanding of how the world around them was running. So, in order to satisfy their curiosity of the complexities of nature, various fairy tales and myths were used to explain it using the “logic” available to them at the time. This was a necessary evil.

    As time went by and humans gained increasing knowledge and mastery over the forces of nature, religions evolved to cope with those new found explanations of previously mystical phenomenon. Religion, in essence is the human mind’s way of easing itself from the torture of “not knowing” by generating delusions that satisfy his intrigue for the time being.

    Religion makes people stop using their minds, religion asks its followers to obey the orders without raising any question … what is difference between a Religious Human and a Robot? Why God gave human being something we call “Mind” when he never wanted human beings to use it?

    Why cant we remain peaceful and civil without giving its credit to God or religion? Is it important to say that Islam doesn’t teach extremism thats why we are not extremist? Cant we say that we are not extremist because its not a rational approach to live a life, its just not good for other human beings living in this world with us. One should question whatever he or she thinks is not making sense for him/her, no matter its written in your holy books or wherever. Believe me once you accept it after understanding, you are going to stand firm on it for rest of your lives.

    For me The Holy Book (X,Y,Z) is not word of God, there is so much in The Holy Books which is very controversial and no sane person can accept it in his /her right mind, same applies on all religions exists on this earth and their teachings. But the thing is there is so much in The Holy Books and other holy books of other religions that do make sense, one should accept what is making sense, what is spreading peace and is productive and good for the mankind. If you are sure that The Holy Book is word of God and God is perfect than whats wrong in raising questions with the hope that you will find the answers?

    Religion does NOTHING but hold you back. The only reason for mankind to progress is because some intelligent humans realized the God charade and chose not to listen to it. Thanks to them that we have what we have. Basically, all those who have failed to accomplish anything in the world, believe in God. They know that they are failures in this world and therefore they HOPE to get something in the “hereafter”. It’s that HOPE that keeps them going. People in NWFP, in Afghanistan or Pakistan or anywhere else that have NO accomplishments, are religious.

    There is nothing wrong in being Muslim, Jew, Hindu or any other religion’s follower, one should keep it to him/herself. What we do is that we start imposing religion, we forget about our own grave and start pointing our fingers at other’s graves, we cant tolerate someone’s views, we love to declare each other Kaafir, there are so many sects even within Islam and each sect is calling the other sect as “kaafir”, whats this? Are we God to decide who is kaafir and who is going in hell and who is owner of heaven? Religion is a tool to divide this humanity in a worst possible way, in a way which is all about hatred and superiority complexes.

    “With or without religion good people will do good things and evil people will do evil things….but for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” -Weinberg.

  7. wah Malik sahib — I completely agree with you. May your tribe grow.

    As for the question of ‘identity’, I think everyone has numerous identities at the same time. For instance, one can (simultaneously) be a member of the working class, a cultural Muslim, a socialist, a feminist, a heterosexual, a believer in gay/lesbian rights, a journalist, an admirer of classical Urdu poetry, a fan of Arundhati Roy, a follower of Imam Husain, a student of Marxism and so on and so forth. It depends on you what identity or sub-identity you think is over-reaching and most significant. But all these identities aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

  8. @ Syeda

    “Agnostic” stage of confusion is long gone, and am really not into calling myself an atheist. I am more a “Human”, same person like i was when i came into this world, uninfected by religious virus.

    But yes after researching a lot about religions, Church of Flying Spaghetti Monster impressed me more than any other religion, so you can say i am “spagnostic” … Its the only religion that is logical and credible enough to attract my attention. So i do accept the authority and Nooddley Holiness of the one and Only God Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  9. @ Syeda

    Can you please tell me what is the Punishment for Blasphemy (a victimless crime) in Pakistan?

    You have your answer in my question. 🙂

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