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Embracing diversity inevitable in contemporary globalized world

Abbottabad (PR) – Scholars at a ‘Youth for Interfaith Harmony’ workshop said that in Pakistan religious and cultural diversities have often been viewed as threats to social cohesion. In the pursuit of national unity, diversity was dismissed as politically undesirable and religious, ethnic, and cultural differences were downplayed for the supposedly greater cause of singular identity. Speaking to the workshop participants, renowned religious scholar and former chairperson of the Council of Islamic Ideology, Dr. Khalid Masud, said that there has been no serious effort to understand the diversities in Pakistan. Difference has mostly been looked down upon as a stumbling block in the way of building consensus on national issues, he said, adding that the prevailing perception is that diversity of opinions hampers consensus.
Dr. Masud said that the Western thinking on diversity has also seen a setback, and that fear of diversity is emerging in the West too mainly due to the mass migration of refugees especially Muslims to Western Europe and North America. Many people in the West have begun viewing the diversity – brought by refugees – as threats to their way of life despite the fact that refugees particularly the Muslims make only a tiny fraction of populations in those countries. Dr. Khalid Masud said that in the contemporary globalized world, differences in people’s ethnicities, faiths, or cultures cannot be suppressed on one ground or the other. Therefore, the global community of people should learn to live with and cherish diversity. Similarly, the chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology, Dr. Qibla Ayaz, said that diversity of faiths is an ancient reality of this region. He said Islam teaches respect for other faiths and opposes faith-based persecution.
During the workshop, the university students from the Hazara division were also taught about popular misperceptions relating to social structures and hierarchies in Pakistan. Noted columnist, Muhammad Amir Rana, discussed with students how perceptions were formed and what factors and biases influenced those perceptions. He urged the students to adopt scientific approach both in their intellectual pursuits as well as in practical life by framing their opinions on the basis of facts rather than perceptions or assumptions. The youth make the majority of population in Pakistan and they have a deep impact on the society. As such, educated young people should develop the ability to raise questions and analyze issues in the light of facts, Amir Rana said. Curiosity and questioning lead to clarity and progress and conformity to intellectual stagnation, he added. He, therefore, urged the young participants to shun linear thinking and open up their minds to the idea that there could be multiple explanations for a single phenomenon.
In the end, the participants were shown a documentary on the mob violence against the Hindu shrine in district Karak. Filmed by investigative journalist, Sabookh Syed, the documentary contained eye-witness accounts of the incident and also shed light on the background and history of the Hindu shrine. The documentary was followed by a critical debate about interfaith relations in Pakistan. The workshop was part of the series of countrywide workshops on the theme of interfaith harmony organized by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS).

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Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS)
Sabookh Syed
Cell: 0300 5842249