Tolerating Intolerance

Sep 14th, 2012 | By | Category: Latest, Pakistan, Social

Pakistan is witnessing an unprecedented rise in everyday intolerance. Every now and then we hear stories of torture and killings in the most brutal ways by ordinary public, ranging from strangers on the road to one’s own family members.

If one doesn’t comply with your commands, we burn; we rape; we plunder. Have you found a thief? Beat him to death. Is someone involved in an illicit relationship? Parade them naked on the streets. And don’t forget to catch their videos on your cell phones. Found people who belong to a minority sect? Make them stand in a line and open fire. Did you hear about a 15 year old illiterate girl with mental disabilities, who burnt a noraniqaida? What are you waiting for? We all know what to do with her.

“But hey, don’t generalize us man. All Pakistanis aren’t like that. Don’t spread negativity. Here, have a gum”, is what I usually get to hear when I try to raise such concerns, in (ahem) ‘my’ circle.

Is it ignorance or apathy? Hey, i don’t know and i don’t care – Jimmy Buffet

So, what about us? The so-called ‘educated’ lot of Pakistan.How nice and tolerant are we? Why do our minds not explode and our hearts not sink when we see or hearof such horrific acts of violence?

Let me tell you why: we are too tolerant! It is as if when God created us, he poured the remaining 80% of tolerance on our ‘elite’, after giving a drop to each country. We are very patient, our hearts are made of Tungsten, as they don’t even heat up (let alone melt) when we watch ‘real’ humans being butchered like goats. To sum up: We have tolerance for intolerance.

And the irony doesn’t end here. Because when it comes to questioning our beliefs, (and by beliefs I don’t mean religious; there is hardly any of the religion left in us) we become wolf packs, who aggressively defend their territories from all non-pack members (in our case, anyone who dares to oppose our views on anything and everything). And then we give lectures of tolerance to those who cannot tolerate our intolerance! ha-ha! And the most common targets of our ‘lectures’ are, well, people like me! Who are constantly reminded of how they “think too much”, and they should “give us a break” and that they seriously need a vacation.

Sorry for bursting the bubble of those who like to be called (pseudo) liberals. They are anything but liberal. While fancy English language phrases such as ‘social justice’, ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘individuality’ are embedded in their dictionaries, you will not find them advocating these principles when there is truly a need to do so. And how can they possibly take out time for all of this from their exhausting routines.  After all, they have a ‘life’ you know? A life that revolves around ‘status’ updating and attempts at becoming the western definition of ‘modern’. Why should anyone pay a heed to whether the nation deteriorates or loses even the little bit of integrity left of it.

So where does it take this nation? I was told by a ‘well-wisher’ not to waste my energy on something that is not going to happen: change. But for once i have decided that I am not going to give up. I am not going to turn my back on those who have turned their backs on the rest of the nation. Because I believe they are the ones who need my help the most at the moment. I am going to fight (and no not the physical one, please. There is plenty of it that if we could export it we’d be debt-free). I am going to raise my voice, against the tolerance of intolerance. Because I also believe that if we are able to revive the conscience of this not-so-common class of Pakistan, it will eventually lead to an outcry for tolerance by them. A much needed outcry that will remind the masses of peace and love, for the sake of the long forgotten humanity.

I have a very strong feeling that the opposite of love is not hate – it’s apathy. It’s not giving a damn.

-Leo Buscaglia

Shifa Ali

About the author

Shifa Ali is a student from Karachi and plans to initiate a movement against intolerance in Pakistan

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  1. Asalam o alaykum wr wb.

    I do agree with all the things you’ve discussed here. What do you suggest we should do? What are the practical steps towards such ‘tolerance’?

  2. Waalikum Assalaam,

    The first step is to circulate the idea among the silent ones, that they need to speak up and that speaking up will make a difference. Once we achieve that, there are many ways to get your voice heard by the masses. One of the ways is to mobilize those who share the same belief and take collective steps with them. This is exactly what i, along with my team, plan to do. We are on the first stage at the moment, i.e. spreading the idea.

    You can join our fb page:

    You have to understand that change is always slow in coming. It builds up. And the key is to never give up.

  3. Thank you, some nice thoughts in your article. The issue of intolerance urgently needs to be addressed. I would like to join your Facebook page, but the link is not working is not working. A few thoughts on the article itself: from reading it, I do believe that your intentions are good, but I also think that you are very vague about what exactly it is that ‘we’ should be speaking up against. Why don’t we start by protesting against our military and political elite’s support for extremist and violent groups which promote sectarian intolerance (and have led to the radicalisation of our state and society), our oppressive state structure which promotes fascist laws such as 295-C (blasphemy) and the Anti-Ahmadi laws, which are used to persecute others? Why don’t we promote reform of textbooks in our schools which teach hatred and intolerance of others particularly minority religions? Why don’t we speak up whenever one of the extremist groups (such as LeJ) has a rally in our town and openly calls for killing Shias? Why don’t we speak out against the economic and social discrimination that those from the ‘lower’ classes experience every day? Of course you didn’t add that most ‘educated’ people are afraid of speaking up, because they have seen what happens if one does speak up (other than just in the English language press and blogosphere), e.g. Shahbaz Bhatti, Taseer, Sherry Rehman. Simply labelling the people you are trying to address in your article as ‘pseudo liberals’ and mocking ‘them’ (interesting how the ‘we’ changes to ‘they’!) isn’t really going to make them very sympathetic to your writings, is it? You have to convince people that it is in their own best interest to speak out. Moreover, there are also educated people I know who are working to bring about change, at least on a societal, if not governmental level (through NGOs, charities, etc). By starting a Facebook group (and writing blogs in English), how are you any different? How do you propose to reach out to the ‘masses’? More importantly, how do you propose to reach out to the few who wield disproportionate power in our unfortunate country?

  4. […] want the world to be a better place, a more peaceful and tolerant place, for all human beings whether they live in the ‘developed’ world or the ‘developing’ […]

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