By Dilnawaz Qamar
November 01, 2011
The majority of those who have an antagonistic attitude and behaviour towards other religions have closed personalities. They are never open to those who are different. They are over-defensive and overprotective of their own superior beliefs.
In the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, ‘diversity’ is defined as: “When many different types of things or people are included in something.” Diversity is a gift of God and different research and studies demonstrate that nature encourages diversity and it matters. If we just focus on our bodies we are blessed with different organs and these different organs have different functions. Diversity in bodily organs not only adds beauty to our physical being but also adds to the functionality of the body. We would not have been able to do various jobs if we were given a body with uniform functionality. Each and every part has a significant role to play in the body.
Cultural diversity is the multiplicity and variety of human cultures in a specific region or in the world as a whole. This world would be a boring place if we had to live in a homogenous society. Cultural differences include differences in language, dress, art, literature, values and traditions. As human beings we respect these differences. Whenever we find ourselves in a different culture we try to accommodate, temporarily or permanently, the specific culture. Cultural diversity is a source of strength in society. Diversity becomes strength when society learns to value and respect differences. Doctors, engineers, soldiers, teachers, politicians, artists, singers, cricketers — all professionals make society a unified whole with diverse professions. Everyone is different with different talents and capacities and this variety is the most positive feature of any society. When we respect differences we actually create an environment where self-esteem and self-worth is promoted and where selfishness is discouraged. Nations are destroyed when there is intolerance and hostility to differences. Melissa Etheridge, an American singer, rightfully said, “I feel my heart break to see a nation ripped apart by its own greatest strength — its diversity.”
Many of you who are reading this article already agree that diversity, whether in mankind or culture and society, enriches life. But when it comes to religious diversity, a different evaluation is utilised. In all ages diversity in religions has been a fact but unfortunately this diversity has been a source of contention rather than community and kinship. We offend others by assuming that our religion is the superior one. People who entertain hostile feelings for other religions are considered to be the ones who are most faithful. Hostile people become satisfied as they assume that the hostility, aggression and enmity to the communities of different religions is an important component of religious commitment. Intolerance for people who are religiously different has become an important religious problem.
The thought that other religions are inferior to our religion is so deep rooted that many fundamentalists have become indifferent to other people. James Russell Lowell, an American poet, critic and essayist gives the following insight: “Toward no crimes have men shown themselves so cold-bloodedly cruel as in punishing differences of belief.”
Having difference in views is a human right and prevention of this right gives birth to defence, protection, selfishness, judgementalism and indifference.
In the Quran, God tells humanity: “Behold, we have created you all out of a male and a female and have formed you into tribes and nations so that you may get to know one another” (Surah Al-Hujurat, 49:13). It shows that diversity is God’s will. God encouraged diversity so that we may appreciate the unity and equality of the whole of mankind.
Jesus preaches the same, “If you love those who love you, what thanks you can expect?...Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return.”
Today, the majority of those who have an antagonistic attitude and behaviour towards other religions have closed personalities. They are never open to those who are different. They are over-defensive and overprotective of their own superior beliefs. They have encaged themselves in their protective shells, making it impossible to welcome other viewpoints, thus shutting out all the opportunities of insights, learning and growth. Not to speak of other religions, many of these closed individuals have no tolerance for different sects within their own religion, believing themselves to be the true owners of the religion.
Nowadays Pakistan is the biggest victim of religious intolerance. Human life is sacred as God gives it and harming it or killing it in the name of religion is a hideous act. In the last few years, many people have been killed in the name of religion. We need to chuck out the intolerance that is lying within us as well as those around us.
We need to restructure our thinking patterns even if others are going against what we believe to be true. Let God be God and let us not interfere in His will. Now is the time for concerned Muslims, Christians, religious minorities, intellectuals, religious leaders and community leaders to mutually probe this matter. Pakistan is in dire need of getting rid of hatred, cruelty, intolerance, aggression and fanaticism. A significant paradigm change is required. Together we have to strive for mercy, justice, freedom and human dignity and respect.
Source: The Daily Times, Lahore